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.
I know I’ve been packing a Glock 23 for years… but lately I’ve been doing that less and less. Really it’s been relegated to Car Gun Status now, so I always have it close when I’m out and about. But what I carry on my person – that’s changed.
More and more my Go To pistol has been my Beretta 92FS, and I’ve been carrying my 1911 a LOT more. As I type this post, it’s the 1911 that’s sitting by my left hand. Don’t laugh at my desk… I know it’s cluttered, but then again, so is my mind. So it all works out. That’s my beloved GI… which had a light issue with cracking grip panels. That was the worst thing that could have happened, because dang it… now I’m thinking about changing other parts. Like a Beaver Tail and a Commander style hammer… and if I am doing that – I might as well change the sear and trigger… You guys know the drill. The grips were the lid to a bloody Pandora’s Box of tweaks. Why? Why the hell did I do that? I could have got some double diamond checkered wood grips and have been fine. But no… I asked my friends for some regular old black plastics… thought I’d cheap out… not thinking about how they fecking changed the whole dynamic of the pistol and it’s in my head that I could change other things.
And now I’m looking at the Beretta 92FS and thinking… “You know, Wilson Combat is now making Beretta parts.” They have a slick short reach trigger… No… NO!
No… I’m not going to mess with my Beretta. That’s become the Go To Gun. My Almost EDC. I’m not doing that.
But the 1911… Well… that’s different.
I’m thinking why not have some fun with it? I can detail strip it blindfolded, and that sentimental GI memento cherry has been popped with the black grips. Why not?
Deep polished blued levers and safety, but the slide and frame – Color Cased. That is just sexy to me. I don’t know.
What do you guys think?
I’m done. I’m not going to do it any more. I’m not going to carry a tiny mouse gun anymore. That’s over. As a main carry gun, of course. Maybe as a backup piece, or a hold out. But no more as my main carry gun. It’s time to go big.
Why do we carry at all? Think about this for a minute, or more. And think about the possible scenarios that might require you to actually have to use your concealed carry gun. In any of these scenarios, does it play out that you would be better off in those situations with a smaller gun? Or did you, like me, come to the conclusion that you would rather have as much gun as you can?
You have a CFP, or more commonly a CCW Permit. Most States do not require you to carry a specific gun. You have the option to change it up. If you have the option, why not go big when you can? Let me tell you, it doesn’t matter to the Anti-Gun Biggots what gun you carry. They have never said “Oh, its okay, he only has a .380.” In fact, they have tried specifically to ban small guns because they are more concealable. Remember they made a run against Saturday Night Specials? They don’t care. That being the case, f you are going to get wet, you might as well go swimming. Should you have to use your weapon, and you end up in a court of Law, they will make no distinctions regarding the size or type. Or if you are in a store and lift your arm up to reach a top shelf item and someone sees the grip of your pistol. They call the cops no matter what it is and when The Bronze approaches you they don’t make any distinction either. You are either legal to carry, or you are not. Size does not matter.
The last several months I’ve been packing bigger guns. Mostly full sized duty pistols. Government Model 1911’s, Railed Commander 1911’s, Beretta 92FS and full sized Storms, Glock 22’s. The smallest gun I’ve carried is a Glock 23. None of these are Mouse Guns or Pocket Pistols. Each on let’s you know you have a “fist full of Iron”. Or advanced polymer as the case may be. As I write this, on my hip right now is a Springfield 1911 .45 and there is a great deal of satisfaction in having it on me.
Bigger guns make fewer compromises. They hold more rounds, are more reliable, more accurate, maybe more powerful, and are certainly more intimidating. The more intimidating the gun is, the more likely you won’t have to actually pull the trigger. The only disadvantage to them is the greater challenge of carrying it concealed. To carry a full sized gun concealed, you are going to have to take a bit more care in your holster and wardrobe selection.
Thankfully the good folks at Crossbreed Holsters can help us out. The Supertuck is available for many handguns, including the big 92FS. This holster allows for the big gun to be carried comfortably, inside the waistband, all day long. For me, that’s the advantage I need. Because I’ll wear a gun from the time I get out of bed until I give up on the day and go back to bed.
Normally I wear Pancake style rigs, wide, outside of the waistband holsters that help contour the shape of the gun to hide it, and pack more comfortably while wearing normal sized pants. I find this to be an advantage when riding a motorcycle. The downside to a pancake rig, is that the length of the gun makes it easier for the muzzle end to peak out from under your jacket or shirt.
