Ranking quality levels of current production 1911s


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10-Ring
December 31, 2006, 08:33 PM
Okay, I understand Les Baers, Ed Browns & Wilson Combats are cream of the crop guns but what would be considered the next tier & so on?
I understand the top production 3 are Colt, Kimber & Springfield Armory, but how do the rest fall into line?

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Black_Talon
December 31, 2006, 08:46 PM
<grabs a beer and a bucket of popcorn and sits back>

mljdeckard
December 31, 2006, 09:08 PM
I'm not even going to try to compete in a thread where opinion is regarded as fact, other than to say that I have no reason to switch my Kimber out for ANY other 1911.

Black Majik
December 31, 2006, 09:08 PM
Hmm...

Top tier:
- Ed Brown
-Nighthawk
- Springfield Professional model (even though it uses MIM :D)

2nd tier
- Les Baer
- Wilson
- STI/SVI

(The first and second teir models are so close, but in regards to fit and finish there is a difference. All makers above use first rate parts)

Ed Brown and Nighthawk both make some beautiful guns. Ed Brown more so for the fancy, stylish 1911s with the snake scales and very soft edges. Overall very beautiful pieces. Nighthawk is also pretty impressive in fit and finish department, and while it closely resembles Wilson, the fit and finish IMO are leagues ahead of the Wilson guns.

Les Baer: Moreso for the defensive fighting guns, I view Les' line of guns to be "All go, no show" type guns. Quality parts in every respect and spectacular fit... but very simple finish. The Baercoat was less than impressive, and the bluing, while gorgeous is very thin and wears easily. Mainly look for pictures of my PII for my explanation in regards to Baer's finish. Also to note, the main feature I LOVE is the undercut triggerguard so the bore sits lower in the hand. Awesome feature. I actually like the very tight, vault like fit. It feels like you're holding one solid piece of steel. Very well done Les. But couldn't you put on hex screws at least instead on such a high dollar firearm?

Wilson, no urge to spluge on one. Good parts but no wow factor for me.

Springfield PRO: Impressive fit and finish. Beautiful Black T finish. All around impressive. Someday I'll get one.

Ed Brown: One thing I did notice is the inside of the hammers sometimes has tool marks. Something to look to.

Production model
- Springfield
- Smith and Wesson
- Kimber
- Colt
- SIG GSR/Revolution
- Para Ordnance
- Rock Island Armory
- Charles Daly

Some notes:

Smith and Wesson, while the 1911 is a great gun, there are two main points that really killed the fit and finish. Firstly, the messy crown jobs on most S&W 1911 pistols. Secondly, the crappy fit of most rear fixed sights. There is usally enough gap that light will pass through, and pretty much looks like a kitchen butcher gunsmith job.

Springfield's guns are usually well put together, but they're guns aren't really that tight. Newer production 1911s have tighter slide to frame fit than the older models from what I've seen.

Kimber: Their damn grip safety looks like a pumas rock. Seriously, that MIM pos grip safety kills the asthetics of the gun, as well as dropping serious points on the ranking quality scale. Slide to frame fit is usually pretty good, as well as dehorned front and rear of the slide. Where Springfield Armory beats Kimber is Kimber's "Custom Shop." Kimber's Custom shop is a complete joke.

Colt: QC is getting better for Colt, they're making guns that work really well, but there are still asthetic issues to make note of. The off center drilling for the recoil spring hole as well as slide overhang at the rear. Small, but notable issues. Also they cant spend the small amount of time to dehorn the edges just a LITTLE? Those things are friggin' sharp to hold. Slide to frame fit is classic Colt, it'll rattle no matter which Colt you pick up. They are accurate though.

SIGarms: Their GSR and Revolution may have quality parts, but there are still many reports of failures. Good parts means squat if the gun doesn't run correctly. The Mosquito may be the black sheep of SIG's line, but the 1911s are the redheaded stepchild.

Para Ordnance. Not high on my list because the lack of fit and finish. Pretty substandard, light tooling marks on frame from examples I've seen. Some models don't even feel like a 1911. So-so triggers and action. Eh...

