M1911 cost vs. other steel/alloy framed service autos...why?


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MTMilitiaman
May 25, 2008, 01:19 PM
I understand why steel framed guns by and large tend to cost more than polymer framed guns. Their frames have more machining and aren't poured into a mold. Metal tends to cost more than polymer. That is why the prices HK asks for their handguns are so ridiculous.

But I was wondering why a 1911 should cost 50%+ more than other automatic handgun designs with steel or alloy frames and comparable quality or features. For example, I want a .45 ACP. I have a Glock 20, and that is it. I don't mind the Glock. Like an AK, it is what it is and I can admire its simple and rugged simplicity. But whether it is the cartridge or the handgun, or a combination of both, I don't shoot it as well as a 1911 .45. So while the 10mm might still get the nod for hiking and hunting, I would like a .45 for a bedstand gun. I require night sights, a rail for a light, and if the pistol isn't a striker fired design, the safety must be ambi, framed mounted, and down-swept. I am leaning towards a 1911, in which case I have an additional requirement--it must be a Series-70 design with internal extractor, half-length guide rod, ect.

I have been eye-balling the Springfield Armory MC Operator. But I can't get one question out of my mind--why should the Springfield 1911 cost so much more than, say a SAO SIG P220? Both have rails, night sights, SAO mechanisms (albeit slightly different in design), ambi safeties, quality metal coatings, as well as similar capacities and barrel lengths. Yet the MC Operator retails for ~$1200 while the SIG retails for ~$800, as near as I can tell. Esp with the Springfield's use of MIM parts, supposedly to reduce costs, this makes no sense to me.

Again, I understand why 1911c cost more than Glocks and should cost more than HKs, but for the life of me, I can't figure out why they should cost more than SIGs or other competing steel or alloy framed autos.

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Old Fuff
May 25, 2008, 01:49 PM
When the 1911 .45 pistol was designed, quality gun parts were machined from steel forgings that were then heat treated. The reliability of the pistol was somewhat dependent on this construction. For example the extractor worked because it was made out of a steel alloy that could be (and was) spring tempered. Other parts had similar requirements.

Today machining parts out of forgings is considered to be too expensive, as are highly trained final assemblers who made minor but important adjustments. Add to that a full scale inspection procedure that caught out-of-spec parts before they got too far.

So by it's nature, a correctly made 1911 pistol is not something that can be made in today's manufacturing environment from an economic point of view.

Later designs took current manufacturing costs into consideration, and can be more economically manufactured while (mostly) maintaining both quality and reliability.

MTMilitiaman
May 25, 2008, 03:10 PM
So the question remains, do you get anything for your money?

I have to believe that you must, because the design has never been more popular, despite the competition. But for the life of me, I can't figure out how the average user on a budget would be better off saving several hundred extra dollars for the 1911 as opposed to getting a more modern design with similar quality and features for less.

I really am trying to talk myself into this Springfield, and I do greatly admire the 1911. But I just can't see how it has enough advantages to justify its cost for my uses as opposed to a SIG P220SAO, or even a Glock 21SF with a few aftermarket upgrades.

9mmepiphany
May 25, 2008, 03:34 PM
you wouldn't be better off.

you don't buy a 1911 because it's better, you buy it because you want one and understand it's limitations.

i'll give you another example: you can get the new Nissan GT-R for about 60% of the Porsche 911 Turbo. the GT-R will easily out perform the 911, but i don't expect it to really hurt 911 sales

FEG
May 25, 2008, 04:08 PM
This thread sort of tackled several topics at once, so forgive me if I cover too much ground.

Why Are 1911s Popular, Despite the Price?

1. There used to be a brisk business in mil surp 1911A1s. These became valuable enough to collectors that mil surp was competing with new production pistols in terms of price. This seems to have led to companies entering the 1911 market in the 70s and 80s.
2. Crime Bill and state law issues. Right about the time that the "nostalgia" factor became less important, the 1911 started looking like one of the best combat handguns available again. More companies start making 1911 pistols...
3. Advertising. As previous posters mentioned, setting up to make a proper 1911 is a fairly expensive proposition. A lot of large companies have major looie tied up in their 1911 lines (Kimber, Springfield, etc.), and they advertise like crazy to protect their investment. When I look through my father's old magazines from the '70s, 1911 ads are almost nonexistent.
4. Support and related issues. I am a mechanical klutz. I can barely change my own oil and transmission fluid. That said, even I can detail strip a 1911 and do some basic gunsmithing work on them. If your imagination can dream it, somewhere someone is already making the part or accessory you want. The support is unparalleled.

Why Are They So Expensive?

Previous posters pretty much covered it. They just cost more to make, period, between the handfitting, materials, etc. Even if someone found a shortcut, they would be unlikely to lower their price, because people expect to pay at least $500, and probably closer to $1000, for a 1911 pattern pistol. Ever noticed that 1911s with investment cast frames don't really cost much less, at all?


