5 Mods for EDC 1911s

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The 1911 is now 104 years old.  Firearms have changed over those years and yet the 1911 still remains relevant.  I know some of you will say that it is not relevant and at best it is an historic relic that does deserve some respect, but has no place as an EDC. I am not of that camp–I carry a 1911 as an EDC. But I don’t carry one that looks like it came off of John Mosses’ work bench.  Over those 104 years there have been some great and simple modifications to the original design that makes for a better EDC.

The mods below are noting drastic.  I am not talking about bushingless barrels, barrels with feed ramps or other major design changes to the original.  In my opinion, and that is what this is, a 1911 made to the original specs is a hell of a lot more reliable than one that isn’t.  I am talking long term reliability.  A well cared for and maintained 1911 will last 104+ years and keep on trucking.  Take a look at this one I reviewed a while back that was made in 1913.  Is it ideal for EDC? Nope, but the same basic design can be with a few simple changes.

Grips

The checkered walnut grips on the original Colts are good looking.  They are classic but they do not give the best grip and that is what grips are supposed to do.  There are a plethora of different grips and textures on the market today.  This “mod” is a simple as turning a couple of screws. That is after you pick out what you want. If you want an easy way to fit that 1911 to your specific needs, this is the first thing you should do.

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Original style Colt grips on a Browning 1911 .22.

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Modern grips on a Dan Wesson.

Checkering

The grip surface is not just on the grips.  Add some fine checkering to the front strap and you have… well, better grip. This isn’t one of those mods you do yourself. But the difference will be easily felt. Checkering helps keep the gun from shifting in your hand during recoil.

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An uncheckered front strap

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Here is the fine checkering on the Dan Wesson. While it isn’t the cleanest, aesthetically, the knurls add grip.

Sights

This is one of the biggest improvements that have been made to the 1911.  The ones of the originals were tiny.  Now for an EDC you don’t want big square sights that will snag on your clothing.  But you do want ones that are big enough to get on target fast if you ever have to use them.  I also like to take them one step further and use combat sights that have a shelf to help you rack the slide one handed, just in case.

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These are a lot bigger and easier to get on target than the originals.

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These have a 90 degree angle that you can use to rack the slide one handed.

Beaver Tail

On an EDC 1911, I like a pretty big beaver tail on the grip safety.  It does help keep the hammer from getting hung up when drawn from concealment.  It also protects the hammer too.  While we are on the subject of the grip safety, a “bump” or protrusion at the bottom does help to make sure it is depressed. These two simple mods protect your hand and ensure that the gun will function as intended (which means safe when it should be safe, and ready when you grip it).

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Beaver tail and bump on the Dan Wesson.

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No tail or bump here on the scaled down Browning.

Controls

The slide lock and thumb safety on the originals are adequate.  I say they are adequate because they do work and are not too hard to use.  Larger ones do have their place on an EDC pistol, but not too big as they can get hung up when drawn from concealment.  I am personally not a fan of the ambidextrous safety but that is personal preference.  Like everything in this article. Take a look in the picture below. From left to right: a Dan Wesson, a Metro Arms, a Springfield Armory, and another Dan Wesson. If you like to drop the slide with your thumb, I’d suggest a big wide slide catch.

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All of these are 1911s but none of them are alike. You can play the “circle the differences in this picture” game!

So there you have 5 small changes to the basic 1911 that can make for a better EDC pistol.  And they’re all on the outside. There’s a lot more to discuss once we get under the hood. What do you look for on a 1911 as a carry piece?

{ 33 comments… add one }
  • Frank April 21, 2015, 11:40 am

    I’ve been a Colt .45 fan since returning back from Viet Nam “69” super weapon I carried one in Law Enforcement for 28 yrs in which was very proficient with.

