1911 Criteria

Following yesterday’s post, I knew that people were going to ask me for my criteria in buying a new 1911 (and they did — I got a dozen emails just last night).  Just to remind everyone, here’s my (much-modified) Springfield Mil-Spec (G.I.) model:

My new 1911 will have to look close to this one, except I’d like Novak sights or similar.

To recap then, here are my purchase criteria:

  • between $650* and $900 retail
  • bobbed hammer (no more Colt “hammer-bites” for Kimmy)
  • no serrations on the front of the slide  (chews up my holster, and I don’t need them anyway)
  • no serrations on the front of the grip (chews up my hand in an extended range session)
  • smooth (not that extruded crap) beavertail grip safety (ditto)
  • decent-sized ejection port
  • 5″ barrel
  • fixed Novak-style rear sight
  • I’m pretty agnostic about frame color (blued or stainless steel will work for me, although blue has a 51% chance, all things being equal)

*sorry, but I work my 1911s to death, and I’m unconvinced that Taurus, Iver Johnson, Metro, Rock Island et al. are up to the task.  At some point down the cost curve, too many sacrifices in materials and quality have to be made — and I think that nowadays, $600 represents that point.

So these 5″ models are priced right, but fail on features:

Kimber Custom Two-tone

Remington R1 Stainless (I can live with the small rear sight)

Here’s one (Ruger SR1911) which comes thisclose, but fails because of a single feature

See what I mean?  [sigh] I guess I’ll end up with the Ruger SR1911, but have a gunsmith replace the grip safety with a traditional “flat” one.  And those stupid grips on the blued model will go bye-bye as well.

Watch this space.


  1. I’m pretty much with you, except I prefer a flat MSH and I like the safety bump (it gives a bit of leeway if your grip is less than perfect). I also like the grips on that Springfield first example.

    1. That “less than perfect grip” is overcome by a a thing called “practice”…

  2. Some of the cheap clones cut corners by using alloy frames and parts. That is the kiss of death for me. They will shoot as well as the steel frames (the most accurate 1911 I ever owned was an alloy frame gun) – but they don’t hold up as well.

  3. I like my Ruger SR1911 just fine. It’s been faultless, and is quite accurate.

  4. At the range the other day a friend offered me his Springfield Armory 1911 to try. I hadn’t fired a 1911 in years (my LW Commander is the queen of the safe). After one magazine I had a little red spot in the palm of my hand. When I picked it up, I hadn’t noticed, but the thing had one of those little grip safety bumps. A deal killer for sure.

  5. Thanks Kim for writing this up. A 1911 is something I’ve wanted to own for some time now and this write up is exactly what I’ve been wanting (from someone whose opinion I trust) in starting to look for a 1911 I will purchase. Truth be told, I like the look of the first gun over the later ones anyway.

    A recommendation for a new series for your blog…”Gun Shopping with Kim”

  6. I don’t know about anyone else, but for a finish on a 1911 I like the greenish grey of WWII era Parkerizing.
    On the Rugers I agree put the wood grips on the blued one with a smooth safety.

  7. As far as the Ruger’s ‘bump’ on the grip safety, about 5 minutes with a grinder and some cold blue can fix that pronto.
    Otherwise, well done on the ‘working’ 1911.
    Beware the longer trigger on the new pistol. That is if your old one still has a short trigger. May take a bit of getting used to. (Aww, darn, gotta do some practice with that new fangled pistol)
    You cannot go wrong with the Ruger. Any problems, their customer service is exemplary.

  8. I hauled around a bone stock gummint issue M1911a1 for some number of years and never experienced the hammer bite thing. Serial number was X-3959, any guesses how old it was? I’m reasonably sure the only original parts were the frame and slide. My field first had X-3910. Every other one was in the 6 digits, or more.

    Bought a series 70 way back when and had a gunsmith in Colorado Springs replace the sights, enlarge the ejection port, throat the chamber, flare the magazine well a bit, clean up the trigger and install ambidextrous safety and slide lock. Hey I shoot sinister and if I could’ve flipped the mag release I’d have gotten that too. Put a Pachmayer grip on it and it was a very comfortable and accurate shooter. Alas financial…. you know the rest, or can guess.

  9. As I’ve shared here I carried a Springfield Mil-Spec as a duty pistol for some years. I modified mine with the Commander style hammer and extended safety and slide release. I always felt that I could hit the target and the pistol was 100% reliable. A couple of years ago Mrs Ritis’ little boy Arthur got to me and I found that I just couldn’t carry and shoot a full size 1911 any longer. May saint John Browning forgive me – I went to a Springfield XD9. It still had a grip safety and this old man could shoot it pretty well. The pistol was uglier than a mud fence but it went bang every time and grouped very well on the bad guy targets – the one that sort of looks like Prince Charles and also the very ugly female silhouette. If you’ve shot LEO quals you know who I’m talking about.

    I like a 1911 with the arched mainspring – that’s what I learned on back in the day I worked for Uncle Sam and it seems to fit my hand better. I bought an Armscor 1911 many years back – those Philippine pistols are sold under a bunch of brand names – and found it to be a great range gun and plinker. Standard 1911 parts fit and the pistol is accurate and reliable. My only gripe was the finish on the alloy frame which wore off pretty quickly. The Armscor now lives in the console of my pickup. It shoots straight and feeds everything out of a couple of MecGar magazines. Should I lose it for some reason, I’m not out a lot of money.

    Now that I’ve gotten the cheap pistol out of the way, if I was in the market for a new 1911 I think that I’d look at the Ruger. I’ve always been a fan of the Ruger brand – their products are well made and pretty much indestructible and they’re made in the good old USA. They stand behind their products and give you a good value for your money. Custom grips are pretty easy to come by and reasonably cheap. I had a set laser engraved with my name for about $80.

  10. After thinking for a while, I do believe that the inclusion of Tritium night sights in a sight design of your choosing would be a valid and useful improvement.

  11. I own, um, several 1911s. My two favorite to shoot are a Kimber Custom and an Ed Brown Executive Elite. My only small tinge of regret about the EB is that I could have bought three Kimber Customs for the price.

    Also, I have an old “original” Springfield GI that I gave $350 out the door for. I replaced the MSH with a plastic flat one and added an Ed Brown barrel bushing. Thousands and thousands of rounds later it still spins like a top.

  12. I keep thinking $950.
    I’m old enough to remember when I got two (that’s 2) pieces of bubblegum plus a card for a penny and a large box of Good & Plenty cost a nickel.
    At that rate the $950 top price should be closer to $5000, that’s three (3) zeros after the number five (5) at a minimum.

  13. Kim,
    Thank you thank you thank you for this post. I’m thinking my 2020 BAG-Day purchase could be a 1911.
    Remember Xavier Thoughts? While he hasn’t blogged anything for years, his pages are still visible. Your post was a primmer for me to also pull down some of his 1911-related posts too. Look for his post about the Gospel of John Moses Browning. Something tells me you’ll approve.
    Enjoy the remainder of your weekend.
    – Brad

  14. With regard to serrations on the grip, don’t you wear gloves at the range?

  15. Went to the range (Shoot Point Blank) yesterday with our youngest son. He decided to rent a SIG P320 compact. I shot it too. It is VERY comfortable. Yeah, I know, euro-pellet. ltdavel’s comment about arthritis prompts my comment. Just wanted to pass along my experience. Thankfully, I have no joint problems. My ongoing battle is my tired old eyes.

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