If we were to peruse written documentation of all sorts on the subject of the 1911 automatic pistol, we’d find that the material would probably overwhelm the National Archives. Without a doubt, there’s a good reason this is so. The 1911 is clearly the most successful handgun design in history. Not only is the story of the 1911 fascinating, its development and modifications over the decades provide endless material for research.
While John Browning obviously designed the 1911 and Colt manufactured it from the beginning, endless numbers of companies have actually produced this fine piece of Americana. Gun builders and 'smiths are continually looking for ways to improve or modify the 1911, though very little can be done, in my estimation, to actually improve the original design. Modifications have become accepted and commonplace, including variation in sizes and shapes of thumb safeties, the beavertail grip safety and other cosmetic changes.
One of my favorite alterations of the original 1911 design was pioneered by Ed Brown, owner of Ed Brown Products, manufacturers of outstanding 1911 pistols. This alteration is known as the “bobtail" in Ed Brown handguns and this design style goes by many other names from other manufacturers. Many fanciers of the 1911 pistol waved off the bobtail as a passing trend not worthy of the time and trouble. The first time I saw a photograph of a bobtail 1911, I was a bit skeptical myself. After actually handling and firing a bobtail 1911, my mind was forever changed.
Simply put, bobtailing the 1911 basically involves cutting off the rear corner of the bottom of the pistol’s grip frame. One of main reasons for this rather radical modification to the pistol was to improve the ability to carry the gun concealed. Without the sharp point of the bottom rear corner of the grip, the gun is harder to identify when being carried underneath clothing. Some shooters believe that the bobtail also makes the pistol easier and handier to carry in any fashion. I don’t disagree with this. I’ve never really experienced much difficulty in carrying a 1911 either in the open in a holster or concealed, but I must say that the bobtail is a bit easier, at least for me, to comfortably carry.
The most convincing thing for me regarding the bobtail 1911 was simply in the handling of the gun. The design just feels really comfortable in my hands. Most shooters I’ve talked to about the bobtail 1911 tend to agree with me about the way the design fits. The missing sharp corner seems to effortlessly lay in the heel of the hand. Drawing and firing the bobtail is a breeze – the design, at least in my case, makes getting a perfect grip on the pistol immediate. Shooting the bobtail 1911 is comfortable, too. I won’t go so far to say the design actually helps handle kick, but it sure doesn’t hurt regarding the felt recoil. The difference in feel between a standard 1911 and the bobtail is much like the difference between the feel of a square-butt and a round-butt revolver.
Along with the fit and feel of the bobtail and enhanced concealment, some shooters just think the design looks cool. I think the standard 1911 is a handsome pistol, but I don’t mind the looks of the bobtail, either.
I have a couple of bobtail 1911s in my remuda of pistols. The first bobtail I obtained is one of my favorite carry guns, and one that I handle as much as anything I own. Several years back, I had Nighthawk Custom put together a Commander-sized 1911 with this design. The gun is a Talon II, all steel with a two-tone finish. I’ve shot and carried this gun extensively, and as I stated, it’s really one of my go-to firearms.
While small gunsmithing shops offer this modification, a number of manufacturers offer the design as an option on their 1911 pistols. Obviously, Ed Brown Products offer the bobtail, but Nighthawk Custom and Dan Wesson also have fine versions of the pistol. I have extensive experience with the Kimber model, as well. Smith & Wesson and Springfield Armory also offer examples of the this modified 1911 pistol which, though I have little experience with these particular guns, I’m sure they are outstanding firearms.
Many 1911 purists find little use for the bobtail design. I believe it’s a worthy modification and anyone interested in the 1911 pistol should give it a try.