Best starter 1911 for around $500-$650?


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danlee36
August 26, 2009, 07:33 AM
Hey all,

After reading so much on the forum I finally registered and now I have a question of my own. I searched for some of the previous threads posting this question but prices and supply fluctuates so damn much these days.

So, I'm in the market for my first 1911 and I've been doing tons of research on a good starter 1911. I'm basically torn between a Springfield Mil-Spec stainless and a Rock Island tactical stainless. I like the classic look of the mil-spec and am hoping to upgrade to a beavertail, skeleton hammer and skeleton trigger. Does anyone have an idea how much those three upgrades would cost? Or where to find a decent priced Springer mil-spec? Thanks! Any input on a first 1911 with either simple tactical upgrades or a vanilla stainless I can upgrade for less than an arm and a leg would be helpful!

-Dan

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LancerMW
August 26, 2009, 08:30 AM
out of those 2 id go Springer. if you look around you can get yourself an STI Spartan which is an amazing 1911 esspesally for the price

benderx4
August 26, 2009, 09:00 AM
No doubt - Springer Mil-Spec. Been there, done that.

farscott
August 26, 2009, 01:17 PM
... and am hoping to upgrade to a beavertail, skeleton hammer and skeleton trigger.Try a STI Spartan. It comes with all of those features and has a $699 MSRP. It is basically an Armscor slide and frame with STI fire-control parts and a beaverail.

Try www.stiguns.com/guns/Spartan/Spartan.html

shooter1
August 26, 2009, 02:28 PM
A lot of 1911 first timers buy the Mil Spec pistols. If they are shooters, most want to upgrade to better sights, hammer, and beaver tail at a minimum. By doing this they have as much or more invested in the gun that already has these amenities. Go with something range ready. The Spartan, Springfield Loaded, and the Taurus PT1911 all have these features. All good guns. Haven't owned a Spartan, but know a couple of guys who own them. They speak highly of them. I still own a half dozen 1911s more expensive than these. None are a better value for the money. Paid under $500 otd for the Taurus. Best $500 1911 I've owned. I reluctantly traded for a problematic RIA Tactical. I think I have it where it will run now. Gotta get out and test it. Many swear by the RIA, My experience has not been good. But it's the cheapest way to get into a 1911 with the basic amenities. Good luck! May your experience be a good one.
str1

danlee36
August 26, 2009, 04:12 PM
Thanks, seems like STI is pretty popular. Does it come in stainless or just the standard gov't style?

danlee36
August 26, 2009, 04:19 PM
Is changing out the trigger, grip safety to beavertail, and hammer, pretty difficult? Or would I HAVE to go to a gunsmith for it?

sarduy
August 26, 2009, 04:21 PM
Best starter 1911 for around $500-$650?

i would recommend you the Rock Island Tactical

http://inlinethumb50.webshots.com/30513/2417432920095461090S425x425Q85.jpg (http://news.webshots.com/photo/2417432920095461090TIBQeZ)

shameless
August 26, 2009, 04:22 PM
For the price, Rock Island Tactical for sure.

I have a couple, and love them. They eat anything I feed them without
a hic-cup.

1KPerDay
August 26, 2009, 04:24 PM
I thought Rock Island wasn't making 1911s anymore.

rondog
August 26, 2009, 04:32 PM
RIA Tactical, without a doubt. But FYI, it's not stainless, it's a brushed/satin nickel plate finish. Put some pretty grips on it and you're set!

http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b150/rinselman/guns/RIATacticalsatin01.jpg

http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b150/rinselman/guns/RIATacticalsatin02.jpg

rondog
August 26, 2009, 04:33 PM
I thought Rock Island wasn't making 1911s anymore.

RIA's are actually made by Armscor, same as the High Standard 1911's, some frames for STI, and formerly the Charles Daly 1911's.

Schleprok62
August 26, 2009, 05:12 PM
rondog, I think that RIA looks pretty darn sexy as it is in the photos...

rondog
August 26, 2009, 05:46 PM
Yeah, I'm just not a fan of the rubber grips.

shooter1
August 26, 2009, 06:39 PM
Is changing out the trigger, grip safety to beavertail, and hammer, pretty difficult? Or would I HAVE to go to a gunsmith for it?

