“The 1911 pistol remains the service pistol of choice in the eyes of those who understand the problem. Back when we audited the FBI academy in 1947, I was told that I ought not to use my pistol in their training program because it was not fair. Maybe the first thing one should demand of his sidearm is that it be unfair.” — Col. Jeff Cooper, GUNS & AMMO, January 2002 I found this surfing and found it a good read. From the blog; xavierthoughts.blogspot it is a little dated but great info! Sunday, July 27, 2008 Choosing Your First 1911 "My next purchase would like to be a 1911, What do you recommend as a first 1911?" It's not unusual for my opinion to be requested by people who are considering buying a 1911 for the first time. In many ways, the 1911 is emblematic of the gun world. It has it's aficionados, it's true believers, and it's know-it-alls. There are few experts. I often wonder why people ask my opinion, but it happens often enough that it must seem valuable to some. I want to quantify this blog post by stating I am no expert. I have owned a lot of different 1911 style pistols. I have shot a lot of 1911 style pistols. I carry a 1911. Those are my qualifications. I have not owned or shot them all though, and I'm certain there is much I do not know. This, however, is my opinion and advice, if you think it may be valuable, take it. It's your's. If you think it's opinionated crap because I don't fall to the altar of your particular brand of gun, you are welcome to your own opinion. I do not mean to disparage anyone's pistol of choice here, only relate my experiences. This is not a blog post about what a 1911 is and is not. If you want to read my opinions concerning that, go here. In this blog post, "1911" and "1911 style pistol" are synonymous. The problem with choosing a first 1911 is there are so damned many of them. The 1911 is not just a pistol. Kimber Aegis 9mmIt is a weapons platform. The original patent expired years ago, and almost every major firearms manufacturer has produced at least one 1911 style pistol, often several. Some manufacturers, at any given time, can deck out an entire gun store in multiple variations of the 1911. Gun stores are unable to carry every possible variation, and they need to sell what they have in stock. The guy behind the counter will give you his opinion. He may be a seasoned shooter of the 1911, or he may be a know-it-all true believer of a particular brand. Unless you know him personally from the range, it's difficult to determine if he knows what he is talking about when your own knowledge base is spotty. He may have vested interests, and that's a bad thing when it's your money being spent. Realize too, that your first 1911 may not be your last 1911. Some people feel like they got burned when the 1911 they chose did not live up to their expectations. The truth is, they just chose poorly. This blog post is about how to make the right choices for that first 1911, and how to continue to make subsequent wise choices on the next ones. Explore the Possibilities When one considers the myriad variations of the 1911, including custom guns, the problem of selecting only one quickly becomes apparent. There are too many possibilities to check them all out. The mind quickly becomes overwhelmed. Not having shot the pistol, it's difficult to know what you want. It's even harder to know what you need. But, to buy wisely, a person needs to know what they want, and have an idea of what they need. Saying "I want a 1911" is like saying "I want an automobile." You should invest some time in research, and you have to look within yourself. Like an automobile, the 1911 is often called an expression of a shooter's personae, and it's easy to get caught up in the expression of one's self when a person does not yet know their specific wants and needs. The difference is, with a mature 1911 shooter, the 1911 arrives at that expression honestly, over time. The trick is to get ahead of the "I just want a 1911" idea. Get some hands on research done. Try some 1911 style pistols out. If you have a rental range near by, go there and rent several 1911s to shoot. Try different sizes, calibers and examples from different manufacturers. Ask your shooting buddies if you can shoot their 1911s. Ask their opinions. If you are unable to shoot a few 1911s before buying, at least know what you do not want. Go to a gun show. Handle as many variations as possible. See what feels good, and what comes to sights readily for you. Know your Purpose The first problem of choosing a 1911 is narrowing down the field of bewildering candidates. It's a process of elimination. The 1911 performs many shooting tasks extremely well, but it is often modified from it's basic format to perform some tasks better