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Preview – America’s Handgun – The 1911 Government Model

Story by Steven Kuo with Commentary from Larry Vickers
Photos by James Rupley and Larry Vickers

U.S. Patent number 984,519 was published on February 14, 1911 — its inventor was none other than John Moses Browning, and it detailed an ingenious semi-automatic handgun. That pistol was designated the Model 1911 and adopted by the U.S. military as its standard-issue sidearm for an astonishing 75 years. The 1911 is an incredibly robust design with potential for great accuracy. Its ergonomics are widely heralded and its trigger — which travels straight back and forth rather than pivoting like most other handguns — can be tuned to absolute perfection. Don’t forget that the 1911 was designed at the beginning of the 20th century, with the materials and manufacturing processes available at the time. Yet the same basic design is still in service with war fighters, law enforcement, armed civilians, and competitive shooters. In fact, the 1911 in all its many guises, from full house custom builds to economical production models, is as popular as ever.

Tactical Dalai Lama Ken Hackathorn (profiled in Issue 17) calls the 1911 handgun both “the world’s finest closequarters sidearm” as well as the “king of feedway stoppages.” Those are quite Jekyll and Hyde distinctions to have, and they highlight the bipolar character of 1911 pistols — an anonymous appliance they are not, and they don’t go together easily like Legos, unlike Glocks and other modern polymer guns.

Larry Vickers is strongly associated with the 1911, as an end user, instructor, and gunsmith. He spent over two decades in special operations, including 15 years with Delta Force. His unit issued custom 1911 handguns and ran over a million .45 ACP rounds through them every year. As a result, they — and Vickers, who had begun building custom 1911s himself — learned a thing or two about the 1911 platform. Putting that expertise to use, Vickers is about to release a coffee table book about the 1911 that should have any firearms enthusiast drooling at the incredible specimens featured within.

Highlighted on these pages, along with commentary from Vickers, are some fascinating 1911s from the book as well as a few other notable builds. Gun porn at its finest — enjoy!

LAV-02 LAV-03

Colt Pre-Series 70 Slant Groove

Vickers considers these rare models the ultimate Colts to customize. They combine excellent Pre-Series 70 Colt metallurgy, slanted slide serrations of the USGI National Match guns, and his favorite rollmarks on the slides.

Jason Burton of Heirloom Precision has a theory on how these particular guns came to be — that Colt used leftover U.S. Government National Match contract slides, finishing them to commercial standards and shipping them out with completed pistols. These are rare and difficult to find, and as you would expect they aren’t cheap.

Wilson Combat CQB 9mm

This Wilson Combat CQB build in 9mm was Vickers’ training pistol for many years, along with a Wilson Supergrade in .45 ACP. It’s an all-steel, 5-inch 9mm gun, and he notes it’s the softest shooting handgun he owns.

In fact, it’s so comfortable that it can spoil you — Vickers recalls that after training with it for some time, he demonstrated drills in a class with a student’s Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm and felt like he was shooting a .357 Magnum compared to the 9mm Wilson. And those who have M&P pistols know that they’re already very manageable. That being said, shooters can really benefit from soft recoil, and 9mm ammo is pretty affordable.

Vickers has since switched to a full-size Wilson Combat X-Tac with a lightweight aluminum frame for his 9mm 1911 training duties, but this one remains in his collection ready for use.


Presented in a collectible 13×11-inch coffee table format, Vickers Guide: 1911 features 40 historic and bad ass guns, brought to you larger than life across 352 premium pages. There’s a Standard Edition ($95), a signed Signature Version ($125), and a Limited Edition Premium Version ($250), limited to 100 copies. For more info, visit

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