The recent 1911's suck video by James Yeager seems worth talking about. In case you missed it here is the video:
For the sake of intellectual honesty and to have a little Devils Advocate fun I am going to say things 1911 lovers will not like. Anyway here we go.
The reasons people buy 1911's often have a lot more to do with their history, lineage, machismo factor and fact that the mighty Jeff Cooper carried one than anything about the actual gun itself.
1911's are big, heavy, don't hold a lot of bullets, are not lefty/ambi friendly and have controls that are difficult for many people to use well.
If you look at the 1911 honestly they probably (which I say just because doing a comparison would be a hassle) get bested as a defensive/ service weapon by modern handguns like those made by Glock, Springfield (XD), S&W MP, etc all in any honest test.
To be completely blunt if the 1911 was designed today it would probably never be made and certainly would not become popular.
Sorry 1911 lovers, it really isn't anything personal and everything I said is true. You wouldn't be fuming right now if it wasn't. End Devils Advocate fun.
Moving forward I think 1911 reliability issues and failures can be attributed to a few distinct categories. I will discuss them in no particular order.
Age- A gun made in 1917 that still has all original parts might reasonably have some issues. I once went to the range with a buddy who brought an old family heirloom 1911. It was a neat old gun of WWI vintage. After about 50 rounds the barrel bushing broke and the slide flew off into the dirt with the recoil spring and plug going all over the place. We picked up the parts and he got a new bushing. Not a huge deal really, metal fatigues, springs weaken, etc over long periods of time. A lot of these real old guns probably need a little TLC and just need to be retired as safe queens.
Manufacturers- So many people have made 1911's and most of them sucked at it. I stick with popular manufacturers and common models for a very good reason, they are far more likely to work well than no name or the fly by night guys.
[DIY- The plug and play factor of 1911 parts has also lead to a lot of people trying to be gunsmiths and slapping a bunch of random parts together with predictably poor results. If you or your buddy screw with a gun and it stops working the fault doesn't lie with the gun. Also if you buy a used 1911 the guy who owned it a decade ago may have tried this and left the gun messed up.]
Maintenance- 1911's and in particular custom/ target models which we will discuss later are more picky about maintenance than a lot of modern service type handguns like Glocks and XD's. As Larry Vickers said "[i]f ... you treat your pistols like we all treat our lawnmowers then don’t get a 1911 – use a Glock."
Tolerances and "Target models"- As noted in the video the old WWII era 1911's had significant tolerances, such that they would often rattle if shaken. However they also shoot reliably. There is a very direct relationship between tolerances, accuracy and weapon malfunctions. Tighter tolerances make for more accurate guns but they also mean that guns are more likely to malfunction.
Over the last 30 years or so a lot of 1911 manufacturers have tried to cash in on the "target" designation. They made the guns more accurate by tightening up the tolerances significantly which is easy with modern manufacturing techniques. This allowed them to make the gun significantly more accurate and add 30-60% to the price. However many of these guns are equally accurate and jamtastic. Even the really expensive "target" type guns can be "picky" or only "like" one brand of ammo or have "unexplained feeding issues". As Tam noted awhile back it is interesting that a $1,200 gun is "picky" or has "unexplained feeding issues" but a $200 gun that does the exact same things is a jamomatic piece of junk. My personal advice is to keep the "target" models for competition/ ranges and to carry a service gun with it's significantly higher reliability and amply capable accuracy.
Those 4 areas are where I think most 1911 issues come from. One could argue that they are really not that hard to mitigate. Simply using a modern 1911 made by a major manufacturer and doing reasonable maintenance on it will go a long way.
My general observation is that standard models from major manufacturers like Springfield and Colt function like the service pistol the 1911 was designed to be. In other words they are reasonably reliable and accurate enough to be a viable defensive weapon. I haven't found them unduely maintenance intensive but I take pretty good care of guns anyway.
For the sake of full disclosure I own a Springfield Mil Spec 1911. I have used it for concealed carry and home defense and would not hesitate to do so again. I do not have anything bad to say about it. However I am trying to sell it which shows where my money is really going. I don't really do anything with it these days and it is complicating my logistics. Also by selling it I can get another Glock 9mm.
As to the bottom line. In my opinion if you like 1911's and are able/ willing to mitigate their weak points I do not see why a 1911 can't serve you well. Just because they aren't the highest tech and most low maintenance/ reliable gun out there doesn't mean they aren't good enough.
Thoughts? This should be fun.