Anyways, my $0.02

wooderson
December 31, 2006, 09:28 PM
Haven't heard anything bad about Dan Wessons since they were bought out by CZ. I'm more apt to buy one of those in the sub-$1000 range compared to Springfields or Kimbers.

nwgunman
December 31, 2006, 10:48 PM
I bought a S&W 1911PD (4.25"bbl) a while back and it has been the best 1911 right out of the box that I have ever owned. Of course, I have never laid out $2,000 (or more?!?) for a "big name" custom 1911. But I have many, many 1911's and put about much money into one or the other. This S&W has been flawlessly reliable, very accurate (for my needs and abilities at least), is light and easy to carry (Scandium frame), and absolutely will stay in my collection. Compared to some of the abysmal 1911's I've bought in the past (like a Colt Gold Cup back in the 70s for example, or an incredibly mediocre Springfield a couple of years later, or etc, etc) it has been such a joy that it actually re-kindled that "1911" thing for me, for a while anyway. I was even thinking about buying...another one? Well, probably not. It's still a 1911. But anyway, that's my little blurb concerning your inquiry.

GunNut
December 31, 2006, 11:08 PM
Great post by Black Majik.

To me there is not much difference between the top custom makers ie: Nighthawk, Wilson, Les Baer, STI, etc.

I'll just sit back and watch what the 1911 experts have to say.:D

Steve

SilverState
December 31, 2006, 11:14 PM
I think the original poster needs to be more specific. Otherwise, you get people just talking about what they like, even if it is for no particular reason.

For example, ranking Ed Brown as first tier along with Nighthawk, but putting Wilson combat and Les Baer in tier two could be considered by some, to be crazy.

But that's the problem if the question is not specific enough.

;)

Black Majik
December 31, 2006, 11:28 PM
For example, ranking Ed Brown as first tier along with Nighthawk, but putting Wilson combat and Les Baer in tier two could be considered by some, to be crazy.

True, but I do feel that the Browns and Nighthawks have a touch better finish than the Baers. They're all exellent firearms; the Baers, Browns, NH, Wilsons, and RRA. But some are slightly better fit and finish wise than others.

They may be opinions, but at least I stated why instead of just listing them without an explaination. ;)

jlh26oo
January 1, 2007, 01:23 AM
Colt: QC is getting better for Colt, they're making guns that work really well, but there are still asthetic issues to make note of. The off center drilling for the recoil spring hole as well as slide overhang at the rear. Small, but notable issues. Also they cant spend the small amount of time to dehorn the edges just a LITTLE? Those things are friggin' sharp to hold. Slide to frame fit is classic Colt, it'll rattle no matter which Colt you pick up. They are accurate though

I thought the off center recoil channels were only on the s70r, but yeah tHese are the exact complaints that keep me from going for Colt. WHich would otherwise be my first choice.

Funny thing on MIM. NOticed you put the SA pro right up there at the top, yet has MIM. Sig supposedly has NO MIM, yet you don't rank it w.colt.

Too bad about S&W. Those look pretty good. Weak finish huh?

Thanks for the breakdown.

GreenFurniture
January 1, 2007, 01:46 AM
Toss Nighthawk out since they use MIM.

The Professional too.

The Real Hawkeye
January 1, 2007, 01:53 AM
Colt is the best of the major manufacturors of 1911s. Second would probably be Springfield Armory.

jlh26oo
January 1, 2007, 01:59 AM
Yeah, I wonder if the whole MIM thing is overrated. For instance, Colt people use SA and Kimber's use of it to justify their price, yet Sig uses NONE- and can be found now for $638 NIB @buds. Guess the whole is sometimes > sum of parts, even if said parts are mim lol.

What the Colt people tell me, is that the mim Colt uses (3 parts + nylon msh) are in less critical parts, so it doesn't matter that much to upgrade, but don't like for instance Kimber's use of MIM.


Anyone know how much/which parts are mim in S&W?

BamBam-31
January 1, 2007, 02:30 AM
I can't believe you didn't list Glock in your top tier. No MIM whatsoever. :p

jlh26oo
January 1, 2007, 02:43 AM
I can't believe you didn't list Glock in your top tier.


GLOCK's making a 1911 now?!

Mandirigma
January 1, 2007, 03:20 AM
Toss Nighthawk out since they use MIM.

http://www.nighthawkcustom.com/Faq.aspx

Q. Do you use mim parts?
A. No, under no circumstances.

SilverState
January 1, 2007, 05:21 AM
Wasn't trying to target Black Majik, just trying to illustrate that the query needs to be more specific.

Personally, I am not in the gun industry, so all I have to go on is my own personal experience. And I would not say my Wilson Combat is in a different tier than my Ed Brown. But that is only my opinion. As for Baer, that's my next purchase. And as for RRA, it's in the same tier with the Wilson and the Brown IMHO. My STI is in the next tier down, but then, I am talking about the Trojan, and I know STI makes fancier 1911s than that model. When I get my Baer, it had better be at least equal to my Brown, Wilson, and RRA. If not, I will need to sell it.

