teach me 1911 differences


January 30, 2003, 03:42 PM
Looking more and more at 1911s now that the stable has all my functional firearms (pocket carry, ankle carry, IWB carry, and revolvers and semi-autos). This would be a fun/target/project gun. The obvious considerations are Kimber, Colt, and Springfield. However, I look at them on the websites and frankly, I can't tell the difference between thingamajig 1 and doohickey B. Up for consideration for each of the contenders are as follows:

Springfield Mil-Spec and Full Size
Colt M1911A1
Kimber Eclipse and Custom

Are there any notable differences in the firearms listed that I should consider for selecting? I believe that some of the ones listed use a different slightly different safety or firing pin block or something. What is that difference? Hopefully you get the idea. I'm not asking necessarily for a selection, just the information to make the selection. Also, are there any in the general price range of these pistols that I have not listed that should be considered and if so what are their subtle or not so subtle differences.

Thank you.

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January 30, 2003, 03:51 PM
The Kimber will have more thingamajigs & doohickeys vs. the Colt and SA Mil Spec but, if you plan on it being a 'project' gun, go w/ the Colt or the Mil Spec and just add on as you see fit. The Colt & the Mil Spec are just more plain jane than any Kimber available. Plus, you can add what you like not what the factory tells you to like.
Have fun w/ your project, hope you've got your pennies saved up :cool:

January 30, 2003, 04:55 PM
10 Ring gave you excellent advice that you won't find coming up in the usual discussion. Differences in add-ons are legion, and they have only one possible use: to adapt a factory object closer to your ideally fitted pistol.
If you want a more detailed discussion, go to:
and bring up "Why Customize?"
If you bring up Brownells web site or look in their catalog, you will find everything to customize a 1911 and make it fit your hand, stance and shooting style. This should be individual, and what works for somebody else may not necessarily work for you. Most shooters go through a lot of equipment before they settle on any standards.
But, if you want a secret shortcut that most shooters do not even consider: Burn a keg of powder through your pistol. Then load up another keg. By the end of the second keg you will be getting the idea of what works for you. You may label this "trial and error" if you wish, but my tag for it is: "Observe, Remember, Compare."
If possible, borrow a pistol with a certain addition and try it on the range before installing it on your frame or slide. Something may look great in the catalog and grate on your nerves when you try to use it. Research, THEN buy. Soon, it will become second nature.

January 31, 2003, 12:04 PM
I really appreciate the replies. Hopefully you can answer another question for me. Are any of the thingamajigs ones that I "should" or would like to get? And if they are, is it more cost effective to get them in there from the factory?

I thank you again.

January 31, 2003, 12:14 PM
Without knowing you or watching you shoot and train, this is an impossible question that could only be responded to by personal likes and dislikes, which are immaterial.
Next time you go to the range and see a modification you are interested in, ask to try it. If it works for you, this is the bottom line. There is no sense in buying things that you will have to discard later because they do not benefit your shooting.

George Hill
January 31, 2003, 12:27 PM
What to get on the handgun is a personal matter...
For me and my hands, I require a beavertail grip safety. You may not. So adding that feature may be a wasted effort or simply vanity. I like extended safeties... but that is just a matter of taste.
What is important is a good set of sights and grips. Your eyes and hands are different from mine - you it's up to you to find grips that your hands like, and sights your eyes like. Sometimes you can get that out of the box... other times one or more details require changes.

There is no easy way out of it.
If you follow Star Wars you learn that the Jedi Knights all build there own lightsabers. Each one is an individual and reflects the Jedi that carries it.
Such is the reality of packing a 1911. Once you buy one, you are tasked with making it your own.

Good luck.

(Out of these choices, I would probably roll with the Colt.)

January 31, 2003, 12:39 PM
You have brought up something that is very interesting and the subject of much controversy.
If you remember Obi Wan's original advice that was nothing less than to give yourself up to muscle memory and instant reactions.
Sounds very much like Muyamoto Mushashi's advice of taking a general gaze and moving reactively.
If you want a real shock, and you have a copy of Stelle and Harrison's (reprinted) book "The Gunsmith's Manual" page 314, begin reading at "Taking Aim." Brownell sells these reprints.

