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  #1  
Old 03-04-2012, 09:03 PM
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dsk dsk is offline
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Ten helpful tips for the first-time 1911 buyer

If you are a first-time 1911 buyer, the number of choices out there is overwhelming, to say the least. For example, take a look at this thread. It shows there are over 100 current and former manufacturers of 1911-type pistols, with more being added to the list every year. Therefore it's no wonder why we keep having "Brand X vs. Y, help me decide" threads with monotonous regularity on this forum. I think its safe to say that the 1911 is easily the single most copied handgun in existence, and probably the most copied firearm period, with the possible exception of the Kalashnikov (AK) rifle. As a result, trying to educate anyone on which brand is "best" is a total waste of time. There are cheap ones and there are expensive ones. There are ones with quality issues and ones that are exemplary samples of the gunmaker's art. Funny enough, price doesn't always determine this, and you can easily have a cheap gun that works great or an expensive one that doesn't. But in general, when shopping for a 1911 use this for a guideline:

1.) Decide on your budget ceiling. Keeping what I already said in mind, generally speaking more money will buy you a better 1911.

2.) Stick with forged components for the barrel, slide, and frame. While quality guns made from castings do exist (Caspian is a particular favorite of custom gunsmiths), a pistol with the major components made from forged steel will be the better gun all else being equal.

3.) Watch out for cheap small parts. This is where a lot of manufacturers keep their costs down by using investment cast or MIM (metal injection molding) components. If you're going to have the pistol gutted and built up by a gunsmith anyway it may not be a big deal, but otherwise try to stay with something using as many forged or barstock parts as possible.

4.) Pay attention to the fit and finish. Watch for heavy tooling marks, poor fitting and blending of the parts, uneven edges, off-center machining cuts, and rough assembly such as stiff thumb safeties, hammers that don't smoothly snick to half and full cock, and heavy, gritty trigger pulls.

5.) The importance of slide to frame fit is overrated by most people, as it has only a minimal effect on intrinsic accuracy. The fit of the barrel to the slide is far more important. As a matter of fact the original design drawings for the 1911 called for at least a small amount of play in the fit of components to keep the pistol from being sensitive to dirt and lack of lube. However on a $1500 or higher pistol I would expect the slide to be reasonably snug as a matter of pride, and also since I'd expect a pistol in the upper price ranges to be a tack driver. I do think it's unreasonable however to expect a $700 mil-spec pistol to be fitted like a custom gun. One thing to consider is that the 1911 was originally designed as a combat pistol, not a target weapon. The current trend towards tightly-fitted pistols is in the interest of better accuracy, but it takes a competent gunsmith or assembler to make the parts fit well and still guarantee reliable function. That is why the more expensive pistols cost more, in addition to using better-grade parts overall and showing greater "detail" in the fitting of components. Often you get lucky and find a pistol in the lower-end price bracket that is both accurate and dependable, but in general when looking for cheap, accurate, and reliable, you must pick two out of three.

6.) Pay attention to the features. Basically 1911 pistols fall into two categories: "Mil-Spec", meaning they are based on the appearance and features of the old USGI pistols, and "Custom", which these days can mean anything but usually refers to pistols with modern features previously only available installed by a gunsmith. These include high-profile sights, beavertail grip safeties, front strap checkering, and so forth. Your best bet is to find a pistol that already has the features you like, as it'll save you money on gunsmith fees in the long run. However if you're not sure what you really want, I would suggest starting out with a quality mil-spec pistol (like a Colt 1991 or Springfield GI) then later having it built up as you please once you know what you really want to have done. The advantage of a mil-spec is that you can make whatever changes you want later, while a pistol already set up as a "custom" may have features you don't care for but cannot be changed to something else (for example, proprietary sight dovetails). It should also be noted that 1911-type pistols come in many different barrel lengths. Generally speaking the original 5" (aka "Government") length is the most trouble-free, all else being equal.

