Buying your first 1911

Buying your first 1911


If you are considering buying a 1911 for the first time, you must read this first. Just so you know, I am no expert though i have owned different kinds of 1911 pistols. I have used and carried lots of 1911 style pistols though i have not owned or shot them all.

There are many kinds of 1911 configurations available today and I must say that modern gun designs have borrowed from the 1911 model. A tuned 1911, cleaned, and running well, it can be the best pistol out there – precision wise.

Many are saying that the 1911 pistols are strong and somewhat romantic. It feels like you are shaking John Wayne’s hands, while holding it and it shoots a quarter sized rounds at 50 yards. Another thing is that it isn’t a plug and play pistol. Even the most expensive semi-custom gun will need some tweakings from a gunsmith. You also need an expert to change even its simplest parts.

Well, if you really want the 1911 pistol, make sure you have enough patience, and of course – Budget. Here are the things to look for if you want to enter the World of 1911.

Slide & Frame

Choose a 1911 that is made fromcarbon steel Colt, or Caspian frame and slide set. As much as possible, avoid stainless steel slide and frames because there are lots of finishes to protect a carbon steel pistol. Most pistols nowadays with stainless steel slide and frames come with non-stainless parts which means that the pistol will not match. Moreover, the stainless steel will abrade or gall against itself.

Barrel, Guide Rod, and Bushing

If you want chromoly barrels, get it blued or parkerized to avoid corrosion. The original guide rod that comes with the 1911 pistol guides the recoil spring inside its slide. Its spring runs outside the rod, while keeping the spring in line as its slide moves backwards. A full-length guide rods gives the pistol’s spring more guidance by adding more length though it makes the pistol harder to field strip.

The original bushing can be tweaked. You can see lots of bull barrels online which rely on exact machining to fit the pistol’s barrel and remove the barrel bushing. Same with the shock buffs, you need to know everything about its usage and service as these parts can cause malfunctions.

Old 1911s come with external extractors to make the gun reliable as it requires less tweaking or tinkering.. It is such a theoretic improvement compared to the internal extractors as the spring pressure does not require tuning. However, many are saying that old designs never worked correctly, and recommend a proven internal extractor in most cases.

MIL-1913 Rail

If you want to run a laser, i recommend that you choose a rail. You can buy rails from the black market as they can be clamped, welded, and even bolted on. Make sure that you have a frame with integral rail to save more on money and worries.

Undercut Trigger Guard

The undercut trigger guard is also known as the high grip cut. It allows a higher grip and improves on your control of the pistol. Experts say that it offers comfort, helps control the pistol, and can also be overdone.


The trigger is the heart and soul of every 1911 pistol. The 1911 is considered to have the most tunable trigger amongst the other pistols out there. The most common types of triggers are short, flat, medium, and long. Short triggers are recommended to those with small hands, while long triggers are for those with big hands. Just remember: long triggers can crowd the guard when you used it with gloves. The flat triggers work without regard to finger placement. The safest trigger for a 1911 is anything that weighs more than four pounds as these are great for practical use.

Mag Release

If you are into competition, or you are a duty shooter, then you might want to consider a mag release. Make sure it’s an extended type. If you have a concealed pistol, look for a slimmer profile of a standard mag release as it works well and provides more comfort.

Front Strap Checkering

The front strap checkering runs down the frame and is one of the main grasping surfaces. The most common type are checkered and roughed up. For duty use, (20 lpi) coarse chekering is recommended; for gloved hands (17 lpi) is suitable; while (30 lpi) is for carry guns. Hand checkering is OK but it takes more time, expensive, i advise to buy it from a factory. By the way, a skateboard tape with strong adhesive is also a good alternative.


1911 models are finicky when it comes to magazines. Original 1911 magazines are cheap according to experts that’s why they recommend that you get a new one from either McCormick, Wilson, or Tripp. If you can’t afford new magazines, just buy baseplates for your original magazine to help seat them during reloads.


The most recommended sights for 1911 models are those with Novak dovetails (front & rear). Reminder: these sights will eventually loosen so make sure to have it checked or install some Loctite.  Rear sights are OK also, as well as those front sights with a roll-pin. Fiber-optics sights are only great during daytime as it is useless at night.

Grasping Grooves

1911s by standard have grasping grooves on the rear of the slide. You may have it up front, though this is not popular with traditionalists. Some prefer over-hand press check by simply running the slide from the front. There is really no rule here, but most shooters usually keep their hands as far as they can away from the muzzle. If that’s what you want, then you can pass on the grooves up front, and save money.


The original 1911 comes with a spur hammer. It works fine, but once you have customized the pistol and installed any beavertail grip safety, the spur hammer is not a good choice. Why? It’s just that the beavertail gets in the way of the longer hammer. Some designed use rounded – the commander-style hammer.

Skeleton looking pistol is cool as it is lightweight but you should remember that a lighter hammer improves lock time and speeds up the movement. Also, remember that when you swap your hammer, it’s essential that you also replace the sear that comes with it.

Thumb Safety

I recommend that you use a slightly extended to easy manipulate your 1911. If you are a lefty, use ambidextrous safeties, as these rarely work when used by right handers. I recommend the “Wilson Combat Bullet Proof ambi


Choosing the right grips for you 1911 is also essential. Grips made from wood or composite are good. Grips are available in different profiles, thicknesses, as well as patterns. Wooden grips are the most commonly used as it looks good but not as durable as composite grips and can be grippy for sweaty hands as composites.

Mainspring Housings & Magwell

Mainspring housings can be flat or arched. Flat is OK, but I recommend the arched ones for those who have huge hands. When looking for mainspring housings, decide if you want a mags as well because they usually come together. The extended & flared magwell guide the narrow magazine into place during reloads. These are essential for competition and for duty pistols though it adds bulk to the gun’s butt on a weapon-carry rig.

Final Thoughts

Buying a 1911 or any other pistol is not as easy as buying a pair of pants of shoes. You might want to consult an expert or a gunsmith. You may contact me directly or subscribe to california gun laws for my reviews, blogs, and suggestions.

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