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Age Quod Agis
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I like 1911s; they are my favorite platform, yet I don't understand a few things. I own an 1919 GI, and mid 90s Springfield with a bunch of Wilson and Ed Brown parts in it, and a Franken11, which I don't have working properly yet...

First, how many "tiers" of quality are there? 3? 4?, 5?

For example, Rock Island through lower Springfield is tier 1, Upper Springfield, Colt, Dan Wesson, etc. is tier 2, everything else is tier three? Are there 4 tiers, the first two above, then the semi customs such as Brown, Baer, Wilson, Nighthawk, etc, as tier 3, then the full custom guns such as Bruce Gray's offerings as tier 4? Are there discernibly 5 tiers?

Second, which makers fall into which tier? I recognize that there will be some fudging at the edges; some will put Dan Wesson in tier 3, some will put Ruger in tier 1 based on price, some may put Ruger in tier 2 based on quality. Folks may not know what to do with Smith & Wesson or Remington, where I have noticed that opinions seem to be very strong. I also understand that some manufacturers (looking at you, Colt) have had good years and bad years.

I would like a nicer, stainless commander sized gun. I have looked at the Ruger, the Colt Wiley Clapp, and the Brown Classic Custom or Executive Carry.

I'm not afraid to spend the money (well, I'm a bit afraid of the Ed Brown...) but I'd like to better understand the differences in actual experience of using the guns.

I know that the Brown is hand fitted, has no MIM parts, etc. I get that it is "better". What I am looking to understand is the value proposition at each tier, so I can make intelligent buying decisions based on my wants and needs.

Is there a sweet spot?

We may consent to be governed, but we will not be ruled. - Kevin D. Williamson, 2012
Posts: 8541 | Location: Central Florida | Registered: November 02, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Originally posted by ArtieS:
Are there discernibly 5 tiers?

Depends on who you ask. There are companies who think they're tier 5 and price accordingly. lmao
"We're worth this much because, we are." Wink

Where you will find your own satisfaction and happiness could be anywhere in those levels. A lot depends on you. You may be "one and done". Or you may be the type of person always striving for something better and may start your own journey down the long winding road of 1911's. Wink

I just sold an STI and a Para. I still have an 80's Colt, an early 70's ColtGold Cup, a nearly new Les Baer and a bottom of the line, cheap, Philippines made STI Spartan, which at this point is like "the old woodsman's axe". Everything's been replaced but the frame, slide and barrel. And while I like them all, and it pains me to say it because the Gold Cup has extreme sentimental value, the cheap, beat up parts gun Spartan is my favorite. Roll Eyes

Sliced bread, the greatest thing since the 1911.

Posts: 14756 | Location: 18th & Fairfax  | Registered: May 17, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
An investment in knowledge
pays the best interest
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Like many opinions, answers will vary greatly person-person.

Somewhere on the Net, Bac123 posted a comprehensive review of 1911’s that you may want to seek out. Outside of a book, it’s the most detailed comparison I’ve seen of 1911 quality levels between mass producer and custom shops.
Posts: 1403 | Location: Mid-Atlantic | Registered: December 27, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
That's just the
Flomax talking
Picture of GaryBF
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You are making it too hard. Follow your heart and your wallet will follow.

Ed Brown Special Forces Carry:

Right side by GaryBF, on Flickr
Posts: 10892 | Location: St. Louis, Missouri | Registered: February 04, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Go ahead punk, make my day
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You are making it too hard. Follow your heart and your wallet will follow

Very true with respect to firearms purchases
Posts: 36383 | Registered: July 12, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I'd like to see someone come up with a list of "tier" 1911 pistols with justification for their choices. Price doesn't always justify the best of anything. A $10 hooker can get you the same satisfaction as a $500 hooker. Razz

I have a 3" Ultra and a 4" KIMBER Pro and a "Classic 45" DAN WESSON. I like them all. While the DW is heads and shoulders above the KIMBER in appearance, I don't fine significant difference in shooting them and I can't justify a $3,000+ pistol that won't get carried and sits in a safe.