  • Norm April 21, 2015, 12:33 am

    I have thirty years worth of 1911 parts in a drawer, so have tried just about every mod there is, and wasted a lot of money. One of them is a beautifully made Pachmayr extended slide stop / slide release. The trouble is that under recoil it’s too easy to accidentally engage it and lock up the slide, not to mention it tore up my Bianchi rig each time I holstered it. I point both thumbs forward, so maybe it will work for some people, but not for me as I have big hands. For the same reason I’ve never needed the grip safety “bump,” although it’s a great idea. I have two original satin nickel Safari Arms beaver tail grip safeties, and it’s almost impossible not to engage them. Agree that beveling the mag well is a good idea as well. Thanks for a good article.

  • Custom Gun April 20, 2015, 5:32 pm

    Right now the buy of a lifetime is on Classics site, a Taurus PT1911 for $399.99. It has all the mods mentioned in the article and has some of the best sights on the market. I’ve owned one for several years and it has digested everything I have fed it, with never a hiccup. It’s accurate, reliable and a joy to shoot.

  • bill hock April 20, 2015, 4:49 pm

    my 70 series colt gold cup will out shoot almost anything out there–i shoot 3 of them they all shoot & will cycle any ammo–you can not say that about the new plastic guns

  • HJ Lamb April 20, 2015, 4:43 pm

    I reside in an open carry/shall missue localtion. Consequently, when appopriate, I prefer open carry with my 1911 in a secure holster like or similar to the Blackhawk Serpa. I also carry concealed and depending on weather I have a Glock 42 or Beretta nano and a Smith & Wesson model 36. Of that 3 some I prefer the 36 based on availability of ammo, ease of reloading and types of reloading components I have available. The Nano and Glock can get a tad argumentative over reloads despite the fact I handled each round starting with a full length sizer die, adhere to factory specs and check each round’s powder weight, concentricity of projectile and use a go/no go device to assure brass/case length, etc. I do most of the same with the .38s but use a RCBS Rock Chucker with carbide dies whereas a dillon 550 progressive for the .380 and 9mm (which I also can configure for the .45ACP). Sorry for the long post and getting off the topic somewhat! Just get carried away!

  • Roger Hamilton April 20, 2015, 4:33 pm

    I’ve carried a Kimber for nineteen years and never had a problem. It digests ammo very well and it’s accuracy is outstanding. The only modification I’ve done to it is having factory adjustable sights added to it about 6 mo’s after purchase, and added 101st Airborne grips to it.

  • Frank April 20, 2015, 4:14 pm

    Thanks for the great article on the proverbial favorite, but you left out one very relevant enhancement, a rail for tactical light or laser or both. I still have my Serices 70 Colt that I have owned for 40 years, but love my new Sig Scorpion 1911 with night sights and a rail for my tactical light. Even the new Beretta M9 A1 has a rail now.

  • Aridog April 20, 2015, 1:37 pm

    For the record I began using a Model 1911 .45 ACP in 1964 for both .45 ACP and Center-fire shooting registered targets (a customized Ithaca Model 1911 from WWII or Korean War), skipping the .38 caliber and using a S& W Model 41 for .22 caliber targets. In the service I carried a Model 1911…and since then have never ceased loving the things. My next .45 ACP for carry use will be an alloy framed 3 or 4 inch barrel version of the 1911 to cease feeling the 3+ lb weight on my hip. I’m also interest in the H&K 45 LEM….e.g, a law enforcement model that is a very smooth double action that de-cocks upon releasing the slide, similar to the old S&W Model 39 9mm’s, but better and has a very clear trigger release point, at about 5+ pounds, after the initial hammer cocking action, which is v-e-r-y light. I’ll have to rent one to shoot at my range before actually buying one, and I suspect I will still prefer the lighter shorter barreled Model 1911. Hard to beat what has delighted me for over 50 years.

  • Aridog April 20, 2015, 1:25 pm

    One “improvement” I have found to be both necessary for me and compatible with my .45 ACP’s …one a Kimber Custom Shop all steel full size piece I use for hardball target shooting and carry occasionally…the other an FNX-45 with the de-cocker mechanism that I carry more often….is a custom holster made for both that is designed along the lines of the Galco “Stinger” model for smaller pistols…forward cant and lower on the hip…e.g., not jabbing me in the ribs in or outside of a vehicle. The custom holsters are leather lined and stitched perfectly made by a local leather worker who specializes in custom holsters. Both the custom holsters have a thumb snap strap over the hammer, but in reverse of the usual…the thumb snap is on the holster side, not on a piece built higher up and jabbing me in the ribs. Once on my hip I barely notice their presence…even when buckling a seat belt in my truck. You do need a relatively long tee shirt (like those from Duluth Trading) or an un-tucked regular shirt to cover them however.

