Sure to draw fire from every camp on an internet gun forum is the debate of which is better, a short G.I. style guide rod, or the upstart Full Length Guide Rod? Everyone seems to have an opinion, many of which are absolute and rabid. I would like to discuss the pros and cons of each and then I'll weigh in and the end of this post.
The short USGI style guide rod was what John Browning designed into the 1911 pistol way back when. Those old salts who were serving our country back when Uncle Sam issued M1911 A1 pistols to the troops were trained in the Army Method of Field Stripping, became indoctrinated and can do it in their sleep. Anything that disrupts that system is a blight to humanity in their eyes. Cries of "FLGRs are too hard to take apart or put together" ring out across the LCD screens of computers far and wide. The FLGRs have several different methods of take down, from tool-less like the ones I sell to designs that require a hex key or a paper clip and may require a fairly simple machining modification to the spring tunnel of your slide. The bottom line is all of these systems are useable and almost anyone is dexterous enough to service them. It's just a question of there being enough benefit perceived to justify the minor effort of learning how to manipulate the system of your choosing.
But before we go down the rabbit hole of discussing each method of takedown, let's visit those pros and cons.
The USGI style guide rod
1) It is simple in construction and it works adequately to keep the recoil spring running in a mostly straight line compression stroke.
2) The take down method is reasonably simple and once you've done it a time or three, you should have it down pat.
1) The spring plug can be easily lost if your finger slips off of it while the spring is under compression. The spring has enough force to launch the plug quite a distance or if launched into someones eye or teeth, a trip to the medic may be in order. In all fairness, the same Con exists for FLGR systems that do not capture the plug while it's under compression.
2) Some pistols feel a little "crunchy" during cycling of the slide which is due to the spring coils rubbing on some sharp corner inside the tunnel or dust cover area because the guide does not control the spring completely like an FLGR does.
The Full Length Guide Rod
1) Once assembled, you may notice smoother cycling due to the rod controling the recoil spring during it's cycle. You are more likely to notice it during hand cycling than you are while firing the pistol.
2) Using a FLGR adds between 1 and 3 ounces of non-reciprocating weight in the front of the pistol. These figures are for Gov't Model FLGRs; Commanders weigh less. This added weight may dampen muzzle flip slightly. Opinions vary on this.
1) You may hear of FLGRs coming apart, like a rod unscrewing from a flange, or a two-piece rod coming apart. This is pretty much a case of cheap, poorly made parts. A good quality S/S FLGR doesn't have a tendency to unscrew.
2) The chief complaint about FLGRs is just that the user just doesn't like having to learn a different method of field stripping. Then they crank up the sirens about how it does nothing and John Browning would've put it there if he thought it should be there. They make noises about not being able to field strip their gun in a combat zone if it had a FLGR in it.
What do I think?
I think that you should use which ever system you are happiest with. Try both with an open mind and see if you find any benefit of one over the other. Buy a spare spring plug and put it in your range bag.
I have used both designs and been happy with both. I never had one break of either style, or come apart during use. I take 1911s apart like a Hi-Power, so I don't launch many plugs across the shop or into the weeds. Topic for another blog right there.
I do find that FLGRs cycle smoother and flip just a touch less. But once I got used to a change, I never missed the old system and don't remember ever switching back.
Last word on FLGRs - Mine are one piece S/S that will not fall apart. You take them apart just like you do a USGI system.
Like my hero Forrest Gump - "That's all I got to say about that".