I recently faced this question as my summer shooting instruction season has slowed and I am now able to resume competing in IDAP, IPSC, and falling plate matches. My series 70 Colt had seen better days and sometimes jammed, so it was time to get a new competition gun.
OK, let’s get this straight, I am indeed a competitive shooter, but as observers often say, “not very.” I compete to improve my skills, but I am not going for the International IPSC title. I mention this just to clarify that I was not in the market for a $5k race gun with a built-in 2.1-ounce air conditioner. Even the Dan Wesson $1500 option my friend Bobby uses was a bit more than I wanted to spend, even though it is the best 1911 that $1500 can buy.
The features I wanted included quality, beavertail grip, full-length guide rod, beveled magazine well and adjustable sights. Because quality was important, I immediately dismissed Rock Island and was advised that because Colt had not yet replaced its slide-making equipment, they would not be a wise choice yet. I discussed Kimber with serious competitive shooters and was told that Kimber is a good gun for someone shooting a thousand rounds a year, but for a serious shooter planning to shoot more than a thousand rounds a month, it is simply not the right choice. I have recommended Kimbers in the past and still think they are a good gun, but I needed a workhorse. Taurus has great prices and a decent gun, and their warranty is almost as great as LL Bean’s. Because their quality is less than top shelf however, one can expect to have to send the gun in for repairs at some point in the first year or two.
I finally narrowed the choice down to Springfield Armory or Smith & Wesson with the Springfield being my first choice. I live in a rural part of Wyoming that is 5 hours from a big gun store with a large selection. I did not want to deal with the hassle of buying a gun out of state and transferring it. Fortunately there was a Gun Show in my town the weekend I was ready to buy, and there just happened to be a Springfield Armory Loaded PX9152L that had a nice beavertail grip, a beveled magazine well, a nice adjustable trigger, a full length guide rod, a serrated portion of the front of the slide for press checks and adjustable sights.
When buying a used gun, one of the most important “tire-kicking” checks is to allow the slide to be forward, then try to shake it left and right. If the slide rails are loose, it is a sign the gun is well worn and perhaps beyond its prime. The PX9152L was brand new, so it checked out well with this test. The trigger felt good, and oh my gosh did the gun feel good in my hand. OK, no gun, even the new object of my affection, can ever fit as well as the CZ-75, but this piece was nice and it was right around the $1k I planned to spend.
Let’s consider the price. If I had $500 to spend on a 1911, I would buy a used quality gun; if I had $850 I would go for the new Springfield Armory “Range Officer; if I had $1000, I would buy the Springfield Armory PX9152L; if I had $1200 to spend I might put the Sig Sauer in the running; if I had $1500 I would go with Dan Wesson and if I had $3,000 I would go with a Herb Hazen custom. If I had even more money, I would end up with way more guns than I needed.
In the end, I chose the Springfield PX9152L. I took it to the range the next day and it performed flawlessly and smoothly. The plates seemed to magically fall down and there were no jams, even with my SWC reloads! I only have 500 rounds through it, and I am excited to see how it runs next week at our Jackson Hole IDPA tournament. Perhaps the nut behind the grip will hurt my score, but it will be a blast to shoot!