We’ve picked a group of 11 pistols, one of which is not exactly a 1911, to populate this list. Within these 11 best 1911 pistols, you will find a good spectrum of market offerings and should be able to find the perfect 1911 for your own collection.
The 1911 is a timeless piece of history, as much as it is a relevant firearm now. It is simply a standout design that has not deteriorated in value or capability since its inception in 1911. The John Browning design has sold millions of copies of the pistol throughout the years, as well as served as the military’s go-to sidearm for a large period of time.
The 1911 pistol has been issued historically to countless law enforcement agencies and agents.
The reason this firearm has been so important and prevalent in the landscape of all firearms, is because the relative simplicity and the durability of the components, combined with the resulting reliability and accuracy. This combination has produced a firearm that has few peers.
The 1911 pistol is an “ergonomic” design that achieves its ergonomics by being simple and straightforward. The firearm has been so unanimously adopted because of the simplicity in design and the mechanical operation of the gun. The design is so good that it continues to remain almost completely unchanged since its inception.
As a defensive firearm, the best 1911 pistol tends to be atop the list of the usual suspects for most shooters. It offers enough firepower, a thin, easy to conceal frame that is still a full-sized weapon. The ability for the gun to be carried in what Jeff Cooper, famous gun writer and tactician, called “Condition One” is also an important attribute.
This “Condition One” availability allows for fast first shot reaction, and simultaneous safe carry. Carry guns across the board have been attempting to do this in a different way for decades and only a few novel concepts have survived. It pays homage to the incredible design of this firearm.
What you get with this gun is a thin but robust design that is capable of being concealed, and is comfortable to control, and provides adequate stopping power. It is infinitely customizable, made to last, and offers good accuracy and longevity.
This customizability ultimately seems to be the main reason why the 1911 pistol is still so relevant today, because the baseline for performance is now built into the most popular guns on the market, something that was not commonplace in 1911. But the ability to make the gun your own and achieve incredible levels of accuracy, reliability and performance makes it something truly special.
No other gun in history, aside from the AR-15 has achieved the same level of customizability. Therefore the 1911 easily occupies some vaunted space in the world of combat pistols.
Best way for a tinkerer to get the best 1911 pistol they want
Brownell’s is perhaps the easiest way to shop for best 1911 parts for those who are inclined to assemble the pistol themselves or have one custom made by a gunsmith. There are more than 1000 unique parts that can help to build the ultimate 1911 from scratch in this product catalog. It is impressive.
Note: while you can build a very solid 1911 by using drop in parts, it will neither be cheaper than the available options on this list, nor will it be easier to buy. This method of constructing a 1911 is for technically proficient users who understand the delicate interaction between the parts of the gun and is not recommended for novices.
Because this methodology won’t work for many users, we have assembled a robust list of factory firearms made on the 1911 design. We’ve picked a group of 11 pistols, one of which is not exactly a 1911, to populate this list. Within these 11 best 1911 pistols, you will find a good spectrum of market offerings and should be able to find the perfect 1911 for your own collection.
Not all of these guns are base models, and not all of them are the same, because of the inseparability of the 1911 customization as part of the 1911 landscape. Most 1911 comparisons cannot be “apples-to-apples”
Top 11 Best 1911 Pistols on the market
The best 1911 pistol on the market that are from factory, in standardized configurations are as follows:
RUGER - SR1911
Best Lightly Modified 1911 Factory Pistol with a Value Price Tag
Ruger has somehow managed to produce firearms for less money on American soil than any other maker consistently across the board. They are also highly innovative and provide excellent value. While purists might not fall in love with Ruger’s base changes to the original 1911 design, the shooter who wants value for the money cannot go wrong with the Ruger 1911 portfolio.
This particular offering is a 1911 that has all the absolutely necessary refinements to the gun that improve the day to day use of the pistol. The Beavertail; upgraded iron sights and trigger/hammer/sear combination make this a very nicely equipped firearm from factory that enhances comfortability and accuracy in this gun.
It’s good looking and retains simple lines and classic aesthetic. The price point allows for a better value in what should now be considered the base 1911 on the market (with creature comforts included from factory).
- Still retains the aesthetic of the 1911
- Offers excellent value for money
- Some parts may seem cheap to those who are familiar with custom 1911’s
This is best for
The shooter who is just beginning to move into the 1911 arena and knows the factory standard from Ruger. Any user who wants great value for a Stainless steel 1911 that doesn’t try to interpret more than the basics from factory.