7.) Don't cheap out on magazines. Why some folks think it's okay to feed their pistols using $10 mags bought at the gun show and still expect reliable functioning is completely beyond me. Magazines are at the heart of a semi-auto pistol's reliability, and a cheap one will cause problems in short order. A quality 1911 magazine will sometimes cost upwards of $30 or more, so when you see some priced at half that you should understand that shortcuts were made to enable those mags to be priced so cheap. Unfortunately some 1911 manufacturers actually ship their pistols with sub-standard mags to save money, which is why some owners run into problems right out of the box. The only recourse is to buy some high-quality aftermarket mags to go along with your pistol.

8.) Clean and lubricate your new pistol before use. New pistols only ship with preservative oil inside them to prevent rust during shipping and storage, which often has gone dry anyway by the time you bring your new pistol home. Be sure to do a proper field-strip, clean the bore, and lubricate the pistol per the guidelines mentioned in the owner's manual prior to your first range trip. Running a tight new pistol straight out of the box that's bone-dry is just asking for a malfunction to happen.

9.) For your first range visit, use only new factory-loaded, brass-cased FMJ ammunition. Test your new pistol using proper SAAMI-spec ammo at first, so that if you run into any problems you can't blame the ammunition. Using remanufactured ammo may actually void your warranty. You can always go try out JHP's, steel-cased ammo, or your pet reloads in it later once you know the pistol itself is working right. And if it doesn't work right, for goodness sake don't try fixing it yourself. That's why manufacturers have warranty departments, so make them do it. It's their responsibility to sell you a new gun that actually works in the first place.

10.) Lastly, only consider factory-new pistols with a manufacturer's warranty. Used guns can often be a great value, but they can also be trouble if they were modified by a previous owner who wanted to try his hand at home gunsmithing but didn't know what he was doing. Trust me, there are a lot of those out there, and if you don't know how to spot a kitchen-table gunsmith's work you'd better stay clear of the used gun case altogether.

There you go. Good luck.

(Thread left open for comment)
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Avoid the temptation to replace everything on your brand-new 1911 just to make it "better". Know what you're changing out and why. You may spend a lot of money fixing things that weren't broken to begin with. Shoot at least 500 rounds through it first, then decide what you don't like and want to improve. Regarding vintage 1911s, pre-1946 pistols are highly collectible in original, unaltered condition and should NEVER be refinished or modified as it completely ruins their monetary value.

Last edited by dsk; 03-06-2015 at 11:30 PM.
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Old 03-04-2012, 09:49 PM
Bigmant Bigmant is offline
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Great info for sure. I wish I had this when I first bought my 1911, it would have saved me a lot of time. But let's not forget how the gun feels in general. It has to look and feel good to you and only YOU. If you don't like it, then it will never get used and will be a waste of money. But good luck to all that are first timers reading this post! I hope 1911s serve you well.
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  #3  
Old 03-04-2012, 11:00 PM
team1 team1 is offline
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A passion for the 1911

Excellent information! This should be required reading for new members, it would save many superfluous threads.

Thanks for posting!
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  #4  
Old 03-05-2012, 10:09 AM
CheckRide CheckRide is offline
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Great Post

Excellent Information,Thank You..
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Old 03-05-2012, 11:58 AM
TEA TEA is offline
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Very good post that should be a must read for first time 1911 buyers. I violated Rule 10, though.
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  #6  
Old 03-05-2012, 05:50 PM
I love1911's I love1911's is offline
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Amen!

