Accuracy:1911 vs. S&W Revolver?


August 24, 2011, 01:57 PM
Are the high end 1911s (les baer, kimber, etc) more accurate than revolvers, specifically a S&W 686 or 629?

I hear a lot of people claim that their 1911 is the most accurate handgun they own, but not many of them say what size of groups they get. I've read a lot of folks claiming 2" and 3" groups at 100yds with revolvers though, which is quite impressive for a handgun.

I know most of the common revolver calibers will shoot flatter at long range than a .45acp will, due to the .45acp being all fat and slow and whatnot, but what about shorter distances where bullet drop isn't as big of a deal? How about the 1911s in high velocity calibers like 10mm and 9x25dillon? Will those hang in there with revolvers at long range?

Basically I want to know if the 1911 design is inherently more accurate than a S&W revolver.

I'd like to hear what size of groups some of you are getting too.

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August 24, 2011, 02:08 PM
Basically I want to know if the 1911 design is inherently more accurate than a S&W revolver.


Revolver vs automatic. Automatic vs revolver. They are both simply platforms for sending a piece of metal spinning out of a tube at high speeds.

There is nothing inherent in the design that makes either "more accurate." Will simply come down to what each individual happens to shoot better.

If you want to compare cartridge characteristics, that's another can of worms entirely.

August 24, 2011, 02:15 PM
If shot in single action there is no accuracy difference between the two.The double action trigger pull of most revolvers in unexperianced hands is what gives the 1911 the advantage the shooter is what limits the gun.As far as long range shooting the 45acp out of a 5 inch barrel doesn't shoot that as well as say a 357 or 44 out of a revolver.To directly answer your question at short distance the 1911 with its single action only trigger is capable of better accuracy simply because it takes less practice to shoot well.At long ranges 100 to 200 yards I shoot a 454 cassul with a 7inch barrel at 100 i'm getting 2 in groups on a rest at 200 it widens to a 4 inch both good enough to kill a deer.

August 24, 2011, 02:25 PM
Basically I want to know if the 1911 design is inherently more accurate than a S&W revolver.

The answer to that question is no. The 1911 was designed as a combat sidearm. Reliability and strength were emphasized with accuracy being on a par with other combat sidearms of the time that the gun was introduced. But one of the strengths of the design was it's adaptability and gunsmiths soon found they could tune the 1911 up to an excellent target gun.

So, some 1911s will be more accurate than some revolvers. The reverse is also true. In terms of accuracy, with a quality gun and good ammo, the difference will be with the shooter. This latter is especially true today with so many makers of 1911s.


Frank Ettin
August 24, 2011, 02:27 PM
It's going to largely be a matter of the individual gun. In a revolver, mechanical accuracy will principally be a function of the precision with which the forcing cone is cut and how true and consistent the alignment of each chamber is with the forcing cone.

In an auto-loader, mechanical accuracy will principally be a function of how well and consistently the barrel locks and aligns to the slide after each cycle.

August 24, 2011, 03:55 PM
Are we talking high end guns here? I think a properly fit 1911, built for bullseye, can do 2" @ 50 yards. I think a custom built revolver, buitl on the one's mentioned, CAN do that, but the average for a STOCK gun would be not as accurate. If you spend the money on either, and have a competent gunsmith & quality parts, they most likely would be equal. Before custom fitting for accuracy, it would be a crapshoot between the two, with both revolver and autos rendering a few, if not more, guns that just don't do well, or up to a standard of 4" @ 50 yads (machine rest).

August 24, 2011, 04:11 PM
Are the high end 1911s (les baer, kimber, etc) more accurate than revolvers, specifically a S&W 686 or 629?...

...Basically I want to know if the 1911 design is inherently more accurate than a S&W revolver.
These are not the same questions

Before you can solicit an accurate answer, I think you'll have to better define your question.

1. Are we talking about stock 1911's?
a) Out of the box?
b) Did you want to know about high end production 1911s, like the Les Baer or did you also want to include the Kimber offerings?

