Few pistols have had the same effect on the gun world as the 1911. Known simply by the year it was adopted as the US Army's official service handgun, the single action 1911 pistol was brought to us by a leading disciple of the craft of gunsmithing, John Moses Browning. Like his namesake, he parted the sea as we were being chased by purveyors of inferior handguns and delivered us to safety, seven rounds of single stack 45 ACP at a time. There is no finer handgun than the 1911. Those who disagree probably hate America.
The 1911 is a single action only semi-automatic pistol with a single stack magazine and a crisp trigger with a very short reset. Shooting a 1911 well is not difficult, something that has surely contributed to its popularity. The classic 1911 has a steel frame and slide, a 5" barrel, and holds 7 rounds of 45 ACP in the magazine, but as you will see below, the options in the 1911 world today are endless.
Setting a New Record for Reliability
Even today, the myth of the magazine-fed pistol as being less reliable than the revolver persists in some circles. The fact is that no one who is alive today was alive when revolvers were more reliable than magazine fed pistols. During the Army trials which led to the selection of John Browning's design, not only did his pistol beat out competition from Savage, but it also beat the existing revolver when it came to reliability! The 1911 went 6,000 rounds without a malfunction, but the revolver malfunctioned twice. In the more than one hundred years since, the design has become even more reliable - if perfection can be improved upon, that is - and durable thanks to improved manufacturing practices and computer-controlled machining. There are still many gunsmiths with incredible skill, though, who do amazing work on 1911s by hand.
The Best 1911
If there was ever a topic that could fill a library all on its own, the amount of discussion over the past century (especially the last few decades) regarding which 1911 was best could certainly do the job. While we can't single out any one 1911 as the absolute best, we can certainly help you identify which 1911 is best for you. We'll do this in alphabetical order.
Carolina Arms Group is a name not a lot of people have heard, but those who have heard it know it's a name to be reckoned with. We sell full builds as well as their parts for customization or upgrade of your existing pistol. Their Trenton pistol is named for the battle fought after George Washington crossed the Delaware river to surprise Hessian troops. Like Washington's plan at the battle of Trenton, the Trenton pistol is a stunning reminder that it's always better to think things through and do them right. Rather than build basic guns and upcharge for options, Carolina Arms makes the "options" standard. If a full custom pistol handmade by skilled gunsmiths is your choice, Carolina Arms Group should be at the top of your list.
Colt Firearms, as the brand most associated with the 1911, is a great choice for those who want to start with a quality and reliable pistol that makes an excellent basis for a future custom build. They offer many caliber, finish, and size options, along with lightweight aluminum frames. A Colt Government 1911 is something that should be in everyone's gun collection, and a Lightweight Commander is a good option for those who want to carry a 1911. The classic 10mm Delta Elite still offers plenty of power in a handgun-size package, while there's definitely something alluring about a stainless 38 Super. The Colt Officer model pistol is as small as you can get in a true 1911 design.
Dan Wesson 1911s are an excellent option for those who want to straddle the financial ground between stock, mass-production guns and those handmade over a period of months by gunsmiths at the top of Mount Olympus. Available in the most popular calibers of 9mm, 38 Super, 10mm, and 45 ACP, they also give you the option of a bobtail – known as the V-Bob – which greatly reduces "printing" when you carry the pistol. Their two-tone guns are a work of art, and their slides are largely devoid of the big rollmarks some other brands prefer, which many buyers have been unable to avoid in the past. They also offer extended barrel lengths like the Bruin with its 6.3" 45 ACP barrel.
Ed Brown has been making parts used by many other manufacturers of high-end 1911s for many years, and we carry these parts alongside their exquisite pistols. Ed Brown has long been a trendsetter in the custom 1911 world in terms of finishes, textures, frame modifications, and so on, and it's not uncommon to see them come out with a new model or design that in a few years can be seen elsewhere. If you like getting the best implementation of a design element direct from the minds of those who brought it to life, an Ed Brown gun is exactly what you need.
Kimber almost singlehandedly brought the 1911 world back to life with its line of custom-looking production guns, and they're still a go-to for those who want a million and one options for everything from carry to match or competition shooting. Their finishes range from stock to rainbow colors featuring PVD coatings and everything in between.
Les Baer is serious about accuracy. So serious, in fact, that all of their guns are guaranteed to shoot 3" at 50 yards and some exclusive Les Baer pistols are guaranteed to shoot 1.5" groups at that distance. Their Premier II pistol is often regarded as one of the standards by which all other 1911s should be judged. They have several dozen options for pistols, from the regular (if you can call a Les Baer regular) government size 45 ACP to compact 9mms and 38 Supers to hunter and competition models in 10mm.
Springfield Armory is a company that many associate with production guns, but their Professional model is a full custom pistol that beat out all others to take the coveted FBI HRT contract. It's every bit the equal of other custom 1911s and is sure to be both a highly functional weapon and a great conversation piece. In the middle of their line is the TRP, a production pistol with many custom features that offers great accuracy and reliability along with a tight fit, checkering, ambi safety, and so on – all things that you'd pay a lot for elsewhere. They also make the Range Officer, an excellent choice as an entry-level 1911.
Wilson Combat is a name to be reckoned with and one that still holds as much esteem today as it did in decades past when Bill Wilson helped establish the custom 1911 market. The Wilson Combat CQB is "the" custom 1911, the one pistol which is sure to be mentioned in any serious discussion of serious 1911s for serious purposes. Wilson Combat calls it their "standard-bearer," and they're not kidding around. Loaded with custom features, truly custom built, and with a very competitive custom 1911 price, the CQB is an excellent way to dip your toes in the custom 1911 world.