Steel vs Polymer

Classic or Steel? A 1911-style Guy Sounds Off Against A Glock Guy

Article and photo by Mike Burchett

The question of classic or plastic bubbles into conversation more often than not. Some guys are staunch supporters of the classic 1911-style .45 pistol. Notice I said “style.” You see, the 1911 (A1) has been around for over a century. Many manufacturers have their own 1911 pistol. Some are like the original, single-stacked single actions carried cocked and locked. Others are double stacked with a double action only trigger system.
Is one better than the other? You can come to your own opinion on that, but here’s a little piece of fat to chew on. I only know of one double action 1911 on the market, and see very few of them at the range. Whether it is a 3 ½-inch Officer’s Model or a 5-inch Government Model, each one can be traced back to John M. Browning.
Browning was a world changer with this weapon. This was the first automatic-loading handgun in the U.S. military. Developed to provide substantially more firepower over the currently used .38 caliber revolver, the 1911 rode the Cavalry into history.

Another world changer was Glock. In the early 1980s, the Austrian government was looking for a new sidearm. This new weapon was required to carry at least 8 rounds, check, require no tools to field strip and clean, check again, and meet a vigorous torture test to make the selection process. Glock entered the race with no firearms experience. Glock had a vision and vast experience with polymer (plastic).
After 16 revisions, Glock submitted the Glock 17 for review and trial. Needless to say, the rest is history and many have taken this model and run with it. Many fears came about with this new plastic gun. Would the metal detectors pick it up or would terrorists be able to board a major airline with the weapons stashed under their jacket? Would this “plastic” gun stand up to normal use or would it fail and wear out faster? Time has passed and subsequent models in many popular calibers have met the need and desire of many people and agencies around the world.

Both weapons are semi-automatic, except for the LEO Glock 18. This means each time you depress the trigger, a round is fired and ejected upon the slide, moving rearward from the force of the discharge. A new round is pushed out of the magazine from the slide traveling forward by way of the recoil spring preparing the weapon to be fired again, and again and so on until the magazine is empty. Now this may be 7, 8 or 10 rounds in a single-stack 1911 and up to 17 rounds in the Glock.

Springfield XD 9mm
Springfield XD 9mm (plastic)

BOTH WEAPONS HAVE BUILT-IN safeties. The 1911 has a manual thumb safety and an automatic grip safety while the Glock is covered by a lever built into the trigger and some automatic internal safeties covering the chance for the weapon being dropped. Some guys like to hear the “click” when they remove the thumb safety on the 1911, and some guys want to bypass all manual safeties and be ready to fire as soon as the weapon clears the holster. Again, is one better than the other? That is up to you to decide.

I personally am not a Glock guy. This is not to say I think they are not a dependable weapon. Each weapon has its own feel. Its own language it speaks as you run it through a drill. Each weapon must be trained with to maintain muscle memory.

I do own more than one plastic gun at this point in time. None of them are manufactured by Glock, however they are reputable weapons. A weapon in the forefront of gun talk these days is the Springfield XD and XDm series. Fabulous weapons. Accurate, dependable and easy to get accessories for. Sure, I am sounding a bit like my wife and daughters right now, but come on guys, you must accessorize. Most plastic guns have a rail these days, and everyone needs a tactical light or laser. This isn’t to say you can’t get the old 1911 with a rail. My wife has one. She can only say one thing about it. In her words, “It’s pretty.”

We seem to be neck and neck right now. Which one is really better? This is a tough call. Is there really an answer to the question? I think it comes down to each user. It’s hard to pass up a brand new, duty-tested, accurate and darn sexy pistol in the $600 range.
Whoops, I did it now. It’s also hard to pass up an industry standard for decades. Only one company builds a Glock. If the 1911 isn’t such a great platform, then why does everybody and their brother, including Smith and Wesson, Sig, Taurus, Kimber and Ruger build one?
From importers like American Tactical Imports and Armscor to U.S. custom shops like Wilson Combat and Les Baer, the options are endless. If your budget is $500 or $5,000, there is a pistol with your name on it.
Sure, I just opened up the door for another question. Is a $1,200 1911 from Kimber better than a $600 Glock or M&P from Smith and Wesson? I guess I’ll have to meet you on the range for you to decide. As for me, I’m gonna stick to my favorite. I am going to keep my good old standby close at hand. The sad side of this story is that my favorite handgun isn’t even mine. My wife’s Sig GSR is what stays at arm’s reach in the middle of the night. When there’s a bump in the night, reach for the one you are most comfortable with. The one with your DNA permanently engrained into the grip.

