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Which Firing Platform is Best as a First Carry Gun?

1911 vs Striker handgun

Being a new concealed carrier includes, of course, deciding what gun to carry. Among the very basic decisions is the type of gun. There are four primary platforms within the semi-auto category: 

  1. 1911, a single-action, hammer-fired system with a short trigger pull on every shot
  2. Double/Single action, a hammer-fired system with a long pull of the trigger for the first shot; a short trigger pull for subsequent ones before de-cocking
  3. Double action only and other hammer-fired systems, which present a longer-than-average trigger pull
  4. Striker-fired, which has a relatively consistent, medium trigger pull 

In this discussion, we’ll limit ourselves to the 1911 and striker platforms only, for a few reasons. For new shooters, a double action trigger press can be the most difficult to learn to do well, especially when followed by single action after the first shot. Second, for practical purposes, the 1911 and striker platforms are by far the most popular and the most models are offered within these types. Third, Bravo Concealment gun holsters are made only for 1911s and numerous models of striker guns. This article is a look at the pros and cons of each, with consideration for wearing the gun under clothing on a daily basis. 

The opinions expressed here are my own, informed by many years of experience as a shooter of both 1911s and striker guns, and as an instructor of thousands of people, experienced and otherwise, who show up with virtually every conceivable type of firearm. You are free to disagree, of course, with the understanding that internet arguments don’t change my mind about these things.

Springfield Armory Emissary 4.5-inch 9mm

First, the 1911. There’s no denying its profile is kinda sexy. Usually constructed of solid steel, its weight lends some recoil control; its tight tolerances also deliver pinpoint accuracy at distance. Its trigger is light, the reset short, and it’s a joy for most people to shoot. Most have the dual safety measures of a grip and slide safety to prevent unintended discharge if something gets inside the trigger guard unintentionally. This is with the notable exception of a few knockoff designs, including the (in my opinion) unfortunately popular SIG Sauer P938 and P238, which lack a grip safety. While I’m no fan of manual safeties on a striker gun, the 1911 platform is designed to have a grip safety, and in my opinion, not having it, especially on a gun that’s likely to be carried inside a waistband or handbag, is asking for trouble. That said, I’ve yet to have heard of a student who’s had a negligent discharge with one of these models.

The traditional 1911 design is a constant. Another advantage is that the same holster will generally fit both government and commander size 1911s, eliminating the need for a custom holster for every gun. Bravo Concealment’s 1911 gun holsters fit most guns within the type. 

A 1911 is a joy to shoot. But their weight and shape can detract from concealability and comfort. That beavertail can be a garment-catcher when drawing and tends to “print” under fabrics. Most 1911s are rail-less, eliminating the option of having a weapon-mounted light. And their solid construction often makes ammunition testing and selection very important, as not all ammo will feed in all 1911. Their tight tolerances mean they can be less “tolerant” of environmental grit like dust and lint—things to which habitual concealed carry will expose the gun. Of course, some people take pleasure in the tinkering it takes to accommodate these traits. Nothing wrong with that. If you’re considering a 1911, decide how high you want to rank gun maintenance and a traditional appearance in relation to defensive capabilities, and accept the maintenance/training responsibilities and potential consequences of that decision. 

Magazine capacity of a 1911 is usually 7-8 rounds of 45 ACP with a regular magazine, or up to three rounds more with 40 S&W or 9 mm. So-called 2011 guns feature a double-wide magazine well and as a result, offer ammo capacities more on par with modern striker guns, still in a much bigger package. There is at least one 380 ACP 1911. It’s manufactured by Browning. I hold this gun, called the Medallion, in very high regard for reliability and accuracy. However, it’s too small for a regular 1911 holster. 

Most importantly, as far as I see it, the presence of safeties on a 1911 comes with a stepped-up obligation of regular practice to draw, disengage the thumb safety, and re-engage as soon as sights are off target. This applies to striker guns with safeties as well. Under stress, the likelihood of remembering to disengage that safety diminishes. 

The thumb safety issue becomes further complicated when considering left-handed shooters or right-handed ones who use a 1911 with an ambi safety. Southpaws often struggle to disengage a traditional right-hand bias safety. Ambi safeties seem like a solution to that problem, but they present the risk of being disengaged unbeknownst to the wearer by external objects like seatbelts or items carried on the hip. That’s not good medicine for safety, however, with a quality gun holster and excellent finger discipline and re-holstering habits, it doesn’t present much risk—this is true of any handgun.

If you’re considering a striker-fired gun such as one of the many popular models for which Bravo Concealment makes holsters, you can expect a wider choice of sizes and magazine capacities than most 1911s offer. At the same time, you’ll likely need a separate holster for each, unless you select a longer-barreled version of a compact gun, i.e. a compact Glock 19 fits in a full-size Glock 17 holster. 

SAR 9

Striker guns are, generally speaking, less likely to malfunction based on ammo selection or neglect of regular maintenance. They are easier to disassemble and clean than a 1911, and thus probably better-suited for the kind of people who keep driving and adding oil after that “change oil” light comes on. Of course, you don’t have to be that way to carry and enjoy a striker gun.

Thanks to their synthetic-material frames, striker guns make modularity and customization a bit easier. Today’s striker guns often include up to three choices of fits for trip circumference. Their frames can be stippled, or permanently heat-modified, for increased traction. 

Safety features vary among or even within the same models within the striker platform. Most have a built-In drop safety, however that doesn’t mean that guns should ever be wantonly dropped in experimentation. Some have a 1911-style grip safety, which may or may not work correctly for every operator. Some have ambi or right-hand bias thumb safeties. A trigger block is a common safety feature of the striker platform, not seen on 1911s. This safety is almost always disengaged automatically by virtue of placing a finger on the trigger. I have seen short-fingered people struggle with this feature on certain guns, most notably the Canik brand, when their finger doesn’t naturally cover enough of the center of the trigger to disengage the block. 

In recent years, striker gun designs have become more user-friendly for more people in comparison to 1911s when it comes to being able to reach the controls like the magazine release and slide lock. It’s still common for these things to require a little grip adjustment to reach, but Walther’s PDP-F series, Canik’s TP9 series, and Heckler & Koch’s VP variants are examples of guns that place user contact points in comparatively convenient locations. 

Aiming and sighting systems for many striker guns are interchangeable. Striker guns generally offer a rail so as to accept a weapon-mounted light. The big-name, popular guns often have tritium sights either standard, as an option, or as an aftermarket choice. Only a few 1911s offer a factory reflex sight mount; a feature common among striker guns. 

Finally, the basic shape of most striker-platform guns is easier to conceal for most people. Of course, the addition of a reflex sight levels that playing field to an extent. 

In the end, the choice is yours. Options are, after all, a wonderful thing. If you’re new to guns and considering purchasing one for concealed carry, I hope this article has given you some information to make your best decision.

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