In its 100+ year-long history, the 1911 pistol has been continuously improved and updated.
Some changes—like swapping the spur hammer suitable for cocking against a saddle to a ring trigger less likely to snag when drawing from concealment—reflect the evolution of use.
Other upgrades take advantage of technological advances. Regardless of the reason you upgrade, let’s take a look at some essential accessories for your 1911.
1911 Essential #1: A Sight
The first and foremost upgrade needed for most 1911s is the sights. Typically, non-snag drift-adjustable sights are preferred for carry, while more complex elevation-adjustable variants are favored for target shooting and hunting.
Self-luminous sights, especially combined with daylight-visible fiber optics, greatly improve the fighting value of the pistol. Fiber optic inserts, especially with green front and dimmer red rear light pipes, work exceptionally well in the daytime and at dusk.
More expensive, self-luminescent tritium sights extend targeting capability from dusk till dawn. Positive target identification is still required, but it’s not uncommon that the pistol is in the dark while the foe is lit up with a flashlight or the moon.
1911 Essential #2: A Light
And speaking of target recognition, weapon-mounted lights ensure that the dark shape spotted in a hallway is truly the foe and not a family member.
Sufficiently bright, shockproof LED lamp heads allow the use of light reflected off the ground for, avoiding pointing the weapon at an unknown person.
Streamlight and Surefire models use physical multimode tumbler switches and constant/instantaneous activators, giving a wide variety of deployments options.
1911 Essential #3: A Laser
With limited rail space, combination units mounting lights and daylight-visible green lasers make good sense. While lasers don’t work for all situations, they allow more confident fire from retention, or when the pistol cannot be brought up to eye level for some reason.
If your 1911 lacks a rail, it can be added with a clamshell grip frame from Recover Tactical. An alternate solution, at least for the laser, is the squeeze-activated Crimson Trace laser grip. It’s entirely transparent in use, but incompatible with most right-side safety levers.
1911 Essential #4: A Conversion Kit
Heavy-hitting .45 ACP ammunition made the M1911 popular, but it’s expensive and wears on the shooter after a long-range session. The solution? A conversion kit.
A rimfire upper with its own barrel and sights permits less costly and quieter target practice: all aspects of marksmanship other than recoil control are preserved.
Currently, plinking grade .45 ammunition is five to six times more expensive than rimfire, making the adapter pay for itself in short order. Many companies make rimfire adapters, and some also offer standalone 1911-.22 pistols for not much more money.
The main advantage over dedicated target pistols is the commonality of the manual of arms and the overall feel, allowing fun range time to count towards proficiency with the primary defensive weapons.
This list of upgrades is far from exhaustive. You may have noticed that it applies equally to other handgun designs—that’s because there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the M1911 out of the box. So it doesn’t have to go straight to the gunsmith.
The ergonomics and reliability have been perfected over more than a century, so any properly manufactured 1911 will work fine stock. The accessories recommended here are just to make it even better and more versatile.
What are your go-to accessories for your 1911? Would you add any to this list? Let us know in the comments below.