Buyer's guide for all you 1911 addicts...

Discussion in 'General 1911 talk' started by bac1023, Sep 7, 2011.

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  1. bac1023

    bac1023 1911 Collector Moderator

    Joined:
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    .

    INTRODUCTION

    I'd like to start by thanking all of you for helping us kick off this new forum in style. I believe that with everyone's efforts, we can make this site truly special and certainly the best 1911 forum around. With our knowledgeable staff and outstanding member base, that will soon be a reality.

    This thread is designed specifically to help both new and existing 1911 fans make some tough choices. Let's face it, 1911s are built by a large number of companies and people. Likewise, finding the perfect gun for everyone in their respective price range is an impossible task that I certainly can't accomplish with consistency. However, I'm looking to help narrow the choices and at least give some candid information on the models in my possession. Of course, this guide is based only on one man’s opinion and its also based on the limits of my collection. I refuse to comment extensively about 1911s I don’t have personal experience with. That said, I will try to list the characteristics of each, regardless where my preference ranks it. This list is comprised primarily of 1911s that are currently available new. I own some military guns and/or 1911s that are no longer in production. With a couple exceptions, these will not enter the discussion until the end. I will include my discontinued 1911s that can be found (some very sparingly) on the used market in the last section of this guide. In addition, this work is designed to be edited as I continue working towards completing my collection.

    Another mention is that all of the models to be reviewed have been running great. A few had a failure or two during the first couple of magazines, but have since been perfect. Unless I mention otherwise for some of my newer additions especially, most of these pistols have 500-1000 rounds through them. I fully realize that’s not much, but it’s the best I can do at this point considering time restraints and the sheer quantity of guns included. That said, the lion’s share of a 1911’s potential problems will normally surface by this point, if not earlier. 1911s generally run smoother after a couple thousand rounds have been fired through them. My effort in this guide is by no means a torture test, nor is it a test of longevity, its simply a means to get the quick information sought by members looking for a 1911 in a certain price range. It can also serve to possibly sway somebody to hold off for a 1911 in the next category up. As far as categorization is concerned, I grouped these pistols in several different classes, based on features, characteristics, quality, and price. I don't wish to offend anybody who thinks his or her particular model should be ranked in a different category than where you see it here. I enjoy 1911s in all price ranges, as evidenced in this thread. However, this report was also written to encompass the entire 1911 “food chain” and, therefore, I had to break them up the best way I know how. It must also be noted that several of my 1911s, especially the more expensive models, include some factory options. The prices listed do not include these extra options, but I will certainly mention them in my description. Other than factory options, none of these models have been modified in any way, shape, or form. They are completely stock. While proper modification is certainly a great way to fix a particular shortcoming, it will not give a true measurement of the 1911 in question. My aim is to describe these guns the way they're available to the public straight from the manufacturer.

    Furthermore, it goes without saying that these groupings and rankings are by no means the law of the land or the “bible”. They are certainly subject to debate, as I’m far from an expert. Like many others here, I’m simply an enthusiast who loves sharing information, pictures, and ideas with those who either share my passion now or are just getting started in the vast world of 1911s.

    I'm closing this thread after posting it to preserve it in its original form. However, its also meant to be interactive so please use the link below to post questions or add comments, if you desire. Of course, if you have a question you don't want shared, you're welcome to send me a PM as well.

    So, without any further ado, let’s get started, shall we?



    Link for all comments and questions...

    http://1911addicts.com/threads/buyers-guide-comment-question-thread.517/#post7393





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    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 8, 2014
  2. bac1023

    bac1023 1911 Collector Moderator

    Joined:
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    Pennsylvania
    USGI


    I’ll start with the GI replicas. In my opinion, these are some of the cleanest looking 1911s built today and many people prefer the classic look, especially if they have no plans for carry. What a true GI replica lacks, among other features, are the standard enhancements necessary for the reliable extraction of cases and the easy feeding of conical bullets. These enhancements are known as a lowered and usually flared ejection port and a polished feed ramp, respectively. Another thing to keep in mind when considering a true GI replica is that the sights are very small and hard to see for some. Though, as you’ll notice here, some of these models “cheat” and include larger sights as well as other subtle enhancements over true GI spec. The listings here are very affordable. With the exception of one, the most expensive models top out at the $600 mark.


    Rock Island Armory Government

    We’ll start off with Rock Island Armory. Their Government model is outstanding for the money. It’s got a decent trigger and solid reliability. It can still also be had for $400 or even less, making it one of the least expensive 1911s on the market. However, those seeking a true replica need to look elsewhere. The Rock Island lacks an arched mainspring housing or lanyard loop. It also has a lowered and flared ejection port, which helps feeding of defense ammo, and a beveled magwell. The Rock Island is actually close to a Springfield Mil Spec in configuration, but with GI sights and vertical slide serrations. If that’s important to you, the RIA is a nice choice. Personally, I like a more true-to-spec replica better, but that certainly doesn’t make the Rock Island a bad gun. On the contrary, these enhancements can likely make it a better range pistol. The grips are smooth wood examples that look nice, though are a bit slippery at times. The finish is an authentic looking parkerizing and the slide to frame fit is surprisingly tight with little side-to-side movement. Slide markings consist of “Rock Island Armory” and the logo on the left. The right side is clean. RIA 1911s are built in the Philippines by Armscor.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 39.8oz

    Slide: Extruded carbon steel

    Frame: Cast carbon steel

    Country of origin: Philippines

    Approximate 2011 street price: $400

    http://www.armscor.com.ph/gi series.htm


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    ATI FX45 Military

    Next we’ll look at the ATI FX45 Military. This model, and the rest of the ATI 1911 line, just came on the market in the summer of 2010. The FX is built by Shooters Arms Manufacturing (SAM) in the Philippines and sells for just over $400. This 1911 is solid and noticeably heavy in weight at over 41oz, which is 2 to 3oz heavier than the other replicas in this section. It utilizes fully checkered mahogany grips, an arched mainspring housing, an extra wide spurred hammer, a beveled magwell, a lanyard loop, and slightly larger sights. The ejection port is not lowered, in true USGI fashion. This is a tight 1911 and there is very minimal movement between the slide and the frame. In fact, its no doubt one of the tightest I’ve seen at this price point. I only have 50-100 rounds through it at this point, but ATI's new line has gotten some decent reviews in its early life. I will say this 1911 feels impressive in hand and I’ll make a point to get it more range time very soon. From an appearance standpoint, the parkerizing is well done. However, the roll marks are needlessly large and lengthy, with a full “American Tactical M1911 Military” on the left side, and logos galore on both sides around the gun. I feel this detracts from an otherwise good looking replica.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 41.2oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Cast carbon steel

    Country of origin: Philippines

    Approximate 2014 street price: $499.95

    http://www.americantactical.us/939/detail.html


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    Norinco 1911A1

    I’m now going to talk about a 1911 no longer imported into the United States, in the Norinco 1911-A1. While values are steadily increasing, they can still be found in like new condition for $400-$500 on the used market. The Norinco is one of my favorite USGI replicas and is built in China from heavy duty recycled forged steel. Refined and polished, they are not, but construction quality is unsurpassed at this price point. The sights are small, but equipped with white dots for ease in aiming. The ejection port is lowered, but not flared, and the finish is a thin bluing. The trigger is heavy, but certainly not out of the realm for a USGI and the serrated mainspring housing is equipped with a lanyard loop. Roll markings are humorous, in my opinion. The right side is clean, but the left side states “Model of the 1911A1 - 45 Automatic”, which sounds as if some of the meaning was lost in translation. To me, these are very impressive guns and I’m quite fond of them. I like the way they handle at the range as well. In fact, in my opinion, they more closely represent the look and feel of real USGI models, than any other replica I own. My example is the deluxe model, which is basically the same as the standard model, other than the addition of wood grips.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 39.0oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Forged carbon steel

    Country of origin: China

    Approximate 2011 street price: $450


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    IAC Regent

    The next entry is the relatively new IAC Regent 1911. Built in Turkey, this is a handsome GI replica with a clean appearance that stands out in this crowd. Its finish is a very even black oxide. This 1911 utilizes authentic looking checkered plastic grips and an arched mainspring housing. The sights are small and hard to see, in standard GI fashion, but curiously, its missing a lanyard loop. A wide spur hammer is used and the ejection port is lowered slightly but not flared. This is one of many new kids on the block and I only have about three boxes of trouble free rounds through it at the time of this writing. I found the trigger heavy, but crisp at the same time. Accuracy was nothing special, but certainly on par with others in this category. Its good looks and solid feel should make it a player in the GI replica market. As with many replicas, roll markings are minimal. The left side is stamped with “Regent 1911-A1” and the right side is blank. The font is well done. It must be said the overall fit and finish of the Regent seems just a little nicer than most of its competition at $500 or below.

    This 1911 utilizes a series 80 style firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 39.2oz

    Slide: Cast carbon steel

    Frame: Forged carbon steel

    Country of origin: Turkey

    Approximate 2014 street price: $559.95

    http://www.iacshotguns.com/dev/1911a1.html


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    Para GI Expert

    Para Ordnance introduced the GI Expert in 2009 and I picked up one up solely for this thread. I now have 200 trouble free rounds through it. While that’s not nearly enough to draw an accurate conclusion, it’s an encouraging start. This gun performed well at the range. The GI Expert is really a Mil Spec 1911, with larger white dot sights and a lowered and flared ejection port. It also has a skeletonized hammer and trigger like an enhanced model. It’s a curious combination from an aesthetics standpoint, but I don’t find it a bad looking model overall. The black oxide finish is very even and similar to the Regent, but a bit rougher in texture. While I’m not a huge fan of Para in general, due to their cast slides and silly marketing gimmicks, the Expert seems to be a reserved, more traditional 1911 and a decent value. Likewise, roll marking is tasteful, with just “Para 1911” on the left side and “GI Expert” on the right. A drawback is the cast slide and plastic mainspring housing. Once again, we have yet another GI 1911 with the series 80 firing pin safety. Para feels the need to include it on all their 1911s, actually. This is obviously the carbon steel version, but Para also recently added a stainless GI Expert to their lineup as well.

    This 1911 utilizes a series 80 style firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 37.8oz

    Slide: Cast carbon steel

    Frame: Cast carbon steel

    Country of origin: Canada

    Approximate 2011 street price: $663
    http://para-usa.com/2013/firearms/expert/expert.php


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    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 23, 2014
  3. bac1023

    bac1023 1911 Collector Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    Messages:
    650
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Auto Ordnance 1911A1

    Auto Ordnance has been making GI replicas for many years and for years, these guns earned a well-deserved reputation for sub par workmanship. I think they have improved a great deal over time and I’ve never had an issue with mine. That said, I’m not in love with the trigger or the rather rough parkerized finish. It is close to the real USGI in spec with its small sights, proper hammer, checkered plastic grips, arched mainspring housing, and lanyard loop. Even the roll markings are well done and in flavor with the originals. The left side simply states “Model 1911A1 U.S. Army”, while the right side is clean. One notable difference between this and true USGI spec is the presence of a Series 80 firing pin safety. Why something like that would be included in a replica like this is beyond me. However, as you can see by this guide, the Auto Ordnance isn’t alone with this needless safety. I don’t agree with it, especially on a replica, but it obviously doesn’t stop me from buying them. If I’m not mistaken, this is the least expensive American built 1911 on the market. Now owned by Kahr Arms, Auto Ordnance’s quality and quality control is on the rise, in my opinion. This 1911 isn’t stellar in terms of accuracy, but was 100% reliable for me in the 500 or so rounds I put through it.

    This 1911 utilizes a series 80 style firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 39.6oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Cast carbon steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $525

    http://www.auto-ordnance.com/PA-1AO_pkz.html


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    Cimarron 1911A1

    Cimarron is an American based firearms manufacturer that primarily outsources production of its firearms overseas. Their handgun offerings were strictly revolvers, before this new 1911 came on the market very recently. This is yet another model built by Armscor in the Philippines. It was inspired by and produced for Wild Bunch Western competitive shooting and Cimarron's intention was to keep it as close to the 1918 model as possible. Likewise, this 1911 uses the standard frame, instead of the scalloped A1 version, a flat, and a smooth mainspring housing complete with a lanyard loop. Cimarron's roll marks are also in the 1918 tradition. Overall, I think Cimarron and Armscor did a good job bringing the 1918 style back to life at the very affordable price of $550. In fact, I'm not aware of anybody that's currently building a 1918 replica. It even comes with double diamond checkered wood grips. The only discernable differences I see is the slightly lowered ejection port, which is basically an Armscor slide standard, and the 8-round mags it comes with. Obviously, the latter is an easy fix. I recently got a few rounds though it and it seemed decent, as are all my Armscor built 1911s. I had one failure on the second mag, but the rest of the box was fine. One puzzling note is why Cimarron calls this model by the “A1” moniker when the clear intention was to copy an earlier design. Odd.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 39.4oz

    Slide: Extruded carbon steel

    Frame: Cast carbon steel

    Country of origin: Philippines

    Approximate 2011 street price: $550

    http://www.cimarron-firearms.com/MAIN NEW ITEMS.htm


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    EMF Hartford

    The EMF Hartford is a recent addition to the market. At $550, its one of the least expensive American built 1911s available. The finish is listed as "as issued" and it has a distinct worn look to it. I’m not sure if I like it or not, but its certainly unique. The texture is rough and it sparkles under bright light. The mainspring housing is arched and checkered, with an obviously smooth front strap. Curiously, the trigger is longer than true 1911A1 spec and the sights are considerably larger. I have no problem with the sights, but I like a shorter trigger with an arched housing. The hammer has a wide spur and the grips are an attractive looking double diamond checkered wood. Oddly, this 1911 uses a stainless bushing, which conflicts with the idea behind the rest of the gun’s specs. Slide marks are fairly large on the left side, but nonexistent on the right. I have yet to get this 1911 to the range, but the mag doesn’t feel overly secured in the frame by the catch. A slight touch of the mag release and it drops, so I have my doubts of its reliability in that regard. I hope to get it to the range in the very near future, but wasn’t able to in time for this effort.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 38.4oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Cast carbon steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $550

    http://www.emf-company.com/


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    Remington 1911R1

    Remington released its first 1911 in over 90 years in June 2010. Its dubbed the Remington 1911 R1 and is supposed to be the first in a new series of 1911s from one of the oldest American firearms companies. At roughly $600, its one of the most affordable American built 1911s available. With its semi-glossy black oxide finish, beautiful checkered walnut grips, relatively clean roll marks, and tastefully done silver accents, I find it one of the nicest looking 1911s on the current market. I'm grouping this gun with the GI replicas, but it does have some enhancements, including significantly larger white dot sights, beveled magwell, and a lowered and flared ejection port. At this time, I have only fired 200 trouble-free rounds through mine, but was impressed by how this pistol handled. Roll markings are also well done, with a simply “Remington” on the left side and “1911R1” on the right. I wouldn’t mind if the font were a size smaller, but overall very tasteful. As do some others, Remington felt the need to include the series 80 firing pin safety in their first 1911. I recently got a another couple boxes of range ammo through it and it performed flawlessly. If this gun is any indication, I think Remington has a good future in the 1911 business and have just recently released an enhanced version of the R1.

