Want to buy my first 1911: $1000 budget, but need serious advice.


December 3, 2008, 05:17 AM
Ok, so I have an addiction to handguns. Problem is so far I've only endulged in the more "modern" polymer pistols. I've had more, but currently own a glock 19 (3rd gen), H&K USPc40, and a Ruger LCP. It's time to try something completely new and finally give this 1911 a try. I have loved 1911s for so long, but have never actually owned one myself. What better time than now?

I don't know what to buy!! I like the Kimber Pro TLE II: http://www.kimberamerica.com/images/new_products_06/fullscreen_protle2.jpg and also the full-size Custom TLE II: http://www.kimberamerica.com/images/pistols/custom/06_10_03.jpg

I was really set on one of those two, because I like the 4" bushingless design and the 5" bushing design the same. There are pros and cons to both sizes, but overall I like the features offered on the TLE II models. I especially like the all-steel, 30lpi, checkered frames.

This is where the problem comes in!!!

I really get a good feeling in my stomach whenever I look at a classic (WWI/GI) type of 1911 w/ vertical slide serrations and a simple blued finish. I'm really thinking about buying a Springfield Mil-Spec 5"in stainless for $300 dollars less, and doing some custom work to it:

I really like the angled, thin rear serrations and lack of front serrations on a Government slide... I'm just concerned that all the fluff-n-buff required to get the fit and finish to the Kimber level might comprimise reliability and end up costing way more than my $1000 limit. Ideally, I want the SA Mil-Spec look w/ a blued finish, but want a match grade barrel fitted, along with a nicely fitted frame and slide.

Basically I'd like to know if the SA Mil-Spec is a worthy platform if I'm going for an accurate shooting, top notch 1911 as my end result after it's all said and done. Or am I underestimating the quality of the Mil-Spec as it is? I am totally aware of the difference in fit/finish of 1911s. I've fondled plenty of them, and it's easy to see that they aren't all created equal. The Kimbers I've played with seem to have a tight fit/finish, yet a buttery smooth action. That's what I'm going for.

I'm thinking that taking the custom approach might not be a good idea for a first-time 1911 owner. Maybe I should stick with one of the Kimbers and just enjoy it...

I need your advice! What should I do?

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December 3, 2008, 05:33 AM
Something like this look OK?


or maybe this


I like Colt's myself, Kimber has good quality also. It all depends on how well you can shoot. If you can shoot 1" groups at 25 yds, you might want to get a more accurate pistol. If your groups are the size of a cantalope, get what you like and enjoy it.

As you shoot more, and your groups improve, you will reach the accuracy point of your pistol, whatever that may be groupwise.

But a warning, 1911's are like Lays potato chips. It's hard to have just one.

December 3, 2008, 05:35 AM
Also, how long can I expect to wait for any of these guns to be in stock from Buds or any other online gun store that has good prices?

One more question here...

My favorite finish out there is the finish that Kimber puts on their Raptor series 1911s. Can I get a similar finish done to a stainless steel SA Mil-Spec? Do you get good results from blueing stainless steel when compared to regular carbon steel?

December 3, 2008, 05:42 AM
Something like this look OK?
I like some of the Colts out there, but I'm looking to buy a NIB gun rather than used. I appreciate the input though!

December 3, 2008, 06:01 AM
Man.. some of the Colts found here look absolutely incredible:

Colts are confusing though! I think the difference between series 70 and 80 has to do with the internal safeties, but how is the series 90(1991 i think?) any different?

I'd like to know more about the current production Colt Commanders. Are the new production Commanders any good? Are they even available?

December 3, 2008, 06:12 AM
Basically I'd like to know if the SA Mil-Spec is a worthy platform if I'm going for an accurate shooting, top notch 1911 as my end result after it's all said and done. It is. Just ask Ted Yost.

Can I get a similar finish done to a stainless steel SA Mil-Spec? Do you get good results from blueing stainless steel when compared to regular carbon steel? You can't blue stainless steel.