2. Did you only want a comparison with the S&W L-frame and N-frame...just a regular production model?

3. Did you want to compare the inherent accuracy potential of the two designs?

4. How do you measure accuracy?
a) What distance?
b) How many shots?
c) Handheld, supported or in a rest?

Answering question #1,
1. Highend production 1911, like a Les Baer
2. Compared to a production 686 or 629
3. At 50 yards...anything shorter really limits comparison
4. Handheld, but shooting off a rest (sandbags)
5. 5 shot group

My experience has been that the Baer will be more accurate...shooting inside 1.5" (a custom 1911 can shoot tighter)...if for no other reason than the smaller variations of the slide returning to lockup more consistently than that of all 5 chambers of a revolver lining up exactly the same with the forcing cone

August 24, 2011, 04:28 PM
I've owned several match handguns and at 50 yards it is hard to beat a 1911 yet it can be done but at 100 or further the newer CNC produced revolvers take the lead due to more powerful cartridges and equal tolerances.

August 24, 2011, 04:33 PM
S&W.....there is NO substitute.:cool:

August 24, 2011, 05:19 PM
? WHY are we comparing 600-800 dollar revolver against custom built 1911's?
Les Baer has a 1.5" guarantee at 50 yards.

His guns are between 2500-3000 dollars with that level of accuracy.

If you want comparable accuracy out of a revolver, spend comparable money.

1.5 inches at 25 yards is pretty good for a stock revolver.
.75" at 25 yards. My guess is that probably equals the 1.5 inch at 50 yards Baer gets, but, with a much cheaper gun. If you look at the chart in this article, it clearly shows how picky guns are, accuracy wise. Some loads just flat out shoot, others don't.

However, I suspect that Gunblast gets guns that are already tuned, or tested, prior to his getting his hands on them.

If you want a REALLY accurate revolver:

3/8" with a .475 diameter bullet is incredible, and, a short barrel

August 24, 2011, 05:34 PM
It takes a properly built $2000 1911 to shoot as well as your average $500 revolver.

August 24, 2011, 05:44 PM
It takes a properly built $2000 1911 to shoot as well as your average $500 revolver.


Generally I'd say most S&W revolvers will out shoot most 1911's. Especially the inexpensive models. Once you get into the upper end 1911's it is probably an even race, but I've got a couple of S&W 1911's that are a virtual tie with my S&W revolvers. There may be better 1911's, but these 2 are the best I've owned.

August 24, 2011, 06:14 PM

Do you have more information to back that up? I'm not trying to be combative, but the little I know about Ruger production techniques used to create accuracy variations depending on where in the production run the gun was.

1911's: My experience has been buy a gun with an excellent barrel, decent frame, and you can tune the rest of it to work. As far as a production gun, I found the Kimber Custom II at 700 dollars VERY accurate.

I really can't comment on the S&W revolvers, and how they are produced now, since the one I own has too many factors that make it super inaccurate, starting with a factory 16 pound plus trigger pull, on a 1000 dollar gun.

That said , I'm sure the revolvers mentioned here are more accurate then mine is. How have new production techniques and materials by S&W effected your chances of getting an accurate revolver stock, from them?

August 24, 2011, 07:12 PM
OK, years ago I worked for a shop that did custom work on S&W revolvers and 1911 and we had a Ransom Rest and we used the hell out of that thing. Either type of gun can be just as accurate if a good barrel is used. (and good ammunition) I am very happy shooting revos and 1911s and all of mine will drill the X out of a traget if I do my part. There are, however, poor examples of both types out there. Lots.

August 24, 2011, 07:40 PM

It, to me, is about the trigger. I believe the straight pull of the 1911 design is easier to master for most folks. But since I finally learned how to master a revolver's DA trigger, one I tuned, it's a "dead heat" for me. I can shoot similar groups at like ranges from either.

Master that trigger and either platform will satisfy!


August 24, 2011, 07:48 PM
Just food for thought. DA shot SA,and SA revolvers are some of the best triggers on the planet. So are 1911's.

