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GUNS Magazine Digital May 2011 - Page 20
• M A S S A d A Y O O b • CARRYING THE 1911 And other large pistols. s we continue to celebrate the centennial year of that A quintessential American pistol, the 1911, there are probably more of us carrying them—legally concealed, and even in police duty holsters—than ever. It is said the legendary Texas Rangers picked up on the utility of the 1911 and began packing them as soon as they could get their hands on them, and it’s a popular gun with the Rangers to this day. In the Roaring ’20s and in what Colt Single Action .45 revolver and historian John Toland called “the a Colt .38 Super Auto, according to Dillinger Days” of the 1930s, Colt’s Hamer’s son. 1911 was popular on both sides of Shoulder holsters were a popular the law. John Dillinger was packing concealment option back then, though two Colt .45 Autos in twin shoulder many plainclothes wearers just shoved holsters during the infamous Little the big Colt into their waistbands. It Bohemia shootout. Pretty Boy Floyd rode there comfortably because of the was likewise armed with a brace of 1911’s thin, flat profile. The Rangers, Colt .45 Autos on the day of his death. wearing theirs openly, tended toward Baby Face Nelson had the identical tooled-leather belt scabbards. gun in .38 Super in his shoulder The renaissance of the 1911 .45 holster when he was came in the 1950s and mortally wounded in ’60s, led by Jeff Cooper. a shootout with the The typical concealment Feds, and Dillinger handgun then, for cops accomplice Homer van and armed citizens alike, Meter allegedly died was the “snub-nose .38” with a 1911 Colt Super revolver. Cooper and his in his hand when St. followers dramatically Paul police shot him demonstrated that the down. reliable, fast-reloading Many on the right 8-shot .45 was a far better side of the law carried gunfighting tool than a 1911s during that short-barrel, slow-loading period, too. Agent 5- or 6-shot .38… and Charles Winstead, they demonstrated that it the man who killed could be carried with both Dillinger, wrote in his comfort and concealment. report that he used A huge help in this a Government .45 regard was the Summer Auto to bring down Special holster; designed Public Enemy Number by California narcotics One. When famed officer Bruce Nelson, Texas Ranger Frank made and marketed Hamer led the police by Milt Sparks and task force that killed endorsed by Cooper and Bonnie Parker and many others. Clyde Barrow, Hamer With a reinforced used a semi-auto A full-size 5" 1911-A1 Springfield mouth that allowed easy Remington Model 8 Armory .45 rides tight and reholstering, this became .35 Rem rifle backed close in the classic Bianchi X15 the defining inside-theup by his trademark shoulder holster. waistband (IWB) holster 20 The size of the gun matters and we have many options such as these S&W 1911 .45s including (from top) barrel lengths of 5", 4.25" and 3". for big pistols in general and the 1911 in particular. In the decades following, many more fine, effective IWBs have come along, but the Summer Special remains totally practical and hugely popular to this day. With a forward tilt, and worn behind the strong-side hip, this carry minimized the bulge of a full-size 1911’s grip frame. Today, strong-side hip has become by far the most popular carry position for the concealed 1911. more “Carryable” models The downsizing of the 1911 began circa 1950 with Colt’s Commander, lightened from 39.5 to 26.5 ounces unloaded weight with an aluminum frame and barrel shortened from 5" to 4.25". Later decades would see the 1911 shortened even more, by Army armorers and such private pistolsmiths as Armand Swenson, George Sheldon and more. Colt in the 1980s brought out the Officer’s ACP in 3.5" barrel, and later, the 3" Defender incorporating Bill Laughridge’s design tweaks. Jeff Cooper himself appreciated the portability of the lightweight Commander. When I had back problems in the late ’80s and early ’90s, WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • MAY 2011