Current Top 1911 Picks

My current picks for the best production 1911’s you can buy.   I’m going to roll with some specific guns and give some more details.  But following the recent AR-15 article pattern, I’m going to stick with regular production 1911’s and not touch on Custom and Semi-Custom.  Otherwise this list would be all about Nighthawk, Ed Brown, Les Baer, and Wilson Combat.

1.  Springfield Armory:  I’m putting Springfield as a top choice because their guns are consistently well above par, and their customer service just might be The Best in the entire gun industry.  Their policy is that they want you to be happy with your gun.  So you can buy a Springfield without hesitation.   Any complaints I have heard about Springfield usually involved the person having some extreme form of Unrealistic Expectations.  “I had a problem with my GI Model so I think Springfield should give me a TRP!  With a 3 day turn around!”  That kind of thing.
Picking 3 guns out of their line up, the TRP, the MC Operator, and the Champion LW Operator.  (Champion being Springfield lingo for “Commander”)   I would really like to see Springfield do a “CCO” type pistol, and Loaded LW Commander, er… Champion.
As some do not know,  MARSOC was buying and using the Springfield MC Operators for years and years before Colt snagged the contract.  Considering Colt’s new CEO is a former Marine General… Hmmm… I’m sure that contract award was completely legit.

2.  SIG.  SIG really hit the ground running making just what could be best overall 1911’s you can buy.  Problem with them though, is that they departed from tradition with a sharp turn.  Non traditional external dimensions/profiles, with external extractors.   Then they came out with their “Tradition” series – which does look like a regular 1911, but still has that exterior extractor.    However, these guns are so good… I just love them.  Very much so.  Their C3 and RCS are amazing CCW guns.  And this gun here…. It hits all the right buttons.  Make this a Commander sized, SIG.  Please.   You can’t go wrong with a SIG 1911.

3.  PARA USA.  It’s not a secret that I’ve just never really cared for Para’s guns.  But ever since Para Ordinance became Para USA, they have been making huge strides.  Their LDA trigger system, I still don’t care for.  If you like it, that’s fine.  I just don’t.  However their regular 1911’s… They have evolved into guns that are just excellent.  Their new Black Ops 1911 is unquestionably a fine 1911 handguns by any measure.  But it’s their Elite series that I really dig.  Simple, no front slide serrations… and this one is almost perfect.   Just please, get rid of that fiber optic FSP.  I’ll take a regular tritium FSP, thank you.  I’ve talked with some of the guys from PARA USA, and they are taking their guns very seriously.  They want to be the best.  And you know what?  They keep on this road, they sure will be.  I’m liking where they are going.

4.  Remington’s 1911 R1.  This comes as a surprise to me… but Remington’s R1 family of 1911’s are just flat out excellent.  All of Remington’s problems do not exist in or effect their 1911’s.  And they are offering these well built and solid 1911’s at extremely reasonable prices.   They make one that I would be very tempted to add to my own collection.  Tell me that isn’t just gorgeous.  Remington is using a very good steel alloy, and are sporting very nice finishes.
Now if they could just put this attention to detail into the Marlin Lever Actions – I’d be a happy happy Ogre.

5.  STI.  Specifically, STI’s Lawman 4.0, and the Nitro 10.   I favor the Single Stacks, and I favor the guns that use the bushings… but that Nitro 10 is just too cool, so I can forgo the bushing requirement.

6.  Dan Wesson.  Because Dan Wesson.   Their Bobtail Commanders are probable the most FLAWLESS 1911’s I’ve ever seen that didn’t cost more than a good used car.   Their 10mm Razorback is just too damn good.   But the ones to really look hard at, are the Valor Black and the CCO.   Perfection.   Where is the Valor Black Commander though?  Oh, and hey, CZ USA – Make these in 10mm as well.  I don’t really dig the Titan 10, because I don’t hunt Vampires, professionally, so I don’t need all the race-gun hints.  I want a clean and simple 1911, in 10mm… that’s not stainless.

Here’s what I look for in a 1911:  Simplicity and understated elegance.  I don’t like bushingless bull barrels.  I don’t like full length guide rods.  I really don’t even particularly care for ambi-safeties.  And the one thing I really don’t like – but they are almost universal… The Novak style ramped rear sights.  But I can live with it.   I will also stay away from anything that even resembles a “Series 80”.  I prefer Commander length barrels.  The 4″ to 4.25″ barrel lengths.  They balance just right to me.  I do prefer if I can get it, the light weight frames, but will take solid steel happily.  I also do not like extended slide releases and safety levers.  The “Tear Drop” style safety lever is my favorite.    I do prefer a bobbed hammer or commander style hammer, followed up with a nice wide high ride beaver-tail.  Those work for me.

