Designed by John Moses Browning in cooperation with Colt’s technical staff, the Colt–Browning .45 Automatic Pistol was adopted by the United States Army in 1911, becoming the M1911. For more than a century, this handgun has served infantryman, lawman, outlaw, and law-abiding citizen. Despite its age, it’s still one of the most popular handguns in the United States, favored for its ergonomics, inherent accuracy, reliability, and trigger.

Let’s take a look at the 11 best 1911 pistols, and see which example in production today constitutes the best 1911 pistol for the caliber or application you need.

11 Best 1911 Pistol Reviews

Editor’s Choice: Colt Competition

Colt Competition
  • Stainless steel construction reduces corrosion
  • Dual recoil-spring system dampens recoil
  • Light 3-hole trigger
  • National match barrel

Top 11 Best 1911 Pistol Reviews

1. Colt Competition: Best 1911 Pistol

Colt Competition

Why you’ll love this:

The Colt Competition feels right at home either on the firing range, helping you win matches, or on your belt, keeping you safe when danger approaches.

What We Liked

  • Novak adjustable rear sight; fiber-optic front
  • G10 fiberglass laminate grips
  • Trigger guard undercut
  • Available in .45 ACP, 9mm, and .38 Super

What We Didn’t Like

  • Some may prefer a checkered front strap

The 1911 pistol has come a long way since the GI variant that U.S. soldiers and Marines carried into Fortress Europe and Iwo Jima, but the underlying principles and features that made the design great remain the same. There’s a reason that competition shooters favor the 1911 so highly. An endlessly customizable pattern, the 1911 also has the advantages of a crisp, relatively light trigger pull from the factory and a comfortable grip due to both the angle and single-stack magazine.

Colt has updated its M1911A1 Series 70, or Government Model, without compromising what made the original a hit. The Colt Competition is available in 9mm, .45 Auto, and .38 Super — one of the best rated 1911 pistols.

A dedicated competition pistol, the Colt is equipped with Novak sights. However, rather than fixed combat sights, the Novak rear sight can be adjusted to accommodate different bullet weights. The front sight, which is dovetailed into the slide, contains a fiber-optic insert for increased visibility during the day.

The sights aren’t the only feature that serves the competitive target shooter. As in modern 1911 handguns, the hammer is skeletonized, which reduces weight and lock time. The trigger guard has an undercut so you can position your hand higher to reduce leverage during recoil, and the grip safety is an upswept beavertail.

2. Rock Island M1911-A1 Tactical .45 ACP Pistol: Best 1911 Pistol for the Money

Rock Island M1911-A1 Tactical .45 ACP Pistol

Why you’ll love this:

If you’re new to the 1911 and want an introduction to the platform without spending a significant amount, the Rock Island Armory M1911-A1 Tactical is an excellent choice.

What We Liked

  • Additional weight can help reduce recoil
  • The trigger is over-travel adjustable
  • Picatinny rail for accessory attachment

What We Didn’t Like

  • Increased weight may be a negative for some
  • Manufactured in the Philippines

If you’re on a strict budget or new to the platform, you may find the high prices that 1911 pistols typically command surprising. However, there are a few companies that offer more budget-friendly weapons. One of these is Rock Island Armory, manufactured in the Philippines, so if you’re committed to only buying American, this may be a deal-breaker.

The U.S. Army experience in the Philippines during the Moro Rebellion led the Ordnance Office to investigate the question of caliber. The result was the recommendation by Col. LaGarde of the Medical Corps that the Army should adopt a handgun caliber of no less than .45 to deliver adequate stopping power.

Rock Island introduced the M1911-A1 Tactical, the best low-cost 1911 pistol. In .45 caliber, this weapon serves as an excellent entry to the platform. At 43.2 ounces, the Rock Island is heavier than the standard model, but that’s because of the full-length guide rod and frame dust cover, which features a Picatinny rail. 

The increased weight helps attenuate the recoil of the .45 Auto cartridge for those new to big-bore weapons, and the Picatinny rail lets you attach many accessories to your weapon. If you’re buying a handgun for self-defense, attaching a weapon light is a significant benefit. 

