Firearms

Three 1911s Every Gun Enthusiast Needs to Own

essential 1911s

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.

1911 conversion kit
It’s a classically configured, budget-priced .45 ACP with a high-quality .22LR conversion kit for extensive marksmanship training and inexpensive plinking.

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.

The iver johnson 1911 is a solid option.
For a little more money, a Sig M1911 is available with more streamlined sights and a similarly useful rimfire slide.

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.)

The Sig Viridian Dagger

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.

Rock Island Armory's 1911 is another great option.
Available with 4.25″ or 5″ barrels, these pistols also give the option of using a bottlenecked .22 TCM hypervelocity cartridge.

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.

Nighthawk Custom makes an incredibly accurate 1911.
Unlike magnum revolvers, a long-slide 1911 has only a moderate muzzle flip, greatly improving the split time between follow-up shots by most shooters.

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 Nightwak Heinie is probably the ultimate expression of this caliber on the 1911 platform.
Each of these pistols can be configured with aftermarket grips and backstraps for better hand fit, straight or curved triggers are available to suit individual preferences — and a variety of sights should you find the default configuration lacking.

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.

How many 1911s do you own, if any? Which 1911 would you add to this list? Leave us a comment below!
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (14)

  1. Randall SS Combat 1911. 35yrs old and still out shoots anything around. So accurate.
    Number 2 is my edc, Kimber SS UltracaryyII compact. 45acp.
    Awesome conceal carry gun.
    Number 3? Time will tale.

  2. Thank you for proper use of the apostrophe in “1911s”! Apostrophes are more common than 9 mm semi-autos and are too often abused. Nice article and great photos.

  3. Built a Caspian 20 yrs ago. 10mm BarSto barrel. The 20 yr old Tritium sights still have a usable glow. Zero regrets

  4. I would have to put the Auto Ordnance 1911 on the list…

    *The quintessential American handgun, Made in the USA, darn close to what our fathers and grandfathers carried into battle…and less than $500. It’s got to be on this list!

  5. I have two Colt .45 combat commanders. One stainless and the other blued. They’re high quality and solid. Several companies have copied the 1911 style and all them are appealing. It comes down to the trigger and grips and also the way the clip fits into the grip/frame. Gotta love a handgun that can be turned around and used as a bludgeoning weapon if needed.

  6. I own and regularly practice and compete with a Springfield 1911 “loaded” 5in barrel 45ACP. After 2 years of such use I have not had any problems. I switch between 185gr and 230gr Winchester ammo. I use a mix of 8 and 10rnd magazines by Mec-Gar and CMC without issue. The Kimber mags didn’t work well in my Springfield. Breakdown & assembly is super simple,

    I plan to replace the iron front sight with a fiber sight for better (for me) target acquisition in timed competitive events.

    Love my Springfield 1911 and memories of 1911 use in the US Army – a great side arm!

    As for a second, after reading the article I think I will lean toward the 10mm/22 or 9mm/22 for all of the reasons in the article.

  7. The three I decided on were an Auto Ordnance M1911A1, a Colt Gold Cup National Match and Kimber Ultra Carry II with night sights and a Crimson Trace. While a soldier I carried an M1911A1 for many years. The Colt National Match is very accurate and the Kimber is in my bedroom.

  8. I have a number of 1911s and am a believer in 22 conversion units. I have a Commander size Nighthawk Custom pistol that I am very pleased with. Chris @ Nighthawk Custom recently invited me to their facility in Berryville, Arkansas for a V.I.P. tour. What an awesome state of the art facility. Any future 1911 I purchase I will definitely be heading to Berryville, Arkansas only a short drive from my home. Wilson Combat is also home based in Berryville. The long-slide 10mm 1911 is very appealing and a strong possibility for a future purchase. It’s just that I am not sure about adding another caliber to load for. I am well covered with large-bore revolvers and companion lever action rifles. If you are looking for a nice pistol, the offerings from Nighthawk Custom deserve a very close look.

  9. I don’t usually respond to the question about “ how many gums do you own?” But this is specific to “how many 1911’s”.

    Ten (10) 1911’s –
    One 1903
    Three ‘911’ as in Colt pocket pistol type handguns. No grip safety but remainder of pistol has same functions and thumb safety.

    The remainder of my handgun ‘collection’ is not shared.

  10. I currently only own two 1911. Both Springfield Armory RO Commanders. One in .45 acp. The other in 9mm (RO Elite). They are excellent weapons and have everything that I desire in an EDC. My previous Go To Guns were a matched set of Numbers in .45 acp. Before that, a pair of ParaOrdinance 45’s. One standard the other commander. Then it was a Colt Officer Model which came after my very first .45 – A Colt Model 70. For excitement I kept a Delta Elite in the safe. The 10mm was new then. With a matched Red Dot mounted on the frame, it would put one round after another in the same hole, again and again. It seemed that the 1911 had been made for my hands, or perhaps it was the other way around. All excellent weapons that changed as I changed with the years. I miss the paras. But I have found that the new Numbers are just not what the old ones seemed to be. I would love to own a Nighthawk, but I cannot justify the expense.

  11. The Rock Island 9mm/22TCM is indeed one fine piece of workmanship. I was a bit concerned picking one up, many seem to consider it ‘too cheap’ to be any good, but it is now favored over one I have that cost over twice the price.

    Accurate, printing almost the same with either barrel maybe off by an inch at 20 yards, consistently tight groups with three inch groups at that distance (for me that’s good), 9mm low recoil compared to the 45, almost no recoil with the fire ball producing 22TCM. Trigger pull out of the box measured 4.5 pounds, after breaking just over 4. that’s good enough for a carry piece.

    The only changes to the one I bought: extended slide stop, extended slide safety and wrap around grips. Now it fits perfectly. I bought a cheaper model, but will go with the upgraded features, mentioned above, sights and magwell next time. And buy a spare magazine. For the first 1,000 rounds or so really slam the magazine hone, it is a tight fit to locket in (my only complaint.

    I shot 200 round of 22TCM first, In the first couple of magazines of 22 TCM, the were 3 fail to feeds and the slide locked open with 1 round in magazine. After that no issues. When I switched to the 9mm – perfection no issues. In the 1,000 + rounds since, no problems at all. I believe it to be more reliable and accurate than my $1,250 Kimber.

    I am considering buying a second one, after I pick up their double stack 45 acp.

  12. John Booth, the “loop” is most commonly used with the “beavertail grip safety,” and the “thumb tab,” or “Government” profile hammer is used with the regular Govt. style grip safety no Govt. style pistols.

    1. Ahh. Keywords grip safety. Guess I need to research “.45 1911 grip safety”. Thank you.

  13. Such a fine, fine weapon. I don’t have one, .. have too many guns at the moment. I would prefer the .45 cal. I have always wondered what is with the different hammers? Some being a loop and some being a thumb tab. Wikipedia does not specifically differentiate.

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