Having said that, I find myself with the 4" KIMBER more often than not on our acreage, just because I'd hate to ding the DW.

Would you daily carry a $3,000+ 1911 pistol vs a $700 pistol?


It never ceases to amaze me where naive people think they're safe from harm. There is no way to predict when something bad is going to happen nor where it will occur.
Posts: 7788 | Location: Somewhere north of a hot humid hell in the summer. | Registered: January 09, 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Age Quod Agis
Picture of ArtieS
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You are making it too hard. Follow your heart and your wallet will follow.

That's just the problem...

Would you daily carry a $3,000+ 1911 pistol vs a $700 pistol?

Yes. When I would carry a 1911, I'd be happy with carrying $3k of pistol. My utility guns on the property are a 2022, GP 100 or Redhawk .44.

I carry my 1911 when I want something very thin.

We may consent to be governed, but we will not be ruled. - Kevin D. Williamson, 2012
Posts: 8541 | Location: Central Florida | Registered: November 02, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
2nd amdmt gramps
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I have probably owned 20 or so 1911's over the years. Still have 8-9 of 'em. Best I've had are Ed Brown and Les Baer. Never had a Wilson, Nighthawk, etc.

IMHO, the best one for the money paid right now are the Ruger 1911's. I've had three and all were really good. All were 100 percent reliable and quite accurate. My latest is their SR1911 in 10mm. Amazing gun for the money! Again, your mileage may vary!
Posts: 2069 | Location: southeast arkansas | Registered: October 20, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I don't think there are established quality "tiers." There is so much variation that trying to pigeon hole every gun into a few grades doesn't work. I think the biggest divisions lie between mass produced commercial guns, semi custom guns from outfits like Wilson, Baer, Brown, and Nighthawk, and true full house customs from guys like Burton, Christiansen, Chen, Rogers, Brian, Yost, and the like.

When you look at commercial guns the range of quality and features is substantial. From $500ish USGI replicas to things like the high end Dan Wesson stuff or Springfield TRP. When you look at true custom guns, the range of investment and features stretches from a couple thousand dollars to ten thousand or more depending on who built it.

If you really wanted to delineate a tier system, I could think of four or five distinct ranges of retail guns and probably at least three or four of custom guns, a lot of which is based on opinion. The semi custom stuff is probably the most consistent in relative quality between manufacturers, but even there you might see a $2000 range of prices.

I agree with the guys that day you're over thinking this and to basically buy what seems right.
Posts: 2052 | Location: Iowa | Registered: February 24, 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Semi custom

For ME:
DA/SA= Sig 9mm
Striker fired= Glock 9mm
If it's a .45= 1911
Suppressed= HK in .45
I like anything in 10mm

Posts: 1365 | Location: VA | Registered: July 29, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I look at it like this...

1. Budget production: RIA, Metro Arms, ATI, etc...mostly Asian and South American variants

2. Midrange production: Springfield, Kimber, S&W, Ruger, Colt, Sig

3. Upper level production: Dan Wesson, Some Colts, Some STI

4. Semi-custom production: Ed Brown, Wilson, Les Baer, Nighthawk, etc...

5. Full-Custom: Heirloom Precision, SVI, Harrison Customs, Springfield Custom Shop, etc...

I have owned plenty of 1911’s and for me the best bangs for your buck are newer US made Springfields and Dan Wessons. Sometimes you get lucky and find some obscure 1911 that is great. In recent years some Roberts Defense guns were cheap and very good guns for the money. I had an Ithaca 1911 produced in OH made in 2011-12ish that was one of the best fit 1911’s I had ever seen.

Use thumb-size bullets to create fist-size holes.
Posts: 11755 | Location: Charlotte, NC | Registered: May 07, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Originally posted by az4783054:
I'd like to see someone come up with a list of "tier" 1911 pistols with justification for their choices.