3. Dan Wesson ECO: Best 1911 Pistol for Concealed Carry

Dan Wesson ECO

Why you’ll love this:

If you’d like a 1911 reduced in weight and bulk for low-profile concealed carry, the Dan Wesson ECO is a lightweight and compact variant of the venerable handgun.

What We Liked

  • Compact 1911 for concealed carry
  • Available in 9mm or .45 Auto
  • Lightweight — 27.1 ounces
  • Forged aluminum frame

What We Didn’t Like

  • Recoil may be sharper in a light package

Carrying a full-size 1911 isn’t for everyone. If you’d like to carry a 1911 but prefer a discreet option, several manufacturers offer a compact or subcompact variant. 

The Dan Wesson ECO (Everyday Carry Officer) is one of the best compact 1911 pistols, combining the aluminum-alloy frame of the Lightweight Commander with the 3.5” barrel of the Officer’s ACP. A concealed-carry weapon should be relatively light, and the forged aluminum frame achieves that, keeping the ECO to a manageable 27.1 ounces

Available in either 9mm or .45 Auto, you can decide which caliber you’d prefer your carry weapon to fire. The only practical difference between the 9mm and .45-caliber variants is the magazine capacity — the 9mm magazine holds 1 additional round (8 instead of 7). Everything else, the weight, height, length, and width, is the same. 

For increased traction when acquiring a full firing grip, the ECO features 25 LPI (lines-per-inch) checkering on the front strap and flat mainspring housing. At this LPI, Dan Wesson has sought to balance coarseness and comfort. 

The tactical rear sight is cut to allow 1-handed emergency charging against your gun belt or the mouth of a holster, so you can clear malfunctions when it matters most. Both front and rear sights are also self-illuminating using tritium, so you can see the sights clearly regardless of the ambient light. 

4. Smith & Wesson SW1911TA E-Series Tactical Accessory Rail: Best 1911 .45

Smith & Wesson SW1911TA E-Series Tactical Accessory Rail

Why you’ll love this:

If you’re a big-bore aficionado who associates .45 caliber with stopping power and wants a more modern and tactical firearm, the SW1911TA is worth adding to your collection.

What We Liked

  • Stainless steel construction resists corrosion
  • Fish-scale charging serrations are both comfortable and stylish
  • Picatinny accessory rail

What We Didn’t Like

  • Some may find the rail spoils the classic lines

A lifelong competitor to Colt, Smith & Wesson has been in the 1911 market since 2003. Traditionally a manufacturer of high-quality, double-action revolvers, S&W established itself as a manufacturer of semi-automatic pistols in the 1950s with the Model 39.

S&W has elected to produce this pistol using stainless steel. In addition to increased corrosion resistance, the stainless finish is also an attractive addition to the pistol. 

The S&W incorporates many modern features that we’ve come to expect from a 1911 suitable for either combat or target shooting but in a fully stainless and highly stylized package. 

However, the SW1911TA also includes a Picatinny rail machined into the frame’s dust cover for attaching accessories, such as weapon lights. While not the only pistol on the list to do this, it is one of the higher-end firearms to feature it. For a handgun intended for tactical use, this can be especially beneficial. 

The SW1911TA sports fish-scale types on the fore and aft of the slide for increased grip. Front and back straps are checkered, and the mainspring housing is flat. In addition, the SW1911 has a 5” stainless steel match barrel.

Overall, the SW1911TA is reliable, accurate, and finely finished, and the best value 1911 pistol.

5. Springfield Armory Range Officer Operator: Best 1911 9mm

Springfield Armory Range Officer Operator

Why you’ll love it:

The 9mm offers a comparatively low-cost and low-recoil alternative to the .45 when choosing a 1911-pattern handgun for self-defense or competition shooting.

What we liked

  • Front slide serrations allow an additional point of charging
  • Picatinny rail for accessories
  • 9-round magazine capacity
  • Fiber-optic rod and fixed rear target sight

What we didn’t like

  • 9mm may not satisfy the needs of .45 loyalists

Big-bore enthusiasts may prefer the .45, but the 9mm possesses several advantages relative to the .45. It’s less expensive, and more affordable ammunition means more range time. The 9mm Luger cartridge also recoils less, all else being equal than the .45. 

