Although there have been countless different variations of the original Browning-designed M1911, the overall design has hardly changed at all. With so many different 1911s to choose from, making decisions can get confusing in a hurry. If you are in the market for an entry-level 1911, you are in luck because there are several affordable options. Many are available in different calibers as well, so you are not limited to just .45 ACP.
At the top of the list of things to consider when selecting your 1911 are the sights. If you already know what type of sights you like best, to disregard them when selecting your 1911 could be quite costly afterward. For example, if you know that you need or want a specific type or brand of target sights, getting a pistol with standard low profile, military-type sights would almost certainly mean you would need to get the slide milled out to fit your aftermarket target sights, exponentially raising the cost of the pistol. So, make sure whatever sights your new pistol comes with are compatible with what you will need later.
The hammer and grip safety combination is something else that should strongly be considered. Based on your intended grip, this may or may not be an issue. If you use a high-profile grip, then you will definitely need to ensure that your new pistol comes with a beavertail grip safety that is easily disengaged when you get a proper grip on the pistol, as well as a hammer that will not “bite” your hand when in the cocked position. This can be very painful, and usually makes a trip to the range considerably shorter than originally intended.
The trigger should be one of the top considerations when making your selection, as it can easily be the Achilles’ heel of an entry-level 1911 pistol. If the gun has a gritty, heavy trigger pull that makes you cringe when you try it, you should probably just move along to the next one. However, if you already plan to replace the trigger components, this is obviously not an issue.
The Springfield Armory GI .45 is about as close to the classic M1911 design as you can get these days. All GI models feature low-profile military sights, standard magazine well and spur hammer, standard ejection port, arched mainspring housing with lanyard loop, and vertical slide serrations.
Rock Island Armory also makes a GI version that is very similar to the Springfield Armory GI .45. Rock Island also offers several other versions, with different features, that are all within the same price range.
Para-Ordnance makes the GI Expert 1911, with several upgraded features that set it apart from the competition, while remaining an entry-level pistol. The main things that stand out about the Para GI Expert are the premium stainless steel barrel, which provides pinpoint accuracy, the crisp trigger pull, and the skeletonized spur hammer that prevents hammer bite.
The Taurus PT1911 is one of, if not the most, feature-packed 1911s currently available, especially in its price range. With its hammer-forged frame, slide, and barrel, it is capable of accuracy that normally costs twice as much. Each pistol is hand-fit and tuned with 19 standard features not typically found on entry-level 1911s from other manufacturers.
The most important aspect of selecting an entry-level 1911 is making sure that it fits your hand and you can comfortably reach all of the controls. After purchasing, shooting, and becoming familiar with your pistol’s basic setup, only then should you consider any customization or part replacement. After all, this is just an entry-level 1911 we’re talking about, here. Now get out there, pick up a 1911, and start shooting!