John Moses Browning designed the 1911 pistol more than a century ago to kill terrorists. The Moro tribesmen American soldiers were facing in the Philippines were rumored to have tied wet leather thongs around their testicles that shrank as they dried. They were, as a result, not terribly inconvenienced by the .38 revolvers of the day. When faced with such a quandary, old John Moses just took the standard 115-grain 9mm bullet that the Europeans were using and doubled it. The resulting 230 grains of good old-fashioned red-blooded American badassery means not having to say you’re sorry in any language.

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The 1911 pistol is quite literally timeless. When the world’s last Glock has finally been recycled into water bottles, tomorrow’s bubbas will still be out there throwing Jeff Cooper’s flying ashtrays downrange with their favorite 1911s. To the seasoned gunman, a tuned 1911 fits like a well-worn pair of boxers.

Bill Clinton brought us the modern phenomenon of the 1911 pistol. The abomination that was the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban limited magazine capacity to 10 rounds. That big steaming legislative turd plopped right in the middle of the Wondernine phenomenon. For those of us who lived it, this was the era of the high-capacity handgun magazine. We thought the world had ended. However, these magazine restrictions drove us back to the slim, svelte 1911 in droves.

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Nowadays the 1911 pistol comes in a broad variety of flavors. Low-end guns are remarkably affordable. The high-end sort will set you back as much as a decent used car. The middle ground is densely populated. Here are a few examples listed in order from cheap to, well, not so much.

Rock Island Armory 1911 Government Model

Rock Island Armory is the American face of Armscor of the Philippines. Armscor is the largest weapons producer in Southeast Asia and the largest producer of 1911 pistols in the world. The company makes 1911s for other people, too. A lot of the non-Armscor 1911 guns on the market are actually Armscor guns.

Rock Island’s low-end Government Model 1911 pistol is basic GI cool. The finish is Parkerized and the mainspring housing is arched, but the grips are made from smooth hardwood rather than GI plastic. Additionally, the ejection port is lowered and flared. As a result, while not a true ringer for a GI 1911A1, the RIA Government Model is a good shooter with an MSRP of $537.

Auto-Ordnance GI 1911 Pistol

The original Auto-Ordnance company built Thomson submachine guns in the years leading up to World War II. Nowadays a resurrected facsimile of the enterprise offers 1911 pistols. Its 1911A1 is true to the original with a GI ejection port, matte black finish, arched mainspring housing, and wooden grips embossed with a U.S. logo. These grips are a bit nicer than the GI originals, but otherwise the gun is a spot-on copy of the ones our forebears used to spank the Nazis. The Auto-Ordnance GI 1911 pistol has an MSRP of $689.

Remington R1

Remington Rand made 1911 pistols throughout World War II. Remington is a foundational name in American gunmaking as a result. Its R1 is a hybrid. While the basic foundation is GI standard, there are a few nods toward more modern amenities.

The ejection port is lowered and flared for reliability, the sights sport white dots and are dovetailed into the slide, and the walnut wood grips include an attractive double diamond design. Remington’s stainless steel barrel and bushing are match grade. The R1 would pass for a GI gun in dim light, but it incorporates a number of modern features to enhance its shootability. The R1’s MSRP is $774.

Ruger SR1911

Ruger built its reputation on optimizing mass production techniques to bring top-quality firearms to the shooting public at reasonable prices. The company’s 10/22 autoloading .22 rifle taught generations of Americans to shoot and is worth a lot more than Ruger charges for it. It is simply that mass production keeps costs low.

Ruger’s SR1911 comes in several variants. The baseline SR1911 is cut from stainless steel and sports plenty of bells and whistles. There’s a beavertail grip safety with a memory bump, a flat mainspring housing, and quality no-snag sights. The trigger is skeletonized, the grips are an attractive checkered wood, and the base model has an MSRP of $939.