Black Majik
January 1, 2007, 07:16 AM
Silverstate,

I know you weren't singling me out. I have two Baers that I adore very much, but they're more utilitarian than the Browns and Nighthawks. Maybe placing them in "tiers" wasn't the best thing to do, but I do feel the Browns and NH are a very slight bump up in finish. All semi-custom 1911s have amazing fit, though their philosophy is different. Les Baer believes in the bank vault tight fit that requires 1000s of rounds to break-in; Wilson, NH and Ed Brown believe in the tight but smooth.

All semi-custom makers use quality parts, all have great fit, the finish was what made the Browns and NH stand above the rest. But very marginally.

Les Baer's bluing especially, that bluing will wear if you look at it wrong.

As an example, my hard use PII vs. my babied Custom Carry. Sorta like a before and after picture...

http://i35.photobucket.com/albums/d194/RChang824/LesBaerpair12-25-06set2.jpg

That's primarily why I didn't feel their finishing is in the same level. Their Baercoat isn't much more durable. Of all black finishes, I believe Black T is the best. So, hardchrome would be the way to go in terms of durability, depends on whether or not the buyer can handle the "blinginess." :D



<grabs a beer and a bucket of popcorn and sits back>


Marc,

Help me out here man, I saw your post on Calguns! :D

GreenFurniture
January 1, 2007, 07:45 AM
As long as they run, who am I to judge?

http://thecommander.smugmug.com/photos/113606265-M.jpg

Chuck R.
January 1, 2007, 11:02 AM
For what it's worth, I also own two Baers and agree with Black Majik's ranking Baer as a second teir.

My Baer's are rock solid performer's and at they're price a great value in a semi-custom. The fit is superb, the accuracy is awesome, but the finish is not at the same level IMHO as a Brown.

But, they're also quite a bit less. I don't know how much Les makes on each pistol, but based on the cost of parts and fitting it can't be too much. I've seen Colts listing for over 1K while PIIs were around $1300. In my youth I had several 1911's built up from Colts and by the time I got down replacing this and that, having accuracy jobs done, new sights etc I'd paid more than the cost for a PII.

So for a working gun, or for CCW when I know the finish is going to take a beating I choose Baer's. While I think Brown's are awesome 1911s, but they cross my personal threshold for diminishing returns. I think they're nicer than Baer's just not "X" number of dollar's nicer.

Chuck

Fun2Shoot
January 1, 2007, 11:24 AM
Great post by Black Majik. (post #4)

+1

Magnumite
January 1, 2007, 11:27 AM
Looks like the upper two tiers being discussed here is separated basically by cosmetics. They are custom guns built to specific configurations.

Those guns are built to very similar standards with the buyer paying premiums for finishes, snake scales and such. Personally, I'd put them in one catagory and the buyer pays for the options.

I'd say a second tier would be manufacturer higher preformance guns. Examples would be a SA Trophy Match, Kimber Gold Match, Colt Gold Cup and so on.

Then I would say would be your high quality mainline guns (Loaded, Classics, Gov't Model, yada..). And I won't mention designer guns.

And there is the individualized one up customs.

aka108
January 1, 2007, 11:48 AM
Too many 1911's out there for an absolute "best' determination. The very best for me is on that runs with 100 percent reliabilty and feeds anything put into it regardless of price. Quality of finish is nice but basically eye candy.

schmeky
January 1, 2007, 12:50 PM
Never had a "top line" auto (i.e., couple thousand dollars), but my Kimber Classic Custom out of the box has been as reliable as . . . . . . . a couple of Norincos I no longer own.

Accuracy wise my Kimber was more accurate than my Colt Gold Cup I had many years ago. Norincos were combat accurate and the 2 I had were dead nuts reliable.

xMetal
January 1, 2007, 01:04 PM
I think that a new thread should be started, in which no other info is given other than

brand
model
approx. rounds shot to date
problems encountered

Leave all the opinion elsewhere. Leave your thoughts on the look, warranty, customer service, etc out and just stick to those 4 facts which can't be disputed.

That would then give new buyers a thread in which to research and see concrete evidence from real people. There are a lot of 1911's on here, so I imagine if everyone actually posted it would be quite lengthy.

The Real Hawkeye
January 1, 2007, 01:06 PM
XMetal, start that thread then.