Amen brother! Can't wait to hear the naysayers but this hits the nail on the head in a concise manner. Thank you.
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  #7  
Old 03-05-2012, 07:18 PM
Craig623 Craig623 is offline
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Nice post, we need to cut this in stone. Or at least print it for our friends. Thanks
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Old 03-05-2012, 07:30 PM
skosh69 skosh69 is offline
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This is a great sticky, way to go DSK!!!
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Old 03-05-2012, 10:27 PM
70Falcon 70Falcon is offline
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Thanks for this post. I am looking for my first 1911, and this information will surely help my decision making process.
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Old 03-06-2012, 08:55 PM
nos probe nos probe is offline
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Thank you for the info. This will come in very useful.
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Old 03-07-2012, 05:59 AM
deldago deldago is offline
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The ten commandments!
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Old 03-07-2012, 06:32 AM
HK Dude HK Dude is offline
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Great advice here, I wish this forum was here when I was getting started in the 1911 world.
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Old 03-07-2012, 07:06 AM
pekosROB pekosROB is offline
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dsk, you never cease to amaze me. This is an excellent list, I'm assuming it was brought about since several people lately seem to be having trouble picking out a 1911 for the first time.

I didn't think about the buy new guns only, but it does make sense if it's your first 1911. And buying good magazines is definitely a must!

As for the using factory ammo, don't some gun manufacturers say using reloads voids any and all warranties? I feel like I've read that somewhere with Kimber or maybe some other company. How in the heck could they even tell if you used reloads instead of factory anyway, besides you telling them??
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Old 03-07-2012, 07:23 AM
69charger 69charger is offline
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Great advice. Thanks for your time in doing this. I hope people take this to heart before they get them self's into an expensive mistake.
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Old 03-07-2012, 10:29 AM
vinnieee vinnieee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deldago View Post
The ten commandments!
That's right, The ten 1911 commandments! HaHa.

Great post dsk! Thanks man.
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Old 03-07-2012, 10:37 AM
posidon posidon is offline
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Thank you for such a informative post, I grew up in a 1911 family and learned
from family on the positives as well of the negatives on poor 1911 selection.
Great post !!
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  #17  
Old 03-07-2012, 12:32 PM
Sledzep01 Sledzep01 is offline
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Awesome, can we add one more?

11) Search is your friend.
Even if you post a new thread later, you will be more/better informed for doing it.

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  #18  
Old 03-07-2012, 02:18 PM
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dsk dsk is offline
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Additional comments and recommendations are always welcome. My idea for this thread was as a repository of information to help first-time owners. Over time I'll clean up the fluff and leave the helpful suggestions everybody gave out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pekosROB View Post
As for the using factory ammo, don't some gun manufacturers say using reloads voids any and all warranties?
Good point, I added it to the original post. Thanks.
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Avoid the temptation to replace everything on your brand-new 1911 just to make it "better". Know what you're changing out and why. You may spend a lot of money fixing things that weren't broken to begin with. Shoot at least 500 rounds through it first, then decide what you don't like and want to improve. Regarding vintage 1911s, pre-1946 pistols are highly collectible in original, unaltered condition and should NEVER be refinished or modified as it completely ruins their monetary value.

Last edited by dsk; 03-07-2012 at 02:21 PM.
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Old 03-07-2012, 02:21 PM
SigP226Navy SigP226Navy is offline
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Nice post with great insight. Sounds like information everyone should read before allowing them to post on here.
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Old 03-07-2012, 05:52 PM
Jeff25 Jeff25 is offline
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Yes, all 10 are excellent suggestions. The diligent new 1911 buyer will do their homework and learn about the various parts and how they are made, compare features, fit, and finish, and then make a wise decision. Others will just listen to the new gun shop employee, buy what their buddy recommends, or post a forum question expecting others to make their choice.
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Old 03-08-2012, 11:23 AM
cjkolcun cjkolcun is offline
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Great thread thanks for posting!
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Old 03-08-2012, 09:35 PM
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dsk - such an excellent post. Succinct and right on the money. This is why I, and many others I'm sure, value your insights so much. Thanks for that.
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Old 03-08-2012, 09:42 PM
chiefjefe chiefjefe is offline
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dsk: great info. would you mind pointing me to some magazines you like? Thanks!
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Old 03-09-2012, 09:22 PM
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Thanks for the advice, dsk. Good stuff!
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Old 03-10-2012, 12:07 AM
ForceDiablo ForceDiablo is offline
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Good advice, I'll remember this for next 1911. Just picked a new TRP up two days ago but already want another. Thanks again
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