The list of AR-15 "tiers" has been so useful over the years. A similar list for 1911s should be equally effective. Razz

Originally posted by az4783054:
Would you daily carry a $3,000+ 1911 pistol vs a $700 pistol?

It depends upon how one values the safety of themselves and their loved ones.
Posts: 5014 | Location: Colorado | Registered: January 26, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Oh stewardess,
I speak jive.
Picture of 46and2
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I group them primarily by price bracket:

Up to $999 (Colt, Ruger, RRA, Sig, Springfield Armory, etc)
$1000-1999 (Colt, Springfield Armory, some Talo Editions, Sig)
$2000-3999 (Baer, Brown, Wilson, Talo Editions, Dan Wessons, Brice Gray, Guncrafter, etc)
$4000+ (Yost Colt, Burton Colt, Rogers Colt, Bruce Gray, etc)

But after owning and shooing of bunch from all price brackets, I also think that most any decent base-1911 (a cheap Colt, Ruger, most anything really) with nothing much beyond a trigger job and minor tweaks can most often be a very nice shooing gun for no more than, say, $1500 total, or less, and that's for one where the ignition system had expert eyes on it.

You may still find that your favorite, in general, or especially once price is factored in, isn't necessarily the most expensive one or the cheapest, but that's fine/normal.

Some of them (say, a $5000 Yost Colt) is primarily different from a Brown by way of how many extra hours of manual labor was put into the checkering and other bits of craftsmanship, and while the $5000 is surely a reliable gun that shoots well (they are), it may be no more reliable or accurate than a Kobra Carry for $2500, or for that matter - a TRP or a DW or a Talo Colt with a trigger job by any competent gunsmith.

Fancy bits aside, I feel that it better shoot awesome and be super reliable once you've spent $1500-2000 on it, brand aside. Beyond that, it's just options and preferences, IMO.

Sometimes you can get lucky and find a decent shooter, dead stock, for less. But I send all of mine for a trigger job, at least, that way it gets individual attention by an expert, even if it's an ugly old beater or a Brown, I don't carry any of them that hasn't been gone through, and I'd rather have a cheap gun that was gone through than an off the shelf / production gun any day of the week, even one that's supposedly better. Piece of mind is worth $ to me.
Posts: 22081 | Registered: March 12, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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There are definite tiers and quality. Everyone is right in putting the Brown, Wilson and Baer up towards the top. I have never shot one of those 3 but I did handle a Wilson and Baer. Both were very tight but felt great.
First 1911 I had was a Sig and it was nice also. No where near the top end but it was accurate and reliable. Best I've had is 2 Dan Wessons. A Pointman 9 and a Guardian. The PM9 was target only and the most accurate pistol I've ever shot. The Guardian was no slouch either but I couldn't get myself to carry it. Eventually sold both and I highly regret the PM9.
I did over the weekend pick up a used Springfield GI model. Nothing fancy and the previous owner used it quite a bit. Scratches all over it including the idiot scratch and 1 magazine. I got it dirt cheap so I couldn't pass it up.
Put a few boxes of 45 through it yesterday and it's fine. I'd put the Springfield and Sig in the same tier honestly. That being said, it's not as smooth as the DW offerings.

I'd rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I'm not.
Posts: 1883 | Location: The armpit of Ohio | Registered: August 18, 2013Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I would look into a commander size Dan Wesson Classic Bobtail if you plan to carry it. You can find them for 1400-ish or thereabouts. I had one and sold it. Totally regretted selling, as it was a well made 1911 for the money and carried well.

If you want to spend less, the Colt Competition can be had for 800ish, has upgraded sights, and a dual recoil spring setup similar to the one used in the M45A1 USMC rail guns.

I would recommend an off-the-shelf Colt Rail Gun without hesitation. I would also recommend a Dan Wesson Heritage in the same price range.