All pretty basic if you don't have to do a lot of fitting. I'd go ahead and buy the hammer with the matching sear and disconnector. The grip safety often requires the most fitting of the parts mentioned. A jig is available from Brownell's for that purpose. It'd hardly be worth it tho for just one job. I'm sure you could get a "Drop In" to work to your satisfaction. There's lots of information and "How To" videos out there to learn from. Good luck!
str1

Doogledog
August 26, 2009, 06:48 PM
I figured it out. I bought a bare bones SA at a gun show and studied how to fix it up. I am not a gun smith but if you check out some of the old threads here you can find a lot of info on how to change all that stuff. I would however recomend you get what you want without having to do all that work on it. I did it because I just wanted to learn as much as possible about how the 1911 works and I just like tinkering with stuff.

DHJenkins
August 26, 2009, 06:49 PM
PM waterhouse for an STI Spartan. He's an authorized dealer for STI and got me mine for WELL under the MSRP.

Barrel lock-up is fantastic, trigger is a crisp 4lbs with minimal creep, and frame/slide fit is very nice.

Here's what it looks like now:

http://img229.imageshack.us/img229/9113/spartangreen.jpg

A THR member did the color work, and the grips are VZ gatorbacks.

atomd
August 26, 2009, 07:49 PM
If you're planning on upgrading it, you should just buy the gun that has the stuff on it that you already want. It's a lot less $. Trust me, unless you're building a high dollar full custom 1911 you don't want to be paying a gunsmith to fit a whole bunch of parts onto a $450 gun. What you end up with is a gun that is still worth $450 but you spent twice that on.

Now, if you are looking for an inexpensive pistol that you want to tinker with and you are comfortable with fitting new parts and customizing it yourself, go right ahead and get a base model and tinker away. I say go for something like the STI spartan or search for a deal on a SA Loaded. They are the guns that already have the features that you want, but won't cost an arm and a leg.

goofy grape
August 26, 2009, 08:03 PM
I've never fired a Rock Island so I can't offer any advice on that piece. I have owned a Llama, aka Firestorm and would advise to stay away from that piece of junk. I have a SA GI .45 and it's performed flawlessly. I've had it for years and for a starter pistol it's great. If you want the white dot or night sights you're going to pay a little more, so be prepared. There are many pistols out there that might suit you. I'm in Law Enforcement and my agency carries Glocks. A nice model 23 .40 S&W carries about the same ballistics as a .45 but a little more velocity. I wasn't a fan of Glock until I actually fired one and now I love them. Never had an accidental discharge and they'll perform great even in the rain and haven't been cleaned in a few weeks.

m2steven
August 26, 2009, 09:36 PM
I'd recommend any of those mentioned, and I can second the Taurus 1911. It's functionally a very good piece of work. There IS a small problem with some of the ambidextrous safetys breaking off, but apparently you can get a wilson combat replacment for very cheap and be done with that.

Oro
August 27, 2009, 12:40 AM
For $500 to $650, get a used Colt - a Series 70 (hard to find in that price range), or a late model (post 2000) 1991 80 Series. Great quality, great reliability. I've bought maybe three in that price range the last few years, two in the last year. You can find barely shot, like-new late model 1991s all the time in that range.

CZ223
August 27, 2009, 12:49 AM
about my Taurus 1911. Over 1800 rounds through it with only 3 failure to feeds all of which were were bad reloads. If I were yo buy another budget 1911 it would either be another Taurus or the RIA tactical. I like the bells and whistles. Plain jane guns with skimpy sights don't do it for me. Replacing a lot of parts on a new gun is expensive. The STI spartan also has a lot going for it. If you want plain Jane I might also suggest the Para GI.

goofy grape
August 27, 2009, 02:22 AM
That's a lot of positive comments for the Taurus. I might have to try one out. I do like the ambidextrous safety. Being a lefty is very inconvenient at times. How does the PT1911 do with +P ammunition? I know it won't be fed box after box but some pistols don't like those hot rounds.

wickedsprint
August 27, 2009, 02:40 AM
For less than a C note above your price you can get a new Colt.