    This 1911 utilizes a series 80 style firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 39.0oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Cast carbon steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $600

    http://www.1911r1.com/


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    USFA 1911

    The last 1911 I'm going to discuss costs about four times the price of the others. USFA or U.S. Fire Arms has been in business for a long, long time. They build single action revolvers and extremely good ones at that. Fortunately, in 2007, they decided to build a few different 1911 replicas. Unfortunately, in 2009, they decided to discontinue them due to poor sales and high costs. USFA is generally a lower output company and, thus, few were built during the two short years of production. To further decrease the guns available, USFA built three different models, a 1910, a 1911 in 38 Super, and a 1911 in 45ACP. Naturally, the only model that interested me was the last. After more than a year of searching, I finally found the one I wanted still new in the box. I basically paid full retail, which was $2K in 2009. Now on to the gun itself. While its not as historically accurate as some others, this is without doubt, the finest "production" replica I have ever seen. The tightness of the gun rivals any 1911 in my collection, which is certainly not a common trait of replicas or real USGI 1911s. There is zero slide to frame movement. Furthermore, the actions of the hammer, trigger, grip safety, and thumb safety are rock solid. While these all traits of a very well built pistol, they are not commonplace for USGIs or their replicas. It features ball cuts on the slide and rounded top walnut grips, which give it a distinctly unique look. The smooth mainspring housing features a lanyard loop and the bluing is the nicest of any handgun I own, 1911 or otherwise. The roll marks are basically Colt, but with USFA stamped in its place. This is a beautiful gun that will not see the range. However, all tests that I've read indicate these guns shoot as good as they look.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety

    Unloaded weight: 38.0oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Forged carbon steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $2000


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  4. bac1023

    bac1023 1911 Collector Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    Messages:
    650
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Springfield GI

    Now I'm going to discuss the first Springfield in this guide, the Springfield GI. I feel this is probably the best overall GI replica that I own in the common price range. While mine is stainless, a more authentic looking parkerized version is also available for slightly less money. I’ve had this gun for years now, but if I had to do it over, I’d probably go with the parkerized version. I like stainless, but it doesn’t fit this style of 1911. Anyway, the Springfield GI is a solid feeling, well functioning replica built in Brazil from forged IMBEL steel. It is also a favorite among many 1911 smiths for custom work. In true 1911 A1 fashion, the GI comes with an arched mainspring housing and short steel trigger. The sights, of course, are standard GI spec and quite small. The customary lanyard loop is present on the bottom of the mainspring housing. The double diamond checkered wood grips with the “US” badge are obviously not traditional 1911A1 GI equipment, but look very nice. Roll marking is quite clean with just “MODEL 1911-A1” on the left side of the slide and nothing on the right. The gun has shot well for me. Its been 100% reliable through 700 rounds or so, though I don’t believe its ever fired a single hollow point bullet. The one thing I don’t care for is the key lock integrated into the mainspring housing, but this is standard equipment on all the production Springfield 1911s.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 38.4oz

    Slide: Forged stainless steel

    Frame: Forged stainless steel

    Country of origin: Brazil

    Approximate 2011 street price: $600

    http://www.springfield-armory.com/armory.php?model=6


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    For appearance comparison purposes only, here are real WWII era USGI 1911A1s from Remington Rand and Ithaca. They are both in excellent shape, though reparkerizing was done at some point.


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    ENTRY LEVEL ENHANCED

    Now I’m going to compare what I consider the entry level enhanced 1911s. While gun prices are always increasing, for the sake of this report, let’s keep current prices to $650 and under. These guns are an outstanding way to get into the 1911 world, without spending a fortune, and most of them make solid, dependable shooters. Practically all of these 1911s have standard frames without much of a high grip radius. None have night sights and all of their frames are cast, with the exception of the Taurus. What these 1911s lack for the most part is the fit and finish of the next category up, but its all about function at this price range anyway. In that faucet, these 1911s deliver and deliver well.







    Firestorm DLX

    The first 1911 I’m going to post in this category is the relatively new Firestorm DLX model. Firestorms are also built in the Philippines. However, the company is Metro, not Armscor. I believe you’re looking at the least expensive enhanced 1911 on the current market, or very close to it. Mine was just under $400, if I remember correctly. They’re also sold under the “American Classic” name. This gun has some things going right for it. The finish is nicely blued, the trigger has an odd shape, but is good, the white dot sights are easy to see, and it has an easy to operate extended slide release. The Firestorm has the standard GI setup on the business end. Roll marks are somewhat large, but not obnoxious. There are a couple side notes on the DLX. First, the skeletonized hammer has an odd lattice center standing for Metro Arms (MA), as you can see in the link. Also, the wood grips, while decent looking, are just that, wood grips. There is no finish or surface on them whatsoever. It feels different in hand, but it also acts as a non-slip surface. With no checkering on the front strap, the rough feel to the grips comes in handy. This 1911 has been trouble free in the 250 rounds I fired through it. If you want a bargain basement enhanced 1911, grab a Firestorm DLX for many fun days at the range.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 38.8oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Cast carbon steel

    Country of origin: Philippines

    Approximate 2011 street price: $400

    http://www.gunblast.com/Firestorm-1911Deluxe.htm


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    Charles Daly EFS

    Another very affordable enhanced 1911, at about $450, is the Charles Daly EFS. This pistol has also been a great performer for me with no failures to speak of. The trigger is better than some of the others in this category selling for more money. The EFS also comes standard with an ambi safety for all you lefties, which is almost unheard of at under $500. The finish is an even looking with nicely done bluing. The Charles Daly has a standard GI plug up front, instead of a full-length guide rod. The sights are simply combat style, with no white dots, and the grips are nicely done double diamond checkered wood. The serrated mainspring housing is chamfered to eliminate the sharp corner, unlike the Firestorm previously discussed. Roll markings are also nicer than that of the Firestorm, with a simple “Charles Daly” on the left side and nothing on the right. While Charles Daly 1911s have been built in different countries over the years, the latest, including mine, were built by Armscor in the Philippines. They seem to have a hand in quite a few 1911 brands these days, as you can see by this guide. In fact, at the present time, the Charles Daly name has been replaced by Citadel, but the model line is nearly identical and they remain a good choice for someone looking for an enhanced 1911 at the lowest prices.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 38.4oz

    Slide: Extruded carbon steel

    Frame: Cast carbon steel

    Country of origin: Philippines

    Approximate 2011 street price: $450

    http://www.charlesdaly.com/1911.asp


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    Taurus PT1911

    Next we’ll discuss the controversial Taurus PT1911. This gun seems to be a “love it or hate it” model. It comes with more features than any other 1911 in its price range, including a forged frame, an ambi safety and front strap and trigger guard checkering. I’ve been known to give this model some harsh criticism over the years, but I’ll certainly keep it professional here. I’m giving this model kudos for its forged parts and numerous features. However, my opinion is that Taurus needs to work on the tradeoff between quality and quantity. The “blued” finish leaves a great deal to be desired, but in all fairness, the stainless version renders that point moot. Other than that, I find the parts fitting shoddy and checkering deplorable. My PT1911 has been perfectly reliable though about 500 rounds, but the ambi safety literally fell off and I had to refit it about halfway through those rounds. I haven’t shot it since then. Like some other models in this category, the PT uses a full-length guide rod as standard equipment. The hammer has a key lock mechanism used to disable the gun, much like Springfield does in their mainspring housing. I find these systems unnecessary and aesthetically unpleasing. The Taurus has some things going for it, but as you can determine, I’m not a fan of this model and there are many that share my opinion. Quality control and poor allocation of funds are the main culprits, in my eyes. Some guns have been great, while others have been problematic. Taurus is also not exactly known for their great customer service, so I ask you to keep these issues in mind when looking for an entry level 1911.

    This 1911 utilizes a series 80 style firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 40.6oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Forged carbon steel

    Country of origin: Brazil

    Approximate 2011 street price: $550

    http://www.taurususa.com/products/pr...ategory=Pistol


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  5. bac1023

    bac1023 1911 Collector Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    Messages:
    650
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Iver Johnson Eagle

    Next up is yet another Filipino 1911, and the first of five straight $650 1911s in the guide. This is the Iver Johnson Eagle, with the optional polished blue finish. This line of product is another recent addition to the market, shipping in the second half of 2009. This particular model is basically their top of the line 1911 and the polished finish is surprisingly good for the money. The Eagle is complete with easy to see target sights and an extra wide spatula-like slide release. The beavertail is comfortably fit and the action is smooth. Like the ATI FX45, this is built by Shooters Arms Manufacturing, but unlike the FX, its fitted with Iver Johnson small parts. As with most other Filipino 1911s, this gun is fit with a steel mainspring housing. The front end uses the standard GI plug setup and the grips are nice double diamond checkered wood with the new Iver Johnson owl logo. As shown in the pictures, one unique characteristic of this gun is the angle of the slide serrations. Unlike other models with angled serrations, these do not match the grip angle of the 1911. Roll markings are simple, albeit slightly large. The slide to frame fit is loose and the trigger is a bit heavier than it should be, but it shot fine in the 200 rounds I put through it. Overall, I think the Eagle is a nice pistol with some unique features, but ultimately doesn’t compare overly well with the next four 1911s in the same price range.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 40.8oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Cast carbon steel

    Country of origin: Philippines

    Approximate 2011 street price: $650

    http://www.iverjohnsonarms.com/3001/3052.html


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    Thompson Custom

    Another $650 enhanced 1911 is the Thompson Custom. Auto Ordnance, who is now owned by Kahr, builds this model. The Thompson has only been produced for a couple years now and a limited number have been built thus far. Likewise, you don’t see many around. This model is everything the STI Spartan isn’t, but nothing it is. As far as enhanced entry level 1911s go, the Thompson probably has the nicest fit and finish. Checkering in this price range is rare, but checkering this good at $650 is non-existent with the exception of this model. The dark double diamond checkered wood grips with Thompson medallions are well done and look great against the stainless finish. The grip safety has a very solid feel to it. The sights are nothing special, but give a decent sight picture despite having no white dots. The roll markings are well done, with the Auto Ordnance “bullet” logo on the left and “Thompson Custom 1911” on the right in tasteful lettering. The big issue I have with the Thompson is the trigger. It feels like wood. Its not overly heavy, but has no “feel” to it whatsoever. Maybe I got a bad one, but if it weren’t for the trigger, the Thompson would probably be my favorite entry level 1911. This model comes standard with a full-length guide rod and, unfortunately, a plastic mainspring housing. If you can get past the trigger, this is a reliable, good looking 1911.

