School me on a basic 1911 .45


October 2, 2008, 09:10 PM
I'm interested in procuring a utilitarian 1911. I do not want something that's tricked out, nor do I want a match quality gun. Rather, I'm just looking for a simple, traditional, full-size, GI-style .45 caliber 1911.

I really don't know where to begin. I read a lot about Colts, and Kimbers, and Delta Elites, but just don't want to spend that kind of money. Would a Rock Island be a good starting point? Are there other good options for a plain Jane 1911?

And if one wanted to begin to deviate from a bone-stock GI version, what would be the first feature differences one would look for or want? Different sights? Lowered port? What should one consider, and why?

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October 2, 2008, 09:17 PM
Springfield Armory GI .45

Can't get much more basic than this. Sights are very rudimentary, I couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with the one I inherited. None of the other ramp polisihing, lowering the ejection port, trigger manipulation, beavertail adding, bobtailing, etc, etc had been done either.

I traded mine in on a SA TRP and was a happy camper for a LONG time.

And then I got my hands on a HK45 and that was the beginning of the end of my 4 1911s.

Good luck with your search!

October 2, 2008, 09:18 PM
RRA would work just Great, I have one and a norinco one also. When the wife and kids ever leave me, I'll get a bettewr model. But untill then The ones I have still go BANG!!

October 2, 2008, 09:21 PM
Too many ?'s to answer all of them, however a RI isn't a bad place to start, but I believe this is a better value in that market right now. Metroarms American classic II

October 2, 2008, 09:34 PM
i think you would be happy with a RIA 1911, and i believe that that would be a great place to start. I say check out the 5" tactical model.

October 2, 2008, 09:47 PM
Possum, what are the key differences that cause you to favor the tactical over the basic model?

October 2, 2008, 10:37 PM
The biggest single improvement the Tactical has is the sights. The GI style sights are small and difficult (for me) to use. I think you also get (1) an extended beavertail which can keep you from getting bitten by the hammer, especially if you have large hands, and (2) different (better?) trigger. Like I said, the sights alone are worth the upgrade.

October 2, 2008, 10:53 PM
The basic RIA is a nice pistol if you like traditional-style 1911a1s - the first question those owners tend to ask is "How do I install better sights?"

The RIA Tactical costs about $80 more (more or less) and comes with most of the add-ons a lot of folks want - Novak sights, ambi-safety, beavertail, skeleton hammer, etc.

Same thing for the Springfield Armory series - the GI model, etc, etc.

It all depends what you prefer.

October 2, 2008, 10:58 PM
The Rock Island Armory 1911s are overlooked jewels.

October 3, 2008, 12:49 AM
In my experience, Springfield builds them right. That said, I have very little experience with non-Springer 1911s.

My brother has a Springfield Mil-Spec which is a step up from the GI model in terms of features. It is still very basic, but the price reflects this. I think my brother got his for under $500. He's had a basic trigger job done to it, installed an ambi safety, a heavier recoil spring to take my dad's reloads without being battered to death, and a Hogue grip. It is very comfortable and as accurate as it needs to be, and it digests everything we feed it.

My grandpa has a Loaded model and it is sweet as well. My experience with Springer 1911s has me saving for an MC Operator, which I hope to have order by the end of the month.

If you're looking for a good entry level 1911 without a lot of frills that is likely to run well from the box, it's hard to go wrong with the Springfield Mil-Spec. At the very least, you know that should something go wrong, Springfield has superb customer service and will take care of you. That is something a company like Taurus may or may not be able to claim.

October 3, 2008, 12:59 AM
The Rock Island Armory 1911s are overlooked jewels.

I agree, I have three of them. And I also agree about seriously considering the Tactical model.

Northslope Nimrod
October 3, 2008, 01:35 AM
Buddy just picked up a RIA. It has been flawless. Sights are small, but you'll see the same with Springfields cheaper offerings.

October 3, 2008, 01:55 AM
colt or springfield. i own both and they both have great no frills 1911's. look at a colt series 70 repro and the springfield mil specs.

October 3, 2008, 03:27 AM
I have 2 1911s. The Springfields are really nice guns. You get a basic 1911 that won't ruin your wallet. I tend to shoot my springfield over my other one.

October 3, 2008, 03:44 AM
I'm quite happy W/ my RIA it's just the basic M1911A1.

I don't know what I can say that hasn't been said about them except that it just feels right in my hand.

I retired it from carry in favor of a CZ75B but, it is the only gun I own that I will take out of the gun safe just to admire it.

October 3, 2008, 05:50 AM
I went with the RIA tactical. Added double diamond grips and replsced the full length guide rod with a standard length. My only complaint would be the parkerized finish, it is not as nice as the Springfields. (

October 3, 2008, 08:32 AM
Okay, what I'm hearing thus far:

RIA and Springfield both make good, basic, GI-style 1911s ... and the number one feature upgrade one is likely to want over the GI model is better sights.