A Parting Thought:

You compared the price of a 1911 to a "SIG P220SAO, or even a Glock 21SF." This seemed a bit ironic to me. SIGs cost a lot more than they need to because they spend too much time on the internals, which translates to a higher cost for something you can't even see. Glocks cost more than they should because the civilian consumer is subsidizing their law enforcement sales. Sometimes you get what you pay for, and sometimes you get less. As far as I can tell, firearms pricing and marketing isn't strictly logical.

CWL
May 25, 2008, 04:49 PM
I was wondering why a 1911 should cost 50%+ more than other automatic handgun designs

Cost of American labor. US (and European) labor is several times higher than other parts of the world.

This is why Philipines and Latin American manufactured M1911s cost considerably less than American base M1911s. You can still get them for under $500.

As for polymer guns, notice how the Springfield XD comes from Croatia? Cheap labor.

FEG
May 25, 2008, 05:15 PM
As for polymer guns, notice how the Springfield XD comes from Croatia? Cheap labor.

Sometimes, government subsidies even come into play. While I can't comment on the modern Balkan States or some of the former Warsaw Pact nations today, a lot of these countries used to heavily subsidize their national military industrial complex. This kept prices artifically low so that satellite nations could actually "buy" some of the arms, rather than just receiving them from Comintern or whatever. Again, I'm not an expert, but this seems to have been a factor.

SgtWaldo
May 25, 2008, 05:59 PM
Please explane this.
Springfield makes the Ultra Compact in Brazil (now,use to be ILL.) but it cost the same as when it was made in the US.....

wditto
May 25, 2008, 06:04 PM
to make it even MORE rediculous, the Springfield is NOT American made......makes no sense at all, especially when you can get a nice RIA for less than 1/3rd the price

mljdeckard
May 25, 2008, 08:27 PM
I tried many guns before I came back to the 1911, which fits, shoots, and carries for me the best. I carry the best gun for me regardless of cost. (The trigger in particular works best for me.)

Now, on the other hand, I roll my eyes at how far a custom shop can go with a top-end 1911, and find myself asking what a $2700 Nighthawk can do that my $800 Kimber can't. I shot both, and I certainly couldn't tell.

Old Fuff
May 25, 2008, 09:31 PM
As a handgun, the 1911 pistol is both a legend and in some ways a myth – with justification. Older guns earned the reputation that the new ones try to live up to, but often fail.

It is one thing to put up big bucks and get a pistol that works out of the box; and quite another to get one that isn’t reliable unless you tinker, polish, substitute aftermarket parts and magazines, and last but not least, spends more bucks to buy ammunition needed to “break it in.”

Regardless of price, most of the 1911’s competitors who offer more modern models don’t have these failings. I trace Old Slabside’s reliability issues to the sometimes-sloppy way current manufacturers put them together. Quite frankly, if you make junk and people keep buying it, why change? Usually market forces will put junk makers out of business, but in this case it doesn’t because the allure and attraction is just too great for some to resist.

We see in another Colt product – the 1873 Single Action Army revolver – a similar situation. The original maker still makes the gun, but prices start around $1,200 to $1,500 for a basic no-frills model. But they are substantially out-produced by Italian manufacturers that make an almost identical gun that retails for $600 and sometimes less. Ruger makes a substantially improved copy that sell in the same price range as the best Italian imports, and they are 100% “made in America.” In spite of the higher cost, some still buy the Colt – again because of the allure and legend. That little prancing pony sells guns regardless.

During my youth (which was a long time ago) Colt Government Model and Commander pistols were competitively priced, and worked out-of-the-box, meeting their owners every expectations. Today, because of inflated manufacturing costs it is unlikely they or anyone else can produce an American made 1911 pistol that is the equal of the older ones, but retails for the same price as more modern competitors.

What I have related is a matter of sad realism for today’s buyers, but that doesn’t change the situation one bit. No matter how you cut it, the choice is to buy a 1911 that isn’t what it once was, or buy something else that is, and won’t require you to get a second mortgage on the homestead.

9mmepiphany
May 26, 2008, 12:18 AM
find myself asking what a $2700 Nighthawk can do that my $800 Kimber can't. I shot both, and I certainly couldn't tell

maybe go 65k rounds without major adjustment

MT GUNNY
May 26, 2008, 01:25 AM
Took out 2 gofers today with my S&W 1911


Just had to tell some one:)

mljdeckard
May 26, 2008, 01:44 AM
The Nighthawk on the range where I rented it broke recently. What's worse than spending $2700 on a 1911 to have it be reliable? Spending that much and having it break anyway.

blkbrd666
May 26, 2008, 01:52 AM
MT GUNNY,

I read that 4 or 5 times...I kept seeing "golfers"!!! I think I need some sleep.

combatantr2
May 26, 2008, 04:18 AM
Requires a lot of manpower hours. You said it, it requires no mold. Anything you produce today minus the mold is gonna cost a lot more than mold base products.