Keep training and keep carrying. Protect the ones you love, and keep the main thing the main thing whether it’s with a classic or plastic.

KelTec P-11 9mm
KelTec P-11 9mm (plastic)

Handguns: Polymer vs Metal
Article and photos by Keith Sipmann

Ever since high tech polymers, fiber-glass composites and carbon based plastics have been used in firearms manufacturing, the debate between gun owners has been “What is better, plastic or metal?” Anytime I think of a metal handgun I ultimately first think of a 1911, and probably most gun enthusiast do the same. It’s an iconic and historic firearm. When John Moses Browning designed and created the infamous 1911, it was the crowning achievement of its day. It was made of the metals of that day as well…and in some cases still is. Since then, it has served as the benchmark for many other handguns to be compared against…no matter how fair or not. It is frequently compared to every other type of handgun on the market. But then that begs the question….why? Why are some people so fixated on metal guns like the 1911 versus polymer-framed guns, or visa-versa?

There are a few things you’ll want to consider when deciding to go metal or plastic: Purpose, Maintenance, Ammo Capacity, Recoil and Feeling.

–What is your intended purpose of use? If your intent is to carry, I’d recommend polymer. And my main reason for that is weight. Polymer guns are normally designed to be lightweight. Carrying a handgun is added weight to your belt; therefore I want as little weight hanging off my side as possible. When you’re comparing similar model handguns, polymer and metal; the polymer-framed guns win here hands down.

Plastic = 1, Metal = 0

–Many think that you will not have as many maintenance issues with polymer-framed pistols as you will with metal; and based on my own experience I think this is more related to how you maintain your weapon, how you carry and where you live. Most people don’t shoot their handguns everyday, so detailed levels of maintenance for either type should be about the same here. In hot climates such as Arizona, I worry about my body sweat causing rust and/or corrosion to the slide or hammer on my daily carry polymer-framed gun. But to be honest, I’d have that problem if I lived in a humid area as well with a metal or polymer gun. Therefore, to be fair, I’m calling maintenance a draw. Both should really be treated with care equally.

Plastic = 1, Metal = 0

SigArms GSR 45 ACP
SigArms GSR 45 ACP (classic)

–Is ammo capacity going to be an issue? Generally speaking, when comparing most metal guns like the 1911 or Sig P220, Sig P226 or P229 to any polymer-framed guns of the same caliber, the plastics tend to have a higher ammo capacity. For example purposes I’ll compare some plastics to the 1911 and its 7 round standard-capacity magazine + one in the chamber. The Glock 21, Glock 30, Glock 36, CZ 97B and Beretta Px4 Storm all normally have a 10 round magazine + one in the chamber, the H&K USP has a 12 round magazine + one in the chamber, and the FN FNP-45 has a 14 round magazine + one in the chamber. All are full sized handguns and chambered in 45ACP. Firepower here is generally dominated by the plastics without the need to carry a spare magazine, etc. Enough said.

Plastic = 2, Metal = 0

–Recoil Management: The metal handguns have a slight edge here due to the laws of physics. A heavier gun will generate less recoil than a lighter weight (poly-framed) handgun. It’s just that simple. However, with the proper practice this shouldn’t be an issue either way. With that being said, the point still goes to metal framed pistols.

Plastic = 2, Metal = 1

GSG 1911 x22lr
GSG 1911 x22lr (classic)

–Many shooters just like the way that a metal pistol feels in their palms versus a plastic piece. There is no right or wrong answer here as it comes down to personal preference. I do agree an all metal pistol feels good, solid and generally well built compared to some polymer-framed guns; however, I also feel the increased weight.
Weight to me is a huge factor as I carry daily and don’t want to tote around a heavy object on my belt. Therefore, since this category is really all up to personal preference, I’m calling it a draw too.

Plastic = 2, Metal = 1
Really, in all honesty, there is no right or wrong answer here. It’s really all about your personal preference and what you like. I still think if you consider the topics of Purpose, Maintenance, Ammo Capacity, Recoil and Feeling when buying of carrying your handgun, you’ll be better off in the long run. As for guns like the 1911, they are excellent and I have a lot of respect for them and their makers.
I love to shoot them and they are great to own. But I think it’s time to let the old-school nostalgic magic wear off a bit and recognize that its time to welcome in the new technology and new designs of today…and the future.