    This 1911 utilizes a series 80 style firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 39.0oz

    Slide: Forged stainless steel

    Frame: Cast stainless steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $650

    http://www.auto-ordnance.com/PA-1TH_c.html


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    Desert Eagle 1911G

    The next entry is one of the newer models on the market, in the Desert Eagle 1911, and its built by BUL in Israel. This model became available in the Spring of 2010 and was a pleasant surprise from a quality standpoint in this price range. At $650, it has the best trigger of any 1911 this side of the STI Trojan and certainly the best trigger in its price range, just edging out the STI Spartan, in my opinion. This pistol features a steel mainspring housing, which others in this category don’t. The grips are nicely made wood double diamond style. Its complete with a beveled magwell and a full length guide rod. The sights are combat style with, again, no dots. This frame is the only one in the category that’s machined for a high hand grip under the trigger guard. The slide roll marks are very large on the left side, with nothing whatsoever on the right. I only have about 250 rounds through this gun, but it performed very well at the range. I'm not quite ready to say that this 1911 is a better gun than the STI Spartan, due to my limited experience and the gun's limited track record. However, the finish and feature set are also both nicer than the STI’s, along with the previously mentioned trigger. Both are about the same price.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 39.8oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Cast carbon steel

    Country of origin: Israel

    Approximate 2011 street price: $650

    http://www.magnumresearch.com/Desert_Eagle_1911.asp


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    Ruger SR1911

    The next entry is one of the newest 1911s on the market at the time of this writing and Ruger's first entry into the 1911 world. The model is rightfully named the SR1911 and has taken the entry level market by surprise this year. It offers very good value for $650. Here we have full stainless construction, a nicely contoured beavertail grip safety, a beveled magwell, a good trigger, white dot combat sights, a steel mainspring housing, and beautiful double diamond wood grips with the Ruger emblem inlayed on each side. Roll markings are minimal, with "Ruger Made in USA" on the left side and simply the Ruger emblem stamped on the right. These markings coupled with the absence of front cocking serrations make the SR one of the nicest looking 1911s on the current market. Another feature of this gun that I like is actually something that was left out, a firing pin safety. I don't like any of them and this gun is true to original spec in that aspect. The SR1911 also uses a standard GI plug up front and a single sided thumb safety. All in all, we have a new 1911 selling for $650 with all the features you need and none that you don't in a very attractive package. Couple that with the fact that its built entirely in the United states by the largest gun manufacturer in the world and we have something that's almost too good to be true. Naturally, this gun performed flawlessly at the range with the limited number of rounds I have through it and all reviews that I have read have been overwhelmingly positive. I think Ruger may have the best entry level 1911 on the market, but they need to catch up to demand to somehow keep prices stable.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 38.8oz

    Slide: Forged stainless steel

    Frame: Cast stainless steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $650

    http://www.ruger.com/products/sr1911/index.html


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    STI Spartan

    The last entry in this category is the gun I’ve mentioned a few times already, and that’s the STI Spartan. Its yet another 1911 built in the Philippines by Armscor, but this time fitted with STI small parts. While its not the prettiest 1911 in the world, it makes up for it in its ability as a shooter. I have a good number of rounds through this gun and have recommended the Spartan to countless people in the time I’ve owned it. The sights are well done and visible, with an orange fiber optic up front and an adjustable target sight at the rear. It comes standard with a full-length guide rod and a rather dull parkerized finish. Roll markings are fine with “STI Spartan” on the left side of the slide and a blank right side. Grips are checkered double diamond. I find the plastic trigger very crisp for a $650 1911 and no movement can be detected between the slide and frame. A downside is the plastic mainspring housing, though it is chamfered to eliminate the sharp corner. I’ve made it clear over the last couple of years that this model has my vote as the best entry level 1911 on the market. However, the recent additions by Desert Eagle and Ruger have really given the Spartan some competition. Of course, the more the merrier. There's room for three at the top.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 38.2oz

    Slide: Extruded carbon steel

    Frame: Cast carbon steel

    Country of origin: Philippines

    Approximate 2011 street price: $650

    http://www.stiguns.com/guns/Spartan/Spartan.html


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  6. bac1023

    bac1023 1911 Collector Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    Messages:
    650
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    LOW END PRODUCTION


    First off, I apologize in advance if I offend anybody with the name of the category. The following are great 1911s, but since the purpose of this guide is to help people make purchases based on their budget, I have to separate the categories. These are simply the enhanced 1911s in the $700-$1000 range and any would make a great choice as a first and perhaps only 1911. I’ve only got three models that I will discuss in this category. I originally had four 1911s to discuss here, but Dan Wesson’s serious price hike caused me to move the CBOB up market.









    Smith & Wesson SW1911

    Let’s start with the first Smith & Wesson in this guide, in the standard SW1911. Since there are several 1911s under this badge, the model I’ll be discussing is SKU 108285, which may be the most popular and least expensive model. It’s got the blued finish, checkered walnut grips with medallion, Novak white dot sights, and a standard GI recoil guide. The front strap is not checkered, but it is serrated and gives a decent grip over nothing at all. The gun itself is not overly tight, with some slide to frame movement, and an especially loose trigger. Judging from the other SW1911s I’ve handled, the trigger seems to be a common trait. However, it doesn’t hurt its performance at the range in my hands at least. I like the polished blue flats and grip safety with the memory pad. It’s also the only 1911 I own in this category with a steel mainspring housing. One thing S&W 1911s do have is the external extractor, which bothers some. I personally never minded them. The frame on this pistol is high cut for a better grip. Roll markings are minimal and well done. Smith & Wesson got away from the large billboard that detracted from the appearance of the earlier models. I think it’s an attractive, good shooting pistol. These 1911s use a firing pin safety that resembles Colt's series 80 system at first glance, but is released by the grip safety rather than the trigger.

    This model utilizes a Smith & Wesson firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 39.8oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Forged carbon steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $750

    http://www.smith-wesson.com/webapp/w...09&isFirearm=Y


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    Kimber Custom II

    Next up is the first Kimber in this guide. Its their entry level Custom II and it fits firmly into this category. Its one of the tighter 1911s, from a slide to frame standpoint, in its price range. The finish is an even matte black with black rubber grips. The forged frame is nice with a high grip radius. Like all Kimbers, the grip safety is flat without the memory pad. It also includes front serrations, as do the other full size Kimbers. The guide rod is full length. I’m a Kimber fan and really like this 1911 overall. The trigger is one of the best in its price range. The entire gun is a nice combination of smooth and tight, with a good trigger and decent accuracy. Yes, Kimber, like many others, uses some metal injection molded parts (MIM). However, I never had an issue with any of mine. Two complaints I do have about the Custom II are the plastic mainspring housing and the lack of white dots on the sights. While the sights don’t bother me, some really have difficulty without the dots. Roll markings are well done, as they are on all Kimber models. I find the Custom II a classy looking, good shooting pistol and feel it makes a good choice as someone’s first 1911. Mine has functioned perfectly at the range thus far.

    This 1911 utilizes the Swartz firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 37.8oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Forged carbon steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $750

    http://www.kimberamerica.com/pistos/custom/custom_II/


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    Colt Commander XSE

    The last 1911 in this brief category is also the first Colt in this guide, with the XSE model. I have the stainless commander version, but they’re also available full size in stainless or blue. First and foremost, this 1911 uses Colt’s upgraded frame with a good cutout behind the trigger guard for a nice high grip. In fact, it’s the only Colt I own with a high grip radius. The gun comes with an ambi safety and a full-length guide rod. In typical Colt fashion, the front strap is smooth and the slide to frame fit is quite loose. The stainless finish is decent with polished flats. The ducktail grip safety is flat with no memory pad, along with all the Colts, and the mainspring housing is plastic. The sights are combat style with large, easily visible white dots. The grips are attractive double diamond checkered rosewood. Roll marks are cratered like all new Colts, but nicely done otherwise. Overall, if you want a very affordable pony, it’s not bad. However, there are better choices in this price range, in my opinion. I believe Colt XSEs are over $900 now. They also come standard with a plastic main spring housing and front serrations. I’m not big on front serrations on a commander. In fact, it’s the only commander I own with front cocking serrations. At the range, this 1911 has been flawless and acceptably accurate.

    This 1911 utilizes Colt's Series 80 firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 35.6oz

    Slide: Forged stainless steel

    Frame: Forged stainless steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $950

    http://coltsmfg.com/products-c5-q7-COLT_PISTOLS.aspx#


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    MID RANGE PRODUCTION

    For lack of a better term, that’s what I’ll call this group of enhanced 1911s in the $1000-$1300 range. At this price range, I will be discussing six guns, one stand out model, one classic model, one lightweight carry model, one bobtailed model, and two low end models that are priced higher due to some additional features and cosmetics.









    Colt Gold Cup Trophy

    We’ll start the category off with a classic, in the Colt Gold Cup Trophy. Mine is the stainless model. The Gold Cup is a completely different pistol from the other pistols in this grouping. Its an old school 1911 without all the modern features so common today. The Gold Cup was one of the first enhanced models to hit the market in the late 50’s. As I stated, it lacks modern enhancements, such as an extended safety, beavertail, memory pad, or a high hand grip. One trademark of the Colt Gold Cup is the wide trigger that is nearly the same width as the trigger guard. This gives the pistol a unique feel. As I mentioned, mine is the “Trophy” model, which Colt began to produce in the late 90’s. Its all stainless, with a three hole trigger and skeletonized hammer, which the older Gold Cup National Match doesn’t have. It also features wrap around grips to secure your hands to an otherwise smooth front strap. Roll markings are a bit cratered, which is common for newer production Colts, but are otherwise tastefully done. In typical Colt fashion, its got a loose slide to frame fit. Regardless, of the exact model in question, the Gold Cup is a well built pistol that’s been around for ages. I bring this 1911 to the range often and its been perfectly reliable in close to 2000 rounds.

    This 1911 utilizes Colt's Series 80 firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 39.0oz

    Slide: Forged stainless steel

    Frame: Forged stainless steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $1000

    http://coltsmfg.com/products-c5-q54-COLT_PISTOLS.aspx#


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  7. bac1023

    bac1023 1911 Collector Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    Messages:
    650
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    STI Trojan

    Next up is, by far, my favorite 1911 in this category, the STI Trojan. It’s got the smoothest controls, the best trigger, and, frankly, just the best build quality of any I’ve experienced at its price. The Trojan’s frame is cast and offers a very high grip, due to the cut out under the trigger guard. The front strap uses the popular chain link pattern for a secure grip. Though it works well for me, I do prefer checkering. The slide serrations are large and a bit unsightly, but very easy to grip. The trigger and mainspring housing are plastic, which is a downside to an otherwise excellent pistol. Mine has a few options, such as a hard chrome finish, an ambi safety, and a red fiber optic front sight. This 1911 is a pleasure to shoot at the range and does everything exceptionally well. The cocobolo grips with the logo are a nice touch. Keep in mind that the Trojan comes standard with thin grips, but mine has the ambi option, so standard thickness grips had to be used. Roll markings are large with the left side sporting a horse that looks to have been drawn by a preschooler. Fortunately, new production Trojans have this design omitted. If you want the best $1000 1911 on the market, look no further. I’ve been pushing this 1911 on potential buyers for years now and will continue to do so.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 38.8oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Cast carbon steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $1050

    http://stiguns.com/guns/Trojan5.0/Trojan50.php


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    Para 1911 Limited

    Para's 1911 Limited is in this price range, which is basically Para's top of the line single stack 1911. As I mentioned before, I'm not a huge fan of Para. This “flagship” model uses a cast slide and frame, a plastic trigger and mainspring housing, and a slide serration/finish combination so slippery that its nearly impossible to rack without cocking the hammer first. This gun has four different tones to the finish. The slide is "sterling" and black, while the frame is stainless. The controls are then done in satin steel. Its looks decent at first glance, but it is an odd combination. The guide rod is full length and an ambi safety is standard. The grips are nicely done checkered double diamond cocobolo, but with an unnecessary gold Para logo on them. Gold lettering was a mistake, in my opinion, especially considering the gun already shows four colors. I also feel an $1100 1911 should have some sort of front strap treatment, but this is as smooth as a baby’s rear. The one thing I do really like about this pistol are the sights. Here we have large Bo-Mar style rear target sights, with a bright red fiber optic front. They're virtually identical to the sights on my STI Trojan and Springfield TGO1 and I love them. Unfortunately, great sights can't rescue an $1100 Para from being a poor value. At the range, this 1911 does perform well enough, though I have fewer than 1000 rounds through mine. This gun features Para’s “Power Extractor”, which is an enlarged extractor said to enhance reliability. Gimmicky items like that don’t usually impress me, but so far, so good.

    This 1911 utilizes a series 80 style firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 38.6oz

    Slide: Cast stainless steel

    Frame: Cast stainless steel

    Country of origin: Canada

    Approximate 2011 street price: $1100

    http://www.paraord.com/new/product.php


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    Kimber Pro CDP II

    The next 1911 I'm going to speak about in the mid range production category is my trusty Kimber Pro CDP II. This is the only aluminum framed 1911 I own and I bought it as a carry gun years ago. The stainless slide is slightly melted and finished in satin silver. The gun features neatly done 30lpi checkering on the front strap and trigger guard, an ambi safety, night sights, and a 4" bull barrel. The mainspring housing is, disappointingly, plastic, which just should not be present on an $1100 1911. I've been carrying this gun for quite a while now and it has never let me down. I've got about 1500 rounds through it at this point. I'm a fan of bull barrels and find this gun very accurate for a 4" production 1911. The grips are nicely checkered double diamond rosewood. In typical Kimber fashion, the roll marking is done well, with Kimber Custom Shop on the left and the model name written in small letters on the right. As with all three of my Kimbers, this model is a series II model, which incorporates the firing pin safety. I’m not a huge fan of aluminum 1911s, but I do find them convenient for daily carry.

