John Browning, inventor of the 1911 pistol, submitted his plans to the U.S. army, after they had showed interest for a new hand gun. The Colt employee was up against the likes of Luger, Savage, Knoble, Bergmann, White-Merrill and Smith & Wesson. Browning was determined to make the 1911 perfect, after he was told it performed otherwise, so he teamed up with another Colt employee, Fred Moore. Together, they improved the handgun and resubmitted it to the U.S. army. After excruciating tests, including shooting 6000 rounds to test the superiority of each gun, the 1911 passed with flying colors. In fact, the 1911 was the first gun to undergo such a test. The Colt .45 automatic pistol was officially selected as the sidearm to the U.S. Armed Forces on March 29, 1911.
The original pistol has undergone some changes since it was originally crafted over 100 years ago. Although it’s quite similar to pistols that are still produced today, one of the main differences is that the external, crescent-shaped cuts were added behind the trigger. This first appeared on the M-1911 A1 model. Other modifications included replacing the flat mainspring housing with an arched one, a shorter hammer spur, a shorter trigger and a longer grip safety. The gun was produced with these improvements up until World War II. Several firearm manufacturers met production military requirements of the M-1911, such as Remington-Rand, Union Switch, Ithaca and Singer. During World War II, thousands upon thousands of the pistol were produced. Even after the war, the production of M-1911 still increased, as other countries began to adopt the model as their army standard sidearm. Unfortunately, some pistols were produced without licenses, such as in China; but, in most cases, American companies actually assisted other countries in producing the gun. Colt even teamed with the Argentine government to build a factory and produce their own version of the 1911A1. There were so many new versions of the 1911 from other countries, that the pistol became incredibly popular and in high-demand with regular Americans. John Browning’s original design stayed prominent in the production of these guns, even as they were produced overseas.
The new M-1911 A1 “Government” model was designed by Colt after World War II, which was shorter than the M-1911 A1. Instead of a 5” barrel, the Government model featured a 4.25” barrel, and it had an aluminum frame. Despite aluminum frames never being used before, the public was very fond of the new pistol, which was called Commander. The same gun was later produced with a steel frame, and it was called Combat Commander. Since then, “Commander” has been used to denote any gun with a 4.25” barrel. The Officer was introduced by Colt sometime later with a 3.5” barrel, which was intended for concealed carry gun-holders. “Officer” is also used universally for guns with this short of a barrel.
In the nineties, Colt introduced the “Enhanced Series” of M-1911s, which had several appealing modifications. Most noticeably, the back of the trigger guard was cut, so the pistol would sit lower on the hand. Other modifications included a beavertail safety grip, flared ejection port and a beveled magazine well. Despite going through numerous modifications and upgrades, Browning’s original model still holds true today and is one of the most common pistols gun owners purchase.
Pros and Cons
There are some downsides, however, to so many hands involved with the 1911 model. While some seem like exact replicas of the original Colt 1911, others seem like they are only barely modeled after the U.S. Army sidearm. That said, the quality of each gun varies. Many experts suggest that if you’re purchasing an M-1911, you can choose a gun that was manufactured overseas, but buy from an American company. At the very least, this ensures you’ll get something close to the original 1911 pistol. There are also, however, many American companies that produce and sell the gun without being too high in price. These guns aren’t the cheapest option, but are possibly the best ratio between trustworthy quality and cost. Finding a company that either specializes or only produces 1911s ensures you’ve found a seller that will give you consistency. Unlike other guns, reading “Made in the U.S.A.” on your 1911 pistol is one of your safest bets.
Of course, there are a handful of qualities to consider when purchasing any gun, but particularly with the 1911. While the 1911 has some less-than-simple qualities, they’ve become so popular with the public that just about any gun owner has learned how to use and maintain one. The standardized materials and dimensions, as well as internal bits like springs, bushing and magazines, have radically evolved over the 100 years the gun has been in production, and are much more easy to handle. Even 1911 pistols on the lower end of their price range are fairly dependable, but sometimes you may come across a gun with a finicky bullet design. Gun Owners have reported jamming issues with their 1911s after using the new flat-tipped ammo, also called “flying ashtray”. 230gr ball ammo is still a great choice for loading into your 1911, so long as you know what is behind your target. Of course, “breaking in” your pistol will relieve this error too, and most 1911s will be tolerant of which types of ammo you use.
