1911 Carry Considerations for the New Gun Owner

Are you one of the many folks just getting into guns? If so, welcome! We’re here to help you figure it out. If you’re wondering what handgun to buy and/or carry, and you’re thinking about a 1911, Hilton Yam of 10-8 Performance Lab has you covered in the video linked below. Drawing on his decades of experience with the 1911 as a law enforcement officer, Hilton walks us through some basic considerations for buying and carrying a 1911.

Hilton Yam, 1911 carry considerations
Hilton Yam has decades of experience with the 1911 pistol and carried one for most of his law enforcement career.

Hilton focuses on single-stack 1911s here, since they are the original configuration, the importance of which he addresses in the video.

Pros and Cons of Carrying a 1911

Hilton starts off with the pros and cons of the 1911, so we’ll do the same.


  1. The 1911 is a “really, really nice feeling gun. Slim. Fits great in the hand.” That may seem superficial to some, but it boils down to this: if you don’t like the way the gun feels, you won’t shoot it and you won’t carry it. Don’t waste your money.
  2. “The trigger is really amazing. A good trigger, that is. You can get some pretty bad ones.” He’s right. The 1911 is renowned for its light, crisp trigger. That’s an important consideration because proper trigger pull is a big component of shooting accurately. Buy a quality gun with a good trigger. Try a few and you’ll be able to tell the good from the not-so-good.
  3. The 1911 is very ergonomic for most users. The controls are simple and located where they should be. Hilton says, “You can wring out your maximum performance, in terms of accuracy and overall handling and manipulation of the gun with a 1911.”
  4. The 1911 is very thin and flat, which helps its concealability, despite its large size. The flatness hugs your body and counters a lot of the deficits of the overall dimensions. It doesn’t print as much as you might think it would.
  5. The manual safety gives you extra control and provides a buffer against “things” happening to your fire controls if you trip, fall, bump something, whatever. It makes holstering the gun safer, especially if you have misgivings about appendix carry.
Colt Government Model 1911
The Colt Government Model 1911 is a classic design. Note the easy to reach controls, including the frame-mounted manual safety. (Photo: reddit.com)


    1. The 1911 is big and heavy, though, as noted, some of the ergonomics offset some of that.
    2. It has a capacity. Single stack 1911 magazines only hold seven or eight rounds. This can be somewhat mitigated by carrying extra magazines, but you need to practice reloading. Of course, you should practice reloading no matter what gun you carry.
    3. Quality 1911s are expensive. A decent gun will easily cost a grand or more. You’re potentially looking at much more depending on brand and whether you want to upgrade your gun. Honestly, if you want a good, reliable 1911, a thousand bucks is probably the minimum you’ll have to spend. Quality striker-fired guns cost much less, but let’s be honest, they don’t carry the prestige of a good 1911.
carry extra magazines for 1911
Plan to carry at least one extra magazine.

What Else Should You Consider Before Buying a 1911?

Size, Configuration, and Caliber

1911s come in many sizes and configurations. They even come in different calibers. But, for the new 1911 owner, Hilton recommends the original 5-inch barrel 1911 in .45 ACP. The original US Government model might seem boring when there are so many flashy options out there, but there’s a good reason for his recommendation.

Hilton notes that the further you get from that original design, the more potential problems arise. When you start altering the slide length, you change the travel distance and velocity of the slide. Same thing if you chamber it in another caliber, which also affects the feeding dynamics of the ammunition. That doesn’t mean there aren’t quality 1911s in those configurations. But it does mean that you may have to go more upscale to get the same reliability as with the original design. For a beginner, you really can’t beat John Browning’s original setup.

Colt original Government model
Hilton recommends getting your first 1911 in the original configuration. It doesn’t have to be an original gun, but having the same dimensions is important. (Photo: Guns International)


Another great thing about the 1911 is there are nearly limitless holster options. Kydex, leather, polymer, inside or outside the waistband, appendix, hip, or shoulder. Do a little research and you’ll find a quality holster that fits your needs. Hilton recommends finding one that protects the manual safety lever. It’s not hard to flick that safety off when moving around or even drawing or holstering. There are plenty of those out there.

1911 holsters
There are nearly limitless holstering options for the 1911.

Finding a holster that protects the safety also influences Hilton’s recommendation on the safety itself. 1911s are available with safeties on both sides of the frame or only on the left side. He used to recommend the strong side safety exclusively because it was too easy to knock the safety lever off when swinging your arms.

holster protecting 1911 safety
Try to find a holster that protects the safety lever(s) of your 1911, as this one does.

Now, with better holsters, he recommends the ambidextrous safeties because they allow you to work the gun effectively with either hand. Not to mention it makes things easier for lefties. Just keep in mind that your holster should account for those safety levers.

1911 safety options
Do you want a strong side or ambidextrous safety? Your choice.


Magazines are another thing to consider. You can have the best quality gun around, but if your mags are garbage, your gun won’t run reliably. There are plenty of quality mags available and Hilton names a few that he likes in the video. As we mentioned, you should plan to carry at least one extra mag. But that’s really not a big deal. 1911 mags are thin and easy to carry.

Thin 1911 single stack magazine
1911 magazines are thin and easy to carry.

Hilton also says you should match the mags to the gun. That means you should test them with any gun you intend to use them with. If they don’t insert cleanly, drop out easily, feed reliably, and always lock your slide back on an empty chamber, don’t bet your life on them. Get another mag. Also, understand that mags are consumables. They eventually wear out. Throw them away when they do and get new ones.


If you intend to carry the 1911, or any gun for that matter, make certain it will feed and fire your defensive ammo reliably. That’s not a given. Some guns are picky, and some hollow points won’t feed correctly. It’s worth expending some of them to make sure.


1911s are made of steel. With a steel gun comes the possibility of rust. Some finishes guard against it better than others, but if you’re carrying it every day, you’re going to sweat on it. Check it regularly, and not just in the obvious places.

Hilton Yam 1911 carry considerations
The 1911 is a great firearm. Just do your homework before buying one.


1911s are not modular like, say, Glocks. There are no components designed to just drop in or swap out. Even something as small as changing the safety lever mat requires more than a tweak. Keep that in mind when shopping for a 1911 and get the features you want right upfront. Also, note that upgrades may be expensive. That’s what comes with a design that’s over a century old. Of course, the fact that the 1911 is still wildly popular despite all that ought to tell you something about the quality of that design.

Hilton finishes up by recommending a few 1911 brands that he likes. He goes from top of the line, to basic, quality guns that can serve as the basis for something better. Check out the video for those.

So, there you have it. A few things to consider if you’re looking at a 1911. Great guns, but you need to know what you’re getting into. Let us know what you think and whether a 1911 might be right for you. Happy shooting, y’all.


William "Bucky" Lawson is a self-described "typical Appalachian-American gun enthusiast". He is a military historian specializing in World War II and has written a few things, as he says, "here and there". A featured contributor for Strategy & Tactics, he likes dogs, range time, and a good cigar - preferably with an Old Fashioned that has an extra orange slice.

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