    This 1911 utilizes the Swartz firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 29.0oz

    Slide: Forged stainless steel

    Frame: Aluminum

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $1100

    http://www.kimberamerica.com/product...dp/pro_cdp_II/


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    Dan Wesson CBOB

    I’m going to include my Dan Wesson CBOB in this category. When I bought mine in 2007, it was priced just under $1000. The CBOB was basically discontinued in 2010, but used examples have risen in cost at an outrageous rate. I believe they command at least $1200 nowadays in new condition. The CBOB is a very tight, well-fitted commander. It has a few Ed Brown parts and its got the looks to match its impressive performance. The stainless finish is well done, the trigger is crisp, and the cocobolo grips are beautiful. The checkering is 25lpi and while its not nearly as nicely done as some more expensive models, it gives a firm grip to the shooter. The CBOB uses a cast frame and comes standard with night sights. The bobtail itself is an Ed Brown part and not for everyone. However, I love the look and the way they handle. This model was still the least expensive bobtailed 1911 on the market, until this year. As with all Dan Wesson 1911s, the CBOB is a great looking, great shooting gun. This pistol was a terrific value just a couple years ago, nowadays its priced more appropriately. There are no MIM parts to speak of. In 2010, the CBOB has morphed into the Valor-based VBOB and uses a forged frame. At the range, this 1911 was overly tight at first, but settled in nicely and is now a superb shooter.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 35.8oz

    Slide: Forged stainless steel

    Frame: Cast stainless steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $1200

    http://www.cz-usa.com/product_detail.php?id=66


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    Sig STX

    The last entry in this category is also my lone 1911 from Sig Sauer. The STX is Sig’s top of the line model from the custom shop. This model has good fit and finish, albeit an odd color scheme. It comes fully loaded with adjustable night sights, a magwell, ambi safety, and beautiful smooth burled maple grips with the Sig logo. 25lpi checkering is present on the front strap, while 20lpi adorns the mainspring housing. The STX has a standard GI recoil guide setup and an external extractor. The slide lacks front serrations and the rear serrations are curved to apparently give it that custom shop look, which I could do without. The top of the slide is also flattened and serrated. One thing I don’t like about the Sig 1911s is the non-traditional shape of the slide. Like Sig’s service pistols, its squared off and cut to be thinner on the top half. However, my biggest complaint about this 1911 and that of other Sig 1911s I’ve handled, is the trigger. It seems to lack the feel of others in the same price range. Its not heavy, but its also not crisp. Of course, this is my opinion, and certainly not shared by everyone. The Sig STX is a strong performer at the range and a solid, quality build using good parts, but just not quite my style. Others love Sig 1911s, so check them out for yourself.

    This 1911 utilizes a series 80 style firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 40.4oz

    Slide: Forged stainless steel

    Frame: Forged stainless steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $1200

    http://www.sigsauer.com/Products/Sho...&productid=130


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  8. bac1023

    bac1023 1911 Collector Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    Messages:
    650
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    HIGH END PRODUCTION


    These are the production 1911s in the $1300-$2000 price range. Obviously, these prices are going to yield some superior 1911s over the models previously discussed. As I mentioned before, there may be a model or two entered here that you feel should be posted elsewhere. However, after some hard thought, this is where I feel the following pistols fit in the grand scheme of the 1911 range and I have them categorized accordingly.









    Springfield TRP

    My first entry here is an extremely solid production pistol in the Springfield TRP. I have the stainless model, but the TRP is available in two other configurations with a black finish. Many consider this to be the best production 1911 built by anyone and I wouldn't argue that point of view. The TRP comes standard with a host of features including an ambi safety, coarse 20lpi checkering on the front strap and mainspring housing, G10 grips, combat style night sights, and a magwell. For better or worse, the TRP also has a two-piece guide rod. I like them, most don't. I won't go as far to say that the TRP is an exceptionally smooth 1911, but there's certainly something solid about its feel. Just picking it up screams "heavy duty". Not surprisingly, this is the heaviest 1911 I own. As far as the 20lpi is concerned, please be cautious. I like it, but it is rough if you aren't used to it. I strongly advise anyone to handle one of these before buying sight unseen. TRPs generally sell for $1300-$1500, depending on configuration. The stainless finish is nicely done and has a matte look to it. Roll markings are cumbersome, as they are on most Springfield 1911s, and this gun also has the customary key lock in the mainspring housing. At the range, this gun performs remarkably well, with little felt recoil and great accuracy.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 42.0oz

    Slide: Forged stainless steel

    Frame: Forged stainless steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $1400

    http://www.springfield-armory.com/armory.php?version=27


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    DoubleStar DSC

    DoubleStar introduced a 1911 in 2009, using many very good quality parts from several manufacturers. I liked this gun from the start. The only thing holding me back from getting one was the rail. As soon as it became available without the rail, I knew I had to have one. This 1911 has some nice features, to include Novak white dot combat sights, strider grips, a beveled magwell, and a standard GI plug up front. Several Ed Brown products are used in its production to include the grip safety, hammer, thumb safety, and a couple internal parts. The gun features 25lpi checkering on the front strap and mainspring housing, which is my favorite. The slide roll markings are minimal, with 45ACP stamped on the left side and the DoubleStar dragon logo on the right. The finish is a semi-glossy dark gray, which is very smooth. This 1911 is fairly tight between the slide and frame and shoots remarkably well. I don't have more than a couple hundred rounds through it, but it has been 100% reliable, smooth, and accurate. While it isn't the prettiest 1911 available, I think its a solid value for the dollar. The only downside to the gun is that night sights are not standard equipment. While I feel the DoubleStar has an edge in parts quality, the previously mentioned TRP does offer more features for the same money, including night sights.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 39.4oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Forged carbon steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $1400

    http://star15.com/pistol.html


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    Ithaca 1911A1

    Next up is a 1911 new to the market in the Spring of 2011. Ithaca is back in the 1911 business after many years. As most know, Ithaca built USGI 1911A1s during WWII. In fact one is pictured in this guide. As for their new offering, I feel its outstanding. Here we have a very clean looking pistol with solid build quality. The new Ithaca is available with Kensight combat or target sights. I had them both in my hands and choose the latter. This 1911 is equipped with 22lpi checkering on both the front strap and mainspring housing, a single sided thumb safety, a two piece guide rod, a beveled magwell, a flattened slide top, and a very even, but dull dark gray finish. The frame is sharply cut under the trigger guard to make a high hand grip possible. The beavertail is nicely fitted and has no memory pad. The clean looking slide has no front serrations and is stamped "Ithaca Gun Company Upper Sandusky, OH" on the left side in small, even, attractive font. The right side of the slide is left blank. The grips are half-checkered cocobolo with "Ithaca" etched into them for a great appearance. Finally, it comes with a thick barrel bushing which meets the nicely crowned barrel and adds to this model's stellar looks. I have a few hundred rounds through mine and it has performed flawlessly. My lone complaint about the Ithaca is the complete lack of any melting or even beveling on the corners. This gun has some sharp edges from the slide points to the thumb safety. However, it isn't too bad and certainly not enough to stop with new 1911 from being one of the best built and nicely looking models in its price range. Unfortunately, they have been a bit hard to find in their early life.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 41.2oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Forged carbon steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $1500

    http://ithacagun.com/1911.html


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    Fusion Custom Commander Elite

    Fusion has taken some heat as of late and for very good reason. I bought mine in 2007 and haven't experienced any problems. The name of my particular model is the Custom Commander Elite. One thing about Fusion is that you can basically get whatever you want. They can be customized in many ways to include finish, features, grips, caliber, barrel length, etc. The finish on mine is what Fusion calls “Pro Series Black Oxide”, but its similar to the masses of black finishes on the market today. This gun is fairly decked out to include a magwell, checkering on the front strap and mainspring housing, an ambi safety, and a serrated slide top. The grips are nicely done out of smooth spalted maple and the slide is naked on both sides, making this a clean looking, attractive pistol. The frame has a notch cut out under the trigger guard to enable a slightly higher grip. The guide rod is the standard short version with the checkered plug. As for the gun as a whole, its a smooth and accurate shooter and so far 100% reliable. What it isn't however is a semi-custom. Fusions are production quality, from the tool marks inside the slide, to the overall fitting of the parts. I only paid $1200 for mine brand new, but they have gone up considerably in cost and I don't feel they're worth the price these days, especially with all the quality control problems that seem to be cropping up recently.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 38.0oz

    Slide: Forged stainless steel

    Frame: Forged stainless steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $1500

    http://www.fusionfirearms.com/


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  9. bac1023

    bac1023 1911 Collector Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    Messages:
    650
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Dan Wesson Valor

    Dan Wesson has been a hard entry for me, because they have changed quite a bit since I bought both of mine. What we have here is a 2008 Valor model, serial number 24. This early Valor was Dan Wesson's first high end production model and certainly the precursor to where they stand a few years later. The finish is a black ceramic base over stainless and not as good as they use now, the stock grips are thin VZ, which have since been changed to a different set in 2010. These early valor grips are terrible in the fact that dirt and blackness shows up immediately. They have to be removed and cleaned with soap after every range session to restore their proper appearance. Hence, I switched mine to a thin set of tulipwood from Ahrends. The gun features 25lpi checkering, a single sided safety, night sights, and a standard recoil plug. It also features a forged frame (now standard on all Dan Wesson 1911s), and an easily recognized Ed Brown grip safety. Roll markings are almost nonexistent on this stellar looking 1911. The Valor has no MIM parts to speak of. This is one of the best choices in its price range and a smooth, accurate shooter. The Valor sold for $1250 or so when it first came out, but has since significantly risen in cost along with the rest of the Dan Wesson line. At this time, I really not sure how much value the Dan Wesson line represents. In the past, I thought they were outstanding in that regard. Still, if your looking for a great 1911 in the $1500-$1600 range, the Valor is certainly a viable option. Note that the stainless finish Valor is significantly less expensive than the new black over stainless model.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 38.8oz

    Slide: Forged stainless steel

    Frame: Forged stainless steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $1600

    http://cz-usa.com/products/view/dan-wesson-valor/


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    STI Legacy

    My next entry here is the STI Legacy. This has, unfortunately, been discontinued in 2009, but its certainly recent enough for me to keep it in the main section of the guide. The Legacy was STI's top of the line 1911, before it was replaced by the Sentinel Premier. It used all of STI's best parts, to include the forged frame. It comes standard with 30lpi checkering on the front strap and mainspring housing, an ambi safety, a set of adjustable combat style sights, and a full-length guide rod. The top of the slide is flattened and then serrated in an attractive diamond pattern. I find that’s a nice touch. The slide is also lined with a design called a French border, which looks beautiful on this gun. The grips are smooth cocobolo and the cycling of this gun feels as smooth as the grips, so to speak. I take this 1911 to the range often, because its a pleasure to shoot. One thing it doesn't have is STI's normal styling. In fact, it's styling is much more traditional than what you see from any of STI's other offerings. Mine has the optional PVD finish, which STI offered for a short while. My lone complaint about this gun is the lack of a high grip cut on the frame under the trigger guard. The cast framed Trojan has it, but not the Legacy. Its not a huge deal, but certainly curious. I find this gun a unique, awesome looking, great shooting 1911 that you don't see often. Once in a great while they pop up on the used market, but STI didn't produce many of these in the first place. The Legacy sold for about $1600 without the optional PVD finish.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 39.6oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Forged carbon steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $1600


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    Colt Special Combat Government

    Colt's top of the line 1911 these days is the Special Combat Government. While this pistol isn't an outstanding value like the Springfield TRP, it certainly has style, personality, presence, and the most well known name in the 1911 world. The Special Combat comes in three finish configurations, blued, hard chromed, and the last, a two tone of bluing and nickel. Mine is, obviously, the two tone. This gun is somewhat behind the times compared to its competition and even its stable mate, the Colt XSE. The Special Combat's frame is not modified at all for a high hand grip, which is odd these days on 1911s of this price. There is no checkering to speak of, nor any memory pad on the end of the grip safety. It does come standard with an ambi safety, target sights, and a magwell. The dark wood grips work well with its color scheme and vertical serrations are my favorite. Its rare to see them on an enhanced gun. In typical Colt fashion, the slide to frame fit is fairly loose. The roll markings looks great in context and style, but suffer from the cratering common on all new production Colts. This is a fun range gun with its smooth shooting, classic looks, and accomplished pedigree. Thus, I bring it with me often.

    This 1911 utilizes Colt's Series 80 firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 41.0oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Forged carbon steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $1700

    http://coltsmfg.com/products-c5-q63-COLT_PISTOLS.aspx#


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    Smith & Wesson PC1911

    Next up is my other Smith & Wesson 1911. This time from the Performance Center, which is the company's in-house custom shop of sorts. These guns have a retail price of well over $2000, but the street price is about $1900 new. I debated whether or not to categorize this gun with the semi-customs, but in the end, I feel this is exactly where it belongs. As good as the are, they just don't have that custom feel. Its somewhat hard to explain. Like the most of the guns in this category, this 1911 comes standard with all the bells and whistles. Included is finely done 30lpi checkering, an ambi safety, a full-length guide rod, and a magwell. The sights are Wilson Combat adjustable. As with all Smith & Wesson 1911s, the Performance Center model uses an external extractor, though the Performance Center's extractor is thicker than the standard one used on their SW series. Mine is the matte stainless model, but its also available in carbon steel with a melonite finish. This gun is well built, but not overly tight. You can certainly feel some movement between the slide and frame. However, its nothing to be concerned about. My disappointment with this gun is the fact that Smith & Wesson still felt it necessary to include a firing pin safety. It is my belief that customers who spend $2000 on a 1911, don't want extra gadgets included for no apparent reason. That safety should be left off these premium guns, in my opinion. As you can imagine, the Performance Center 1911 is smooth and accurate. I've got quite a few rounds through mine.