Cost vs. Quality
The 1911 handgun was intended as a close-quarters combat weapon, meaning it has a more tolerant design and allows for poorer accuracy than some other guns. With this in mind, all 1911s should rattle a bit when you shake them. Some might be concerned when they notice this after purchasing a lower-cost model, but it’s important to remember the gun was designed to be that way. It wasn’t until the nineties that tighter models were produced, and these were the more expensive versions from high-end companies, anyways. Ask any longtime gun owner with a 1911, and they’ll tell you that there’s nothing to worry about if you experience a little rattling from your gun. If you’re purchasing a newer model, you should obviously expect your gun to work smoothly, but small inconsistencies here and there are common with the 1911. For instance, the trigger on the 1911 can occasionally give a little trouble, and you may experience a bit of drag, but these are reasonable flaws for this gun. You may even find one 1911 pistol to be heavier than another. It’s still suggested that you run through all of the controls when considering purchasing a new or older 1911.
Although modified models of the 1911 came in stainless steel, most would advise against purchasing this type. Although it may seem like a stainless steel gun would be easier to maintenance, it’s more difficult to machine well and finish in the right way. 1911s tend to all have their own problems with odds and ends already, so a clunky stainless steel exterior is just adding to a list of possible issues. Very few tend to find a worthwhile investment in a stainless steel 1911, so it’s suggested you stick to a model using more common materials from the WW II era.
If you’re purchasing a gun on a budget, you have to keep in mind that you’ll be making some sacrifices in quality, or, that is to say, you’re just not going to get the best version of the 1911 that others may have. 1911s selling for less than $800 aren’t terrible by any means, but you won’t stay in the group of 1-2 inches at 25 yards. You may at first, but the lower-grade steel tends to leave you short after around 1000 rounds. Besides cheaper steel in the barrel, a budget 1911 pistol has little hand-fitting put into it. You’re likely to be in the group of 3-4 inches at 25 yards if you shop in this price range. The more important quality you want to look for is consistency, and 1911s won’t really lose that range until they reach the 8000 rounds mark. Obviously, a pricier and better model will deliver better consistency, but, as the buyer, you should really consider if you need top-notch, no-fail consistency in your gun. Think back on the guns originally used in the U.S. Army: the 1911A1, used in World War II, were practically exact replicas of the original 1911, and they certainly weren’t custom made, hand-fitted guns. They were mass-produced, and they still gained immense popularity. Once the design reached overseas, parts were mixed, matched and customized as needed in each military group. In fact, looking for 1911 guns today that aren’t brand new rarely have pieces that say they were all manufactured in the same place. This gun was the official sidearm of the U.S. Army, and they generally stayed in the 4-5 inch group. Even if used for self-defense, you’re making a safe bet when purchasing a lower-cost 1911 pistol. And besides, you can always customize your gun to your needs after your purchase it. It’s more economical to pay for small improvements over time than to put down a large sum upfront. At the end of the day, every gun is different, and even if you purchase the highest-priced 1911, you might not get the perfect gun.
Most gun owners would tell you to make an investment (even a small one) on a well-liked and trustworthy gun and then slowly add your modifications over the time. When purchasing a 1911, focus on finding a body that’s in good condition, even if you’re not happy with other parts of the gun. For example, magazines are generally easy to replace. You can switch your Colt magazine out for a more reliable brand name, and this will be cheaper than purchasing an all-over more expensive gun. It’s always a good idea to have spares, as it is. If a teenager in World War II can learn to break down and rebuild a 1911 sidearm, then so can you! 1911s aren’t the most complicated gun out there, so replacing small parts, like the trigger, sights or pins are easy to do, once you properly acclimate yourself with your new gun.
A brand new, multi-thousand dollar 1911 is, sure, flashy and appealing. But if you really want to feel comfortable with and get use out of your pistol, you don’t really have to spend that much money. It’s impressive, but if you asked a seasoned gun owner what he really carries for everyday use, he’ll likely tell you it’s a much cheaper model in his holster. Gun owners want pieces they can invest in over time and really customize to their needs. It’s safe to say you probably don’t want to toss aside the barrel of a $1500 1911, even if a barrel from a different company would work better for you. If you want a gun that accomplishes your needs, take a second look at the $800 model, and make John Browning proud.