If your price is a hard set price, I'd strongly reccomend a Springfield GI.

danlee36
August 27, 2009, 02:50 AM
Thanks for all the info, the only reason I'd want a vanilla mil-spec or something is so I could make a project out of it and learn to upgrade it, but I guess if it's going to cost me so much maybe I'm better off going with a basic upgraded one.

Also, my local gun shop dealer has a used Kimber Stainless TLE II he wants to sell me for $899, exactly HOW good of a deal is that? It's listed at the store for $1099, so he's knockin off $200. I'd say about 200 rounds have gone thru it and it shows a little bit of wear and tiny rust spots mostly from carrying I think. any thoughts? should I just go for it at that price?

STI Spartans don't come in stainless do they :( I'm hard set on getting a stainless or nickel 1911

goofy grape
August 27, 2009, 04:32 AM
Nickle or Stainless are great rust resisters but they also stick out like a sore thumb at night. The black matte, or parkerized are just as rust or pit resistant and hard to see in the dark. Always keep the bad guy guessing. Kimber makes a good pistol but the reviews about Taurus' and others are good too. You're set on a 1911? There are other choices out there.

skeeter_08
August 27, 2009, 07:35 AM
JMHO, but I have a Springfield Loaded 9mm and an SW1911 .45 ACP; I like them both and can recommend either, but I feel the SW1911 is a better gun - skeeter_08

danlee36
August 27, 2009, 07:46 AM
I've heard of heavy triggers on the Springfield Loaded series but then again triggers feel different to each individual. I already have a SW 686, so I'm set on a 1911 for sure and have been trying to find the right one for awhile. The look of the stainless 1911 is just a classic piece I want I suppose :) the fine balance between function and visual aesthetic. I also hear the SW1911 is comparable to Kimbers, not sure if that's true though.

NGIB
August 27, 2009, 08:07 AM
Have both a S&W stainless 1911 and a 1st series Kimber. The S&W is a fine shooting 1911. Some "purists" balk at the use of an external extractor; however, S&W got this right unlike the Kimber attempt. I consider the S&W 1911 at least on par with the Springer Loaded's (I've had a pair of these as well).

DHJenkins
August 27, 2009, 09:58 AM
I'd just like to add, STI's customer service beats the pants off both Kimber & Taurus (and there are plenty of threads to back me up on that) should you ever have a problem with your new toy.

When I bought my Spartan (my first 1911), that was a very large consideration.

Thomas Garrett
August 27, 2009, 11:13 AM
Rock Islands are now being sold under the Citidel label. Same pistol different name on the slide.

HexHead
August 27, 2009, 11:17 AM
+1 on the used Colt, otherwise the new Para GI Expert is in that price range and is nicely fitted out.

JTQ
August 27, 2009, 12:03 PM
It is a good recommendation to buy what you want up front, since it will cost time and money to make the upgrades later. It is almost always cheaper and faster to get what you want from the factory, and it will be done by experts. However, if you are looking for an opportunity do some experimental gunsmithing then that is a different question.

The Rock Island Tactical has all the mods you want, but I don't think it comes in stainless. In general, I like stainless guns. I have an S&W 686 and S&W 4506 both in stainless. I also have a Colt 1911 Combat Elite with stainless frame and blue slide. I would rather the Colt were all blue since, to me, blue looks better on 1911's.

Rock Island and Springfield both have very good customer service reputations, as do S&W and STI. The $899 for the used Kimber is high. The TLE II is near the baseline model in the Kimber lineup. I'd easily recommend spending an extra $200 for a gun with no rust.

Rock Island and the STI Spartan both have the major parts (frame, slide, and barrel) made by the same company, Armscor, in the Philippines. Armscor has an excellent reputation, just know what you are buying. STI does have other pistols in their line-up that are completely made in Texas if that makes a difference to you. One thing to think about with the STI Spartan is that it comes with an adjustable site which has a different cut on the slide than the fixed sites. It is a big advantage to some users, but "most" 1911's don't come with an adjustable site which will limit your options down the road if you don't like them and want to change them out.

Another thing to consider is whether you want a firing pin safety (FPS) or not. Most "modern" pistols have a firing pin safety, but not all 1911's have them. Many 1911 fans refuse to own a 1911 with the firing pin safety. The RIA, Springfield, and STI don't have a FPS, while S&W and Kimber both have a FPS. Interestingly, each of of their FPS designs are unique in the 1911 world. Most other manufactures using a FPS, use the Colt Series 80 design.