    My holster maker is local in Dearborn, MI and I can refer anyone who asks for the name and site….he has model/molds for most pistols these days…and he is not expensive overall (my custom holsters were $85 each). If you are interested contact me at my email aridog@comcast.net

  • ... April 20, 2015, 1:20 pm

    The Dan Wesson Titan is the best of all worlds, oh except for the price…

  • TPSnodgrass April 20, 2015, 12:52 pm

    RE: the comments on ambi safeties. I’ve got two grandsons that are lefties, and another that is a true ambidextrous user. So, all of my 1911’s now sport ambi-safeties as do the BHP pistols. Never can tell who is going to wind up with what, so this grandpa, already made that decision for them. I was late to the 1911 party, but have stayed ever since my arrival and just dont’ concern myself with it.

  • Keith April 20, 2015, 11:04 am

    I’m going to disagree with you on the ambidextrous safety, which is the most important mod to make on a 1911.

    . . .unless, of course, you think you will never need to shoot left-handed . . .

    NONE of the other things you mentioned is of any value whatsoever if you can’t disengage the safety.

    And maybe I’m missing something, but how is it an improvement to go from fully-checkered stocks to stocks which are partially-checkered?

    • Rob April 20, 2015, 12:31 pm

      Keith, it is easy to disengage the thumb safety with only your left hand, have you ever tried? An ambi safety is completely unnecessary for a right handed shooter.

    • Liam April 20, 2015, 6:56 pm

      Well, I was right handed but lost the use of my right hand, so am now left handed. My Colt Commander does not have an ambidextrous safety, and I have small hands, but that has never been a problem. Just grip the pistol as normal and move your thumb to the left side of the slide, and disengage the saftety.

    • Norm April 21, 2015, 12:19 am

      Wiley clap once said that if you didn’t have an ambi safety you were “unsafe and unwise.” Sorry, to disagree, but all they do for me is hang out into the wind, making the pistol wider than it has to be, and often come loose. I have a classic Swenson speed safety on my Series 70 Colt and can easily hold the pistol with my left hand and engage / disengage it no problem.

  • Remnard April 20, 2015, 10:13 am

    Love the Bump on a Beavertail. Sometimes when riding the safety with my thumb it changes my grip enough to engage the grip safety. Not a good scenario for a defense weapon. as far as the John Browning original design being perfect, I would think he would endorse many of the improvements in both aesthetics and function/reliability. Perfection in the original design? Have you looked down a set of original thumbnail sights? Todays choices make these guns more shootable than ever, along with the different spring systems that lock slide/barrel together so much more consistently and improve accuracy, without detracting from the simplicity.

  • Tripwire April 20, 2015, 10:01 am

    My first encounter with the old war horse was as a 17 yo Marine boot, that gun was old when my dad went into the Corps in 1943, it rattled like a BB in a boxcar, it was ugly, well worn and yet beautiful, I shot high expert with it, in the following years the 1911 was my TO weapon for the most part, now heading for 56 years later I still love the old girl, but my present 1911’s are Victoria Secret models compared to that first one, I love my Para P-14, P-16 for times when I need more rounds as in a match, I have an STI 9mm ( Sweet!) a Sprinkfield in 40 and a Kimber in 45, I like them all, I’ve owned another 30 or more in years past. I had one of the little Sigs in 9mm but it just wasn’t all that great, Had a Colt Defender I carried for years, never really liked it because I have BIG cookie crushers so the small EDC stuff just don’t seem to work all that well for me. And yes I have the Glocks and some other things but the 1911 is my first love.
    Now would I spend several thousand bucks for something from Clark or Wilson or whomever? NO, because while their guns are nice the basic gun old JMB made is just fine with me, being a big guy I can carry a full sized 1911 just fine and have for years and will until I can’t.
    The world is full of great hand guns and also not so great ones, I’ve heard a lot of folks grumble that 1911’s aren’t dependable, hog wash or bull shit whichever you want to use, they are as dependable as their caretaker, it’s that simple, find a load that feeds flawlessly, shoots where you point it and stop screwing with it.