One to keep an eye on:  Rock Island Armory is getting better and better, not every year, but every day.  They are like the Kia Motors of 1911’s… they used to be cheap and laughable, but now they will make you turn your head, “What is that?  THAT’s a Kia?!?”  RIA is having that same effect.  While not one of my top choices now, they could be at some point in the future sooner than anyone could expect.

31 thoughts on “Current Top 1911 Picks”

  1. I completely agree in RIA. I have had one for over 10 years. The only part of I had to replace is the recoil spring (and that was due to wear). Otherwise, the only problems I have had with it were due to cheap magazines. I threw those out and only use Wilson Combat or Mecgar (the ones it came with) magazines. Since mine is a GI model, the only change I want to make to it are to add some night sights.

  2. I have had very few problems with my Para LDA’s. All of the problems that I have had, have been fixed by good cleaning, and good magazine springs. They have gone back to a more traditional extractor and that is a good thing. The only thing I do not like about Para is the site cut. I would like more options for night sites. I have large palms and short fingers so the double stacks fit my hands very well.

    I agree on the likes and dislikes, I also prefer a traditional length guide rod, and bushing barrel system.

  3. Sir, I’m in the market for a 1911. I’m looking at a mil-spec model with no rail or beaver tail. I had considered Colt. I noticed it wasn’t on your list. I owned a kimber 1911 TLE II but it was older with an external extractor and I had problems and sold the gun years ago but now the 1911 bug is back and I wanted something basic. Last question – I’ve seen two Springfields at the BX and one has a round main spring housing and the other is flat but they are almost identical and the prices were similar (within $20 of one another). What is the advantage of either and does SA call them both a “GI” and make two types to accommodate different shoppers? Thanks. Your input is valued and appreciated.

    1. The one with the flat MSH is the Mil-Spec, and the rounded one is the GI. Both are great, and which one to get comes down to which one feels the best in your hands. I have the GI and it’s absolutely wonderful.

      1. Based on your picks I went back and looked at Para again, specifically the Para GI Expert. It was nice and I liked the feel. It came with some extras like extended safety selector, beaver tail, skeletonize hammer and trigger etc…. Your thoughts?

        1. I’d love one. To be honest, I’d have laughed at them some years ago… but they have dedicated themselves and it shows.

  4. I really liked this list. I could not agree more about the Sigs and the Reverse Two Tone Traditional is currently on my wish list. The SIG Nitron Rail I had and foolishly traded for a S&W M325PD was excellent in every way. I was a little surprised to see SA on the list as well as Para. I will say that the Para Elite Commander you linked to is one dead sexy heater. I want to like STI. I really do. I’m a native Texan, and it’s almost a requirement to like them. But none of their models really scream “BUY ME!!!” to me. Switching gears. What do you think of the Ruger SR1911s?

    1. You know, with the Rugers… I’m like you on the STI’s. I want to l like them. I really do. But I don’t dig the way they are making them. Something’s off.
      Maybe its because they area all stainless, and thing using a black MSH… small details like that.

  5. Love my Springfield & STI.
    Tried a couple RIA’s at NRA in Indy. They had really nice triggers. Michael Bane visited them last season on Shooting Gallery. The owner seemed quite serious about making great guns. Might have to get me their .22TCM / 9mm model.

  6. Can’t disagree with your picks. I have a Springfield Armory, a couple Sigs, and a Remington 1911R1. All are great guns. The Remington is just way better than I expected.

    With STI, something about them has always felt off to me… maybe it’s the thin grips they use (I prefer nice fat ones). But they just never felt right.

    I do think S&W makes a good 1911 too. As good as the others? I don’t know.

    As for RIA, the one I’ve dealt with didn’t impress me at all. I know others have had them any loved them… maybe it’s just this particular gun. But it had an extractor with WAY too much tension (easy to fix, but until fixed, it flat wouldn’t run) and the frame was improperly machined- when I changed out the FLGR for a GI style (it was a Tactical model) I had to file on the guide rod because it didn’t sit right in the frame. Comparing it to other guns showed me it was the RIA, not the rod. Honestly, I would usually recommend someone spend a bit more for a Remington rather than go with the RIA. Just a better finished product all the way around.

    Never fiddled with a Para, but nice to know they’ve gotten things together. I’m not sure if I’ve ever even seen a Dan Wesson in person but I’ve heard good things.