    This model utilizes a Smith & Wesson firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 40.8oz

    Slide: Forged stainless steel

    Frame: Forged stainless steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $1900

    http://www.smith-wesson.com/webapp/...57900_757896_757751_ProductDisplayErrorView_Y


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    Kimber Super Match II

    The last entry before I get into the semi-custom guns is my personal favorite of the group, the Kimber Super Match II. This is Kimber's flagship model and the only 1911 it produces with an accuracy guarantee. That happens to be a 25 yard, 5-shot group measuring 1" or less. The frame and slide are both stainless steel, with the slide being finished in black KimPro II. This model features fine 30lpi checkering on the front strap, mainspring housing, and trigger guard bottom. An ambi safety, full-length guide rod, and magwell are all standard. The sights are simple black on black adjustable target. Roll markings are nicely done and the KimPro finish on the slide looks outstanding. I've taken some heat and criticism over the last couple years for my stanch support of this 1911, being it’s a $2000 that incorporates several MIM parts. True, you can get a better quality 1911 from Les Baer for the same price. However, this gun is so smooth, so accurate, and so nicely finished and appointed, that its apparent to me that its more than the sum of its parts. I shoot it more accurately than any of my 1911s in this price range and several of my 1911s costing more. That can't be taken lightly. Flame away, but I really love this Kimber. Its my favorite personal production 1911 available today.

    This 1911 utilizes the Swartz firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 40.6oz

    Slide: Forged stainless steel

    Frame: Forged stainless steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $2000

    http://www.kimberamerica.com/product...uper_match_II/


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  10. bac1023

    bac1023 1911 Collector Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    Messages:
    650
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    SEMI-CUSTOM


    Now we're stepping up to some choices for those looking for a top tier 1911. As you'll see, there are many to choose from. I'm going to organize this part of the guide a bit differently than the production section. Instead of grouping these 1911s by price range, I'm going to group them by manufacturer. I’ll start by briefly discussing the company itself and then breaking down into the models I own. I'm doing this because, for the most part, you get the same level of quality at both ends of each semi-custom manufacturer's price range. By and large, the differences are mainly features, finishes, and an occasional accuracy guarantee. These guns are very high quality and built to extremely high standards. Any of them would be a 1911 that shoots great and lasts a lifetime.









    I'll start out with one of the oldest names in the high end 1911 world, Wilson Combat. This shop is based in Arkansas and has been in business since the 70's in one capacity or another. Wilson 1911s are, without doubt, the most popular of the semi-customs. I believe they sell the most guns and employ the most people. They are refined, well finished, and tough as nails. The two examples I own are the CQB and Classic Super Grade. I decided on these two models to own both the most popular Wilson and the top of the line model.




    Wilson CQB

    First, I'll discuss the CQB. This pistol is actually Wilson's "entry level" model. Of course, starting at $2750 MSRP these days, its hard to call it entry level. This is the gun that first comes to many people's mind when the best 1911s are discussed. That’s for good reason, as this 1911 is top notch in every way. Features are standard, but it has everything you need. The guide rod is the standard GI setup. The finish is Wilson's Armor-Tuff in your choice of color. Checkering on the front strap and mainspring housing is 30lpi and very well done. The frame is high cut for a secure grip and the sights are Wilson's Combat Pyramid night sights. Mine has the ambi safety option and Wilson will make the changes you ask for if you order new. Being their most popular 1911, Wilson sells more CQBs than any other model. The pistol comes standard with Wilson's 1" at 25 yard accuracy guarantee. In typical Wilson fashion, slide roll markings are exceptionally clean. Needless to say, this is a great shooting 1911. It was one of my first high end models and I have quite a few rounds through it at this point. The Wilson CQB is also available in several calibers.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 40.0oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Forged carbon steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $2500

    http://www.wilsoncombat.com/p_cqb.htm


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    Wilson Classic Super Grade

    Next we'll discuss Wilson's top of the line 1911, in the Classic Super Grade. When it comes to this gun, my statement about equal build quality within semi-custom shop models goes out the window. The Super Grade (both Classic and Tactical) is widely thought of as one of the best 1911s in the world and certainly the pinnacle of the semi-custom models. The Super Grade is just that; super. Everything about the gun is perfect, from the checkering, to the fitting, to the entire feel of the gun. Its built like a full house custom, by one smith. These top smiths work separate from the other "production" smiths at Wilson. Needless to say, the Super Grade comes standard with all the goodies, to include a serrated slide top, a checkered slide rear, adjustable night sights, an ambi safety, and a magwell. It also has a full-length guide rod and the standard Wilson 1" accuracy guarantee. At the range, this gun is incredibly smooth. I can’t even feel the slide cycle and the brass flies the same way every time. My only complaint about this pistol is that I feel the standard finish should be upgraded on a $5000 1911. Still, there's nothing wrong with Armor-Tuff. Mine has a stainless frame. As great as this pistol is, the price puts it in competition with some extremely good custom guns from some of the best smiths in the world.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 40.4oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Forged stainless steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $4700

    http://www.wilsoncombat.com/p_supergrade.htm


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    Next up is another main player in the semi custom world, and that is none other than Ed Brown. Ed Brown got started in the 60's as a gunsmith and opened his own shop in the late 80's primarily building parts. It wasn't long before he was the owner of a shop that hand built complete guns. Today, Ed Brown is considered by many to build the best 1911s in the land. Their 1911s are beautiful to look at and certainly second to none in terms of build quality and fit and finish. I'm not going to call them the best semi-customs, because I like them all, but what sets Ed Brown apart is the fact that they use a great deal of in-house parts. Furthermore, Ed Brown's parts find their way into many other company's 1911s as well. The beavertail is probably the best and most easily recognizable part of its type on the market and the bobtail is an Ed Brown invention used by many. Like Wilson, the two Ed Brown models I own are both the most popular and the top of the line model, in the Kobra Carry and Classic Custom, respectively.




    Ed Brown Kobra Carry

    Starting with the Kobra Carry, we have a commander length 1911 with a bobtailed frame. Mine is all stainless, but this model is available in carbon steel as well as two tone. This gun features an Ed Brown metal work pattern called "snakeskin" on the front strap, slide, and mainspring housing. While I prefer the looks of classic checkering, this pattern works very nicely also, having plenty of grip. Mine has the ambi safety option, but that is not standard on the Kobra Carry. As with all Ed Browns, this is a clean 1911, with the name marked on the right side and the left side left blank. Newer Ed Browns use a slightly different style in terms of marking. I prefer the old markings, but both look nice. Grips are double diamond checkered cocobolo, the sights are combat style night sights, and the recoil spring guide is the standard plug setup. This is one of the most accurate commanders I ever shot, bar none. The bobtail itself takes some time to get used to, but I love the look and feel. Its main purpose is to reduce printing by the butt of the gun when concealed. The Ed Brown Kobra Carry is not only the most popular Ed Brown, but also one of the most popular high end 1911s of all time. I have many rounds through this gun, as I've owned it for about five years now.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 35.6oz

    Slide: Forged stainless steel

    Frame: Forged stainless steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $2300

    http://www.edbrown.com/cgi/start.cgi/customhandguns.htm


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    Ed Brown Classic Custom

    The Ed Brown Classic Custom is a masterpiece in every way. This has all the bells and whistles and is Ed Brown's flagship handgun. What sets this 1911 apart from the other Ed Browns is not build quality, as all Browns are built to the same level of quality by the same smiths, unlike Wilson. What sets it apart is the high polished slide. Its like a mirror. It also has virtually all the options that Ed Brown offers. The slide rear is checkered, the slide top is flattened and serrated, the safety is an ambi, the mag release is oversized, and a two-piece guide rod is standard. The front strap and mainspring housing are both checkered beautifully at 25lpi, which is my favorite level of coarseness. The Ed Brown magwell was a $75 option and not standard equipment. The sights are large adjustable target style. It goes without saying that the Classic Custom is a magnificent shooter, so if you're looking for a 1911 to impress both on and off the range, you would be hard pressed to do better than this Ed Brown. As you can see, I went with the two tone version, but its also available all carbon and all stainless for the same price.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 41.0oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Forged stainless steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $3100

    http://www.edbrown.com/cgi/start.cgi/customhandguns.htm


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  11. bac1023

    bac1023 1911 Collector Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    Messages:
    650
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    The next manufacturer on the list is Les Baer. This man has been in the 1911 business for many years and used to head up Springfield Custom, before starting on his own. He now owns a semi-custom shop that produces a couple hundred pistols per month and is considered by many to build the best pistols in the business. Les Baer 1911s are always remarkably tight. The supplied bushing wrench is an absolute must when field striping. While they do "break in" to an extent, the tightness remains. Les Baer 1911s have real personality, in my opinion. From the cardboard box they ship in, to the signed certificate by everyone who took part in building it, to the obviously hand checkered front strap, Les Baers have some characteristics that set them apart from their competition. What they don't have is all the refinement of a Wilson or Ed Brown, but make up for that with character and "soul". The two models I own are the Concept V, which is an introductory model, and the flagship carry gun, the SRP.




    Les Baer Concept V

    First, I'll discuss the Concept V, which is a full size, full stainless target pistol. The Concept series are basically Les Baer's entry level guns. The least expensive is the blued Concept I at a current retail of $1690. The Concept V is full stainless with target sights and retails for $1870. Both have a street price of maybe $50 to $100 less. These pistols are very well appointed and Baer builds all of its 1911 with the same level of care and quality. The Concept V is a target gun and equipped with a large thumb safety, an ambi safety, and Baer rear target sights. The front strap is hand checkered at 30lpi, the mainspring housing is serrated, and the frame is machined to give a high hand grip. This, along with a comfortable beavertail, makes the Concept V a pleasure to shoot. The grips are checkered cocobolo and it utilizes a standard GI recoil guide and plug. I will add that I find the fine slide serrations of a Baer aesthetically pleasing and very easy to grip. Slide markings are typical of Les Baer with “Baer Custom” on the left side and the caliber stated on the right. The Concept series comes standard with a 3" at 50 yard accuracy guarantee.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 39.2oz

    Slide: Forged stainless steel

    Frame: Forged stainless steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $1800

    http://lesbaer.com/Concept5.html#


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    Les Baer SRP

    My other Les Baer is their flagship duty gun, the Swift Response Pistol or SRP. This is a carbon steel gun with the optional hard chrome finish. Mine also has the $295 1.5" at 50 yard accuracy guarantee. The SRP retails for $2490 or $2785 with the upgraded accuracy. This gun is incredible in every way. There is obviously some extra machining that takes place on this 1911, as the frame is very nicely deburred in every area. The front strap and mainspring housing are both hand checkered at 30pli. Combat night sights and an ambi safety are also standard. Along with its cardboard box, the SRP comes with a wood presentation case and several magazines. Needless to say this is one of the most accurate pistols I own, 1911 or otherwise. Its also one of the tightest pistols I own, both between the slide and frame and where it really counts, the business end. While the Ultimate Master is their most decked out top of the line competition pistol, the SRP is my favorite when it comes to Les Baer 1911s. At $2500, I also feel its certainly one of the better values in the semi custom world, bar none.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 39.6oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Forged carbon steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $2500

    http://lesbaer.com/Swift.html


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    I'm going to include Rock River Arms in this section even though they are not taking 1911 orders at this time. I feel they are simply too recent and just too good to leave out of the main part of this guide. RRA stopped building 1911s during the AR craze a couple years ago and show no signs of restarting. That was truly a shame, as Rock River 1911s were outstanding and even better values. The folks that started Rock River Arms used to work for Les Baer, and there are certainly some similarities between their 1911 models.




    Rock River Arms Limited Match

    My RRA is their top of the line Limited Match. I have given this gun heaps of praise over the years and I'm not going to miss this opportunity to give it a bunch more. This 1911 is one of my three favorite semi custom models, along with the Wilson Super Grade and Springfield TGO1. The Limited Match has it all, to include awesome build quality, amazing accuracy, and about every feature you could possibly want as standard. The list of standard features includes an ambi safety, magwell, oversize mag release, Bo-Mar rear target sights, a serrated slide back to match the sights, a flattened and serrated slide top, and your choice of 20, 25, or 30lpi checkering on the front strap, mainspring housing, and trigger guard. The Limited Match is also standard with a two-piece guide rod and a 1.5" at 50 yard accuracy guarantee. This matches the best guarantee in the business and, as I mentioned, is a $300 option on the Les Baer models. You get all this, plus an optional upgraded finish (Black T or hard chrome) for $2500. The value is simply the best in the high end 1911 world, bar none. I find this gun exceptionally tight, especially up front, where it really counts. Its also an incredibly smooth and accurate shooter. The barrel is a Kart NM and this gun utilizes an Ed Brown grip safety. I will also note that this 1911 is one of the most comfortable I own to shoot. The grip is very high cut, with no radius whatsoever. Its one of only a couple 1911s I own that way. Between that and the Ed Brown beavertail, its fits in my hands incredibly. As with all RRA 1911s, the Limited Match is very clean looking, with no marking at all on the right side and only "1911-A1" on the left in small lettering. The slide has a subtle French border around the outside, with is tastefully done. Mine was also built with no front cocking serrations. Its extremely unfortunate this gun is no longer available new, because its one of the best ever built. I fear if RRA resumed building them, prices would be considerably higher. These guns command some high prices on the used market already. If you can find one, that is, because RRA wasn’t in the 1911 business long and didn't build many when they were.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 41.4oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Forged carbon steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $2500-$3000


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    Next we will talk about a truly outstanding builder in Springfield Custom. Many will argue that this is a true custom shop and I won't argue that point. I consider them semi-custom due to their standard models, coupled with the fact that the work is done by more than one smith. Still, I feel they do as good or better work than any other semi custom shop around. I'm also not crazy about the fact that current Springfield Custom guns use a MIM part or two. However minor it may be, its inexcusable on $2500 and up 1911s.




