Which 1911 Should I Buy?

Which 1911 Should I Buy?
Which 1911 Should I Buy?

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!

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Shepard Humphries is a former Police Officer, having served in Investigations, Patrol and SWAT as a sniper team leader. Shepard resides in Jackson Hole Wyoming where he operates several small businesses including an executive protection firm and two firearms related businesses, the Jackson Hole Shooting Experience and Counter Violence Institute. Known as "The Millionaire's Shooting Coach," Shepard provides shooting instruction, consultation and public speaking services in Jackson and where clients beckon. You can view his training site and contact Shepard at Shoot In JH.
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Definitely go with the Smith. I was going to suggest it even if it hadn’t been one of your top picks.


thanks for the info Loffmar77!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Other Brother Daryl

Having fired the Range Officer in a recent test, I can attest to its accuracy and would not hesitate to own one for the purpose of self-defense or for target. I have been looking at the PX9151L myself.

The PX9152L should serve you well.


Colt Gold Cup Trophy is what I use and love it.  There’s only one true 1911.


 I shot competition when I was in the U.S. Navy on the Navy Pistol Team and used a Gold Cup (several times). Nice firearm, nice action, but the slide kept cracking after abut 5,000 rounds. Thank GOD the Navy was paying for the repairs.

Keith Hollar

I have and older loaded Springfield (similar to the PX9109LP, except blued) and it has performed flawlessly since I bought it.  I’ve had some minor work done, dehorning, refinishing and a reliability package.  It goes bang every time I pull the trigger and it is very accurate.

If you have around $1500 I’d definitely look at a Les Baer. I’ve got a Premier II and it is just a great gun.  It is definitely smoother and more accurate than my Springfield.


Rob Latham might have a reliable Springfield but none of the three that I have owned ran worth a darn.

David William Loeffler

Every Springfield I have tried or been told about works fine.  Have you contacted your dealer or Springfield to see if they will take care of the problem?

Token Gimp

My old 1996 Fire Star 45 resembles most 1911 w/o grip safety. It’s as accurate of a weapon as I can shoot. The only mods have been rounding and polishing. If I recall it was Handgun of the year in one of the publications of the day. I regret selling my Remington Rand army and Mil-Spec Springfield after having the trigger smoothed out, tuned with wolf springs, adding Cocobolo grips and polishing the edges and insides, but sometimes a guy needs cash. 


I like to say while I shoot in competitions not always competitively. I would find the Springfield an excellent choice. I recently purchased a new “E” series from S&W and while not blown away I am very happy with it. I use a Kimber Raptor in Limited 10 and it performsvery  well. The only problems i have had with 3 Kimbers is their distaste for JHPs.


So you are giving up on your Colt Series 70 because it ‘sometimes jammed’?
I think this is pretty typical of most 1911 owners/users – once one starts having a problem it is easier to get a new gun than work with the old one.
The 1911 platform has historically been well received in both the military and civilian communities because of it’s design and functionality – if there is a problem, it is fairly easy to diagnose and solve.  JMB knew what he was doing. 
The Colt Government Model Series 70 is, without question, one of the most reliable and accurate firearms ever produced.
As someone who is not a very competitive shooter, you do not need to go for the gold standard in pistols, as for your level of use that would be a waste of money.
Rather than discuss the various new offerings, which are, after all, simply variations on an established theme, I would instead spend the time to figure out what is the underlying problem with your jamming and fix your Series 70.
You’ll spend a lot less, you will be shooting a gun to which you are used, and you will be shooting a classic that every time you take it out of the case will elicit notice and favorable comments.  I know that is true because every time I shoot mine that is what happens.
Don’t look to make this more complicated than it has to be.
Stick with the best that you already have.  


I wonder if he was giving up or just wanted to try something else. Guns do wear out. Once you hit the 50-60K round time frame you’ve reached the end of the line on most 1911’s. I’ve owned a number of 1911’s but for everyday, workhorse, tactical shooting and carry my choice is a Glock. I don’t want to start a war, but I don’t know any 1911’s that’ll go 200,000k+ rounds. Nothing against them, I love them, but they have their limitations.



200K rounds? 60K rounds? You realize how few people actually end up shooting that many rounds in their entire lives, much less in any given gun they own?

If you want to discuss this, then let’s keep this real.

After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live in
a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military.

William Burroughs (b. 1914)


So? Does that mean we accept “disposable” guns aimed at the lowest common denominator or do we demand the finest product that can be made, something that can be shot for generations by dedicated shooters? I prefer the latter and reject the former.

When I or any of my group purchase a new gun (long or hand), the first thing we do is go to the range and have one person shoot while two or three load magazines. We fire an initial 500-1000 rounds to see if there are any problems. If there are none we consider the gun acceptable. If there is more than one hiccup we take a hard look into why. Three to five jams etc and that gun is a “no go”.

It’s our lives on the line. We accept no excuses from manufacturers that their guns only like certain types of ammo. Baloney. Take it somewhere else. We won’t buy it.