This isn’t so much of a problem during most of the year. But during the peak of the summer, wearing jackets and sport coats becomes less than ideal. During these times, as much as possible, I’ll wear a Mechanics style shirt or a Bowling shirt. If one is less fashionable, or a huge fan of Weird Al, you can wear a Hawaiian style shirt. Anything that can be worn untucked, loose, and can cover up the whole gun. But this is me and I am not required to wear Business Casual. But even then, there are still ways to carry a full sized gun.
Not long ago I was talking about packing large handguns with a local Police Officer. I mentioned that I was packing a Beretta 92FS and he didn’t believe me. I was in the process of selling him a Beretta but he was balking on the purchase, thinking it was too big to be carried undercover. I was wearing an Under Armor polo shirt. You should have seen his eyes when I pulled my Beretta 92FS out, cleared it, and laid it on the counter. I can’t repeat what he said, but he was clearly surprised that I had it on me as he normally could tell if someone was packing or not. After that, it became a discussion regarding holsters instead of the gun. To end this story, he bought the gun and has enjoyed it ever since.
I live in a very rural area of Utah. My front yard is a farmer’s field. We get all sorts of wildlife here at “Ogre Ranch”. Some big, some small. One night I came home on my motorcycle, late and in the dark. I shut off my bike and jumped off. As I stepped around the big KTM Enduro, I saw a dark shadow and eye shine. Something was there in the shadows beside my house. I don’t remember drawing, or even making the decision to draw, but suddenly my gun was in my hands and that gun was in a ready position as I was squinting to try to identify what was over there in the shadows. At that moment, a full sized duty sidearm was very comforting. The only problem was that I didn’t have a light mounted on my weapon and my normal companion of the Surefire Aviator flashlight was with me but tucked safely in my backpack. Inaccessible and useless to me as this didn’t feel like a time when I could shrug my pack off and dig through it to find my light. Instead I was there, gun in hand, waiting until I could ID this thing as a threat or not. I could hear it breathing. I could see it’s eye-shine, and that was it. It really was a freaky moment. The moment ended though when my wife pulled up and her headlights illuminated what I was in a standoff with. It was a large Mule Deer Buck. I can chuckle about it now, but in that moment of looking into the unknown, had I been armed with something small and mousy, I’d probably have been a lot more uncomfortable with the situation.
This goes back to what the great Clint Smith has said. Guns are not supposed to be comfortable, they are supposed to be comforting. He is exactly right. I don’t recall ever being in a situation where I was comforted by packing a tiny little gun. I remember one time I needed something small and concealable where low profile was critical. A .25 Caliber Baby Browning the answer. I could stand there with my hands in my pockets and still be ready to draw that little pistol. I thought it was a perfect solution. Until I needed it. I reached into my pocket and grabbed the little gun, but didn’t draw it. Let me tell you, that pistol offered no comfort. In fact, I let it go and instead opted for the ASP Baton tucked inside the waistband. At least that felt solid. It felt like a weapon. The .25 felt like a squirt gun. In this situation, neither was required to be used, thankfully. But it impressed upon me that the small gun was useless. Harsh Language proved more potent. That was the last time I bothered with the .25. I think I remember that I traded it for a few boxes of ammo.
I’m not saying that only huge hand cannons are the way to go. I’m just saying you don’t have to limit yourself to tiny guns.
I’ve talked about the best choices for Concealed Carry, but what about for the guys who have to carry openly? Law Enforcement, PMC, Security Contractor, or general Open Carry use, these are going to require a different type of handgun. Basically as much gun on your hip as you can get. Full sized, full capacity, none of the compromises required for Concealment.
SIG 226/220. This full sized SIG is a classic and the choice of a great many gunslinging professionals. A big capacity and rugged construction combined with reliability and accuracy. It’s everything you could want in a Side Arm. Unless you want a larger caliber. The 220 everything you like about the 226, but in .45 Auto. This big bore auto is known as “The Thinking Man’s .45” and that does indeed make sense when you’ve spent time with the gun. Same capacity as a 1911, but offers a decocking DA/SA fire control profile. This is probably the safest autoloading handgun I know of. (226 included) They are also very accurate.
Glock 17/22. Depending on your choice of 9mm or .40 cal, these guns are probably the first choice of more police departments than anything else. Very low bore axis, and a simple striker fired trigger mechanism makes these guns very easy to shoot well with once you get used to the triggers. 17 rounds of 9mm was an improvement over the typical 15 rounds others guns had, and 15 rounds of .40 cal is nothing to sneeze at these days.
Glock 20/21. 10mm or .45, these full sized beasts give you everything you need to pull duty on a dark and storm night. A lot of Law Enforcement Officers are running the 21 and I know a few that are running the 10mm. 15 rounds of 10mm is a lot of firepower. With good accuracy and legendary reliability – A Glock is never a wrong choice.