  7. Any SIG 1911 I’ve tried had great factory triggers. Clean and crisp. Not as light as a Gold Cup but I wouldn’t want to run a combat course with a Gold Cup.
    Who would like SIG to produce a size duplicate of the old 9mm Star Starlight, hey they did the Star Fire already!

  8. Good list, George. I’d have to say I’m largely in agreement with you. The Springfield pistol that has impressed me, though, in terms of bang for the buck is the Range Officer. Those are very well made if the ones I’ve handled are any indication.

    Now that they’ve come out with a Commander sized version, I think they are going to sell a trainload of those.

  9. George, have you had a Para apart and REALLY looked at the internals? Unless they have changed DRASTICALLY in the last three years, they have the ROUGHEST internals of any 1911 I have ever seen. Some parts look like they were dropped in the gun, as cast.

  10. I carry a Springfield LW Champion every day…the old black over OD gun, which isn’t made anymore. I shoot a Ruger SR1911 in steel plate matches and USPSA Single Stack, and have taken it though the Gunsite 250 Pistol course…runs like a champ. I think it’s one of the best 1911s out there for the money.

    But the Remingtons? I thought they were all Series 80, which is why I have stayed away.

    1. I will take my Ruger Sr1911 next time I do gunsite Pistol 250. I routinely run better splits and am more accurate than with the Glock 17 I took last time. I am thinking of picking up the commander sized ruger and would be happy to hear any experiences with them.

  11. Hey, I’m new to the whole pistol/gun world and finally got the “okay” from the wife to get one. I’ve always had my eyes on the 1911’s and particularly the Kimber CDP II, until I read this article… Just going off what a bunch of my buddies have mentioned over the years I know Sigs are a quality product and after reading this article I seem to have had a change of heart and more than likely will go with the Sig.

    My question is: What keeps Kimber off the list? Are they quality, just not top 5 quality?

    1. Kimbers are all about Cosmetics. They don’t pay enough attention to quality control, customer service, and the little things that make a 1911 actually run. Now, they are getting better. But I still wouldn’t buy one myself. SIG – Absolutely. You can buy them with confidence. I’ve seen very few issues with SIG 1911’s and the ones I have seen – were fixed quickly by SIG.

  12. I own some Springfield “Loaded” 1911s in 9mm and LOVE them. The triggers are amazing. One of a pair of consec serial numbers was worked over by Harrison in Atlanta, and it is sweet with custom straight 8 sights. The other was treated by Moss and it packs very nice. Absolutely reliable with the Tripp magazines. Smooth as silk with BoltLube on them, and shoot great. Also have an EMP in 9mm that is easy to carry, accurate, and smooth. Great trigger for a stock pistol.

    On the Remington, I will NEVER forgive them for f***ing up the R51. The one I saw at SHOT two years ago was AMAZING. One finger cocking, and a trigger to die for. Had to be THE perfect chick gun, as well as a great backup. Aimed just like a 1911. Who woulda thunk they would never be able to actually build it. No happy with them, no matter HOW good the R1 is. Let them stick to rifles and shotties.

    Glad you left off the Kimbers. Seem to have a wide variability of quality. Some shoot great, some not so great. Too much advertising, maybe.

    1. You know, Kimber can make some good 1911’s. The Raptors from their Custom Shop are generally pretty dang good. They just don’t put the consistent effort into the rest of them. Now, if they could make those SOLO’s run, that would be the ticket.
      The R51? Don’t even want to talk about the R51’s.

  13. Trying real hard to decide between 3 1911’s .45(sigtarget ss,SA Range officer, colt goldcup trophy ). Performance reliability and long term value, are my questions getting frustrated the more I research not a huge dollar difference 1000+\- some of you guys more familiar than me HELP I’m not into tactical,classic appearance/traditional style more my thing I want a great performer out of the box not something to build

  14. Springfield Range Officer is the best shooting 1911 I have ever shot. Great trigger and recoil padding. The compact is better for carry than anything Kimber is making. And as you said customer service with SA is top notch, would recommend them to anyone! Great article.

  15. I realize this is two years old, but would love to see an update.

    I was surprised given your feelings on the Series 80 that Sig made the list.

  16. Well, it’s 2017 and the black Dan Wesson Valor is Commander sized AND V-BOB’d if you so desire. I’d have Dan Wesson at number 1 on this list. You can’t go wrong with the Valor. It doesn’t even matter what else they make! The Valor by itself should garner the #1 ranking. Yes…I’m a fan. Please pass the coolade…

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