LES BAER CUSTOM - PREMIER II
Best Fully Custom 1911 from Factory
Remember the FBI HRT firearm that was so highly touted some years ago? This is the legacy and history of the Premier II by Les Baer. From a reliability and accuracy perspective, this is among the best at the price point from factory.
Baer has gotten the customization of the 1911 down to a science while still making it a reasonable facsimile of the original design. It is comfortable, smooth as glass in mechanical operation and built incredibly well. It is also, despite a hefty price tag, still reasonably priced comparatively to other “full-customs” from factory.
The fit and finish is top notch and the trigger work is without flaws. Note, the adjustable sights may not be perfect for concealed carry, but the accuracy of the gun is beyond reproach.
- This is a legendary pistol. It has legitimate chops from a performance and functional perspective
- Price is high
This is best for
The shooter that wants a full custom without paying $4k+ for it. Anyone who will use it for range use more than they would use it for sitting in a safe/closet or on a hip for carry/duty, though it would be exceptional as both a safe queen and as a duty weapon.
REMINGTON - 1911 R1 ENHANCED
Best Stealthy 1911 pistol with some Creature Comfort Modifications
When Remington revamped their line of pistols to include more mainstream new designs and included the 1911 back into the portfolio, it helped to moderate pricing on the market and set a new standard for the industry. The R1 Enhanced is a perfect catalog item for this slot in our list because it is black, slick and capable, with a good price point for the amount of customization you get from factory.
It is built to be a tactical, but practical offering from a gun company that has had its hands on the 1911 since before the Second World War. Remington has created a great offering from factory that ticks all the boxes for most users who want a practical carry/duty full sized firearm, and they did it in a reliable consistent way that pays no favorites to a specific aesthetic, other than the original 1911.
One note that may dissuade some users: the iron sights include a fiber optic front sight which undermines the stealthy nature of the firearm build but does provide great utility on the range.
- Great looking without being flashy
- Offers all the features you want in a factory 1911, without going overboard or charging too much for the “privilege”
- Front sight is not stealthy
This is best for
A shooter who knows they will be using the gun across several different use cases and wants all that is offered for the price from factory. This is a fantastic range firearm that has potential for use as a home defense handgun or as a carry gun given the right holster combination.
WILSON COMBAT - EDCX9 1911 PISTOL
Best 1911 in 9mm that is Not Really a 1911
Included on this list because it was the best performing 9mm 1911 on the market, despite there being several from other producers. Wilson Combat started as a genuinely dedicated 1911 manufacturer for parts and custom gunsmithing. They, more than most, know what it takes to squeeze the best out of the platform.
This 9mm isn’t built exactly in the image of the original 1911, but it takes modern touches and adds them to an already excellent base and makes the 9mm variant a better gun in the end.
You are getting some great innovation, excellent ergonomics and a nearly perfect carry gun for those who prefer the double stack 9mm for carry.
Yes, it is expensive, but it is unlike any of the ubiquitous 9mm offerings available on the market now. And there is something to be said for straying from the pack at times.
- Wilson has a 1911 heritage that no one can dispute
- This is an improvement on the available 9mm’s on the market for those who love the 1911 aesthetic and core components
- It’s not truly a 1911
- It’s very expensive
This is best for
The shooter who wants something no one else has and has sworn allegiance to the 9mm but misses the 1911 styling that seems to be absent from the 9mm market these days. Shooters with deep pockets and deep convictions about perfection in a carry firearm.
ROCK ISLAND ARMORY - M1911-A1 TACTICAL 2011 VZ
Best Value for a Factory Modified 1911 Pistol
You won’t find a more customized gun for the money that still is produced by a proven manufacturer. The looks are still not completely radical, but the package delivers a relatively highly customized 1911 in a good-looking design that still pays homage to the original aesthetic of the 1911.
You will get better than stock accuracy, much better than stock ergonomics and comfort while shooting and you get some add on features that costs more than a thousand dollars in price premium from other makers for the same thing. At the “below middle pricing tier” that this gun occupies in the market, it equates to a very good value.
Built in rail for accessory attachment, a full length guide rod and no Series 80 trigger dynamics to overcome, this is a great host gun for most of what a 1911 shooter will want to accomplish with their pistol.