August 24, 2011, 08:04 PM
I did test a Baer bullseye gun to a S&W 14 in a ransom rest.
The 14 shot around 1.5" groups at 50 yards and the Baer shot around 2".

The test told us nothing.
They were both so close it didn't matter.
The Ransom rest could have been the difference, or the load.
Factory ammo was not used.

August 24, 2011, 08:52 PM
I'm talking about stock S&Ws compared to high end (maybe shouldn't have put kimber in the first post) 1911s.

The reason I ask this, is because a few weeks ago I was bicycling on some BLM roads with a 629 on the rear rack of my bike (I usually have the 629 or a G17 with me this time of year when it's not raining because they're better than the P32 I normally carry), and a dude driving by stopped and asked me directions. He noticed I had a gun, asked me what kind, and then spent the next ten minutes saying how S&Ws are basically garbage, and his fancy schmancy 1911 (think it was Ed Brown?) would shoot circles around my gun.

I've never owned or shot any 1911s other than a norinco and a firestorm, neither of which are even close to being "high end". I know 1911s are used to win all kinds of competitions and that people have no problem spending obscene amounts of money on them, but despite that, I still have a tough time believing that they could be THAT much more accurate than a revolver.

As far as comparing accuracy, I don't know how people test for ultimate handgun accuracy, but I would imagine it would be from a rest at 50 yards maybe?

And another thing, the guy told me his 1911 cost almost $3k, and after he showed it to me, it didn't look much better than a $350 RIA does, so maybe I'm just clueless altogether. Either way, the guy was a jerk.

August 25, 2011, 01:03 AM
As long as you compare apples to apples I would lean towards the S&W revolver. If you put equal amounts of money into each you are going to have a handgun that will probably out shoot your ability.

Real accuracy comes from years of practice with a single model whichever you end up preferring. I shoot better with revolvers, but the few revolvers I have are old Colts and PC Smiths.

August 25, 2011, 01:21 AM
The gunblast test I posted shows the effect on a gun you mentioned, and how ammo dependent that gun was to shoot accurately.

That said, your not Jeff Quinn, and your chances of buying an off the shelf gun that is tack driving accurate is just that, a bigger chance. When you buy an Ed Brown, you are buying the fact the gun has been tested, and, that it works and shoots VERY well.

August 25, 2011, 01:41 AM
Depends on the ammo and barrel length. Most revolvers can come with 8" barrels. That would make it more accurate than the 5" long slide I have seen on some 1911s, with the caveat that you are using the right ammo; for example using .357 instead of .38 ammo in that 686.

August 25, 2011, 03:17 AM
... a dude driving by stopped and asked me directions. He noticed I had a gun, asked me what kind, and then spent the next ten minutes saying how S&Ws are basically garbage, and his fancy schmancy 1911 (think it was Ed Brown?) would shoot circles around my gun.

Well first off the fella was rude. He asked you for directions, you gave them and he then belittled you. Seems to me that he gave you no reason to take anything he said about guns seriously and he mostly gave you reason to dismiss all that he said. So first thing, that is what I would do, forget what he said.

Folks have provided you with the answers you were looking for. Take it from there.

It is unfair, by the way to compare a semi custom 1911, like a Baer or a Brown, with a factory made, off the shelf, gun. But with that said it is the skill of the shooter that makes the difference.


August 25, 2011, 08:49 AM
My observation from watching individuals shoot at different venues accuracy is a mute point at spitting distances. Spitting distances are what I see most people shooting at. A revolver or semiautomatic pistol matters not at those distances it just takes a fraction longer to unload 7-or-8rds as opposed to 5-or-6rds in the direction of the target. I’m often reminded of this phrase “Their fast but they won’t last”.