SilverState
January 1, 2007, 02:38 PM
Iteresting. So the Baer's finish is not so durable. Not to cool when you spend a couple grand on a pistol. I might have to go with the hard chrome TRS Comanche.

BamBam-31
January 1, 2007, 02:49 PM
I think that a new thread should be started, in which no other info is given other than

brand
model
approx. rounds shot to date
problems encountered

Leave all the opinion elsewhere. Leave your thoughts on the look, warranty, customer service, etc out and just stick to those 4 facts which can't be disputed.

That would then give new buyers a thread in which to research and see concrete evidence from real people. There are a lot of 1911's on here, so I imagine if everyone actually posted it would be quite lengthy.

Wow, considering people will pay more than twice the price for little things like accuracy, fit and finish, and customer service, that particular thread would be incomplete, to say the least. And, as Hawkeye pointed out, not what the OP asked.

Good example of wanting a particular answer and asking the question in a way to get it. "So, do you want Hillary Clinton as your next President, or another dumb jackass from the Reds?"

Black_Talon
January 1, 2007, 09:58 PM
<grabs a beer and a bucket of popcorn and sits back>

Marc,

Help me out here man, I saw your post on Calguns!

Sorry Rich, you're on your own, bro :)

I broke one of my primary Internet Rules when I posted that at CG. QED: this thread, already. ;)

AJD
January 1, 2007, 10:26 PM
Its too hard to put them in order because not all 1911's that come from each company are the same. Colt for example has a single gunsmith create each Special Combat .38 Super one at a time in the Custom Shop. And at the same time has a standard Series 80 Government Model that is produced by any number of employees.

Mr Thundermaker
January 1, 2007, 10:58 PM
I disagree with putting SVI in a second tier with any production line, either Ed Brown, Wilson, or NightHawk. I have all of them except the Ed Brown, for purely personal reasons, but I feel the SVI is hands down the highest quality in asthetics, followed by Nighthawk. STI and SVI are not the same company, and do not offer products with the same quality, so there is no way really to just stick them together and say they are inferior to any of the 3 top tiers makers you listed. The STI's maybe, but not SVI. And I am not saying this just because I paid more for it than the rest, it is just a really well made gun that has extra attention paid to the fit and finish, moreso than the rest IMHO. Anyway, if I had a choice, Id grab my glock anyway. Regards, Mr Thundermaker

BamBam-31
January 2, 2007, 01:56 AM
Mr. Thundermaker, welcome to THR. I like the way you think, sir. Especially that part about Glocks.

HKUSPf
January 2, 2007, 03:07 AM
Para Ordnance. Not high on my list because the lack of fit and finish. Pretty substandard, light tooling marks on frame from examples I've seen. Some models don't even feel like a 1911. So-so triggers and action. Eh...

i have a para LTC 1911 and could not be happier.

have you fired or handled a para recently? i have heard problems from earlier models, but i am very impressed with my para which is only 1 year old.

esheato
January 2, 2007, 09:01 AM
My Brown has maybe a couple hundred holster presentations and I can easily see the finish wearing thin around the muzzle.

I might have it broken in by the time I get all the way through it. ;)

Ed

Ala Dan
January 2, 2007, 09:32 AM
I don't consider myself an "expert" at anything; but I will say that there
are many excellent 1911's out there, from introductory weapons to the
high end (big $$$$) firearms made by custom manufactuer'ers.:)

tegemu
January 2, 2007, 10:57 AM
Among the GOOD, less expensive production pistols, the Taurus PT1911 is very rapidly gaining an excellent reputation and is probably the best value on the market today. It is on a par with Springfield, Colt, Kimber, Smith & Wesson, Dan Wesson and the others in this field.

jlh26oo
January 3, 2007, 01:54 AM
wow.

varoadking
January 3, 2007, 07:06 AM
Among the GOOD, less expensive production pistols, the Taurus PT1911 is very rapidly gaining an excellent reputation and is probably the best value on the market today. It is on a par with Springfield, Colt, Kimber, Smith & Wesson, Dan Wesson and the others in this field.

Not hardly...

Phil DeGraves
January 3, 2007, 12:24 PM
I wouldn't be so quick to put Dan Wesson and Springfield on par with Colt, Kimber and S&W.

Phil DeGraves
January 3, 2007, 12:27 PM
"Yeah, I wonder if the whole MIM thing is overrated. For instance, Colt people use SA and Kimber's use of it to justify their price, yet Sig uses NONE- and can be found now for $638 NIB @buds."