- Upgraded sights, hammer/sear/trigger, guide rod and mag well
- Good looking gun
- Fit and finish punches above its price point
- It’s not built to the same standard that comparable guns (costing more than $1000 more) are
This is best for
The shooter that wants it all in a factory gun but sees that they don’t have to pay for the “privilege” if they can handle using a gun from a maker that doesn’t have the historical chops of Colt or Les Baer in the 1911 world.
AUTO ORDNANCE - 1911A1
Best Factory Stock 1911 Pistol
Bone stock and very close to the original gun that was issued to military, and startlingly close to the original John Browning design, this is a throwback base model that still has great value and offers a bit of nostalgia, even if it is at the cost of some discomfort for some shooters because of the old style grip safety and the untouched trigger.
This is not completely original in the sense that it incorporates Series 80 parts and as such, the trigger and firing pin mechanisms are affected by this design inclusion. All other component parts meet MIL SPEC for the 1911 as issued. This is a value offering that will function well with ball ammunition but may not be as reliable with some of the more modern ammo choices.
That said, it still has an admirable track record for reliability and feeding/extraction/ejection.
- An inexpensive way to get into the 1911 market
- Mostly true to the original design
- Series 80 inclusions
- A bit sloppy compared to all the others on this list
This is best for
Purists, who can stomach the series 80 changes. Anyone who wants to get a bone stock 1911 in the modern field of offerings.
SMITH & WESSON - SW1911TA
Best Highly Modified Stainless Steel Factory 1911 Pistol
With the amount of embellishment that Smith & Wesson has included in this factory gun, it’s a surprise to us that the price point is so reasonable, not to mention that the aesthetics haven’t been bastardized like some makers tend to do when fully outfitting a firearm on the 1911 platform.
The relatively clean interface and the sharp design inclusions make this a very capable tactical firearm, perfect for anyone who wants the ergonomics of a modern 1911, but the tactical features of the rest of the guns on the market, including slide serrations in the form of scallops; front accessory rail, low profile sights that work well with holster carry and a two tone customization scheme.
The beavertail and trigger work are now basically standard features for modern 1911’s and the good-looking wood grip panels make this a tastefully decorated pistol if it is a bit flashy for the traditionalists.
The main feature of this gun is it acts just like you’d expect a highly customized 1911 would, and the accuracy and comfort of using it will surprise you to the positive.
- Functionally excellent
- Well made
- A now proven portfolio of 1911’s from a major maker
- It may be a bit flashy for some
- Smith & Wesson took some liberalities with the design aesthetic that some might not enjoy
This is best for
Smith & Wesson lovers. Shooters who want a very well embellished 1911 for a very moderate price point from a maker that stands behind their product well.
Kimber Custom 1911 Pistols
Best Portfolio of 1911 pistols with Factory Modifications for the Money
This entire line of 1911’s is indicative of a shift in the market that was brought on by Kimber in the mid to late 1990’s. The Kimber ideology posited that it was possible to get a custom gun from factory if you could accept that you had to choose from a portfolio of customized options which could be produced at a much better price point because of the volume at which they were produced.
The factory has been responsible for several innovations as a result and the product that it produces continues to be a well-respected, highly usable 1911 that many owners would be proud to have in their collection.
The way that Kimber has refined its product over the years has put its guns into a specific field within the industry that is both regarded as a fully customized gun off the line, but also as a value product for the 1911 consumer. All in all, the Kimber offering means you can get exactly what you want as a market fair price point without a whole lot of sacrifice.
While there is not enough space here to detail the amount of customization available from Kimber, suffice it to say, you will be impressed at the amount of choice you have in getting a reliable factory 1911.
- Very good pricing for very highly customized pistols
- Good quality of manufacture without having to cut corners to achieve price point
- No real cons
This is best for
Those familiar with Kimber and who like the idea of a factory custom for half the price of most competitors. While you won’t get some of the tightness in tolerances as you can get with a true one-off custom, it’s truly hard to beat the value of the Kimber offering, especially for a first time 1911 owner.
Colt Government Delta Elite 1911
Best 10mm Factory 1911
One of the most iconic non-.45 ACP 1911’s in history, the full-sized Delta elite is a proven 10mm platform for decades that has overcome every bit of punishment that the 10mm can offer. Yes, there are finer 10mm offerings (from a fit and finish perspective) in the 1911, but none have the track record, nor the iconic looks and design of the Delta elite and it was the easiest choice on this list.
