June 07, 2013
Gun Fight Friday: Colt 1911 vs. S&W 500
By Phil Bourjaily
This week’s Gun Fight features a pair of guns for actual gun fighting. It’s a classic matchup of revolver vs. semiauto with a twist: The revolver out-magnums Dirty Harry’s .44 by a wide margin.
First, the semiauto: It requires no introduction, but I’ll introduce it anyway. John Browning’s 1911 pistol has been everywhere and done everything in the past 102 years. The .45 ACP cartridge was adopted by the armed services after the .38 proved ineffective against Moro tribesmen in the Philippines. This is a full-size 1911 but it is slender enough to ride in a holster or, as reader Bob Camarata explains, holsterless, between belt and hip. Camarata carried the gun as a police officer in Waterloo, Iowa, and carries it still—now with the addition of Trijicon night sights.
Tim Flannery’s revolver, on the other hand, is not a classic carry gun. It’s a 2 ¾-inch barreled S &W Model 500—a chunk of a revolver that weighs around 3 ½ pounds. Developed as a hunting gun, the S &W 500 debuted in 2003. It was built on a new X-Frame, the biggest S &W makes. A small number were made with 2 ¾-inch barrels as bear guns, I guess, and that’s the model Flannery has adopted as a carry and trail gun. No matter how reliable a semiauto may be, a revolver is more reliable. And while many gun owners might not make the same choice, Flannery makes an interesting case for it. Keep an open mind as you ponder your vote.
Bob Camarata’s Colt 1911
This is a Generation 70 Colt 1911 in .45 ACP, which I purchased new in 1970. I carried it as a backup duty arm while working as a patrol officer in the early 1970s, because I didn’t trust my life to our required duty gun—a .38 S &W revolver. In truth, it was the only gun I reached for on the rare occasion when I had to pull one.
It has a flat mainspring housing and Rosewood grips that I installed myself, and a Colt Commander hammer and trigger. A Waterloo Police Dept. armorer lowered the ejection port a bit, polished the feed ramp, and stoned the trigger, sear, and hammer engagements for me. The Colt has a 4 ½- to 5-pound trigger, so it is not a hair trigger by any means, but is smooth as glass and breaks clean.
On the rare occasion that I worked undercover, the Colt was my only weapon, and I chose to use the “Mexican Carry,” sliding the piece under my belt inside the pants on my right hip.
This gun has never failed me, including tens of thousands of rounds in combat pistol shoots. Were I to ever get in a gun fight, on a Friday, or any other night of the week, this would gun will be my choice.
Tim Flannery’s S &W Model 500
One day while I was selling a couple handguns, I saw an even dozen Smith & Wesson 500 2 ¾ inch in the case. They looked like they might be fun to play with so I bought one. For the same reason I’m partial to .44 Magnums I like this 500. I can handload anything from a soft-shooting plinker to something that will stop anything. Even with factory loads I enjoy shooting this. Federal makes a round with the 275-grain Barnes. It is easy to control. I started carrying the 500 with 385-grain handloads for hiking the high country in Colorado. I’ve grown to carry it everywhere now. In town, I carry the 275-grain and a speedloader loaded with 400-grain. I have found that wood grips are easier to control than the black Hogue rubber grips that came with it.
Want to see your favorite firearm in a Gun Fight Friday? Send a brief paragraph and a profile picture of your gun against a plain background (couches, tabletops, and beds all count as “plain”) to FSGunNuts@gmail.com.