I have never seen any SIG 1911s for under $1000. Even their non 1911 guns are in the $800 range.

shaggycat
January 3, 2007, 12:31 PM
I have never seen any SIG 1911s for under $1000. Even their non 1911 guns are in the $800 range.

Now you have. ;)

http://www.budsgunshop.com/catalog/product_info.php/products_id/411534321

Magnumite
January 5, 2007, 06:33 AM
Recently, I have seen Sigs under $1K all over the place.

JohnBT
January 5, 2007, 10:36 AM
What about Auto Ord and Rock Island? :confused:

John

Rinspeed
January 5, 2007, 10:52 AM
True, but I do feel that the Browns and Nighthawks have a touch better finish than the Baers. They're all exellent firearms; the Baers, Browns, NH, Wilsons, and RRA. But some are slightly better fit and finish wise than others.

They may be opinions, but at least I stated why instead of just listing them without an explaination.



I do find it a little odd to place the Baers on lower tier because of the finish. Not crazy just a little odd :) Bluing is bluing. There supposed to be fightin' pistols anyways, scratches and finish wear just add character. I'll take 100% reliable and very accurate over a good finish any day.

BrennanKG
January 5, 2007, 11:50 AM
Nice thread, with a lot of great feedback/input from folks.

As touched on previously, issues like this are complex because of the varied standards and needs of shooters. When you add to it the difference in opinions as to the practical application of words (eg: production, semi-custom, custom) the waters become even more muddied.

For me, if you can't call up the gunsmith/company/firearms co-op/etc. and order EXACTLY what you want, the end product is not custom. If you can, it is. This is my meter stick for custom verses production, whether it's for knives, guns, or corsets for the wife.

Now setting aside small-shop customs (Ned Christiansen, Chuck Rogers, Bob Rodgers, Hilton Yam, Ted Yost to name a few), we have companies that will do custom work, and we have companies that will not.

Of all the brands mentioned, NHC seems most willing to give the customer exactly what is wanted. I've heard rather mixed feedback about WC's willingness to customize, and EB seems to actively discourage it, preferring to offer their excellent handguns in more or less set configurations.

Kimbers Custom Shop handguns, so far as I can tell, are simply their top shelf models.

Springfield is a little more complicated. They offer prebuilt custom shop packages, but they will also build guns to requested specs.

I'm not too sure about LB or RRA with regards to custom work (apropos, given the connection/history b/t the 2 companies).

All the other production companies are just that: production companies. Production companies are at the mercy of many factors: vendor materials, skill of assembly, QC, etc. I really think the best thing to do with production 1911s is to take them as individual examples of work, rather than trend points. Each of us has most likely upwards of hundreds or even thousands of 1911 encounters, from fondling them at stores/shows, to shooting, to owning.

In the end, I agree with a many posters who've stated there are many great choices available in the production market. If you look around you can most likely find both what you like and dislike. Personally, I think the new DW 1911s look promising, especially for those of us still jonesing for a 10mm 1911 and unable to find the right Colt DE at the right price. I think the Taurus offering is one of the least attractive 1911s currently on the market (not a comment on quality, just aesthetics). I think Springfield's wide selection of models and generally good customer service will continue to keep it in the running as one of the better options. I also think EB's Special Forces model is one of the sweetest 1911s I've seen and if I copuld get one bobtailed and without the SF rollmark I'd actually need one (see previous note on EB).

Oh, and I think it's impossible for me to rank the companies for many of the reasons mentioned above.

Cheers and Happy New Year,
B.

SuperNaut
January 5, 2007, 12:13 PM
i have a para LTC 1911 and could not be happier.

have you fired or handled a para recently? i have heard problems from earlier models, but i am very impressed with my para which is only 1 year old.

I own a Para too, but I totally agree with Black Majik's ranking. I love my Para Nite-Tac but I consider it a "working firearm" not an example of gunsmithing artistry. That is going to be a problem in this thread. We really shouldn't be comparing boutique small-batch firearms with mass-produced firearms. While Para is a favorite of mine, I hold no illusions that it competes in any way with an Ed Brown or some Caspians. All you have to do is pick one up and you'll know what I mean.

A Ford will never be a Ferrari, that says nothing negative about either vehicle.

ETA: I wonder if ranking by price point is a better way to go:

Best @ under $1000
Best @$1000
Best @$1500
Best @$2000
Best @$2500
etc.

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