Colt practically invented the modern 1911, especially with the advent of the Series 70 and Series 80, despite some shooters hating those feature sets.
The 10mm 1911 found its true birth in this longstanding firearm that has the longevity and durability that few other firearms can match. The high beavertail grip safety improves comfort when shooting the 10mm and the two-tone gun with the Delta badge on the grips is reminiscent of a time when Colt was the leader in the 1911 market. This is a throwback that is worth the money for the shooter who has moved to the 10mm.
- Classic 1980’s design philosophy
- Excellent staying power and iconic looks
- Unmatched durability
- Series 80 additions
- Still has the same Colt manufacturing that some believe should have been left in the 1980’s
This is best for
While it’s not perfect, this was a very important 1911 in the early part of the modern era of the 1911, and it set the stage for a large group of nontraditional calibers for the 1911. Colt’s Delta Elite is a design dynamo that still has relevance in a world where 10mm is getting more and more acceptance.
Browning 1911-22 Black Label Compact
Best .22LR 1911 Styled Pistol
Browning has made a whole market out of avoiding the classic chambering of Browning’s own design. You won’t find a Browning .45 ACP on offer from the factory, instead what you find is a plethora of very high end .22 LR’s and .380 Autos that begs the question: Why wasn’t the gun also chambered in these calibers early on in its existence?
The amount of fun that you can have with a 1911 style pistol is exponentially increased when you look at these as potential offerings. The fit and finish of the Browning factory guns is top tier and the price point is not increased as a result. You are getting excellent value for money once you understand the quality of manufacture and the attention to detail of this line of 1911’s.
The “true to the original” feel of these guns is only matched by their tasteful embellishment, which seems like a contradictory statement, until you hold and shoot one. They are both pretty, AND practical.
- Easy to handle
- Still a good value
- Incredibly fun and a good departure from tradition when it comes to the impact you can have on users with these pistols
- Nontraditional calibers
This is best for
Heavy range users who like these calibers and don’t necessarily want a .45 ACP in the shape of a 1911.
SIG SAUER 1911 TACOPS
Best Tactically Styled 1911 Pistol from Factory
It will be hard to find a better tactical variant of the 1911 for the price point. In fact, one may not exist if you are intending to use a suppressor with the 1911. This version utilizes a threaded barrel that makes it easy to do. The smoother outlines and deburred finish of the gun makes it a perfect holster carried firearm as well as one of the more comfortable 1911’s to shoot at the under $1500 price point.
Sig has gone through a lot of design changes, but still manages to evoke some of the purist aesthetics and certainly has the core of the 1911 deep within it’s DNA in this model range. The trigger and beavertail work is factory standard and the low profile night sights and accessory rail make this an obvious contender if you are using it for tactical purposes. The price is the differentiating factor though, as you can get these design features elsewhere. You simply cannot get all of them in one package from a factory as reliable as Sig Sauer for the money though.
And for what it lacks in old school personality, it more than makes up for in reliability and functionality. When tactical means practical and useful, this is the 1911 factory firearm you are going to go after.
- Reliable and proven as a model range for Sig
- Seriously well thought out for the true duty user
- Excellent value for the money for the user who wants this feature set
- None to speak of
This is best for
You must admit it is a lot of gun for the money, no matter which side of the argument about aesthetics you fall into. The user best suited to this firearm is anyone who wants a threaded barrel on a 1911. Anyone who wants realistic features for a daily duty gun but still wants the core features of a 1911.
The 1911 needs no real persuasive argument to get shooters to adopt it. It has been proven on almost every battlefield in modern history with only a few exceptions. It has easily become the most recognizable single style of handgun and it has become the most often customized, and the most customizable, thanks to the huge aftermarket availability of products for it. It goes without saying for more than 100 years, that this is among the finest choices for duty or concealed carry for those who wish to have a full-sized pistol on their body.
Of the best 1911 pistols listed in this article, there lies among them a perfect 1911 for each reader wishing to find their ideal variant. If the exact model isn’t chosen, the feature set and customizations will easily yield an appropriate path for the shooter/reader to take to find the gun they will ultimately be satisfied with. Of that we are certain.