    Springfield TGO1

    The model I will discuss is Springfield Custom's top of the line 1911, the TGO1, which is Rob Leatham's signature pistol. He shoots every one of these pistols before its shipped to the customer. From what I understand, Springfield has only built a few hundred of these 1911s. Mine is a 2002 model with the serial number 44. It was built when Springfield was still using the Nowlin barrels and no MIM parts whatsoever. This is one of the nicest finished 1911s I own. Its a two tone Robar finish, with the frame being NP3 and the slide being Roguard. The slide to frame fit is incredibly tight and the gun very accurate and smooth. I can't feel any of the action cycling when fired. Standard features include an ambi safety, magwell, adjustable rear Bo-mar sight with fiber optic front, a two-piece guide rod, and 20lpi front strap checkering. It also comes with two sets of thin grips, which include the RL grips pictured and a set of black micarta. I consider this gun on a level playing field with my previously mentioned Wilson Super Grade and Rock River Limited Match from a quality and performance standpoint. The TGO1 is really that good. This is one of my top three semi-custom 1911s.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 40.8oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Forged carbon steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $3000

    http://sgcusa.com/Handguns-Springfie...duct_info.html


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  12. bac1023

    bac1023 1911 Collector Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    Messages:
    650
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    To round out the big four semi custom shops, along with Wilson, Ed Brown, and Les Baer, we will discuss Nighthawk Custom. Unlike those previous three, Nighthawk has not been around for a long period of time. This is, by far, the youngest of all the major semi-custom shops. From what I understand, it spawned from a group of smiths leaving Wilson Combat, which is basically across the street in Berryville, Arkansas. Nighthawk is impressive to me just from the sheer variety they offer in their models and options. They are probably the most customizable of all the semi-custom builders and deliver on what they promise. Customer service is second to none and I ordered both of mine directly from Nighthawk. I feel they build some of the most aesthetically pleasing 1911s around. They are very well appointed in stock form and offer a couple things the other builders don't, such as hand stippling. The two models I own are the Predator II and Enforcer. Both are unique 1911s in their own way and both are finished in hard chrome, as I don't care for the thin Perma Kote standard black finish. I'll also add that whoever does the chroming for Nighthawk (I believe its Metaloy) does a fantastic job. Its some of the nicest hard chrome I've ever seen.




    Nighthawk Predator II

    First, I'll discuss the Predator II. The "II" designates a commander, which is a full size frame and a 4.25" barrel. The Predator has the same specs as the Talon, but with the special bull barrel and blast shield. The Predator II retails for $2950 and comes equipped with a serrated slide top, a checkered rear of slide, a special bull barrel, a magwell, and front strap and mainspring housing checkering. I bypassed the magwell, in lieu of a bobtailed frame and mainspring housing. I also went with the hand stippling option instead of the standard checkering for something different. Other options include a fiber optic front sight, ambi safety, smooth spalted maple grips, and previously mentioned full hard chrome finish. The rear sights are Heinie Straight Eights. I honestly don't have many rounds though this Nighthawk, maybe 200. I will say that its bull barrel setup makes it an accurate commander length 1911 and the extra weight up front from the blast shield makes it a soft shooting 45ACP. The roll marks are well done, as they are on all Nighthawk pistols. The left side of the frame has the logo, while the right side bears the model name in a tasteful font size and style. All my options certainly drove the price up considerably, but I feel they were worth every penny.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 38.4oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Forged carbon steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $2900

    http://www.nighthawkcustom.com/detail.aspx?ID=10


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    Nighthawk Enforcer

    My other Nighthawk Custom is the outstanding Enforcer model. This model is not to be confused with the earlier Enforcer model that is now called the GRP. This gun's base price is $2995 and is my favorite from Nighthawk, being based off the old Vicker's Tactical gun. It features a magwell and plunger tubes that are part of the Caspian frame, instead of being bolted and staked on, respectively. In addition to that, the Enforcer comes standard with top and rear slide serrations, 25lpi checkering on the front strap and mainspring housing, ball cuts up front, Heinie Straight Eight sights, a rounded butt with lanyard loop, a recessed slide stop, and a flush crowned and recessed barrel. Its a very nice looking 1911 and certainly business-like in its appearance. The options I went with were an ambi safety, hard chrome finish, no front cocking serrations, and a set of half checkered cocobolo grips. The Enforcer has a standard recoil plug. I probably have more rounds through this 1911 than any other semi custom I own other than my Kobra Carry and CQB. Its just one of those guns I gravitate towards when choosing what to take to the range with me. While I prefer my top three favorite semi customs that I’ll mention later, the Enforcer is only a half step down. Its a great 1911.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 41.2oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Cast carbon steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $2900

    http://www.nighthawktactical.com/The_Enforcer.html


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    Next we'll discuss a young company that built itself around a new caliber, the 50GI. The name is Guncrafter Industries and they got started in 2004 building 1911s chambered for a new 50 caliber self defense round. The shop is headed up by master smith Alex Zimmerman and from what I understand, he’s a great person to do business with. The original models were simply the Model 1 and Model 2, both designed for the 50GI, but able to be converted to 45ACP. In more recent times, however Guncrafter has introduced a couple models built around the 45ACP. These are the models that peaked my interest.




    Guncrafter Industries “No Name”

    In 2010, I picked up a "No Name" model as my first Guncrafter 1911. This gun is refreshingly different in some ways to the masses of semi-customs available. First is the standard Melonite finish. There really aren't many 1911s that come with that finish as standard from the factory. Second is the 15lpi checkering. I'm not aware of anyone else that offers checkering this coarse as standard. Its present on both the front strap and mainspring housing and I like it. The third is the completely naked slide as standard. This is rare as well and one of only two 1911s I own with this characteristic, the other being my Fusion. I know many of you order your 1911s like that, but this is standard spec for the appropriately termed “No Name”. The gun itself is top quality, very tight, and great shooting. It features Heinie Slant Pro night sights, and a flattened and serrated slide top. This gun includes Shredder grips, but I went with the olive drab Alumagrips made for Guncrafter. Between the 15lpi checkering and the grips, your hand does not move at all. I did a very positive range report on this gun in June 2010. A search will easily bring it up to those interested. I highly recommend this 1911 for anyone looking for a high end 1911 slightly off the beaten path.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 40.0oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Forged carbon steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $2500

    http://www.guncrafterindustries.com/pwnn.shtml


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  13. bac1023

    bac1023 1911 Collector Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    Messages:
    650
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Lastly, we will speak about another newcomer in the semi-custom 1911 world. Luke Volkmann of Volkmann Custom has been in business just a few years now. He is basically a one-man show. Luke used to work for Ed Brown, before opening his own shop. I have spoken to him personally and he is a heck of a nice guy, doing great quality work. Why is Volkmann entered here instead of the custom section, you ask? Its due to the models listed and options available. Still, if someone wants to call his business a full house custom shop, that's certainly understandable. Volkmann reminds me of Ed Brown quite a bit, actually, and the models line up well. The Volkmann Signature is very similar to the Ed Brown Classic Custom and they stay remarkably parallel right through the product line. Volkmann prices have gone up quite a bit from two years ago and now I fear value for the dollar is somewhat lacking when compared to the competition. My thought is that Luke is trying to compensate for increasing overhead and also differentiate himself from the semi-custom shops and establish himself as a premier custom builder. A higher price point, believe it or not, could help him do that. Amidst the economy in which this significant price hike took place, it can only mean Luke is trying to move up market. Being that he is different than the semi-custom shops, I don't blame him for trying.




    Volkmann Combat Custom

    My Volkmann is the Combat Custom, which is his basic full size duty gun. I bought it very shortly after he got his start and the base price was $2495. Now, they're up $500, to a cool $3K. Its a great 1911, no doubt, but I'm not sure its a $3000 1911. To me, its about on par with a Wilson CQB, which is not a bad thing. Also one of the options on the Combat Custom (for an extra $100) is a high grip cut. That should be standard, especially for $3000. The Combat Custom comes standard with 25lpi checkering on the front strap and mainspring housing, combat night sights, a serrated slide top, and a standard GI recoil plug. Mine has the optional ambi safety. As I mentioned, the frame is not machined for a high hand grip. As are all the 1911s in this category, this Volkmann is a great shooting pistol. I also like the exclusivity you get with one of these, in comparison to the guns from the bigger semi-custom shops. The roll marking is nice and I love the looks of the Volkmann logo. The grips I went with are VZ with the Volkmann medallion. Overall, we have a great guy building outstanding 1911s. However, I really feel they should be priced a little more competitively. In 2011, Luke Volkmann closed the doors to Volkmann Custom and reintroduced the company as Volkmann Precision.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 40.8oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Forged carbon steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $3000

    ttp://www.volkmannprecision.com/main/pdf/Volkmann_CombatCustom_Orderform.pdf


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    CUSTOM


    Its time to discuss some of the best guns in the world, 1911 or otherwise. These are the full custom builds by some of the top 1911 smiths and custom builders. Custom guns are guns built for one person by, in most cases, one person. Its hard for me to really recommend my guns in this section to anyone, because your tastes and preferences are most likely different. What I can do is show you what I ordered and who I ordered from to give you some ideas. I own five of these masterpiece 1911s and will discuss each. As it stands, I have three scratch built customs and two that started life as new production Colts, one a standard stainless Series 70 and the other a WWI reproduction. More specifically, I have a build by Paul Liebenberg at Pistol Dynamics, George Smith and team at EGW, Ted Yost at Heirloom Precision, Mark Morris at MCP, and Brandon Strayer and team at Infinity Firearms. For those interested, there is plenty of information to be found on the web about the smiths I mentioned here, as well as others. I researched several magazine articles posted online and read a great deal of material on these individuals and shops before placing orders. I will add that as incredible as these are, they’re also quite expensive and certainly not necessary to experience the greatness of the model 1911.









    Pistol Dynamics Signature

    The first gun I'll discuss here is my Pistol Dynamics Signature. Paul Liebenberg is the owner of this company and the custom smith doing the work. Before starting his own company, Liebenberg worked for Pachmayr as well as starting the Performance Center at Smith & Wesson. He is a true master of his trade and incredible quality and workmanship of this pistol is evidenced as soon as you pick it up. This gun was ordered in late 2007 and completed two years later. To ensure I got the build right, I spoke to Paul for a good hour when placing the order. It’s built on Liebenberg's in-house frame and features many Liebenberg exclusives. This certainly qualifies as having all the "bells and whistles". When I talked to Paul about my specs and preferences for this gun, no stone was left unturned. I will list the build sheet for this and all my customs, but the features on this Signature include a ball and "Browning" cut slide, Pistol Dynamics rear combat sights with a gold bead front sight, ambi safety, PD match grade barrel, magwell, 30lpi checkering on the front strap, mainspring housing, and trigger guard, a serrated rear of slide and top of slide, a high cut frame, a two piece guide rod, and a flush crowned barrel. The mainspring housing is slightly chamfered to eliminate the sharp edge (much like a rounded butt). Virtually every part is built in house. Two standouts to mention are the beavertail and bushing. The beavertail is a forged and machined part, not cast like just about every other beavertail in existence. It has a very unique look and a great feel. The bushing and front sight work together in what's called an ISS system, whereas the sight is slid into a linear dovetail and the bushing secures it in place. Another subtle custom flair to this gun is the mag release. Paul cuts the end of it on an angle facing your thumb for easier access. All of these features and more can be read about in detail on the website. The external extractor is a Liebenberg standard on his scratch built pistols. According to him, he gets substantially enhanced extraction and ejection over the traditional internal extractor. Truth be told, I never minded external extractors and since this is a signature pistol from Paul, I wanted it included. As far as slide marking is concerned, this 1911 features "Pistol Dynamics 45ACP" on the left side of the slide and the signature engraving on the rear of the right side. Both are tastefully done. Finally, the entire pistol was finished in matte hard chrome with black micarta grips made especially for this style of magwell. 2007 prices had this build at about $4800, but prices have gone up since. At the range, this gun is incredible, being both very tight and exceptionally smooth at the same time, which is no easy feat. I love everything about it and would recommend Pistol Dynamics to anyone looking for a full house custom from one of the world’s best. After all, you only live once, right?

    The following are the gun's build specs.