But of course steel 1911s have advantages. The design affords a great trigger set-up far better than any handgun format. The accuracy, and the reliability. (1911s that suffer reliability issues are those that have been matched tuned and the owner expects the pistol to work under various adverse conditions.) If I matched tune the glock with a tight barrel to slide and to frame to gain above par accuracy, can I still expect it to be ultra reliable? I dont think so. If I tighten the chambers on their .40cal to achieve better chamber support and possibly contain dangerous pressures from possible casing defects that may result to KB can I expect it to feed reliably? Will it still be reliable? I dont think so.

The only downside with the steel 1911 is probably the capacity and their weight. Now, if a 1911 is double stack and its got a polymer frame, is it still a 1911? That I do not know.

45auto
May 26, 2008, 07:24 AM
Ruger makes a substantially improved copy that sell in the same price range as the best Italian imports, and they are 100% “made in America.”

Good point and I agree.

Ruger should give a redesigned 1911 a "shot" IMHO.

MASTEROFMALICE
May 26, 2008, 05:14 PM
Took out 2 gofers today with my S&W 1911

I read that 4 or 5 times...I kept seeing "golfers"!!! I think I need some sleep.

I'd spring $2700 on a pistol that could reliably take out golfers.

steelyblue
May 26, 2008, 06:36 PM
MASTEROFMALICE, I'll pay shipping on those Items, if an extremist will make the purchase! I hear Hammas is training the Zetas in Mexico now. They won't have to be shipped far!

MTMilitiaman
May 27, 2008, 01:09 AM
f I tighten the chambers on their .40cal to achieve better chamber support and possibly contain dangerous pressures from possible casing defects that may result to KB can I expect it to feed reliably? Will it still be reliable? I dont think so.

Actually, I've heard that Glock has tightened the chamber specs on their handguns slightly from original dimensions, and the pistols remain incredibly reliable. I installed a KKM Precision barrel in my Glock 20 when I started handloading in order to increase case life, and have not noticed an adverse affect on reliability, despite the tighter chamber dimensions.

As to what makes a 1911--that question is difficult to answer. There are so many modifications done to the design by numerous companies in an effort to make their rendition of the design different and unique so that it sticks out in a crowded marketplace that some offerings are arguably not even 1911s any more. There are models without the grip safety, models without the barrel bushing, models with full length guide rods, double stack models, models with polymer frames, and models with some combinations of these and other modifications. Through it all, I would have to say they remain 1911s as long as they retain the link that in my mind defines the 1911 and sets it apart from other designs.

TimboKhan
May 27, 2008, 01:22 AM
Why? Because 1911's are a fad, and gun companies like to cash in as much as anyone else. Guns, like anything, are subject to trends: witness the "wondernine wars" and the early adulation of the 10mm.

1911's are good pistols, maybe even great pistols, but they aren't magical wands that can save lives, shoot one-hole groups and defend the universe from Skeletor all on their own. I personally don't care what someone spends their money on, but I will never be convinced that a 1911 is so superior to every other handgun out there as to merit anywhere from $500 to $1500 more than most other competing pistols. This opinion is particularly strong given that Taurus has managed to produce one hell of a good pistol that sells at a retail cost of about $550.00. Of course, if you go with a Taurus, or one of the other budget 1911's out there, you still run into 1911 snobs that still allude to the fact that their Nighthawk or Wilson or Baer is still a better pistol for any one of a bunch of reasons.

I don't hate 1911's, but I hate that, on average, they are so vastly overpriced.

Robert Hairless
May 27, 2008, 01:57 AM
Why? Because 1911's are a fad, and gun companies like to cash in as much as anyone else.

But they've been a fad for pretty close to 100 years. :)

TimboKhan
May 27, 2008, 02:32 AM
But they've been a fad for pretty close to 100 years.

Ah, my friend, this is not so. They have been around for close to 100 years, but they haven't been worshipped like graven idols until only recently.

MTMilitiaman
May 27, 2008, 02:51 AM
Ah, my friend, this is not so. They have been around for close to 100 years, but they haven't been worshipped like graven idols until only recently.

O I don't know about that. My grandpa carried one with him on patrols in Korea with a BAR, and held it in pretty high esteem, both then and now.

Steve C
May 27, 2008, 03:25 AM
Cost of the various 1911's have little to do with their manufacturing cost and all to do with marketing and what the consumer is willing to shell out for them.

Semi customs are the current rage and the price reflects it. You have lots of people who want a 1911 for various reasons and they want a "good" gun and they equate high price with good. A lot of people I see buying the manufactured customs have no real reason to get a high priced pistol, they are not competitors, many aren't particuallarily gun people to begin with but they want what they percieve as the best.

There certainly is a bunch of profit in the high priced 1911's. Just look at the advertising and see who's spending the money on full page ads in the gun mags and the American Rifleman.

BigG
May 27, 2008, 08:44 AM
All John M Browning's guns were over engineered because they were designed during the mechanical age. Think about it. Contemporary transportation was a buckboard.

All of Browning's guns - Winchesters, Colts, machineguns, the BAR were way more complicated to manufacture than current designs, but they showed the way. Future designers just took the key ideas and adapted other materials to the unstressed parts.

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