  • William Thien April 20, 2015, 9:16 am

    Colt offers the best selection of 1911’s that take the entry level pistol directly to the custom level, beaver tails, quality three-dots. The XSE is an ideal 1911 offering what you would need in any situation for a moderate price.

    Robert’s Defense out of Oshkosh, WI on the other hand offers the highest quality custom level pistols at a moderate price. Their Super Grade http://www.robertsdefense.com/SearchResults.asp?Cat=1817 can be had for just over a grand at Bud’s from time to time. It’s the most accurate 1911 I’ve ever handled and is perfectly balanced coming out of the holster.

    • commonwealth109 April 20, 2015, 11:56 am

      Those “Roberts” 1911’s are nice, but I wouldn’t buy one as long as they put that huge billboard (their name) on the slide. Hideous

  • John Accornero April 20, 2015, 9:08 am

    Can anyone explain what ‘EDC’ means? Not good writing when using acronyms with noting their meaning. No matter how familiar the acronym is to some…

    • Dan Garrett April 20, 2015, 9:17 am

      Everyday Carry

      • juda ben-Izak April 20, 2015, 10:03 pm

        thanks.I never heard of EDC before this. Used 1911’s over 50 years span.

    • Retired Navy Spook April 20, 2015, 9:28 am

      John, EDC = every day carry.

      I qualified expert with a 1911 numerous times during my 24-year navy career, and it’s still my favorite gun to shoot, (and I own 4 other handguns – 2 9mm’s, a .40 and a .38) I don’t dress in a way that would allow for the carry of even the most compact 1911, so a pocket gun is my only solution. The Sig P938, which is basically a mini-1911 in 9mm, proved to be a great compromise.

      • Todd April 20, 2015, 12:00 pm

        Have you looked at Officer size 1911’s? I wear shorts and a t shirt with mine and no problems.
        I did have to experiment with different holsters to find the one that suits my needs and is comfortable. but now the only difference I can tell is my 1911 is heavier than my pocket pistol I used before ( xds.45). A small concession considering how much better of a gun it is compared to the xds. ( there is no comparison) and they are making 1911’s lighter now too.

  • Steve K April 20, 2015, 8:36 am

    Good article. I too carry a 1911 for EDC. In my case it is an Ed Brown Kobra carry. My affection began as a 2LT in the Army in the mid 80s and it served me well during a 27 Year career. With the mods today as mentioned above and the reliability and shootability of this weapon, it will provide a lifetime of service for me, my son and grandchildren afterwards.

  • Wil Ferch April 20, 2015, 8:14 am

    Agree mostly but will challenge the need for a beavertail….depends on the size of your hands. Maybe slightly bob the hammer or install a commander hammer. Same with the grip safety. I never saw the need for the enhanced “bumped versions”…as your hand sits high on the grip and is usually not a problem. That all said…. one item missed is to bevel the magazine well for more certain reloads of mags.

  • KIM April 20, 2015, 8:02 am

    You can’t fix perfection, if John Browning had wanted it that way that is the way he would have made it in the first place, the old models are still working just fine, just look at all of the want a be companies copying his gun, it is just a money game for all of the companies making these products….. it’s the same with Glock everyone making polymer guns

  • Phil April 20, 2015, 6:30 am

    Simple changes like the ones that are shown, take a dependable and proven design, and make it easier to carry and shoot. I carry a 1911 every day, and wouldn’t carry anything else, like the old commercial used to ” NERVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT “.

  • Michael April 19, 2015, 12:36 pm

    Great article. I carry a Dan Wesson CCO, as my EDC pistol & wouldn’t trade it for anything else.

  • alex April 18, 2015, 11:17 pm

    Does anyone have a link to the description of the Dan Wilson on the far right. Thanks!

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