There’s a reason why 1911s have remained in common use for more than a century.
One of the main advantages of the 1911 platform is the wide variety of calibers and sizes in a consistent user interface.
(After all, you can hold a rimfire trainer or a big, more defensive gun and have the same trigger, safety and sights.)
But which are some of the most essential? Here’s one writer’s opinion of the three 1911s every gun enthusiast needs to own:
1. Iver Johnson 1911-Style .45 ACP & .22LR
The first pistol worth having is the Iver Johnson defense and training combo.
All aspects of training other than recoil control can be handled with .22, leaving money for higher-grade defensive ammunition like Hornady, Sig or Federal.
Five-inch barrel configuration fits the greatest number of holsters and provides a useful sight radius without being too slow on the draw from concealment.
It’s another one of the great 1911s out there. (Consider it a bonus option.)
2. Rock Island Armory M1911 9mm/.22 TCM Combo
The second worthwhile acquisition would be a Rock Island Armory 9mm/.22 TCM combo.
Sharing all parts except the barrel and the recoil spring, this combo provides an efficient 17-shot alloy frame carry gun also suitable for high-volume training thanks to mild recoil and relatively economical ammunition.
Although built for careful budgets, Rock Island pistols are unfailingly reliable, quite accurate in the 9mm Luger chambering, and come with certain upgrades like G10 grips and fiber optic front sights.
Screaming at 1950 fps (4.25″) or 2100 fps (5″), this round gives 22WMR rifle performance in a holstered weapon.
Terminal performance is consistent to 125 yards (0.3″ expansion, 16-17″ penetration), along with excellent performance on most cover.
Felt recoil is negligible and trajectory is flat, making it just the caliber for varmints like coyotes.
Lighter recoil spring than either .45 ACP or 9mm makes 22TCM configuration easy to rack, too.
Both calibers feed from the same magazine.
The downside to the .22 TCM is the bright flash and loud report, so it shouldn’t be fired without hearing protection.
This caliber is best reserved for hunting since you can have active hearing protection on before firing.
3. Nighthawk Custom Long-Slide 1911 10mm
Finally, in the hunting and dangerous game defense role, 10mm long slide reigns supreme.
Nighthawk Custom makes an incredibly accurate 6″ long slide that’s also comfortable to shoot despite the energetic rounds it chambers.
From 200gr hard cast flat points at 1100fps for a charging bear, to 180gr expanding soft points at 1350fps for deer, to 135gr high-velocity hollow points zooming at over 1500fps to stop hostile humans, 10mm is extremely versatile.
With a good holster, like the leather Nelson belt slide shown, the extra weight of the long slide becomes almost imperceptible on a hike.
Other brands of 10mm long slides are available, but the Nightwak Heinie is probably the ultimate expression of this caliber on the 1911 platform: the reliability and the accuracy have been unmatched.
The carry guns and the trainer versions can be set up identically for speed of deployment, while the target shooting and hunting variants can be optimized for precision.