Read this. Choosing Your First 1911 (http://xavierthoughts.blogspot.com/2008/07/choosing-your-first-1911.html)

December 3, 2008, 07:49 AM
1911 makers can be inconsistent. Each pistol is different and should be inspected and of course shot before any work is considered IMO. I had a stock SA Mil-Spec that was one of the most accurate 1911's I've ever had. Shoulda kept it. I've also had stock Colts that were terribly inaccurate.

December 3, 2008, 07:58 AM
I have been shooting 1911s for a long long time and have owned pretty Colts, Kimbers, Springfields, and S&W's.

I have had excellent success with Colt and S&W. I would not buy another Kimber or Springfield. They are just too likely not to run out of the box. I base this on owning 4 or 5 Kimbers and 3 or 4 Springfields. I also, there is no customer service on the planet worse then Kimber, and Springfield is only a little better.

When all things are considered, I still consider Colt the best. It will also have the best resale value if you decide to get rid of it. I think S&W is about 99.9% as good as Colt, the main differnce being their resale value is usually not as good. S&W has outstanding customer service.

December 3, 2008, 08:38 AM
I currently have a Springfield 1911, full size with the loaded package. It's been very good to me with maybe one or two jams in a few thousand rounds.

Prior to that I had a Compact Loaded which treated me just as well.

The loaded package is a really good deal with most of the bells an whistles of the "modern" 1911's including night sights.

It's more than your budget, but I shot a fellows Springfield TRP at the range a few months ago. I initially thought it wouldn't offer much of an improvement compared to the extra price. I reassessed quickly after firing it a bit. Accuracy seemed much better, the extra checkering gave a much better grip, trigger pull was much better (though mine isn't waht I'd consider bad). If you can spend the extra $$$$ get one. I doubt you'll be sorry.

Kimbers are supposed to be really good, but have only fired one. Didn't really feel any different than my Springfield. I've had several people tell me the stock magazines stink, so you'd have to figure in the cost of two new mags as well. One other thing to consider if it is to be a carry gun. Kimber has a 500 round break in period due to tighter fit. Many have problems during that period which seem to fix themselves towards the middle or end of the break in. Also, they recommend sticking with 230 grain FMJ during that period. When you add in a 200 round shakedown with a carry load to make sure it functions with it, that's 700 rounds before it's carry ready. Not that firing 700 rounds through a new gun is really a hardship. ;)

December 3, 2008, 09:03 AM
I will tell you I have only 1 1911 with a bull barrel. Unless Springfield has changed their guiderods to include the little hole to insert a "takedown tool" to hold back the recoil spring retainer, bull barrels can be a PITA to reassemble after a simple field strip. Another reason I am not a fan of bull barrels is the fact there is no bushing. As the barrel wears, the only way to regain the tight frame to barrel fit (where accuracy in a semi-auto is really achieved) is to have a new barrel fit. With a bushing, you simply need to make a new bushing with a smaller ID to fit your barrel, if the fit loosens.

If you want a bullseye-style 1911, $1 000 is probably just a starting point. Most of these guns will outshoot the user out of the box unless there is something terribly wrong with it. You should "baseline" the gun before making any modifications, and then modify only one part at a time and re-test. Kitchen table gunsmithing has ruined many a fine gun and the 1911 is no exception.

Most of the problems with failures to feed or failures to return to battery are caused by magazines. Try a few out with whatever pistol you choose before you commit to a single brand, Wilsons are good, as are Tripp (my favorite). Ammo is another factor.

December 3, 2008, 09:28 AM
What about some of the STI pistols? I think they have some nice single stacks. And they meet your budget

December 3, 2008, 09:39 AM
Do yourself a favor and checkout Dan Wesson.

December 3, 2008, 10:13 AM
Another recommendation to check out Dan Wesson.