So the general recommendation seems to be look at either the RIA Tactical or the Springfield Mil Spec, both of which have some enhancements over the basic model, including better sights.

Thanks much for this. Still interested in hearing more opinions. I'll have to start checking the local shops to see what they have in stock, and at what price. My middle-aged eyes aren't what they used to be, so I'm guessing that I should get something other than the basic GI sights.

In that vein, how easy is it to change the sights on a 1911? Are they dovetailed into the slide, or attached in some other fashion?

October 3, 2008, 08:43 AM
If it were me an I was looking to buy a 1911 like you mentioned the number 1 gun would be the Taurus PT 1911, that thing just plan shoots. Friend of my has one that we've shot the snot out of...that thing just keeps going...under $500 can't be beat.

October 3, 2008, 08:55 AM
simple, traditional, full-size, GI-style .45 caliber 1911

Springfield Armory GI-45.

No knock on the RIA's....simply, I have never shot one. Have the GI-45..yeah those sights are tiny I actully shoot it better than my Champion 4" model with the night sights.

There is just "Something" about a 5" 1911 . . . .

October 3, 2008, 09:28 AM
Just about all the info on the M1911 in one place:theSightM1911 (


October 3, 2008, 10:38 AM
Don't forget Smith and Wesson. They have a lifetime warranty, and very nice line of 1911s with updated sights, triggers, hammers, etc.

I have sent them guns to fix, which I bought used, and it is always no questions asked.

Phil DeGraves
October 3, 2008, 11:06 AM
Get a used Colt 1991. Better sights, better trigger than the GI models and not terribly expensive.

October 3, 2008, 11:11 AM
I'll put a plug in here for Charles Daly. (Of course I'm a recent convert and you know what they say about the recently converted <grin>).

I wrote up an initial review here
I hammer on some details pretty hard but really I'm very happy with the gun!

October 3, 2008, 11:24 AM
Totally agree with the RIA, and Springfield GI choices. If you are looking for one with better sights, get the Mil-Spec Springfield GI. Much better choices for you with this one.

One that's been mentioned is the Norinco 1911. If you can find one of these, grab it. They are excellent pistols. They're made from high-quality steel and are underappreciated and thus, undervalued. :D

Another one to grab if you can find it is the 1927 Argentinian Sistema. This is essentially a Colt clone made in Argentina. They were made off of Colt plans, Colt tooling, and Colt trained employees and the parts interchange. I had one of these I paid $250.00 for. Only issues with these is that they don't feed Hollow Point, and their finish was beaten to hell and back. These are also Curio and Relic eligible.

October 3, 2008, 11:41 AM
Here's your basic High Standard GI 1911. Made in (so I'm told) the same plant as the RIA's. Around $400 depending on where you are:

October 3, 2008, 04:55 PM
In that vein, how easy is it to change the sights on a 1911? Are they dovetailed into the slide, or attached in some other fashion?
The front-sights are either dovetailed or staked in place - depends on the make & model. GI style sights are staked where the more advanced models are dovetailed, which makes them easier to swap out when required eg. new tritium or fiber-optic sights, different widths or heights of sight, etc.

For a staked front-sight, you'd need a staking tool (and perhaps redoing the slide finish) - for a dovetail, just buy the correct sight and press into place with a vise or more specialized front-sight vise-like tool.

deputy tom
October 3, 2008, 08:23 PM
SA Mil-spec has easier to see sights,opened ejection port and a slightly beveled mag-well.All bonuses in my opinion.YMMV.tom.:cool:

October 4, 2008, 01:17 AM
I am personally going with the Springfield M1911 Mil-Spec. It has all the reliability improvements and better sights than the GI and it does not have any cosmetic deviations from what you specified. I know it costs more than a RIA, but I plan to carry it and the Springfield seems to be one on the top of the list.

Good luck!

October 4, 2008, 02:54 AM
Colt "1911"s have the best bang for the buck.
They are manufactured from quality materials and still by hand.
In my opinion that is the best option.

October 4, 2008, 07:30 AM
Okay, I'm convinced that I'd be happier with something other than the stock GI model. So I'll be looking closely at the RIA Tactical and the Springfield Mil-Spec. Based on what I'm seeing thus far, I'm leaning slightly toward the Mil-Spec. That will likely become my point of reference as I look at other options, including second-hand firearms.

Really appreciate all the suggestions here. Thanks!

October 4, 2008, 10:14 AM
I have a SA Loaded and S&W1911PD Commander. Both are a step up from what you are looking at. I needed the SA shop for an extractor problem and was very impressed with their service. The S&W has a much better trigger out of the box.