If you want to step up to a semi-custom or a full custom, it will cost you. But there are diminishing performance returns as you get beyond the semi-custom level and delve into full-custom pistols. Full customs are awesome showpieces, but I could not see myself carrying one.

I owned a Wilson Combat CQB at one point and really enjoyed it. It was squared away and one of the best pistols I have owned. But for what I had in it, my HK45 performed almost as well (after some trigger work) and is pretty much bomb proof.

To be honest, you can't go wrong with any of the semi-customs (Wilson Combat, Ed Brown, Nighthawk, Les Baer, and the Springfield Professional Line).
Posts: 374 | Registered: July 30, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Quality tiers... Well, I suppose Dusty78 pretty much nailed it. Quality is more than well done checkering or polishing a feed ramp however.

As far as that goes, STI is an absolute crapfest. They might accidentally stamp out a decent 1911 every now and then, but their customer service is a non-event.

My other Sig is a Steyr...
Posts: 2355 | Location: Somewhere looking for ammo nobody has at a place I haven't been to for a pistol I couldn't live without... | Registered: December 02, 2014Reply With QuoteReport This Post
The Constable
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I've owned and shot a mess of 1911's from 1965 when I got my first one to date. I'd bet between collecting, bullseye comp's, the 3 or 4 I carried off and on and just shooters....I have had 18 to twenty.

The two that have astounded me are my Wilson CQB 5" and my Ed Brown Commander sized gun. Both in forty five. Those two have been utterly reliable, near bullseye gun accurate and they simply do not seem to change. Trigger still the same, controls function with their same near watch like precision, etc.

Also have a 5", current Colt Competition in 9mm. After a hundred break in rds, it has been about as reliable. Good trigger, nice controls and accurate. Maybe I simply got a good one? But those are surely worth a look.

I think there are surely decent 99% reliable, reasonably accurate 1911's. And then the utterly reliable, accurate ones. Life IS too short not to own one of the latter.

A buddy has a few Nighthawks....I rate them the same as the Wilson and Ed Browns.

My two encounters with Les Baer guns were not good. Both guns too tight and problematic. And Les was an asshole about it. Buying a $2K gun, then having to spend another few hundred dollars for the "required" five hundred rds of "break in ammo"...Sorry...Not buying into THAT.
Posts: 5249 | Location: Craig, MT | Registered: December 17, 2010Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I'd say there are 5 tiers of 1911.

Crap 1911s, that are either made as crap or have been turned into crap by some ham fisted schmuck.

Old collectible ones which would include old GI guns and old Colts.

Entry level guns that are that are hit and miss if they work or not based on what day of the week they were made.

Decent quality assembly line 1911s that work most of the time.

Anything else, most all "custom" 1911s are jewelry basically. Only valuable because someone thinks they are but serve no functional or qualitative value over a good assembly line 1911.
Posts: 914 | Registered: September 06, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Originally posted by az4783054:
...Price doesn't always justify the best of anything. A $10 hooker can get you the same satisfaction as a $500 hooker. Razz

While the “destination” is the same, the ride getting there would be much more fun with the $500 option than the $10 one. Just sayin.
Posts: 101 | Registered: March 19, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I've had several dozen 1911's over the years, and I have 3 remaining. (Okay, 4, but one doesn't count.) They are an old Kimber Classic from the early 90's, a Springfield GI, and a Sig RCS. The Sig is a great shooter, and is the most expensive of the bunch. The other two were well under 500 bucks. They are all three accurate and reliable as can be. I've owned some pretty high dollar semi-customs, several with a number of bells and whistles. For me, they didn't shoot any better than the base models. If I had to choose today, I'd probably go with a basic Springer, throw on a trigger job if the trigger is rough, and maybe some three dot night sights.
Posts: 13611 | Location: Lexington, KY | Registered: October 15, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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