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1911 price vs. quality

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by monotonous_iterancy, Mar 24, 2013.

  1. monotonous_iterancy

    monotonous_iterancy Well-Known Member

    I know 1911s are very popular, and there are a lot of manufacturers making them in a range of prices. For the record, I've never fired one. What does this price range mean? What difference is there between a cheaper 1911, and a more expensive one? A mil-spec vs. non-mil-spec, or are they all mil-spec?
  2. NWcityguy2

    NWcityguy2 Well-Known Member

    I wouldn't apply the word mil-spec here, virtually none of them are mil-spec and that is for the best. Everyone does something a little different than the way they were made for the Military, be it plastic parts, MIM or different features like sights or grips. Mil-spec is more of an AR15 culture word these days.

    I like to look at it this way. For most people the #1 priority for their 1911 is to shoot a 45 caliber bullet out of the barrel. Pretty simple right? The most cost effective way to do that is with a Filipino 1911 like an Armscor or Metro Arms. Unless someone has uses more specific in mind I generally recommend they buy an Enhanced version of either. Enhanced gets you good sights, lowered and flared ejection port, a commander hammer and some polishing of the throat and feed ramp to help feed hollow points. They really are good guns.

    Above that 1911s will start going up in price for every reason under the sun. You want stainless? That costs more than carbon steel. You want it made in the US? Labor here is inherently more expensive than overseas. You want it made by one company specifically? Sometimes you will pay a premium there as well. Extra hand fitting costs money too, but there are diminishing returns as far at that goes. It is my opinion owning a production gun that had some hand fitting (a Dan Wesson) that you can only make a gun so much better with it but OTOH the sky is the limit on the price tag for this. A $2400 Wilson Combat isn't going to be "twice" the gun that my $1200 Dan Wesson is. Extreme accuracy for competitions is really the one thing you can't put a price tag on because for a serious competitor winning is everything. Not all competitions require extremely high levels of mechanical accuracy and not all expensive guns are built with that in mind either though.

    And with all that said, 1911s are more alike than they are different. A $450 Metro Arms and a $3000 custom gun are still going to shoot the same bullet out of their barrel. The best value for you is going to depend on what you want to do with it. Or you could choose a gun for an emotional reason as well. There is nothing wrong with that either.
  3. BigShep85

    BigShep85 Well-Known Member

    My 2 cents

    For what it is worth, I was in the same boat as you. I had shot one time a springfield gi 1911 to function test it after a trade before I sold it because to me, higher capacity, lighter guns are more practical. The springfield as said above was like every other gun to me, shot a bullet out of the barrel and had decent accuracy. Now to the present I traded last week for a Colt 1911 rail gun. This was my first high end 1911 and second 1911 ever I had ever shot with the exception of that springfield GI which I dont even think counts.To me guns are guns.
    BUT I took the Colt 1911 out to shoot just to function test it, and to say I had experienced shooting one. Changed entire outlook on weapons. I understand now why some pay that much for guns. It was really amazing, it was balanced, smooth, comfortable, everything you could imagine i guess. It was really something to experience and WOW this thing was accurate!. If you ever get a chance, shoot one it is an experience.
    I took it out of the sale trade pile and it now lays on my nightstand. I am afraid it is bewitched, it is just perfect.

    .......now if ammo would just come back into stock I could REALLY enjoy that gun
  4. guyfromohio

    guyfromohio Well-Known Member

    I just bought a $650 Remington R1. We'll see how it shoots soon.
  5. jmr40

    jmr40 Well-Known Member

    Building a quality 1911 that will hold up for long term use is expensive. Many, probably most, who buy a 1911's want one just because they like the idea of owning one. Most people never shoot one enough to notice the difference between a $600 budget gun and a $3000 high end gun.

    The $600 guns usually work well enough and are accurate enough for casual users. But guns in the $1,000 +/- about $100-$200 range are truly better in the long run. Especially if you shoot them a lot. The corners cut on the budget guns will never show up until after a few years and a few thousand rounds. Most people never shoot them enough to get to that point and you will hear lots of praise about how great some of the budget guns are.

    The high end $2000+ guns are better still. Not by enough for me to justify the money, but if someone can afford them, and wants them I have no issues.

    Another factor many forget is "long term" value. A $600 gun today will be a $300 gun in 10 years. A $1,000 gun today will be a $1,000-$1,200 gun in 10 years. Quality guns have a way of appreciating with age, budget guns depreciate with age.

    Anyone who shoots a lot will spend far more on ammo than for their gun. Some will reach that point in months, others may take a couple of years. In 10 years the $300-$400 saved on a budget gun will long be forgotten and burned up in ammo.
  6. Jaywalker

    Jaywalker Well-Known Member

    I agree that there isn't much to worry about on the MIL-Spec or MIL-Q front.

    Those specs today are supported by significant "data packages," which weren't in force when the 1911 was designed. They were built by machinists who understood what they were trying to accomplish, rather than machinists who were building to spec. As a result, you could still find military contractors having large runs of >10,000 slides, for instance, rejected by DOD inspectors in the 1980s. So, if the contractors who were trying to get it done right couldn't do it, chances are no one is getting it done now. The lack may be of dimensional tolerance or even having samples fail a salt spray corrosion test. (I suspect even a $2500 Ed Brown with great bluing would fail that one.) Ship with a skelotonized aluminum trigger and you're also out of spec.

    Buy one in your price range, shoot it, and if works keep it; otherwise sell it and move on.

    I get an urge to spend too much money on one every couple of years. It goes away for awhile if you ignore it.
  7. JTQ

    JTQ Well-Known Member

    Colt's are not "high end" 1911's. They are very good, and that's what I have, but they are by no means "high end".