I'm not sure how much you shoot, or if you reload. The cost of your gun is normally a very small part of the cost of shooting, so a few dollars more to get the features you want will not make that much difference. If you reload, all your guns are free:cool:

The cost of a gun which doesn't meet your needs is just added cost. Of course, most of the guns I've bought are still meeting some need, if only as a back-up or loaner at the range.

The RIAs I looked at this last gun show had me interested.

October 4, 2008, 10:30 AM
Get a used Colt 1991. Better sights, better trigger than the GI models and not terribly expensive.

New can be had for around $700 as well – I own one and agree, the gun’s been flawless and the build quality is excellent.

Yo Mama
October 4, 2008, 10:35 AM
Go with the Springfield milspec, and don't mess with it from there.

They come with beautiful grips now, and the only parts I've changed out are the extractors, as they were MIM parts.

October 7, 2008, 11:42 AM
If I go new with a Springfield, what kind of break-in procedure am I looking at?

If I go used, is there something in particular I should watch out for?

Thanks again!

October 7, 2008, 11:58 AM
"Another one to grab if you can find it is the 1927 Argentinian Sistema. This is essentially a Colt clone made in Argentina."

Wrong! A Sistema Colt 1927 is a licensed copy of the 1911A1; the Sistema Colt 1927 is equal in quality to an old time Colt and that is superb. Regards, Richard:)

My Sistema Colt 1927:

October 7, 2008, 12:35 PM
Springfield Mil-spec has the advantage over the RIA becuase of the forged frame. RIA is still a nice 1911.

BUT, a Colt is the best of all. Used ones can be found quite easily. Fewer MIM parts, accurate, and excellent customer service.

Now, if you can find a Norinco or a 1927 Argentinian Sistema, they are both "hidden jewels". Just piced up a Norinco for $250 and it is a better 1911 than the SA's I used for CCW. (Still a Colt is better)

October 11, 2008, 10:01 PM
Thanks for the help, all. Decided on a second-hand SA Mil-Spec. Will probably pick it up some time next week. Will try to post som pics at that time. Really appreciate all the input.

October 12, 2008, 01:31 AM
New Firestorm or American Classic
These are hard to find but worth the effort

October 12, 2008, 11:24 AM
Earlier you summarized that you would like either the RIA Tactical or the SA Mil Spec since they both have better sights. What do you mean by better sights? The RIA Tactical and SA Mil Spec have very different sights. The RIA Tac uses novak style sights which are easy to see. The SA Mil Spec uses standard tiny mil spec sights...not much different from the RIA mil spec that you rejected in favor of the RIA Tac.

Pictures of both the RIA Tac and SA Mil Spec can be found in this thread (MTMilitiaman and rondog). It is easy to see the difference. Just want to make sure you know that you are still getting "small sights" if you get the SA. If there are other considerations on your mind, like workmanship, then I would go with SA. But if sights is your main driver, then RIA Tac.

October 12, 2008, 11:42 AM
What do you mean by better sights?Better than the less expensive offering by each mfgr. The MilSpec has better sights than the Springer GI, and the Tactical has better sights than the RIA GI.

Just want to make sure you know that you are still getting "small sights" if you get the SAI think you may be confusing the Springer MilSpec with the Springer GI.

Claude Clay
October 12, 2008, 11:50 AM
good sights (not short and at arms length the front sight lets some light in on both sides when centered in the rear notch), decent trigger (not scratchy and does not stack-require more effort as you pull it. the break is clean with minimal over-travel--the distance the trigger travels after the point of release)and extended slide and safety release(so you ain't groping for them). that's basic.
anything else you buy up to later. relieved under trigger. palm swell grip safety, front and/or rear checkering, better trigger,adjustable sights, a dozen + different action jobs, whatever

October 12, 2008, 01:38 PM
I've been very happy with my RIA Tactical. Shot smooth and straight right out of the box, and fit and finish was better than expected. Put some $10 'nightsighter' dots on the sights and it's much easier to aim now. Got mine from Centerfire Systems.

In full disclosure this is my first handgun

October 12, 2008, 04:41 PM
There is not a better deal to be had than the RIA Tactical 5" version that Centerfire Systems ( is selling for only $399.99.

If I had to do it all over again, I'd purchase the RIA Tactical and shoot it as often as I could and then take it to my gunsmith for a head-to-toe evaluation - after 500 rounds or so - to see what is anything needed to be "modified".

For the money I do not believe that there is a better overall purchase that can be made. In fact I may be getting one because I NEED TO. :evil:

October 13, 2008, 09:32 AM
DaBull, thanks for the concern. The Mil-Spec seems to have two versions: a G.I. and a non-G.I. The latter has Novak-style three-dot sights. That's what I'm getting.

December 29, 2008, 01:42 PM
What's the difference between the full-length guide rod and the standard? Obviously one is longer, but does that give it any advantages or disadvantages?

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