On many occasions Col. Jeff Cooper said that all a defensive handgun really needed was major caliber, reliability, good sights, and a good trigger. Anything else is added only if it proves to be absolutely necessary. In short, his idea of a good defensive handgun followed the K.I.S.S. Principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid). After some 30 years in law enforcement, I can attest that the good colonel was, once again, right on the mark. To illustrate the point, let’s take a look at the pistol that I carry most of the time.
To begin with, it is a Colt Combat Commander in .45 ACP, purchased back in the 1970’s and carried almost daily since then. A few years ago, I decided that the Colt needed a bit of a facelift, tune up, and general physical exam. One of the best people that I know to conduct such a project is my friend Wayne Novak, at Novak Sights. Wayne also believes in the minimalist approach to defensive handguns and fixed me up just perfectly.
To begin with, I asked for a set of Novak Lo-Mount fixed sights on the pistol. Now, ordinarily the rear aperture of this sight is .125. But, since I’d started wearing reading glasses a while back, Wayne suggested that he install a rear sight with a .140 aperture that shows more light on either side of the front sight. At the same time, my friend Wiley Clapp suggested that I get Wayne to mount a gold bead on the front sight as this would cause me to direct my focus to the front sight for quick shooting. I did and it works.
Novak also replaced the tired, worn springs and installed a Kart National Match barrel that was properly throated for hollowpoint ammunition. He installed a new trigger and hammer and set them to break clean at 3 pounds. The focus of all of this work was to make the pistol as functionally reliable as was humanly possible.
I shoot with a high thumb; that is, my shooting thumb rests on top of the thumb safety when I’m firing the pistol. Unfortunately, due to the shape of my hand, I don’t always get a good purchase on the grip safety. In the past I had just pinned the grip safety, or tied it down, on other 1911’s. However, Novak had just come out with “The Answer.” This is a one-piece backstrap that does away with the grip safety entirely. It was the answer to my problem. While I don’t recommend this for novice shooters, I have to tell you that I’ve not had any trouble due to the fact that the pistol no longer has a grip safety.
You’ll notice that the pistol doesn’t have a bunch of checkering on it (I don’t need it), or forward cocking serrations, or light rails, or one-piece guide rods. A defensive pistol is not an equipment carrier. Pants have pockets so that one can carry equipment. Louis Awerbuck said it best when he said, “Don’t hang stuff on your pistol!” Well, he used another word instead of “stuff”, but you get the idea.
Good sights, good trigger, good reliability, and only the modifications that you just have to have. Thank you, Colonel!
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