I did a post recently on choosing one's own carry handguns, and why I believe it's unwise to tell another person what he should or should not carry. In this installment, I'll address some of my personal preferences on the use of sidearms. I won't try to talk you into doing it my way, but I'll give my reasons and you can decide. I've had handguns around me since I was 15. I've carried them on my person daily for the past 41 years, except for a few weeks outside the USA. That doesn't make my opinions infallible but it should give me standing HAVE some.
In handguns, I like the basic 1911-type pistol. If need be, I could get along with a Colt Commander from now on. It is a near-ideal combination of ease of operation, size, weight, and manageable power. It is flat, compact, and a proven design. It is a material savings in bulk and weight compared to the full size 1911, but large enough to use easily and to retain excellent reliability.
I'm not particularly fond of the tinier variants. The more the size of the original is reduced, the more problematic becomes function.
I have a Colt Officers ACP lightweight which is tried and true, but I wouldn't trust another one until I personally put 500 rounds through it.
There was a time - - Oh, yeah, there was indeed a time - - when I was one of those who thought I could equip myself into pistol mastery. If an accessory was offered, I kinda felt like I wanted to try it out. I had big hands, so I wanted extra full stocks. I went through big thick stag, hand filling ivory, thumb rest custom wood, and presentation grade, big heavy sterling silver overlaid with gold trim. They all looked good, too. I had extended ambidextrous safeties, and even got an extended slide catch from a M1914 Norwegian .45. I tried two different types of adjustable sights. I ruined two good barrels with my home gunsmithing, hogging out the lower chambers to "better" feed hollow points and SWC bullets. I went through spring loaded recoil spring guide shock absorbers, fiber and neoprene buffers.
After a time, though, I grew tired of all these bells and whistles. Then I fell in with a group of the early practical shooting competitors. I was humbled by their expertise and was mildly astounded to see what superb work they did with what appeared to be rather plain-Jane pistols. By the time I went to Gunsite Academy in early 1980, I had gotten rid of most of the bolt-on “improvements.” It was a rather rapid process, realizing that generations of users had taken the .45 automatic into battle for nearly 80 years in essentially the form first designed by John Browning. One's time and money are far better spent on ammunition and range time, and good, careful practice.
I want my 1911s to have a good trigger and decent sights, with standard thickness and profile stocks. I prefer checked wood or ivory but can manage with Micarta, carbon fiber, or even GI plastic. Stag is attractive but it is impossible to find it with good figure without it being too thick. The same is true of sterling silver. The stocks on my 1911s are held in place with slot head screws. Not as sporty as Torx or hex-heads, but I can manage them without a special tool. I specifically do not want rubber stocks on any auto pistol. They are too “tacky,” and tend to make a cover garment adhere to them. I like rubber slightly more on revolvers.
I do NOT want a “full length guide rod” (FLGR) for the recoil spring. Since I don't care for extra heavy .45 loads, the recoil spring and mainspring are of standard weight. I want only the standard slide latch and magazine catch button. I can live with either standard or slightly extended safety thumb piece, but I don't like an ambidextrous safety. I learned to shoot a .45 with an arched mainspring housing (MSH) and prefer this, though I can manage with a flat one. Since we're talking everyday carry pistols, I want no trigger lighter than about four pounds and 4.5 or even five is just fine, if crisp.
Sights on my carry pistols are fixed, high profile. I used to need to have these installed. Thankfully, Colt and most other makers now install such sights as standard, except for “GI” style and some special pieces. I carried a Colt National Match “Gold Cup” for a few years. Believe me, the adjustable sights are NOT worth the trouble. Unless they are “melted” extensively, they tear up jacket or suit coat linings, and they're easy to knock out of adjustment.
In short, but for non-factory stocks, it is hard to tell my carry pistol from hundreds of others at large gun shows or well stocked dealers. The greatest side benefit to this minimalist trend is the utter simplicity. The nearer to box stock the pistol that I shoot most, the easier it would be to pick up another of the same type and do decent work with it. I can take a Commander, a Government Model, a Gold Cup, or any of several clones by other manufacturers, and they'll all operate and even feel about the same.
Aside from the endemic FLGR, there are three other “modern improvements” without which I can do very well, thank you. The ski jump shaped grip safety tang leaves me utterly cold. A slight polish on the standard tang, and perhaps bobbing off the rear of the hammer spur, or replacement with a rowel type Commander hammer serve quite well. I realize there are some who feel they need the swoopy tang, but I am not one.
I have a deep dislike of forward slide serrations. These may serve a purpose when some sort of optical sight must be installed over the rear of the slide. Otherwise, they are a needless hassle, pulling leather fibers from the inside of a holster and abrading my pants in some modes of carry.
Finally, the magazine well funnel attachment has considerably more drawbacks than benefits. For every IPSC/USPA contestant who MAY trim a tenth of a second off his reload with the well, there are a hundred installed just because someone thinks they look cool, and most likely NEVER have sought any training on how to do a speed load. The wide-open maw of the funnel adds to the pistol's height, and materially increases the width at the bottom. It makes a sharp, hard line beneath a cover garment when the pistol is carried "concealed."
Happily, it's NOT necessary to limit myself to one handgun, and I have a real appreciation of other types. Being an adaptable human being, I could live out the rest of my days relying on a K-frame S&W revolver for a defense gun. I have a real affection for various revolvers, and hope I'll always have some.
This post has grown longer than I intended, and I haven't even started on other types of handguns. I think I'll leave other autoloaders, and revolvers, large and small, for later installments.