NM Mountainman
August 25, 2011, 10:13 PM
From 1974 - 1999 I owned a S&W Model 19 with 4" barrel which was very accurate. It was a consistent performer at 50 yds, just about 1.4" for an average of 5 5-shot groups fired from a Ransom Rest with 148 gr HBWC in .357 brass and 140 JHP near max velocity. We tested it against several (8 IIRC) custom made target .45's during the 1980's. The S&W beat them all, but 2 of the .45's came very close (within .1")

For about 5 years, I used it in 2700 bullseye matches firing in the .22 cal, and the center fire (.38 cal) parts of the match only. ( I wasn't interested in owning or shooting semi-autos other than .22 or .45's at that time.) I came in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in the center fire portions in several state or local matches in Master's division, even though I had to thumb cock in SA rapid fire. I even fired 2 or 3 matches double action in rapid fire and did well. I also used it to compete in Hunter Sil (100 m. rams) with open sights against competitors using Contenders with scopes. I think my highest scores were 36x40 which I did 2 or 3 times. I never considered myself a serious competitor, but I had a lot of fun.

My 629 with 6.5" barrel will shoot about the same group size with 2x scope over sand bags on the bench, but in the last 10 years or so, I've seen 3 or 4 custom target .45's beat it.

August 26, 2011, 08:25 AM
Most of my revolvers with a barrel of 3" or longer are more accurate than my Dan Wesson PM7-S, which is no slouch in the 1911 department. An expensive 1911 costing twice as much as my most expensive revolver (or my DW) would probably be required to beat them. But expensive tuned revolver would probably be just as good too.

August 26, 2011, 11:46 AM
For me, it depends on the day. One day my GP-100 has a tighter group, and the next time the 1911 will take the honors. Th fact is that all the shots are in a vital area and if this were a critical situation I would do well with either firearm.

Bottom line -- the person holding the firearm is a greater factor than any inherent accuracy of the hardware (up to a point).

August 26, 2011, 03:33 PM
If you have to shoot the .45ACP with your hands in both weapons the 1911 will perform better due to a lower c/l of bore plus the hand is fixed and the only movement to fire rounds is the trigger finger whereas the revolver is subject to a readjustment of the hand on every round. A revolver can be mastered but the 1911 is the better when shooting unrested within the rounds practical range.

August 26, 2011, 03:54 PM
I have fired six shot double action groups at 15 yards with a Smith that I can hide under my thumb. I have never been able to do that with either of my 1911's.

August 26, 2011, 04:04 PM
Interesting discussion, but as others have said there is such a broad range of variables this is almost impossible to determine.

But, from a purely mechanical aspect, and all other things being equal (which is impossible), a fixed barrel design is more accurate, so the revolver would win.

With that said, a tightly tuned 1911 is about as close to being a fixed barrel as you can get without actually being a fixed barrel, but I think the fact that it's not and never will be fixed, negates the argument.

August 26, 2011, 04:08 PM
I'll throw a wrench in and say the revolver's barrel may fixed but the cylinder has as many ways to move as any 1911 so both excell with well fitting tolerances.

August 26, 2011, 04:12 PM
I can't do the comparison since I don't have a long barreled revolver.

But I was impressed at how often I could hit a 6"x6" metal target at 100 yards with my 1911 and its custom fitted 10mm Bar-Sto barrel.

But, since I use guns as self defense tools, precision is not that important to me.

August 26, 2011, 04:29 PM
If all you needed was a fixed barrel to experience great accuracy, ALL revolvers should be tack drivers, right? As mentioned, chamber dimensions, alignment, sights, throat, etc, all play a part. I still say its a crap shoot. I have retained revolvers that have given me the best accuracy (I've had some stinkers, but why keep them?). I think if a 1911 doesn't shoot, it can acutally cost less to swap in parts and tighten it up than to tweak a revolver.

August 26, 2011, 07:46 PM
all other things being equal (which is impossible)

I guess I'll quote myself since no one else is.. as I said, all other things being equal - which is impossible, a fixed barrel is more accurate.

Play in the cylinder is a very good point and requires the same lockup qualities of a 1911.

I'm personally more accurate with the 1911, but I love both platforms.

August 27, 2011, 07:20 PM
The two most accurate handguns i own, that is to say, the ones i start new shooters on, are a Kimber Custom II and a 4" S&W 686. New shooters are thrilled to hit the black on the first shot with either one...

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