    Date: 12/01/2007 This quote valid for 14 days (updated 12/04/07)

    o Chassis
    • PD 1911 frame assembly
    • PD 5” slide assembly w/ external extractor
    • 17° cocking serrations
    Included

    o Accuracy
    • Match grade slide to frame fit
    • PD Signature Match grade barrel, crowned, 45 ACP
    • PD solid ISS match bushing
    • Stainless guide rod and plug – full length
    • Wolff spring kit
    Included

    o Sights
    • Front sight, PD ISS serrated ramp with gold bead
    • Rear sight, PD Fixed
    Included

    o Trigger group
    • Competition ignition system includes PD hammer, sear, disconnector and sear spring
    • Long Aluminum trigger w/overtravel stop
    Included

    o Safeties
    • PD custom machined beavertail
    • Extended ambi - thumb safety
    Included


    o Custom metal work
    • Custom slide-on Mag well, includes dedicated PD grips
    • Front strap, hand checker 30 LPI
    • Flat mainspring housing, hand checker 20 LPI
    • Mag catch extended (.050”), rake and checker
    • Sight, line rear 40 LPI
    • Slide, line rear 40 LPI
    • Slide, flat top and serrate 40 LPI
    • Slide, Browning and ball cuts
    • Checker trigger guard 30 lpi
    • Carry bevel package
    Included

    o Magazine
    • 2 – tested Wilson magazines
    Included

    ○ Finish
    ● Hard Chrome entire pistol
    ● Signature engraving
    Included


    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 41.0oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Forged carbon steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $5000-$6000

    http://pistoldynamics.com/index.html


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  14. bac1023

    bac1023 1911 Collector Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    Messages:
    650
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Infinity single stack

    The next custom build I'll speak about is from Brandon Strayer and the folks at Infinity Firearms. I have thought for years that this company built some of the most innovative handguns in the world, whether it be a 1911 or double stack. As a custom gun builder, Infinity produces more than most, maybe 300 or so guns per year. That’s small time compared to a semi-custom shop like Baer or Wilson that ship 2000-3000 guns annually, but considering every Infinity is custom built off of customer supplied specs, its impressive. The Infinity customer uses a program called the Gunbuilder (now Gunbuilder II) to design his or her dream 1911. The options are virtually endless, hence the name. Mine is a standard carbon steel, single stack 1911, chambered in 45ACP. The barrel is one of the best in the business. It’s a Schumann Ultimatch AET bull barrel, with the Infinity exclusive titanium nitride coating, which gives it its gold color. Other features I specified include an ambi safety, “SV” hammer, Triglide trigger, a serrated slide top, Infinity front and rear target sights with a red fiber optic, a panel cut slide, and 30lpi front strap and mainspring housing checkering. The gun is finished in Infinity’s exclusive Jet-black Infinicoat. The grips are wood with the Infinity logo up and down the back. As you can see from the build specs, Infinity allows you be specific about every detail. Furthermore, there is a special instructions section to allow you to give other direction in addition to the Gunbuilder’s options. I spoke to Brandon for a while during the ordering process and he was as helpful and knowledgeable as they get. Between the 2lb Triglide trigger, tight fitting, AET barrel, and rigid bull setup, this is probably the most accurate 1911 I shoot. It goes without saying that I think extremely highly of Infinity and would not hesitate to recommend one of these sleek, competition-bred 1911s to anyone. All this quality does come at a considerable cost, however. My build, which is very basic by Infinity standards, ran just under $4000 in early 2008. Prices have risen a good bit at Infinity since that time, so you’re probably looking at a cool $4500 for this build today. Leave off the Infinicoat and AET barrel, and you would probably be at $4000 or slightly under. Still, if you’re going to buy a full house gun like an Infinity, why compromise?

    The following are the gun’s build specs.

    Design Name: bac3
    Template Name: 1911 Govt. Length Pistol - Single Stack
    Last Updated: 08/07/08
    Quantity: 1
    Special Instructions: The entire gun is Infinicoat Jet Black. However, please leave the AET barrel bronze. Also, the grip safety, ambi safety, trigger, hammer, and guide rod are to stay silver or stainless. Please do not coat these parts. I want them to stand out. Brandon, please include the new wood grips with the logo that you mentioned. Thanks for everything. Brian
    AET Barrel Option: AET
    Barrel: Plain Barrel
    Barrel Length: 5
    Barrel Style: Non-Bushing Style (Cone/Bull Barrel)
    Caliber: 45 ACP
    California/ Massachusetts Resident: No
    Compensator: No Compensator
    Dust Cover: Standard (all)
    Dust Cover Fluting: None
    Frame Material: Carbon Steel
    Frame Style: Traditional (1911 single stack) Round Trigger Guard
    Front Sight: Red Fiber Optic .100 wide x 1.5mm
    Front Slide Cut: 20 lines per inch
    Grip Length: Checkered Rosewood (Traditional frame only)
    Grip Safety: Stainless Steel
    Grip Surface / Finish: Checkered Front strap (Traditional)
    Guide Rod: Stainless Steel
    Gun type: Government (5 inch)
    Hammer: Triple Xcelerated SV
    Hammer Finish: Silver Finish
    IPSC Modified Division Infinity IMM Special®: No (typical)
    ITI Rail cut: No Rail Cut
    Mag Well: No Magazine Well
    Magazine Catch: Steel, 4-40 tap
    Magazine Release Button: Small Blued Stainless-This option requires 4-40 magcatch.
    Mainspring Housing: CS Flat
    Panel Cut: Yes
    Pistol Finish: Infinicoat Jet Black
    Radial Flute: None
    Rear Lightening: No
    Rear Sight: Infinity® Rear Sight Absolute Target Zero
    Rear Slide Cut: 20 lines per inch
    Slide Lock Pin: Steel - 4140
    Slide Material: Carbon Steel
    Slide Profile: Round Top
    Slide Racker / Lightening: No
    Stirrup Cut: Yes
    Strut: Steel
    Thumb Safety Material: Stainless Steel
    Thumb Safety Style: Ambidextrous Tactical
    Top Rib: 30 lines per inch
    Trigger Base color: Silver
    Trigger Bow: Stainless Steel
    Trigger Insert Color: Silver
    Trigger Insert Style: Curved Medium
    Triglide System: Yes


    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 39.0oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Forged carbon steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $4500

    http://sviguns.com/1101.php?indx=3


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    Yost Retro Custom

    Next we have a retro custom build from none other than master pistol smith Ted Yost at Heirloom Precision. Heirloom Precision is a small custom shop run by Yost, Steve Bailey, and Jason Burton. All three do outstanding work. Compared to the two previously discuss custom 1911s, this one is very subdued, which is exactly how it’s meant to be. This custom started life as one of Colt’s now discontinued run of WWI reproduction 1911s. After Yost got done with it, there is nothing left untouched and most parts are replaced with superior parts that were either built in the shop or outsourced. This gun is constructed from the best components available, but still retains much of the classic styling. Having said that, there is nothing about this gun’s feel that even remotely reminds me of the Colt it was before. The barrel is Kart and the sights are Yost retro, with the front sight using the gold line. 30lpi checkering is done on the front strap and mainspring housing and the ejection port is slightly lowered, but not flared. The gun was bead blasted and blued and retains the original gun’s roll markings, albeit they are completely smoothed and deburred. The wood grips were sourced from Hogue and look very nice on this build. Speaking of grips, Yost inscribes his name underneath the right grip panel to not take away from the clean, classic looks. I only shot this gun about 20 rounds so far. While I love it, I always gravitate towards the enhanced 1911s when it comes to range time. Retro custom conversions start at $4195 not counting the base gun. In this case the base gun sold for about $900, so you’re talking just over $5000 for one of these builds today. They were about $500 less back when I bought mine.

    The following are the gun’s build specs.

    Build Sheet, Colt WWI s/n: 2508WMK ,
    Tighten frame and slide, 1911, steel, labor only
    Bevel magazine well, 1911, hand filed, labor only Checker front strap @ 30 lpi, Government and Commander (includes Hi-cut & truing of front strap), labor only
    Hand checker mainspring housing @ 30 lpi, including MSH
    Premium Quality 1911 trigger job, includes Yost tool steel sear and aluminum trigger
    1* back end treatment, labor only
    High-cut & bob hammer to prevent bite, labor only
    Supply and install plunger tube, new barstock steel, staked
    Stock screw bushings, part only
    Supply and install factory Colt serrated slide stop, blue
    Supply and install Colt style thumb safety, dehorned
    Supply and install Kart barrel w match bushing
    Complete 1911 dependability package - Wilson Bulletproof extractor, tune ejector, polish feed ramp and throat barrel, polish breech face, chamfer firing pin hole, ream chamber if necessary
    Lower ejection port, labor only
    Supply and install Yost Classic Retro Sight Package - Yost rear, Silver brazed ramp front
    Gold line inlay for ramp front sight (front sight not included), labor only
    Dehorn complete pistol, labor only
    Satin matte bead blast & blue complete pistol, 320 polish slide flats, labor only
    Polish frame flats, labor only
    1911 Grips-Hogue
    Novak 8-round magazines and Pistol rug
    Detail frame, straighten lines, etc., labor only
    Cost of gun including mods: $4495.00


    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 38.6oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Forged carbon steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $5000

    http://www.heirloomprecision.com/inf...nversion.shtml


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  15. bac1023

    bac1023 1911 Collector Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    Messages:
    650
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Evolution Gun Works

    The fourth custom 1911 I’m going to review is a build from Evolution Gun Works. Unfortunately, getting a custom gun from them is a thing of the past. George Smith, who owns the company and started it building 1911s, no longer takes custom orders. Today, he only makes parts, which, in fact, are some of the best in the world. Since the company is only a 15 minute drive from my house, I’ve been there a couple of times. This gun is built on a Caspian frame with a magwell and plunger tube being part of it. In fact, it’s the same frame Nighthawk uses for the previously reviewed Enforcer. The barrel on this EGW is 4”, making it a quarter inch shy of commander length. The barrel is a Storm Lake bull barrel and the lockup is extremely tight, as you can imagine. As with any of these custom guns, there is absolutely no slide to frame movement either. The rear sights are Novak, with a fiber optic front. Obviously, this gun is loaded with EGW internals, which are very high quality. The hammer used is the same one EGW builds for Smith & Wesson’s Performance Center models, called the Koenig. It has a unique look to it. The trigger is a flat EGW “E” trigger, but without the E-shaped cutout and the black finish is called E-Treat. I find the finish terrific. It has the same feel and consistency as Black T, but just a shade or two lighter in color. The checkering is very nicely done at 30lpi on the front strap and the arched mainspring housing is serrated. The grip safety is the outstanding Ed Brown part. The grips are beautiful double diamond, but I’m not certain which wood is used. The grain looks a lot like cocobolo, so that's what I'm leaning towards. This gun was not built for me, but rather for the owner of my local shop. He ordered it and it took three years to get done, as George was finishing his orders off a long waiting list. During that time, the owner bought a new custom carry gun, and being he knows what a 1911 fanatic I am, decided to sell the gun to me brand new for $2500. Dealer cost to him was almost $3000, so I got a great deal. Had I bought it from EGW personally, it would have cost $3300 or so. This is one of the last guns to come out of EGW. Naturally, there are a couple things I would have done differently if I ordered it, one being a standard front sight. I like fiber optics, but not on a barrel this short. I also would have gone with a flat mainspring housing, but I also like arched. Being that it’s a one of a kind build that can’t be replaced, I’m not changing a thing.

    The following are the gun’s build specs. (Basically just the bill from EGW)

    Package gun - $2800
    Koenig Hammer - $40
    Checker front and rear 30lpi - $200
    E-Treat entire gun - $235
    Dealer discount – ($400)

    Total - $2875

    Package Details
    Fit and blend beavertail
    Front and rear sights
    Rear serrations
    4lb trigger job for carry
    EGW internals (Hammer, sear, disconnector, strut, ejector, extractor, slide stop, pin set)
    Ed Brown thumb safety
    Carry bevel pistol (dehorn)
    Fit bull barrel
    Test fire

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 38.8oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Cast carbon steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: Unavailable

    http://egwguns.com/


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    Morris Tactical Elite

    The last custom 1911 I’m going to discuss is my latest build, a Tactical Elite by the great Mark Morris of Morris Custom Pistols (MCP). Like the other top custom smiths I’ve written about already, Mark has been in the business for many years and introduced the Tactical Elite in 1994. In fact, shortly thereafter, Massad Ayoob bought one and wrote a great article for Guns magazine. Mark is a one-man show and someone who takes great pride in his work. Likewise, he told me several times that nothing leaves his shop until he is 100% satisfied of how it turned out. I believe Morris produces only about 10 to 12 guns per year at most. When he takes on a project or two, he posts them on his site, waits for them to sell, and then gets the specs from the buyer. It must also be stated that Mark is one of the most personable people I’ve ever spoken to in the gun business. I wanted this particular gun to be a bit more subdued and clean in appearance in comparison to my previously discussed Pistol Dynamics and Infinity. Likewise the specs are geared towards creating a simple, yet elegant custom 1911. This build started life as a new production blued Series 70 Colt. It was a good example as well, as Mark only selects the best from his supplier. All the custom reliability and straightening work aside, I went with 30lpi on the front strap and mainspring housing and 40lpi serrations on the back of the slide to match the sights. The top of the slide is also serrated. The barrel is a Morris stainless match barrel and is step crowned for protection. The standard GI setup is present up front with a smooth plug that Morris builds himself. The trigger I went with is my new favorite style, the short solid aluminum variety, and the sights are all black Morris TKO. In my efforts to keep this gun as clean as possible, the sights are classic black on black and free of dots or beads. Along those same lines, I did not want an ambi safety included on this build. The grips are black Alumagrips with the Morris logo and they feel great. As with my Liebenberg, this gun is finished in terrific looking matte hard chrome, which is done by the same company who does the chroming for Les Baer. However, its also done to a higher degree of quality and not in the same batch as the Baer pistols. Likewise, it looks nicer than the chrome on my Baer SRP. As far as slide markings are concerned, they’re, again, simple. First we have the standard Series 70 Colt roll marks on both sides of the slide, which have been completely cleaned up. After that, the custom markings are the yin-yang logo on the right rear of the slide and “Morris Custom” on the left dust cover. Obviously, the gun purposely lacks some of the features of my Liebenberg, but the parts fitting and blending is the best in my collection. I got the opportunity to put a few rounds through this beauty recently and it shoots unbelievably well.

    The following are the gun's build specs.

    - Tighten slide to frame fit

    - Remove factory mill markings

    - Fit S&A grip safety and highly modified mainspring housing. Blend completely into frame.