December 3, 2008, 11:32 AM
I can give you no serious advice as I am way too new at this. I will say, however, that I am in love with my Kimber Ultra Crimson Carry II. Or maybe it's lust, it's still too soon to tell. But I'm guessing love. :p

December 3, 2008, 12:10 PM
Please check out the Dan Wesson but be prepared. It is a very tight gun compared to my rattle trap SA.
I bought A NIB PM 7 and it wouldn't feed anything including the WWB 230 HB like the Dan Wesson gunsmith claimed it would. "Send it in for a Fluff and Buff", he said. I didn't spend $900.00 on a match grade pistol that needs a "fluff and buff". The pistol is with my local gunsmith having extractor work and the new fire control parts tuned. I have a 460 Rowland kit enroute for this pistol as I intend to use it for hunting critters.
My carry pistol is a SA mil-spec loaded model. I was disappointed that the catolog does not show one gun as being made in Brazil and my $860.00 pistol (2006 model) clearly is a Brazilian product. I clearly wanted a made in USA product. The slide is not at all tight and hangs over the back of the frame by 1.5 mm and the rear starboard side of the grip frame is machined in 2mm more than the port side. However, it has fed and shot all .45 acp I have tried including my 200 grain XTP 1000 fps loads.
I have "unloaded" both guns as I can't stand stand all that, memory groove-beavertail, super-duper safety, hammer and trigger junk. I don't know how anyone properly works the hammer with a big fat beaver tail in the way.
I purchased the SA for the night sites and the DW for the adjustable sights and because it is SS. Both pistols now have spur hammers, GI grip safeties, GI short triggers and arched grooved mainspring housings.
This long winded reply is just to show no matter what you end up purchasing, you may have issues and the pistol may need work.

December 3, 2008, 12:14 PM
I recommend a brand new Colt Series 70 Reissue. Amazing pistol! Bud's usually has them in stock.

December 3, 2008, 02:32 PM
I would buy a Colt, a Kimber, a Springfield, a Dan Wesson, or a S&W 1911 without reservation. No particular order. I have all but a Smith, and only passed up a couple of deals on them because some years ago when I found a 5" all steel S&W I was broke. :banghead:, and recently because I did not need another L/W 4" 1911.

December 3, 2008, 05:33 PM
I agree with a couple of others who recommend looking at the Dan Wesson. Their 1911's are a WHOLE lot of 1911 for the money. I picked up a very slightly blemished NIB Commander Bobtail for something like $740 recently. It's a fantastic 1911. Completely reliable, tight as a drum and feeds anything.

I also have a SA Loaded Stainless (Brazilian frame). Nice pistol, but for similar money, the DW is a whole lot nicer. The fit and finish on the DW is worlds better, too.

December 3, 2008, 05:39 PM
To save a few bucks and still get an amazing pistol...
Look into a Rock Island Match or an STI Spartan.
VERY good bang for the buck.


December 3, 2008, 05:56 PM
Please check out the Dan Wesson but be prepared. It is a very tight gun compared to my rattle trap SA.

I agree, I had the same problem and worse with my first DW. They took it backed and fixed it and it is flawless now, but I heard of too many of the same type of incidents. While their guns are mostly great and they have great warranty service, I think they have some quality control issues to work through.

That said, yes, you should check them out.

December 4, 2008, 03:24 AM
Wow, lots of replies here...thanks to everyone for that.

It looks like I have lots of options to choose from. And I definitely know a thing or two about poor quality control...Kahr schooled me on that with my pm9:)

After reading all of that, I'm tempted to just buy a series 90 (1991) NRM Colt Commander new from Buds, and worry about customizing it later after I'm familiar with shooting it. I would eventually like to get the ejection port flared, 30lpi checkering on the front strap, and the slide cut for Heinie Slant Pro Straight-8s. Approximately how much would all of this, plus a decent re-finish cost?

I personally like the idea of a bushing, and really like the 4.25" barrel length, so a Colt Commander seems perfect to start out with. Plus I like the fact that it's made in America. I usually don't mind buying foreign handguns (i own glock and h&k), but I think it's only right that my first 1911 is made in the U.S. of A. So no Springfield for me..