There are many nice 1911's out there and many quality 1911 manufacturers. However, while they are all 1911's, there are also many different features used by the different manufactures. Some have FPS, some have full length guide rods, some have ramped barrels, some have bulled barrels, some have external extractors. You need to make sure you know what you are buying and whether those are the features you want.

1KPerDay wrote
I thought Rock Island wasn't making 1911s anymore.
I believe you are thinking about Rock River Arms which suspended 1911 manufacturing about a year ago to concentrate on AR production.

Jim

danlee36
August 27, 2009, 03:50 PM
Thanks Jim, that's very helpful. There's so much to consider when buying your first 1911

rondog
August 27, 2009, 07:13 PM
Rock Islands are now being sold under the Citidel label. Same pistol different name on the slide.

Can you offer a source, or some kind of proof of that? Are you sure Citadel isn't just another brand name being made by Armscor? I haven't heard of the Rock Island Armory brand changing names.

jmr40
August 27, 2009, 08:19 PM
I think you are on the right track with the Spring field Mil-Spec. It is a good quality, no frills, $500 gun that can be foundation for a great custom as time and funds permit. Some of the others such as the Taurus and Rock Island are really $350 guns with some of the extras already added to bring the price up to $500.

shooter1
August 27, 2009, 09:23 PM
I think you are on the right track with the Spring field Mil-Spec. It is a good quality, no frills, $500 gun that can be foundation for a great custom as time and funds permit. Some of the others such as the Taurus and Rock Island are really $350 guns with some of the extras already added to bring the price up to $500.

It's true that the Mil Spec Springer is a good base pistol if that's what you want. I own the Loaded model Springfield stainless. Great gun! I also own the Taurus PT1911 and a RIA Tactical among half a dozen more expensive 1911s. While it's true the RIA is a $350 gun, it's a better deal for a shooter than the Mil Spec due to the better sights, trigger and beavertail. The Taurus is every bit as good as my Loaded Springfield, and a couple hundred dollars less. Lots of first time 1911 buyers think they want a mil spec pistol. If they shoot it much they find that the tiny sights are hard to see and the web of their hand takes a beating due to the lack of an extended beavertail. By the time they get around to replacing these parts, they could have bought a pistol with all these amenities for less. I guess for someone who only kills rocks and beer cans, and fires a couple hundred rounds a year, the base 1911 would be ok. Just my opinion,------FWIW !
str1

TXHORNS
August 27, 2009, 09:39 PM
STI Spartan or if you really want stainless get a used Springer Loaded. You can easily find one for $700 in great shape. It will be harder to get one for $600 but its possible. Check out gunbroker, there are tons on there right now close to your price range.

Try to buy the gun that is most like what you want to end up with. Its by far the cheapest way. Upgrading is expensive.

PCGS65
August 27, 2009, 10:22 PM
This thread is a good read. I too just purchased my first 1911. But I'm already thinking about a 2nd.

With some research for just plinking 4-5 times a year I went with the RIA 1911A1 parkerized for $400 shipped to my FFL.

I was eyeballing a nice SW 1911 SS at the local dealer but $800 including tax was out of my range. It sounds like there's some nice Colts out there for that price. Maybe next year at income tax refund time.
One can never do too much research.

Thanks for the additional info guys!!

danlee36
August 28, 2009, 12:08 AM
Ah these price quotes are killing me, you guys are talking about $350 to $500 for some of these and I can't find, for example a springfield mil-spec for less than $625. and the RIA tactical I couldn't find for less than $520. Am I missing something? After reading everyones responses on how much money it could cost upgrading my own mil-spec and potentially botching the job, maybe I'll just fork out the extra cash for a Kimber. Now only if I could find a decent priced TLE II..

goofy grape
August 28, 2009, 01:12 AM
Danlee, Gunbroker.com has Paraordnance GI Expert listed. One was $500. Para makes a darn great 1911 too. Not sure if you've ever been on there or not, but on the left hand side, click on the words Semi-auto pistol, then go to the blank search box up top and enter GI Expert, or any other model 1911 you want to look at.