Beretta 90 Series. The 92FS, 92F, M9, M9A1, 92A1, 90-TWO, 96, 96A1. Shooting the big Beretta is like driving a Cadillac. Big, comfortable, comforting, reliable and accurate all with Hollywood good looks. Beretta has a lot of visual style, but what I like best is the almost straight line feeding. Mine can feed empty casing. Super smooth action as well, thanks to it’s unique locking block. The Beretta won the US Army contract for a good reason. Like it or not – and I know I’m going to open a can of worms here – it kicked SIG’s ass in the Trials. It kicked everyone’s asses in the Trials. So much so that the Army actually had to “dumb down” the test just so the SIG could stay in the race and the Beretta wouldn’t be a lone competitor. The 90 Series is battle proven around the world.
Beretta Px4 STORM. This is Beretta’s newest service auto. It uses a unique rotating barrel action with a traditionally Beretta like DA/SA trigger mechanism. This action makes the Storm a soft shooting pistol as it takes more energy out of the recoil. Like the 90 Series, the sights and the barrel maintain their relationship, they are very accurate shot to shot. With good triggers and comfortable recoil – it’s easy to be a good shot with the Px4 STORM. Even the Mid sized version… But the full sized is seriously just a pussycat. You can get it in 9, .40, and .45 auto. It’s one of my favorite new autos.
S&W M&P. S&W decided to get serious with the Poly Striker platform and forced Glock to rush the Gen 4 to market. Smith took a lot of LEO sales away from Glock. The Swampy as some call it, is a good pistol and a huge step up from Smith’s prior Glock Attack, the SIGMA. *shudder*. I bought one for my eldest Son, who upon getting the pistol, loading it, and having never fired it before – drilled the X in the target as perfectly as an Olympic Marksman from 20 yards. They are accurate guns. Like my Glocks, his Swampy has never failed.
Walther PPQ. This gun surprised me. The prior P99 was a gun that surprised me too. 500 rounds of mixed ammunition, it never failed. But it had a couple characteristics that made it an oddity. Such as the push down mag release and the top of the slide decocker button. The PPQ does away with the decocker on top and gives the gun a normal and familiar mag release. Honestly I didn’t mind the P99’s mag release and I found that I would use my trigger finger to drop the mags, just like I did with my HK. The PPQ is now available in either 4 or 5 inch barrel lengths and in 9mm or .40 caliber. The PPQ feels good in the hand and is probably one of the best and most under-rated service autos on the market. Let me put it this way – I really want a PPQ and will be buying one this year. Or Trading for it. A few years ago I had said that Walther was struggling to maintain it’s validity. The PPQ anchors it.
Springfield Armory XDM. Good trigger, good sights, and huge capacities make the XDM a solid choice. If you can get passed it’s “only a mother could love it” looks. While I’m not the biggest fan, I have to respect it. They are super accurate and easy to shoot well with. I know owners who have dumped a lot of rounds with astounding accuracy through their M’s.
HK P30 and HK45. The Germans really do engineer some fine hardware. But the P30 and the HK45 are both over priced and in my opinion over rated. With a standard trigger package, I find their triggers to be lacking in the quality of trigger pull that I would expect from such expensive guns. And I don’t like glow in the dark toy like sights that come on them stock. Again, for such an expensive gun, I want Tritiums on it right out of the box. Don’t get me started on the price of spare mags. For what you pay for an HK, it should come with Tritiums and 4 spares. All that aside – these guns deserve consideration. They are sharp looking, and they feel good in the hand. You can not go wrong with an HK, you really can’t. They are very well made. And after you dump enough rounds through it… Cost wise, would be enough to put a kid through a 12 credit semester of college, the trigger does feel pretty decent. They do look good… Like new BMW or Mercedes good looking. Pistol-Training.com’s Todd Green did a long term test on the P30 and it ran some 93,000 rounds before forced retirement. You could buy a new car for that much… Or you could afford to get sick or even have a (small) accident under Obamacare for that much money. I believe that none of his other tests have run that distance… Which ultimately makes the HK’s probably the best choice out of the lot.
The Springfield XD pistols. Just horrid looking. Oh, they are indeed good guns… but the are hard to look at. The M’s are better looking, but not by a huge amount. Like the West Virginian Cousin of an Okie.
Springfield really needs to just drop the XD line and lower the price of the XDM’s. The M is all around the better pistol in every caliber and size.
Springfield Armory has discontinued my #1 favorite 1911…. The beloved GI model.