Art Eatman
January 31, 2003, 02:20 PM
My personal preference, generally, for 1911s is to find older Colt-made guns. GI, whatever. Nothing later than Series 70. Rusty and grody is just fine.

(I'm away from my references, right now.) I use Hallock's (spelling?) book on the 1911 as my guide. There are lots of bits of wisdom for the how-to for reliability and accuracy.

What I find good about "old junkers" is that the parts are cheap. Doesn't cost much to replace the small bits and pieces. For "just shooting", barrels are fairly cheap.

IMO, they're one of the easiest for a beginner to learn on, to become a do-it-yourselfer without worrying unduly about Oops!.


January 31, 2003, 04:05 PM
Most people find the extended beavertail a very good addition to the 1911. For overall comfort and ease of shooting I would recommend buying a model that has one. Unless you don't like the looks of them , I don't see the downside of having one.
It's cheaper to buy a model that has these features, than to add them later on- generally speaking.

These "loaded" and "Custom" models will also have an extended safety and better sights than a Mil-spec model. I think they are both good buys in their base models.

Then, as mentioned above, I would shoot it quite a bit and try others and decide to make changes if needed for you.

I prefer to buy a mil-spec model and specify the brand name parts for the extended beavertail, thumb safety, etc, but I have shot enough to be "picky" about what feels best for me! More money and time needed for this method. I think a waste for your first 1911.

Good luck

January 31, 2003, 04:28 PM
Like many others here, I prefer models with an extended beavertail -- the standard Colt model bites into the web of my hand. I also like a relatively narrow extended thumb safety with rounded edges, like the Kimbers. I've seen one 1911 that had huge square ambi thumb safeties on it -- they looked like paddles -- yuck.

I can take or leave ambidextrous safeties -- there are people who love them and people who hate them.

I have to have better sights than the standard Colt sights. 3-dot Kimbers are ok. I'm getting a Heinie sight put on one of my guns to try out. I've had a Novak rear sight on one of my guns and didn't really care for it. I saw a Wilson a couple months back and that had some really nice sights on it.

I don't like extended magazine releases or extended slide stops. The flat mainspring housing is fine for me. I like 30 lpi checkering on the front strap, but it really isn't necessary and is pretty pricey.

In terms of action types, I prefer the Series 70 action. The Series 80 action (in some Colts and ParaOrdnance models) tends to have a worse trigger out of the box, but does add a firing pin safety. The extra couple parts in the Series 80 action make it a little bit more difficult to do a detail strip, but you really don't need to do that.

The Kimber II action has had some criticism, but I don't have direct experience with it.


Johnny Guest
January 31, 2003, 05:38 PM
Old reprobates in agreement, perhaps - - -
Or maybe just enough experience to know what's really important and what is "trimmin's."

I started this response with the idea of: "Johnny, design YOUR idea of a .45 to use for the rest of your life. Keep it under $1,000, and it has to be ready in a week."

I could "make do" with practically ANY box-stock 1911 or -A1.
All I require is reliability, a decent trigger pull and sights I can see.

Full size pistol. ZERO modifications.
Arched mainspring housing, preferably with lanyard loop.
Standard grip safety.
Good, crisp, four-pound trigger.
Fixed, high visibility sights, plain black.
45-degree bevel on mag well.

If I could find a Colt stainless, fine. Otherwise, a blue one would be fine.

If not constrained by time and price cap, I'd probably order something like the Thunder Ranch Special, and then set about de-tuning it. I'd prefer a four-inch-group pistol that works ALWAYS to a two-inch one that works most of the time.

What I would NOT want on my "Forever Pistol:"
Full length guide rod
Ski jump grip safety
Funnel mag well extension
Oversize stocks
Illuminated sights
Adjustable sights
Accessory rails.
Ambi safety
Extended mag button or slide stop. (Slightly extended thumb safety would be okay.)