than others. Knowing your reasons for wanting a 1911 as well as your intended purpose for it's use can narrow the field of candidates quickly. Do you want the 1911 to have one in your collection? Yes, that's a valid reason. Do you admire the tradition and the history? Another valid reason. Click to enlargeIf these are your reasons, then a military styled 1911 is your meat. Look for parkerized Government Models with small fixed sights a lanyard loop and high ejection ports. In order of expense, these include: Rock Island Armory, Springfield, Colt, and genuine GI guns. Each of these manufacturers make a GI styled 1911, and they will float your boat if you want a GI styled 1911. Such a pistol will serve admirably as a carry gun, although the finish must be oiled, the sights are small, and it requires a bit more effort in concealment. Do you want a general purpose gun? Are you someone who just can't leave the tools in the tool box when you buy a gun? Do Brownell's and Midway regularly send you flyers? Are you looking for a gun to "grow with?" Look towards the Springfield Mil-Spec and the Colt 1991. These are pistols that are frequently purchased and later upgraded. If you already know you want a beavertail grip safety and swept back sights, consider a Smith & Wesson 1911 and a Kimber Custom as well. Not the Custom II, the Kimber Custom. Just Custom, no Roman numeral II. No external extractor, and no Swartz firing pin safety. Combat Elite and Gold Cup, Click to enlargeYou will have to buy used, unless you are extremely lucky and find the last bug free Kimber for sale on a dusty gun store shelf in Nowheresville. Do you want a range gun? Is this gun one that will travel in a box to the range and shoot targets at a wide variety of distances? Then consider a 1911 with adjustable sights. In my opinion, this is the only reason to have adjustable sights on a 1911. You might consider a long slide gun for the greater sight radius and reduced recoil, and you may also want to consider a beavertail grip safety for ease of shooting for extended periods. Will this gun be a carry gun? The Government Model is a pistol that carries very nicely in the right leather. If you are planning to pack your 1911 though, consider the smaller versions. The Commander has a shorter slide, but the same length grip frame, allowing you to use standard magazines. The Officer's Model has both a shorter slide and a shorter grip frame, and must use a shorter magazine. Avoid any pistol outside of these parameters. Occasionally a manufacturer will produce a version of the 1911 with an odd grip frame length that demands proprietary magazines. Click to enlargeAvoid those like the plague. Finding magazines will be a pain in the neck. Many of the mini 1911s also have proprietary recoil assemblies that wear out quickly and cost money to replace. Reliability goes down as the slide and barrel shorten to less than four inches. Consider lightweight frames in a Commander sized pistol instead. Colt, Kimber and Smith & Wesson are all producing the 1911 in lightweight carry versions. Colt seems to make the most reliable micro 1911s. Springfield versions have less than stellar reports. Consider stainless pistols for corrosion resistance if you plan to carry your 1911. Think fixed sights. You will not have time to dial them in on your attacker, and you don't want them knocked out of adjustment on door frames. One thought to consider is the 1911 is a weapons platform requiring specific training. In my opinion, your first 1911 should not be chosen for the purpose of being a carry gun. You should learn the weapons platform first, under experienced instruction, and then make the decision whether you want to carry it on your hip. If your first 1911 becomes your carry gun over time, great. Just don't choose a lightweight three inch 1911 and then complain because the recoil is to strong for you. Will this be a gun to compete with? You need more specific instruction than I can provide here. Knowing the rules, regulations and needs of your form of competition is paramount. I advise you to consult with shooters who are already using the 1911 in your choice of competition. I will say this. Shoot the guns of other competitors. Do your research, and consider true bespoke custom guns. They are money well spent if the gunsmith is widely recognized. There are off the rack "semi-customs" from the likes of Wilson Combat, Les Baer, and Ed Brown among others, and then there are true bespoke custom guns from the likes of Clark Custom, Nowlin and other notable gunsmiths. Remember, repeatable accuracy costs money, and spending your money in the right place to start with is wiser than taking your pistol back and forth to Joe the neighborhood gun hack time and again.