Boy am I glad to see someone out there that isn’t “GLAMOR” oriented. If the manufacturers can’t produce a firearm that one can depend their life on, then it’s just a paper weight to me. I carry daily, and I don’t shoot 200-300 thousand rounds a year. Mine is for personal protection, not bragging rights or for show. I have fine tuned my Colt, it works, it’s dependable, and with me always. What more can you ask, and yes, I can hit the moving target.


Exactly. When I said 200-300K I was talking about the lifetime of the gun before rebuilding. I carry an early model Glock 23 that has been soaked in blood, gravel & dirt and kept on shooting. I finally took 20 min. and rebuilt it from the ground up last year. It just keeps on going.

We shoot what we like but whatever we shoot it should shoot no matter what.

Shepard Humphries

I agree and must admit that scientifically the Glock is a great & long-lasting gun!  It is my own inability to shoot them well that drives me away from plastic guns and toward old workhorses.  lol  🙂  To those of you that don’t shoot to the left every-time (yep, I know I am anticipating and pushing the gun leftwardsly) Godspeed and golly do I respect you!  🙂


As an instructor for more than 35 years this is nothing new. I offer this: with the gun unloaded (of course), dry fire hundreds of times, practicing letting it be a surprise each time it fires. Also, make sure the tightness of your grip by your right and left hand is the same, that way you don’t have that tendency to pull or push to one side or the other. Also, the amount of “finger” on the trigger should be between the tip and first joint — about 1/2 way or even a little less.

It’ll take at least 500 reps of doing it correctly to ingrain it into your brain and muscle memory.


I’m with you on this. I’m an instructor and testify as an expert in the “use of firearms”. Although I am not currently happy with Colt, as they have been in court or for sale for the past two decades, the Series 70 was made “back in the day”. Fine weapon. As an FFL holder for 36 plus years, I believe the offerings by Springfield are too spendy and some of  their metal sub-assemblies derive from Brazil. There have been numerous metallurgy issues with the slide stop and safety levers. Smith, on the other hand, has been excelling in performance and quality! My carry gun is the Pro Series Smith and comp gun is “yes” a Remington Rand!


Thanks for the comment.

This is a typical ‘form follows function’ discussion. One should stick with what works.

If that is a WWII Vintage 1911 (and I assume it is as it was made by Remington Rand – which I have always heard were great guns), then
have at it. I personally carry concealed every day, and my weapon of choice for that is a 1984 model Detonics.

As your and my choices indicate, just because they are used or old does not make them out of fashion or of lesser usability. If it is well made, it works well.


After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live in
a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military.
William Burroughs (b. 1914)


I put about 5K rounds a year through my Kimber, and the only thing it has ever done is shoot.  I had a couple FTEs with it in the first couple hundred rounds, and that was only with reloads.  They make every bit as good a gun as SA (I own a TRP, too)

Shepard Humphries

I guided my father-in-law toward a Kimber as well … he is loving it!


Probably not available in the US, but, if you are elsewhere, SPS, Barcelona, Spain is the way to go.  Excellent materials and workmanship and every one I have is accurate and runs faultlessly. 

In the US, the ones I have tried that impress me most (I have a number of Colts and have had a lot of others) are the ones made by Kimber.  Accurate and reliable.

Shepard Humphries

Crap, you just cost me an expensive airline ticket!  lol   🙂


I have a SW 1911, base model. All I can say is it feels great in my hand, is very accurate, has never had a problem with feeding or ejecting, and didn’t cost me a small fortune. It’s hard to not recommend the gun you own and like. Ask ten people the question, which one to buy, and you will probably get eleven answers. Good luck and have fun selecting your new 1911.

Albert Lowe

Odd, the 2 Rock Island 1911’s I’ve owned, performed without any problems, and both just seemed to be very well made.  I’d still have them if I hadn’t needed the money.

Shepard Humphries

I respect that, and never like to discredit guns that have served my neighbors well.  I am glad that it worked out for you and when you and in Jackson Hole, man have I got a gun for you to enjoy!  🙂 


Can’t fault that logic! 🙂 A gun is made to shoot, at least it should be. I get real tired of expensive 1911’s that are touted as “so great” BUT, they really only like this brand of ammo or that. For the price you pay for some of these better known ones they should not only function with every brand of ammo made but make you breakfast as well.

XDm 40 cal

Nice choice on 1911 can’t go wrong with a springfield TRP…

Even the RO is a great 1911 for the masses that dont have 1g in there pocket..


Can’t argue with anything said here, but I do have a different feeling about the Taurus. After carrying a 1911 for about 25 years, Brownings (9mm and .40cal), and Glocks, I bought a Taurus a couple of years ago. It was my duty weapon, but also my choice for a personal protection piece also. It has always performed flawlessly, and, frankly, shoots better than I do. As a duty piece, with two full mags on the belt, I have 37 rounds immediately available. As a concealed carry piece, the proper holster snugs it up against my body and I can carry it comfortably.

