A Little Background about Me
I did not grow up around guns like most of the writers here.
I got into shooting trap when I was a freshman in college. I was fortunate enough that I went to school in an area where my friends and I could go shooting almost every day, after classes.
I remember all the guys would jump into my truck and we would head off to Bi-Mart to get the best prices we could on shot shells. At the time I only had a 20 gauge Remington 870 (seriously, who didn’t start with this easy shooter?). We would then head up into the hills and shoot a couple of boxes at hand-thrown clay pigeons.
My first time out shooting was pathetic at best, hitting maybe 3 or 4 clay pigeons out of 50 shots, but I was instantly hooked.
I was so poor with my skills that my best friend would follow my shot with his own in order to not waste a single clay. Looking back on it, it was slightly demoralizing because he would sit crisscross in the dirt and make his shots.
By the end of that year, however, I was regularly hitting every single clay thrown and practicing trick shots, which were the source of bragging rights amongst our group.
When I finally turned 21, I was determined to buy my first handgun as soon as possible. All the research I had done came from what the sales man at the local gun store had to say, together with some suggestions from one of my friends who already had quite a stable of firearms.
I finally settled on the Beretta 92FS because it was the military-issued firearm (M9) at the time. Not knowing enough about handguns then, this would eventually become a part of the learning experience for myself.
If you have ever had the opportunity to pull the trigger on a 92FS, then you know the pull is extremely long and heavy. I spent a lot of time tinkering with the firearm, replacing springs, cutting springs and polishing metal parts. Finally, after years of use, I had gotten the trigger pull smooth as butter and light, but still the pre-travel remained extremely long and did not satisfy my desires.
Then of course, as many gun owners have experienced, I had a change of heart in my needs and the intended use of my firearm. I decided I wanted a solid platform for a home defense gun.
The problem was, the 92FS did not have a rail for a light, and it also had a fixed front blade sight that could not be removed in order to put in tritium night sights. In hindsight I wish I had purchased the slightly more expensive 92A1. This concept will become the basis of the remaining article.
Selecting the 1911 You Need
In order to choose the best 1911 for yourself, it will be important for you to not only determine the intended desires and uses in the present moment, but also consider what you may desire or need in the future. I learned this from personal experience, while I purchased many firearms over the years.
With the 1911 platform there are many options. The range of choices is amazing, but it also makes it difficult to decide on just one. We will look at a few important factors which might affect your decision (this is not an exhaustive list as I could write about this for much longer than you would want to read).
Those factors will be: 1) Intended Use —which includes Carry or Home Defense, 2) Competition only, and then of course we will have to look at 3) Budget.
Intended Use: Carry
Are you looking to use your 1911 as a carry piece?
If this is the case you will want to look at compact, officer or commander frames. It has been shown that with a .45ACP-chambered firearm, the longer the barrel the better reliability you will get with cycling rounds.
Another factor to look at will be whether or not you want a Bobtail cut on the mainspring housing, because this usually comes at a premium price. In my experience, a 1911 with a bobtail will conceal better than one with a standard grip.
Additionally, I highly recommend looking for firearms that already have tritium night sights, or the ability for you to switch out the front and rear sights for the night sight options on the market.
Brass Tacks Suggestions: Small-medium frame size, Bobtail-cut mainspring housing, & Tritium night sights
Intended Use: Home Defense
Is the 1911 you need for home defense?
The commander or government frames are the best options for this category.
For me personally I like to have a picatinny rail, so I have the option to put a light on my home defense weapon in case an intruder comes in the middle of the night.
In addition, you will 100% want to have tritium night sights.
More expensive custom options also provide the option to have the slide milled out for a red dot to assist in quick accurate shot placement. I don’t believe this is necessary, but it’s worth noting.
Brass Tacks Suggestions: Medium-Large frame size, Picatinny rail & Tritium night sights
Intended Use: Competition Only
Just looking to compete?
This choice opens you up to all options in the 1911 marketplace.
For a competition pistol the most valuable asset will be a firearm with a quality slide-to-frame fit.
The tighter the fit, the better. Usually, you’ll start seeing tighter-fitting frames beginning in the $1200+ range.
A match grade barrel should be the next on your list. This will come with a polished feed ramp to aid in smooth feeding of the next round.
The next most important factor for competing is to get high quality magazines for the most reliable cycling of rounds (this will almost always be an aftermarket purchase).
As for sights, you will likely want fiber optic or gold bead for front sights, and either fiber optic or blacked-out rear sights.
More expensive custom jobs also provide the option to have the slide milled out for a red dot, to assist in quick, accurate shot placement.
Brass Tacks Suggestions: Get a tight slide-to-frame fit, Match-grade barrel, High quality magazines & Fiber optic/gold bead sights
The dreaded limiter to all of our purchases!
My first suggestion is drawn from personal experience: save up and get a firearm that is of high quality.
As mentioned earlier, I bought the cheapest variant of a particular firearm, and later I had a change of heart of what I wanted out of my firearm.
I wish I’d had guidance when getting my first gun, because then I would have saved a little more money to get a gun with a light rail, and the ability to upgrade the sights.
The 1911 platform ranges in price from $300 all the way up to $4,500 for a custom build.
Personally, I would suggest opting for a firearm in the $1,000-$2000 price range. You will be much happier with the quality, and end up spending little to no money on upgrades, ultimately saving money in the long run.
The last, most important thing is to shop around.
When you have decided on the exact firearm you want to purchase, get the UPC number and call all of your local gun shops and check online for the best possible price.
I finally learned to do this on my 8th firearm purchase, and that half hour of calling around ended up saving me $400, which y’all know means more money for ammo and training.
I wish I had known this from the beginning!
Brass Tacks Suggestions: Save your money for quality, Shop the price using the UPC & Have fun with your new purchase!
I hope you find this information helpful when selecting a 1911 that will best fit your needs. Please feel free to leave comments or other suggestions!