    These days, mil-spec is typically the name of a model (Springfield catalogues a Mil-Spec model) rather than a category of parts fitment. However, Colt's would probably be considered the baseline of parts fitment. They are the originator. Most parts are designed to fit Colt's. Everybody else basically takes some liberties with the basic Colt design. Some are close, others not so much. Some have strayed very far from the Colt spec's, such as STI and their 2011 models. They are very different, but are also very good.
  8. franco45

    franco45 Well-Known Member

    Good advice. I have 2 lower end 1911s. An Ria Tactical and a Taurus PT1911. I really enjoy shooting both of them but I also enjoy other handguns so I don't want to use my entire gun allowance on 1911s. I really like the 45 acp so I carry a plastic fantastic Kahr CW45 not a 1911.
  9. browningguy

    browningguy Well-Known Member

    Just my opinion but the vast majority of people are served well by a $800-$1000 (give or take) 1911, above that their is some return (improvement) going up to $2500 or so, think Ed Brown quality of gun. Once you get above that the only reason it would be worth more would be for some pretty engraving, and I've got no problem with that by the way, I like pretty guns. The Remington R1 may turn out to be quite a nice gun for less than that, and some of the all steel Philippine made guns seem to shoot pretty well for the money.

    But if you're paying over $2500 for a 1911 and it doesn't have a pretty fancy finish then you are just buying a name.

    By the way my most recent 1911 was a S&W SC, scandium alloy bob tail frame, commander length slide, fancy scalloped slide, tritium sights, nice grips. It's really just a $900 gun with $300 worth of fancy extras that I happen to like.
  10. tarosean

    tarosean Well-Known Member

    That is the key... If your more than likely going to put 500 rounds through it in your lifetime, no point in buying high end. If your going to put that many rounds a weekend then you better buy the higher end, as the budget gun will not make it through..
  11. CNobbe

    CNobbe Well-Known Member

    Agreed. I think to the casual shooter - like myself, a $600-1000 gun makes a lot more sense than buying something hand fitted/tuned. I think the Sig Sauer and Kimber 1911s are very good for the money...S&W too, but those are scarce it seems. Still gotta have a Colt at some point though. :)
  12. JohnBT

    JohnBT Well-Known Member

    I looked at a handful of Cabot 1911s in a glass case at the range the other day. I'd consider buying one or two just for the incredible finish even though they're $3k to well over $5k. The most expensive one - the one in the glass-topped box - was marked SOLD.

    Oh well, I'm retired and I can dream, right?

  13. JTQ

    JTQ Well-Known Member

    While it's probably true the "average Joe (or Jane)" can't take advantage of the improved accuracy a $3,000 1911 has over a $600 one, or the added durability the higher price gun will give, but if you can't notice the difference between a $600 1911 and a $3,000 1911, you don't know much about guns. You can see and feel the difference in the gun store, you don't even have to shoot them.
  14. BigShep85

    BigShep85 Well-Known Member

    Maybe for you it is not but when the most you have ever paid for a handgun is $550 it IS high end.

    As mentioned before you can get much "higher end" than that but for some it is high end.
  15. BSA1

    BSA1 Well-Known Member

    A issue that has not been commented on is the consistency of manufacturing specs when it comes to parts replacement and/or upgrades. The 1911 is a old design the requires precision machining of criticial tolerances in the slide and frame. While the gun may work good enough as it comes from the factory the problem arises when you decide to upgrade parts.

    For example upgrading the sights are a popular option. Seems simple enough until you discover the angles on the dovetail in the slide are cut at a wrong angle and requires either the dovetail to be recut or careful hand filing to the sight base to make it fit. That is small job that a someone skilled with proper set of files can fix unless the dovetail is cut to deep and the only way to fix it is to weld the dovetail up and recut it.

    I have even read stories about the bushings for grips being manufactured out of spec enough to make a simple grip swap impossible.

    Generally speaking the most common base gun preferred by gunsmiths is made by Springfield Armory for this reason.
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2013
  16. bluekouki86

    bluekouki86 Well-Known Member

    Price doesn't effect my judgment much. I have a Norinco that I traded for a flashlight, and put $200 worth of parts in that will outshoot 99% of the people holding it. I own a kimber, yet I still reach for the Norinco more often.
  17. mljdeckard

    mljdeckard Well-Known Member

    I have been sneered at more than once for saying this out loud,

    I think it's like the $5 milk shake in Pulp Fiction. WOW. That's FANTASTIC. That might be the best milk shake I've ever tasted. But it ain't worth $5.

    I think that quality in 1911s tops out at about $1000. After that, you do get in improvement in quality, but it's not proportional to what you pay.
  18. bannockburn

    bannockburn Well-Known Member

    I have found RIA M1911s to be of decent quality in terms of the materials used in their construction and overall fit and finish. Most M1911 parts from other manufacturers will work in them with little if any extra fitting required. I think that many of the lower priced M1911s on the market today will serve you very well for many years, all at a very affordable price.
  19. Furncliff

    Furncliff Well-Known Member

    I was looking for a $1000 1911 when my wife bought me a $400 RIA 1911 45 tactical for Christmas. I've been shooting it for five years and had nearly forgotten the desire for that expensive 1911 when a Colt National Match Gold Cup appeared at a LGS near me. After a lot of deliberation I passed. For me the RIA worked just fine.

    As an aside: I got an RIA 1911 in 9mm in a trade. It had problems, but RIA took care of the issues and paid all the shipping. The gunsmiths and shipping department provided first class CS.
  20. dickydalton

    dickydalton Well-Known Member

    My Wife and my nightable 45s. Both sweet to shoot and believe me, the Colt Officers Enhanced on the left:D was worth more than the $1000 I paid. Anyone that's never shot a Para LDA should.[​IMG]

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