Shooting Tip: Don’t Automatically Trust the Magazines That Came With Your 1911 Pistol

Wilson Combat 1911
Foghorn for TTAG

Just because something comes with a gun doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work perfectly with that gun. Especially with the 1911 platform, ensuring that your magazines actually work is a key step in troubleshooting malfunctions before you start blaming your firearm and looking for the warranty card.

One shooter and TTAG reader (who wants to be known here as ST) recently had a run-in with some bad factory magazines and wanted to share his cautionary tale with us . . .

Being a newcomer to firearms myself, I approached 1911 ownership with a little bit of trepidation. On a whim I rented a Nighthawk Customs 1911 at my local range and fell in love with the nigh-telepathic trigger feel and handling of the gun.

I resolved to buy a 1911 after my rental session, but not before I did some extensive research beforehand. A Rock Island Armory .45 ACP Tactical may be an inexpensive pistol to most people, but not for a college student fresh out of the military.

Next payday came around and I purchased an RIA 1911 Tactical. Being that it only came with one magazine in the box, I picked up two spare mags for it in the store. The only ones the sales staff had were a Mec-Gar and a Kimpro Tac mag, so those were what I bought.

At the next range session something funny happened. With the included 8-round Act-Mag the 1911 refused to feed hollowpoints. After shooting that mag and loading the Mec-Gar 8 rounder, the gun happily fed and fired every hollowpoint PMC round without incident. Same thing with the Kimpro mag.

A hypothesis germinated in my mind as I loaded the Act Mag, slammed it home and hit the slide release. Sure enough, it failed to feed again. I unloaded the mag, stuck the same hollow point rounds into the Kimber mag in the same order as they were in the Act Mag. They fed and fired without incident.

Ever since that range session I’ve made it a rule to buy aftermarket quality magazines with every 1911 purchase. I’ve since sold that RIA, but nevertheless I’ve NEVER had a malfunction with my 1911s unless I used the no-name magazine that was in the box with it.

This experience was repeated in December last year.

After James Yeager recently made a video slamming 1911s, all this came back to the fore for me. I realized it may not be common knowledge among the Armed Intelligentsia to mistrust 1911 mags that come in the box with an $800+ firearm.

While Mr. Yeager makes well thought-out points, a thought occurred to me while watching his videos. While he states that his observation of the students he taught who used 1911s noted several malfunctions, did he take the time to note which magazines the students were shooting with?

If his clients are taking their 1911s to his high-intensity training course with the factory no-name mags that came with their pistols, its not a stretch to assume they wouldn’t have any better luck than I would with the magazines RIA included. It’s no wonder Yeager and a lot of others would think the 1911 is a jam-o-matic.

To ensure my letter isn’t a sample of one, my Remington R1 that’s in the video I made works 100% with Kimber mags. The factory no-name mag it came with caused a feed malfunction with hollow point PMC ammo, ammo that same exact pistol fired without incident from a Kimpro mag. It’s the same brand of ammunition I initially shot though that Rock Island 1911.

At this point it’s wise to consider what separates a choice 1911 magazine from the substandard. Comparing my Kimber Kim-Pro Tac mag to the parkerized no-name 8-rounder that awaited me in the Remington R1 box, we can see some important differences right away.

The Kimber magazine has a pleasing reflective finish on it. The mirror shine attracts fingerprints, however the finish doesn’t impede reloads or inhibit a tight grip like its flashy appearance may suggest. The witness holes are marked and staggered, with easy to read text and Kimber stampings on the side.

As you hold it, the magazine has a sense of solid heft which belies the shiny impression one gets at first look. The metal magazine body is tight and solid. With the rounds loaded there’s no flimsy shake rattle and roll.

Insertion and ejection are smooth and slick…as long as the owner doesn’t fumble the reload of course. The magazine comes with a flat GI baseplate, but Kimber thoughtfully includes two bumper pads in the packaging in case one is more comfortable using bumper-ed magazines.

While the shiny finish may turn some people off, it has practical benefits in that you can clearly see the rounds loaded and dirt & carbon deposits don’t stand a chance of staying on the mag long enough to end up in the weapon.

The Remington no-name magazine is a different story.

The tube body is parkerized with no markings besides basic numerals next to the witness holes. I can’t tell you who makes this magazine as there’s no stamping or origin on the follower or metal tube.

At least the Act-Mag with my old Rock Island Armory had a factory stamp on the side. This thing is as unmarked as an undercover Chicago Police cruiser. Unless you turn it over to see the “R .45 AUTO” printed on the bottom of the mag baseplate, you’d never know this was sold with a Remington pistol.

The tube body doesn’t feel nearly as solid as the Kimber magazine’s. I get the sense my Kimber magazine will last as long as my 1911 will — that is to say, long enough to be dug up from my sarcophagus as artifacts in 10,000 years. I can’t say the same for this nondescript magazine.

Its tube body is made of metal, but not of anything I’d bet will last even 20 years. It was this magazine which yielded the previously mentioned malfunction. The parkerized finish seems to be an afterthought-its already wearing away at the edge near the tops of the magazine feed lips.

Essentially, what comes in this box is a device meant for range use only. The Kimber magazine reminds me of a Glock or quality AK magazine-a tough unit meant to last which can withstand the wear and tear of its expected duties. The R1’s included magazine feels like a Pro-Mag imitation meant to sell at a price first with function as a distant priority. I get the sense whoever designed this magazine has the same regard for 1911s as Hillary Clinton does the 2nd Amendment.

I wrote this so that — in addition to competition and range users of the 1911 — others in the Second Amendment community don’t trust their lives and the lives of their families to magazines of suspect or unknown origin just because they came with their firearms. As you doubtlessly know, even weapons known for their “perfection” like the GLOCK pistol are useless if the magazine used is of substandard quality.

While I can’t presume to judge the worth of every 1911 magazine, I can state that no 1911 owner should blindly trust the quality of the magazines which come with their gun. Unlike other manufacturers, trust in a 1911 magazine must be earned at the range and not given at the gun counter.

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