Oro
August 28, 2009, 01:15 AM
I'd say about 200 rounds have gone thru it and it shows a little bit of wear and tiny rust spots mostly from carrying I think. any thoughts? should I just go for it at that price?

75% or 80% of retail is a good rule of thumb for like-new, and barely used guns. That would be $825 to $880, so he's almost there. But the rust spots are troubling - I've heard on boards that this is a real problem with late model Kimbers and you have to consider if you want to buy into that potential problem.

If that's your price range, maybe consider also a new Colt XSE. Well outfitted with features and I think the new street price is just under that.

TXHORNS
August 28, 2009, 01:52 PM
Keep in mind all gun prices have recently gone up. The prices you have seen are now the market price. Find a gun show if you want to save about 10% or do some haggling at the shops.

As far as adding to your 1911, its great but if you dont have a local gunsmith you trust, just the shipping to and from a good smith like Novak, will run you $50-$90.

Dont buy a Kimber for that price with rust either. I can get a brand new TLE for $900 at our shows and they are good guns. I used to want a TLE too but STI's middle end guns start at around $1000 so thats what Id prefer. If you really want a used Kimber find another one that is in better shape.

But for your needs I cannot stress enough the Springfield Loaded, new or used. Then you will have a great gun with all the options you want.

metallic
August 28, 2009, 04:55 PM
Also, my local gun shop dealer has a used Kimber Stainless TLE II he wants to sell me for $899, exactly HOW good of a deal is that? It's listed at the store for $1099, so he's knockin off $200. I'd say about 200 rounds have gone thru it and it shows a little bit of wear and tiny rust spots mostly from carrying I think. any thoughts? should I just go for it at that price?

I have a Pro TLE II that I paid $960 total for NIB. He's ripping you off, most dealers don't charge MSRP.

DHJenkins
August 28, 2009, 07:46 PM
Ah these price quotes are killing me, you guys are talking about $350 to $500 for some of these and I can't find, for example a springfield mil-spec for less than $625. and the RIA tactical I couldn't find for less than $520. Am I missing something? After reading everyones responses on how much money it could cost upgrading my own mil-spec and potentially botching the job, maybe I'll just fork out the extra cash for a Kimber. Now only if I could find a decent priced TLE II..

http://www.sarcoinc.com/8-10-09_pgsO-P.pdf

2nd page, on the right. RIA tactical - $449.99.

powwowell
August 29, 2009, 08:11 AM
The BIG problem with GI, mil spec, models is the sights. They suck. They are difficult to see. Eventually, you may find yourself always choosing another weapon for range shooting.

And, the beaver tail! Some people get bit by 1911s without beaver tails. If you are one of those, you won't like the GI models. It won't matter how much it costs.

I have two RIAs. The first was the mil spec model. Very dependable. I've never had a problem with it. But, it's not fun to shoot, because of the sights. The second is the tactical model. Wow! I can see the sights. I don't have to adjust my grip to protect the web of my hand. The trigger is way better, also. All for $50 more than the GI model.

I'm not saying that RIA is the best 1911 out there. But, I do believe it's the best value.

Quoheleth
August 29, 2009, 08:38 AM
I would suggest do the math.

GI MilSpec (or other base model) plus beavertail (@$50), 'smth labor to have beavertail fitted ($75-125, depending), hammer (@40), trigger ($50), 'smith labor to fit trigger if needed ($30).

You've just added $200 to your "inexpensive" gun. Yes, you can stretch it out and do it piecemeal, but most 'smiths I talked to give a break on labor if you do it at one time.

I bought a Springfield WWII-style GI (not mil-spec) for $400. Wanted to get back into the 1911 game and see if I liked it, before dropping heavier money against a NIB. Didn't take me long to realize that just adding a needed ambi-thumb-safety and beavertail with corresponding hammer, I had almost added 60% to my original cost. While the Springfields make great bases for build-ups, I decided to sell it (got my $400 back) and roll it into a stainless Springer Loaded. I regret selling the GI, just to have a "beater" 1911. I do not regret selling the Gi b/c I got a Schweet gun in its place. I thought I might be able to do the build-up myself, but then again...plus, I didn't have any tools for fitting the parts (i.e., gunsmith-grade screwdrivers, stones, etc.). So, I decided to pay someone, should it become necessaary.

Q

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