Shepard Humphries

You are one of the few “posters” that humbly pokes fun at their shooting ability.  Truth?  You are likely a much better shot than me and most “posters.”  You rock!  🙂


The 1911 and it’s many clones is a good platform, I had a couple when I was competing in Combat Shoots.  As my lieytenant pointed out quite often, “Those metal targets don’t shoot back.”  I also tried the Glock, again a good handgun, but just not my cup of tea.  I carry a Springfield Armory XD-40, and I obviously trust it with my life, wearing it as I do 24/7.  Using the XD series pistols is like using a double action revolver, draw, point, shoot.  It has the grip safety, like the 1911, the trigger safety, like the Glock (metal, not palstic) and a firing pin block as well.  While it is not a novice’s gun, I am a former deputy sheriff, detention officer and CSO at a state prison.  I like the 1911, But un the .45 ACP mode, outside California, you get 13 rounds in the magaazine and one in the tube, twice the magazine capacity of Old Slabsides.


The Springfield pleases me more than other arms at considerably more cost. The Range Officer fits every use I can think of.

The Other Brother Daryl

Soon to come (I hope), my evaluation of the Range Officer. A most excellent pistol. When I get back to working again, one of the “Loaded” models will be added to the stable.


 To call me a competetive shooter would mean that at 25′ I can put them in the black about 95% of the time. I carry a Colt Commander and I did the trigger job on it and put Pach’ wrap around grips on it. I have a CC Permit and if I’m walkin, I’m carrying. I have looked at all the whiz bang 1911’s now on the market, but I don’t worry about 25 yard groups as about 90% of the “CARRYING” pubic doesn’t worry. I worry about Close Combat ranges which are 90% of the time 15 feet or less. IF I or anyone else, with the exception of Law Officers, would shoot someone at 25 yards, it’s a simple and straight trip to the Jail, no questions asked. Remember the run and flee clause that everyone with a CCP has read and has had read to them? If you can evade a confrontation, DO IT!
 If I were to get the 1911 of my dreams it would be a Les Baer, hands down. That is a fine, well tuned 1911 with a history and reputation. In my humble opinion all others stand in Baers shadow. You just can’t inprove on quality like a Baer does, PERIOD!

Tbark Knives

I would send the Colt to Les,Behr customs an had them tune it up or bought one of his customs like the new shooting usa model for 1800 . they are plenty of 1911 doctors in the country but I guess thats as good as an excuse to buy a new one as there is , t


Tbark Knives:
 Ditto on your remarks. If it can’t be fixed by Les Behr, it can’t be fixed, but if it can you will have a 1911 that will shoot like a dreammmmmm

Shepard Humphries

Amen!  They say, “If you can’t afford to buy a new gun every month: quit your job and get a new one!”  lol


I think you made a good choice. I would also start with the Springfield and look at the Smith&Wesson, but then I might go with a Wilson Combat for the high end gun.


The Taurus PT1911 isnt bad for the money

Shepard Humphries

I have heard the same.  🙂  Also, Taurus has an excellent warranty… arguably the best in the industry.


I have 2 Taurus PT1911s. Both of them have been trouble free. Right out of the box the Stainless one has been dead on. including punching holes in other holes. The steel one was bought used and is just as accurate.


check out the Ruger sr 1911, price around $600.00 to $800.00


well My brother just got one of remingtons .45 and so far he likes it very much,I dont knoe the model # but he likes it so I guess thats all that matters,


Can’t argue with your choice – very nice pistol indeed.  My story is that I had absolutely no experience with 1911s, and didn’t want to spend even $500 on a pistol that I found out later I didn’t want (sure I could spend $$$ renting …).  I went with a RIA just to get familiar with the pistol, and thought that since I’m only spending ~$370 for it, it would be okay.  After putting bunches of ammo through that RIA, I’m totally in love with it and am more than impressed with it’s performance … similar comments come from my friends who own Springfields and Kimbers.  I’m just writing this because you immediately dismissed the RIA.  Since your title is “Which 1911 Should I Buy” I thought it would be prudent to let those in similar circumstances know that if they can’t pay the big bucks, or like me am unfamiliar and want to learn about the world of 1911s, then the RIA is an excellent tool to start with.

The Other Brother Daryl

I have two Rock Island Armory models and both, while relatively inexpensive as compared to some, are indeed worthy of a look.


why not get the new ruger sr1911 built just like the series 70 models and around 799 msrp. and why go with adjustable if you are not a serious competitor? the fixed combat sights on the new ruger work just as well as any adjustable. and will probably out do the fancy springfield. just my thoughts.


I shoot the hi-cap Para in .45 ACP, and have for years.  The same gun, thousands of rounds.  It is still tight, quick, and accurate even in my hands.  With Dawson base pads I can squeeze 18 rounds in the mag, plus on in the chamber and this seems to me to be an adequate number of rounds.  Of course, it is difficult to conceal.  I have shot a lot of USPSA matches with it.  Not well, but I shot them.  The added advantage is that it didn’t cost me a fortune. Works for me.

Steve Sims

I have a full-size Kimber CDPII It’s a great pistol! If I was going to buy another 1911, I might try the new Ruger. I’m partial to Ruger, and I’m especially partial to Ruger’s commitment to donat $$ to the NRA for every gun they sell this year.