In times of trouble, where do you turn? The automatic pistol, caliber .45, model 1911, U.S. Army is, in my opinion, the best pistol for home defense and general-purpose use.

You can trust the model 1911 with your life in any kind of survival situation; the gun will defend you with totally reliable, one-shot stopping power against any threat, human or otherwise. Here’s why.

… the gun will defend you with totally reliable, one-shot stopping power against any threat, human or otherwise.


“Recoil is just a light bounce in the hand, … easy for anyone to master.” (Les Baer Custom)

The 1911 is a perfectly balanced combination of weight for steadiness and rapid fire – without an extra ounce more – a true one-hand pistol, able to be fired from either hand or one in each hand, as circumstances dictate. Recoil is just a light bounce in the hand and is easy for anyone to master.


Reliability is of maximum importance for any weapon on which you’re staking your life, and the 1911 has proven to be the most reliable pistol ever made over its more than 100 years of service. You often hear people say that revolvers are more reliable than automatics, but I have had far more malfunctions and parts breakage with revolvers than with automatics.

The 1911 has proven to be the most reliable pistol ever made over its more than 100 years of service.


There is one important thing to remember when we talk about this gun. The 1911’s reputation for reliability was made with the unaltered G.I. version that was manufactured with plenty of room for the rust, sand and dirt of combat – NOT the tightened-up “Accurized” guns that match shooters use.


Firepower is an often-misunderstood issue. Firepower is bullets hitting people, not aimlessly spraying lead in their direction.


It’s very rare to need more than four shots in a gunfight. Dealing with mobs may require more, and the ability to rapidly reload with seven-shot magazines has saved the day for many a soldier who was on the receiving end of an enemy charge in the last 100 years. This is one place you don’t want a revolver.

The 1911 pistol. Shoot big. (Springfield Armory)

Stopping power is everything when someone or something is trying to kill you. Nothing improves on the stopping power of the 230-grain full metal jacket G.I. load at 820 feet per second. It’s a one-shot stopper, designed to put an enemy cavalryman’s horse down with one shot, and it works equally well on moose and bears. On these big animals you want penetration, not expansion. You already have a big enough bullet.

Apartment dwellers wanting less penetration can avail themselves of a wide variety of hollow points. These offer no increase in stopping power, despite what the salesman says, and they do give up the ability to shoot through walls to get at the intruder standing just beside the doorway you need to go through. That’s the price you pay for less penetration.


Safety is another issue.

A 1911 magazine holds seven rounds of .45 ACP. (Kimber America)

A 1911 magazine holds seven rounds of .45 ACP. (Kimber America)

The 1911’s designer, John M. Browning, thought that the grip safety was all that the gun needed, and intended for it to be carried cocked with just the grip safety. The Army insisted on a thumb safety, and the gun has been carried cocked with the thumb safety on for more than 100 years with an enviable safety record.

Safety around children is always mentioned when we talk about any kind of guns. Hiding your guns and locking them up will take care of gun safety around children, until they can be taught the proper way to handle them.

The 1911 is designed with two built-in safety mechanisms that won’t let the pistol fire until you are ready to use it – the grip safety and the safety lever.

You must hold the pistol firmly to depress the grip safety on the back of the grip or the trigger will not move. Your hands must be big enough to hold the gun to push in the grip safety as well, and the hands of children are not able to do this.

The thumb safety on the left side of the pistol will not let the gun fire if the thumb safety is in the up, or safe, position, and you must first move the thumb safety down into the fire position before firing the gun.


The 1911 incorporates two mechanical safety devices: the grip safety and the thumb safety (or safety lever).

On the back of the gun, just under the hammer, you’ll find the grip safety. When you wrap your hand around the grip, you’re disengaging the grip safety by holding the pistol firmly – as if you planned to shoot.

The thumb safety is on the left rear side of the gun. Flip the safety lever up for SAFE; flip it down to FIRE.



The 1911, or specifically the M1911A1 – the WWII version – is the pistol that I use and trust. Every time I go to fire the gun, it always shoots accurate and true – and that makes the 1911 the best pistol for home defense or whatever you use it for.

That should answer your question.



The M1911 is the most imitated handgun in the world.

Its fundamental design is sound, and continues to dominate the firearms market.

Today’s 1911 pistols are available in a variety of calibers and configurations – options are limited only by your imagination and budget. From basic entry-level guns all the way up to competition-ready race guns, the 1911 is the pistol of choice. Why? A 1911 is easy to shoot, almost as easy to upgrade, and can handle as much “horsepower” as you dare.


Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the 2013 print issue of American Survival Guide.