Rock Island Armory TCM TAC Ultra FS HC Combo

Rock Island Armory’s TCM TAC Ultra FS HC Combo is the coolest thing since the flush toilet. The .22 TCM is a 9mm case necked down to accept a 40-grain jacketed hollowpoint .22 bullet. The resulting gun is all but recoilless, preternaturally flat-shooting at around 2,000 feet per second, and offers a 17-round high capacity magazine. Additionally, just swap out the barrel you’re running 9mm. If I had enough .22TCM ammo, I could shoot this thing until I starved to death. At $960 this combo gun is both a great value and just crazy fun.

Springfield Armory Range Officer Operator

Springfield Armory makes a thoroughly practical user-grade 1911 good enough to serve as an issue weapon for FBI Special Operators. Everything about the 1911 Range Officer Operator is tuned to perfection. Sights are no-snag with a fiber optic light tube up front. The dust cover is railed, and the beavertail safety, skeletonized hammer, and grips are as awesome as one might expect for an in-the-trenches optimized combat tool. The Range Officer Operator has an MSRP of $1,039.

Sig Sauer “We the People”

Sig’s 1911 pistols are just a little bit different. Sig Sauer uses a conventional external extractor whereas the Browning original is an internalized spring steel component. It’s “We the People” 1911 is as much patriotic declaration as it is defensive tool.

Sporting a uniquely awesome aged stainless steel exterior, aluminum grips embossed with American stars, and proper combat features like bilateral controls and low-profile night sights, the “We the People” 1911 looks as good as it runs. Lots of folks make 1911 pistols. Nobody makes one that looks like this. The Sig”We the People” 1911 has an MSRP of $1,481.

Kimber Warrior SOC (TFS)

Kimber is synonymous with tuned 1911 pistols. Toting a Kimber sets you apart from the pack without making you seem snobbish. The Warrior SOC (TFS) has all the good stuff. All the mechanicals are smooth, crisp, and polished. The barrel is threaded for a sound suppressor and the Tritium night sights are elevated to accommodate. The finish is a sexy polychromic two-tone green.

These guys live 1911 pistols so literally everything is optimized from the front and rear cocking serrations to the bilateral safeties and meticulously checkered mainspring housing and forestrap. Kimber offers 1911 handguns in dozens of configurations at dozens of price points. The Warrior SOC (TFS) has an MSRP of $1,605.

Ed Brown Products Kobra Carry Lightweight

Now we enter the realm of handbuilt mechanical art. Ed Brown built a reputation as both a nationally ranked competitive shooter as well as a producer of top-end 1911 pistol parts. Eventually he brought his two sons into the business and began producing complete guns, each hand-built to the most meticulous standards of quality. The Kobra Carry Lightweight is an aluminum-framed bob-tailed thing of beauty.

The frame is abbreviated to decrease printing and the unique snakeskin treatment to the slide and frame optimize your grip. I’ll spare you the details, but all the incidentals like controls, grips, etc. are quite literally perfect. The gun carries beautifully and shoots as comfortably as something much less powerful. The Kobra Carry Lightweight is a gorgeous carry gun for the gunman of distinction. It will set you back $2,945.

Wilson Combat Supergrade Pinnacle

If you are “that guy” who drives a vintage Italian sports car, smokes Cuban cigars, and squires the occasional supermodel, then Wilson Combat makes your 1911. Handbuilt to actual perfection with optimized everything, the Wilson Combat Supergrade Pinnacle is the absolute top of the heap. Completely detailed both inside and out and equipped with a full suite of options especially selected by Bill Wilson, the Supergrade Pinnacle is what John Browning likely dreamt his 1911 pistol might someday become.

Hand-engraved by master engraver Wayne D’Angelo, the Supergrade Pinnacle is the best 1911 mankind can produce. Accuracy is guaranteed to be 1 inch at 25 yards, the trigger ranges between 3.5 to 4.5 pounds, and everything that can be done to optimize this combat pistol has been done. Each Wilson Combat Supergrade Pinnacle is built to order and will cost you a cool $7,995.

For more information on the 1911s mentioned above, please visit the following websites:

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