Simpler is better. The closer to box-stock, the easier it is to transition to another piece.

I was tempted to specify the above as a Lightweight Commander, but I already own one that is very close.


January 31, 2003, 05:43 PM
The Eclipse has all the thingamajiggies already on it, so it wouldn't be a good choice for a project gun.

Mil-Spec pistols have a couple of small drawbacks that newer style models don't - things that may make the difference between doing it yourself and paying a gunsmith to do it.

The frame on a Mil-Spec gun has to be contoured and shaped before you can fit a Beavertail and then it has to reblued. Spendy.

Also, the ejection port will be the small old style that beats up your brass and (according to some people) degrades reliability in some way that I've never been able to grasp. Regardless, most people want the lowered and flared ejection port eventually.

And, the front sight will be the staked type rather than the dovetail type. Not a real big deal, but it may mean the difference between a do-it-yourself sight change and paying a gunsmith to do it.

To my way of thinking (since you already know it's going to be a project gun) the best choice would be the Kimber Custom or a Springfield model that has those basic mods right out of the box. With these basic frame modifications already in place, you can do everything else yourself with a few basic tools and a Brownells catalog.

Been there, done that.


January 31, 2003, 07:59 PM
Stuff you need to know:

1. Milspec--Plain-Jane. Seen 'em for about $480
2. Colt Series 80--Plain-Jane but with a trigger safety.
3. Kimber--has a grip safety, and some ergonomic doodads--more of a product equivalent of the Springfield 'Loaded' series. Seen 'em for about $650.

Kimber's sight cuts are different for sure, not sure about the Colt or Springfield, but I don't think they have a dovetailed front sight either (?)

February 1, 2003, 10:44 AM
Kimber's sight cuts are different for sure, not sure about the Colt or Springfield, but I don't think they have a dovetailed front sight either (?)Kimber front site is dovetailed (at least, it is on all 3 of mine).

February 1, 2003, 03:27 PM
Thing with 1911s is if you read enough, you will find, about in equal measure:

1. They are antiquated junk not worthy of your time.
2. The are the best thing since sliced bread.
3. They are completely reliable out of the box.
4. They aren't reliable until tweaked into next month.
5. They all need customizing before they are carry-worthy.
6. A box-stock SA MilSpec is a fine carry piece.

Don't listen to any of it. Envision the gun you wish to end up with. Buy the gun that fits your budget now, assuming your budget is under $700, buy it, shoot it and enjoy it. See what you'd like to change about it. Some folks like the beavertail grip safety, some dont. Some folks like the ambi safety (even right handers :confused: ) some don't. Some like magwells and different main spring housings, some either don't like them or don't care. Some like adjustable sights, others don't, though if you plan on carrying this gun, I'd either recommend against adjustable sights or recommend that you have both sights smoothed over.

I have several and have had several others. It comes down to this: One of my favorites is a Colt 1991A1 pretty much just the same gun a GI would have carried during the early days of WWII, feature-wise: no fancy options, not adjustable sights, no nothing other than the basic 1911A1 pistol. It has had some work done to it, it is reliable with everything I feed it including the infamous 200 Gr Gold Dots.

My other favorite is a brand spakin' new stainless Springfield Armory model with adjustable sights, extended beavertail, ambi safety, light trigger, pretty much everything a 1911 can have. It is a bit more accurate than the Colt but it is tighter. Just as reliable but no more (both have been 100% reliable in the past 8 years) I had to have the sights rounded just a bit as they were both pretty sharp out of the box, esp the rear sight. This has all the fancy stuff but has only been to a smith for the sight work.

Sorry, this is getting too long-winded. Point is, get a Colt, Kimber or Springfield. Shoot it and see what else you'd like to change about it. Chances are you'll enjoy whatever you get. I might recommend against some of the older Springfields as the front grip strap had a different profile and is not indicative of the 1911 from anyone else.

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