    - Fit and smooth Ed Brown thumb safety

    - Front strap and mainspring housing checkered 30lpi

    - Chamfer mainspring housing and bottom of frame for snag free carry.

    - Fit Morris stainless barrel, throat and polish. Step crown barrel for protection.

    - Fit Ed Brown ejector and extractor

    - Machine in Morris TKO rear site and dovetail Novak front sight.

    - Back of slide serrated 40lpi to match TKO rear sight.

    - Fit short aluminum match trigger

    - C&S hammer, sear for the trigger group. Change the angle of the seat engagement for a very clean break.

    - Top of slide serrated

    - Ejection port lowered and flared

    - Chamfer the firing pin hole, polish the breach face and disconnect race for reliability.

    - Complete dehorn to remove sharp edges.

    - Bead blast the slide and frame flats to 400 grit

    - Entire gun finish in matte hard chrome by Terry Wolford.


    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 39.0oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Forged carbon steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $7000

    http://morriscustompistols.com/


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  16. bac1023

    bac1023 1911 Collector Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    Messages:
    650
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    DISCONTINUED


    Now I’d like to discuss some 1911s that are no longer available and haven’t been for some time. These are guns at various price points that can be found on the used market, albeit a couple may be a bit difficult to find. I have a strong attraction to rare and/or hard to find 1911s and, due to that, did not want to leave these completely out of the guide.









    Colt Gold Cup National Match

    I’ll start by talking about a true classic from yesteryear. This is a pre series 70 Colt Gold Cup National Match. In its day, it was probably the best 1911 you could buy. Its got the old royal blue finish, which is one of my favorite finishes of all time. The gun itself is void of the “Gold Cup” marking and is only labeled as such on the box. These guns were produced from 1957 to 1970, with mine being born in 1967. In 1970, the Series 70 Gold Cups were introduced. Its difficult to report on this Colt, because it hasn’t been shot since it put rounds through the test target six years before I was born. Still, I felt it prudent to bring it up because I have shot old Gold Cup National Match 1911s in the past and can say that they’re a real pleasure to shoot. There’s just something classic and nostalgic about them and they fire with utmost accuracy. This is and always will be a safe queen for me, but wouldn’t hesitate to buy another in “shooting” condition. In typical Gold Cup National Match fashion, it has a GI style thumb safety, hammer, and grips safety, with a wide adjustable trigger. The rear sights are Elliason adjustable target sights and give a great picture. The top of the slide is raised, flattened, and serrated and the ejection port is lowered and flared. Up front, you’ll find a standard GI setup and a unique inward angled recoil plug, which I always thought looked great. The front strap and mainspring housing are vertically serrated and the grips are classic checkered walnut with gold Colt medallions. I think the old Gold Cups were some of the most beautiful 1911s ever built.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 37.4oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Forged carbon steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $2000


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    AMT Hardballer

    Next we will discuss a 1911 that was questionable in terms of quality, but somewhat iconic, in my opinion. That would be the AMT Hardballer. I bought this gun simply to have an example of the first full stainless steel 1911 built. Modeled after the Colt Gold Cup, the Hardballer shares its appearance, but certainly not its quality. Like the Gold Cup National Match, this gun has a GI style hammer and grip safety, a wide adjustable trigger, a raised, flattened, and serrated slide top, and vertical serrations on the front strap and mainspring housing. The ejection port is lowered, but not flared, unlike the Gold Cup. The grips are fully checkered walnut and the sights are adjustable. Strangely, the slide serrations are vertical, while the Gold Cup’s are angled. I find that odd since the Hardballer is really the only Gold Cup clone ever produced. You would think the serrations would match. As far as quality issues are concerned, the Hardballer suffered from serious galling problems, due to the softness of the stainless steel used for guns in the early 1980’s. Shoddy slide to frame fitting probably made the galling even worse. In addition, Hardballers were known for their heavy triggers and its not uncommon for them to be 8 to 10lbs in weight. As far as my gun is concerned, I don’t shoot it. Its an early model that’s only been shot at the factory. I’d like to keep it pristine and, more to the point, I really have no desire to bring it to the range. It’s a nice looking 1911 and that’s about it. I paid $600, if I recall correctly.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 37.0oz

    Slide: Cast stainless steel

    Frame: Cast stainless steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $500-$600


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    Valtro 1998 A1

    Next up is a rather special 1911 in the Valtro 1998 A1. These guns were introduced in 1998 and built on a limited basis until 2004 or so. The Valtro was the brainchild of master 1911 smith John Jardine. They were produced in Italy and inspected and “tweaked” by John during importation. Jardine also built some full house customs using a Valtro for a base. Its hard to classify the Valtro in stock form. The website, which has been frozen in time since 2003, calls them “near custom” production guns. I personally would rank them, from a quality standpoint, just a half notch below the popular semi custom guns built today, such as a Wilson CQB. Prices were between $1200-$1500 in 1998, which wasn’t cheap for the time. Today, due to the rarity and demand, you’re going to pay about $5000 to get a pristine example. In fact, one sold in Gunbroker in 2009 for over $4500, I believe. That’s if you can find one, I haven’t seen one for sale anywhere since then. Not many have them in the first place, and those that do, don’t sell. As far as the gun itself is concerned, its decked out with all the modern options you see today, including an ambi safety, a 30lpi checkered front strap and mainspring housing, a flattened and serrated slide top, a very high hand frame cut, and a full length guide rod. The finish is a high luster bluing and the gun features an attractive French border around the slide and a recessed slide stop. The Valtro also has a slight “melt job” on the sharp corners, which gives it a unique look. The grips are classic looking double diamond checkered walnut with Valtro medallions and the sights are adjustable target style. Slide markings are well done and my gun has the smaller text, done on the later guns compared to the model pictured on the website. I like the smaller markings better. Specifically, the left side simply states “1998 A1”, with the Valtro logo before it. The right side states “Custom 45ACP”. Overall, I feel this is a beautiful 1911 with a certain exotic flair. Its not one you really ever see. In fact, this is the first and only Valtro I’ve seen in person. I bought it still unfired from a private party for $4500 in 2010. I have not had it to the range yet, but still may get it there some day. Value on these keeps increasing.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 39.6oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Forged carbon steel

    Country of origin: Italy

    Approximate 2011 street price: $5000

    http://valtrousa.com/photogallery/ticevaltro1.html


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    Unertl Ordnance DLX

    Unertl Ordnance’s bread and butter was the high end firearm optics business and they supplied military branches with top notch rifle scopes for many years. They also built three top tier 1911 models, shortly before folding and going out of business completely. These models were the UCCP, DLX, and MEU-SOC. The UCCP or Unertl Concealed Carry Pistol, was a commander model. The MEU-SOC or Marine Corps Expeditionary Unit, Special Operations Capable was a railed full size government model. The DLX or Deluxe is basically the MEU-SOC without the rail, and that’s the model I have. Unfortunately, I don’t know a whole lot about the Unertl line, other than they’re top quality 1911s in every way. This gun has all the bells and whistles, including 24lpi checkering on the front strap and mainspring housing, an ambi safety, a magwell, a lanyard loop, and a high frame cut. The bull barrel setup of this gun gives it the tightest front-end lockup of any 1911 I own, equaled only by my Infinity. The frame to slide fitting is also rock solid with no movement whatsoever. Grips are a hard black rubber, which I don’t care for aesthetically, but give a nice firm grip. The extractor is the external type, with a heavy-duty look to it. The combat style night sights are unique to Unertl and give a terrific sight picture and it comes with my favorite trigger type, the short solid aluminum. The frame is Caspian, but I heard they were forged. This 1911 is certainly one of the best shooters I own and I’ve taken it to the range dozens of times now. Its one of my favorites and it’s a real shame they aren’t available anymore. Its also very difficult to find them on the used market, but if you do find one, I highly recommend you give it serious consideration. For the most part, prices are $2000-$2500, depending on condition. I haven’t seen one for sale in quite a while now, to be honest.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 41.4oz

    Slide: Forged carbon steel

    Frame: Forged carbon steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $2000-$2500


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  17. bac1023

    bac1023 1911 Collector Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    Messages:
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    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Detonics ServiceMaster

    The last 1911 I want to look at in this guide is another older model, in the stainless Detonics ServiceMaster. Detonics has changed ownership a couple of times and has been in and out of business. What they did mange to do throughout all that was build quality 1911s. This pistol was state of the art back in the day and built for carry when there really wasn’t a whole lot of choices in a commander sized 1911. I find this gun a great shooter and very reliable. The ejection port is cut lower than most on the Detonics. This 1911 utilizes a bull barrel setup that locks up well and possesses a tight frame to slide fit. The barrel itself is step-crowned for a unique look. The single sided safety is GI style and the magwell is nicely beveled. The top of the slide is flattened, but not serrated and the rear of the slide is scalloped. This was done to make the hammer easy to cock during the days when it was more common to carry with the hammer down on a loaded chamber. The steel mainspring housing is checkered, but the front strap is smooth. There is a high cut radius under the trigger guard and between it and the beavertail, my grip on the ServiceMaster is comfortable. The sights are simple GI style, though slightly larger for a decent sight picture. I love the vertical serrations and the handsome rosewood grips with the Detonics logo. The slide roll markings are extremely well done with “Detonics USA ServiceMaster” on the left side and nothing on the right. The short solid aluminum trigger (my favorite style) tops off what I consider to be a beautiful commander. A Detonics ServiceMaster in like-new condition, such as this one, will run about $1000.

    This 1911 uses no firing pin safety.

    Unloaded weight: 38.8oz

    Slide: Forged stainless steel

    Frame: Cast stainless steel

    Country of origin: United States

    Approximate 2011 street price: $1000


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  18. bac1023

    bac1023 1911 Collector Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    Messages:
    650
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    CONCLUSION


    First I'd like to thank everyone who took the time to read this guide, whether it be in full or in part. I'm hoping that all of you found it and will continue to find it useful for basic information about the 1911s you may be considering. I will continue to update this guide as I further my 1911 collection in the future during the years to come. I'll also state that, as basic as the information is, I'll be happy to add further detail about any particular model in question if asked. I had to limit the initial entries in order to keep the size of this guide in check. Therefore, if you need extra info or have a question either post it in the linked thread or send me a PM.

    Having said that, there are limits to this report and those limits are based on my collection. I mentioned this in the introduction. As you may or may not have noticed, you didn't see any railed models listed here. I’m not a person that has a use for a railed 1911 and because I much prefer its looks sans the rail, I don't own any. Due to personal preference, you also don't see calibers other than 45ACP or frames smaller than full size. Its just the way I prefer my 1911s.

    Finally, here are some thoughts on the 1911 "food chain" as a whole. While everyone is capable of building a lemon, the saying "You get what you pay for" holds a great deal of weight in the 1911 world. The difference in craftsmanship, fit and finish, and durability, as you climb the scale is vast. However, the price of admission does not need to be high. If you want a good range 1911 for the price of a Glock, the entry level enhanced category is the place to start looking. If you want something classic and authentic looking, pick out a GI replica. If you want to one-up your buddy at the range, check out the high-end production guns. If you want a state of the art, top tier model, figure out which semi-custom is for you and order it to your liking. If you want one of the best money can buy, talk to a top smith like the individuals mentioned here and get on the waiting list.

    The point is that there's something for everybody in the 1911 world and I encourage those without one to give it a try. You won’t know how you feel about the platform until you get some extensive trigger time. I'm plenty confident you'll be happy you did.

    Below you’ll find a family picture of all my 1911s in random order.

    Thanks for your time.

    Brian

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    Top row: Firestorm DLX, Valtro 1998A1, Charles Daly EFS, Mark Morris Tactical Elite, Smith & Wesson PC1911, Les Baer Concept V, EMF Hartford, Colt Special Combat Government, Sig STX, Regent 1911A1

    2nd row: Norinco 1911A1, ATI FX Military, STI Trojan, Kimber Custom II, Fusion Commander Elite, Para 1911 Limited , EGW Custom, Iver Johnson Eagle, Ithaca 1911A1, Springfield TGO1, Thompson Custom 1911

    3rd row: Dan Wesson Valor, Ted Yost Retro Custom, Desert Eagle 1911G, Smith & Wesson SW1911, Springfield TRP, Rock Island Armory GI, Remington R1, Les Baer SRP, AMT Hardballer, Kimber Super Match II

    4th row: Taurus PT1911, Rock River Arms Limited Match, Pistol Dynamics Signature, USFA 1911, Guncrafter No Name, STI Spartan, Infinity Custom, Auto Ordnance GI, Ed Brown Classic Custom, Remington Rand USGI,

    5th row: Unertl DLX, Detonics ServiceMaster, DoubleStar DSC, Volkmann Combat Custom, Ruger SR1911, Wilson Super Grade, Ithaca USGI, Ed Brown Kobra Carry, Colt National Match, Nighthawk Predator II

    Bottom row: Wilson CQB, Dan Wesson CBOB, Nighthawk Enforcer, Colt Commander XSE, Cimarron 1911A1, Kimber Pro CDP II, Colt Gold Cup Trophy, Springfield GI, STI Legacy, Para GI Expert
  19. Quack

    Quack it's mmm, mmm good... Admin

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    NE Ohio
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 8, 2014
  20. Jelly

    Jelly El Diable Staff Member Admin Forum Supporter

    Joined:
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    NC
    I am currently updating it for 2014/2015 manufacture retail pricing and moving pictures to 1911addicts directly.
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