I'm thinking to go with the blued version from Buds..$777 shipped + FFL transfer fee. The stainless is about $75 more and I don't like the fact that I can't blue it later on if I want to. I also don't have a thing for the two-tone stainless look (polished flats/matte elsewhere). On the other hand, I can appreciate a nice matte hard-chrome finish.

What finish options are available for stainless steel?

Btw, I'm really enjoying this whole 1911 learning process and I appreciate all of your help!

December 4, 2008, 03:45 AM
Not sure about hard chroming stainless on a pistol -- I've seen it done on marine hardware so I suspect it is possible if that's what you want. As for 1911, I still prefer the feel of Colt.

December 4, 2008, 03:51 AM
If you look real hard, you might find a new Rock Island Armory 1911 GM for $300. Its a plain jane stock 1911 that functions just fine. Nothing fancy about it BUT its a great cheap way to learn with a 1911. You can detail strip it with the confidence that you aren't gonna screw up a $1000 gun. When you get the itch to hack on or modify your gun, its an excellent pistol to practice on.

December 4, 2008, 03:51 AM
Not sure about hard chroming stainless on a pistol -- I've seen it done on marine hardware so I suspect it is possible if that's what you want. As for 1911, I still prefer the feel of Colt.I'm not sure if that's what I want. I'm just trying to get a feel for the options I'd have if I were to go with a stainless gun and end up getting sick of the finish later on down the road.

Does colt us a FLGR in any of their series 80/90 guns?

December 4, 2008, 10:09 AM
I know my Colts XSE's came with the FLGR. I believe the new rollmark series 1991 has a standard length guide rod.

December 5, 2008, 03:54 AM
I know my Colts XSE's came with the FLGR. I believe the new rollmark series 1991 has a standard length guide rod.Yes, it does. I know this because I bought one today!!!

After only a few days of making this thread, I decided to go with a blued 1991 NRM commander. It's funny how it happened actually. I drove an hour to take my girlfriend to lunch at this japanese steakhouse we like, and I simply suggested that we stop by this small gun shop that usually has a huge selection of handguns to choose from. Turns out they had TWO NIB blued-finish 1991 NRM commanders, and a stainless one too! I was only interested in a blued one though..

One of the two was noticeably better-made than the other. I took the better one:) The other LOOKED exactly the same, but upon further inspection I noticed the frame/slide fit was much looser, and there were at least two obvious flat spots on the barrel! The gun was a rattling machine. The Colt gunsmith that made that one did a poor job, and IMO the gun shouldn't have left the factory. Unacceptable..but at least the one I chose was excellent!!

The frame/slide is snug and doesn't rattle at all when I shake the gun around in my hand, but it still has a good amount of play to it when you shift the frame side to side manually. The barrel seems to be fitted nicely with no blemishes. It is exactly what I was hoping to find. I can't wait to shoot this puppy! I think it will be a success, but I can't jinx myself here. Wish me luck!





December 5, 2008, 04:10 AM
The guns in the last pic with my new Colt Commander are my USPc40, glock 19, and my Ruger LCP. I haven't had a single hiccup with any of these guns, but the LCP is going back to Ruger anyways for the recall upgrades. (anybody know why it's been at least 3-4 weeks and I haven't received my shipping envelope from Ruger???) I love all my guns equally. However, if I had to choose any of these guns as my only handgun, it would without a doubt be the Glock 19.

Also, I don't plan on clean/lubing my new Colt before taking it out for the first time. I'm curious to see how it will perform out of the box with some WWB 230g ammo. I'm just so glad that I went with a Colt for my first 1911! Let's hope I still think that after the first range trip.

For those wondering how much I paid... The pricetag on it was $899+tax, but I didn't pay that. The stainless version was the same exact price as the blued version. I let them know that their price MIGHT have been fair for the stainless, but the blued version should be at least $50 dollars cheaper. I told them I'd give them $850 OTD. The guy in charge said he could do $850+tax, so I said it was a deal as long as I got a free box of ammo with it. So basically I ended up paying $895 OTD for the gun after I factor in the free ammo. I realize this is around $50-$75 more than I should have paid, but I just had to take it while it was in front of me!

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