I am a saddened Ogre.
The other day I was shooting with The Fellas, and my buddy gave me a loaded magazine and an empty pistol. The XD Tactical in .45. He had stippled the gun the same way I did my Glock… and I have to say that it really improved the feel. I also have to say that the pistol shot extremely well and was uncannily accurate. This was the old XD model, not a newer M class. But in the .45 guns, there’s not a lot of difference. Same Mags, same cold hammer forged barrels… the M triggers are nicer, and of course, the outside cosmetics. But I don’t like the way the M’s feel slippery in my hands. Some texturing work fixes that real easy.
Now, I respect the XD’s and know they are all very good guns… but I’m not particularly fond of them. This one though… I like it. The XDM’s I think are a bit better and I like them more. If anyone out there are thinking of getting an M model… it is a good buy. Especially the long barreled versions if you are looking for an accurate, easy gun to shoot, with a lot of capacity.
While I’m not going to line up to buy one… if any of The Horde does, it would be a good choice.
I had a message about getting a Springfield 1911 ready for duty use. The fellow was concerned about having to replace parts, which is a common misconception. You only have to replace a part if it breaks, and you don’t know if a part is going to. Preemptive replacing of all the small bits when there is no reason to is wasteful. A Springfield is a great gun for the basis of a solid duty gun. The gun is pretty dang good out of the box and I wouldn’t say that it needed much. But it does need some work.
First, if the gun has it, I’d get rid of the full length guide rod and put in a regular short GI type guide rod and spring cap. The FLGR adds in more friction, more spots for binding and more friction while it unnecessarily complicates things for no tangible benefit. Get rid of it.
The rails need to be smoothed out. Frame and Slide. These need to be polished. You can do this yourself with some polishing compound and some elbow grease. Under the slide, where the hammer drags across it… that needs to be polished as well. Don’t get too carried away, just make sure it’s smooth. Sometimes this area isn’t and that’s adding drag where you don’t want it. I’ve seen some 1911’s where you could pull the slide back a bit and the hammer would allow the slide to stick there. Let’s take that sticky spot away.
I’d replace the factory Springs with a Wolff spring that’s 2 pounds heavier. Duty ammo is a touch hotter, so that extra grunt is going to help buffer slide battering, but more importantly the extra push in the slide is going to help chamber a round that might not otherwise want to feed all the way in. The most common jam in my pistol classes with 1911’s when they get hot and dirty is a failure to feed. Usually the slide stops about a quarter inch short of home and a tap with the palm of the hand to the back of the slide usually does the trick. A spring that is a little stronger reduces that type of jam. Some guys think that they have to ream out the chamber and throat… when really all they need is a smoother action and a stronger spring. Now, sometimes you do need to have a chamber and throat job. But most of the time, you don’t. And most of the time those guys that think they do are running Handloads and blame the gun. Sure “Factory” runs fine, but with your absolutely flawless handloads – must be something wrong with the gun… they made the chamber too tight. Uh huh.
Run Factory Ammunition.
Lubrication is critical. This is why Crusader made Slipstream Weapon Lubricant. Clean your 1911 with MPRO-7 Cleaner completely. Get some Slipstream and soak that 1911 in it… apply it generously to all the moving parts and friction bearing surfaces and work that in. Cycle it by hand a hundred times. Then strip it, do it again. Now, get out to the range and go shoot it. A lot. Then clean it and Slipstream it again. The Nano Lube that makes Slipstream black… those particles… will get into the metal, imbed in the surface and will seriously slick that gun up. This is beyond what your favorite oil can do. I’ve a Springer GI – nothing fancy. But it’s slicker than a Nighthawk Custom and it’s never jammed on me… Since I Slipstreamed it. 500 rounds in a single day? No problem. No failures.
Smooth, Simple, Slick, and Strong… that’s what the 1911 needs to run flawlessly.
That and Factory ammo. Speaking off ammo. We all know the 1911 was designed to run Ball Ammo. Modern Hollowpoints sometimes don’t run in 1911 without a little work. Typically those rounds being 230 grains. I’ve seen many times, and once even in my own Springfield… where a 230 grain JHP round failed to feed. But the same load using a 185 grain ran flawlessly. These were Hydrashocks in my gun, but I’ve seen the same thing with others JHP’s. Going down to 200 or 185’s generally let finicky 1911’s run perfectly. I happen to prefer Medium to Light bullets for caliber in handguns. In my experience most guns seem to shoot better than using that rather than heavy for caliber loads, such as 230’s in .45 or 180’s for .40. But that’s just me.