Aside from recoil sensitivity, 9mm pistols benefit from shorter sight recovery times and hold more ammunition, usually amounting to 1 or 2 additional rounds.

The Springfield Armory Range Officer Operator is an M1911A1-pattern handgun suitable for the competitive target shooter and the self-defense practitioner. For either target shooting during the day or more serious work, the front sight is a red fiber-optic rod

Since the Range Officer Operator is chambered in 9mm, it benefits from an additional round in the magazine for a total capacity of 10 (9+1). 

Additional features include a skeletonized hammer, upswept beavertail grip safety, enlarged and lowered ejection port, front slide serrations, and flat mainspring housing. While the front strap remains smooth, the back strap is checkered for increased grip. For further accessorizing, especially if you’d like to attach a weapon light or laser sight for low-light shooting, the Range Officer Operator also includes a Picatinny rail

6. Colt Delta Elite: Best 1911 10mm

Colt Delta Elite

Why you’ll love it:

You should consider buying a Colt Delta Elite if you’d like to own a stylish 1980s classic updated for the 21st century and chambered in the 10mm Auto powerhouse.

What we liked

  • 10mm Auto power
  • All stainless steel construction
  • Novak fixed combat sights
  • Iconic black grip panels and red delta medallions

What we didn’t like

  • Recoil may be too stout for some
  • 10mm Auto ammunition is more expensive

The first semi-automatic pistol chambered in the 10mm Auto cartridge was the Dornaus & Dixon Bren Ten in 1983. An innovative handgun co-designed by Col. Jeff Cooper, the pistol was a commercial failure due, in part, to production difficulties. Despite those setbacks, the 10mm Auto developed a loyal following for its performance and television presence, for example, in Miami Vice.

In 1987, the second 10mm handgun to hit the market was the Colt Delta Elite, a stainless steel Series 80 M1911A1, still in production. When first introduced, the Delta Elite had a rowel-type hammer and a rat tail grip safety, akin to those of the Colt Commander. 

More recently, Colt replaced the rat tail with the more modern upswept beavertail design, which shooters often find increases control of the pistol, allowing you to seat your hand higher relative to the bore axis. However, the all-stainless steel construction remains, which is both cosmetically attractive and increases corrosion resistance

The new Delta Elite features low-profile Novak 3-dot fixed combat sights for improved visibility and a flat mainspring housing in addition to the iconic black composite grip panels with red delta medallions. You’ll also find that the manual thumb safety has been extended. 

The Delta Elite is one of the few M1911A1-pattern handguns suitable for hunting medium game because the 10mm Auto cartridge, with proper loads, outperforms the .357 Magnum and approaches the .41.

The standard magazine capacity for the 10mm Delta Elite is 8 rounds plus 1 in the chamber. Weight and dimensions remain the same as those of the GI type. 

7. Browning 1911-380 Black Label: Best 1911 .380

Browning 1911-380 Black Label

Why you’ll love it:

If you’re in the market for a 1911 concealed-carry handgun but want the reduced weight of polymer and the reduced recoil of .380, this pistol is the perfect choice.

What we liked

  • Lightest centerfire recoil
  • Lightweight construction — 18 ounces
  • More gripping surface than competing .380 handguns
  • Ambidextrous manual thumb safety

What we didn’t like

  • No increase in magazine capacity at 8 rounds
  • .380 not as powerful as 9mm or .45

While the 1911 is typically chambered in full-power service cartridges, such as 9mm and .45 Auto, there is a demand for a larger handgun chambered in this diminutive round. The reasons are simple. If you’re sensitive to recoil, have a wrist or hand injury, or are a beginner, the .380 offers the lightest-recoiling alternative for self-defense or target practice that isn’t rimfire. 

John Browning designed both the 1911 and the .380 ACP cartridge, so it seems fitting that the company bearing his name would fuse the designs. Unlike some other .380 CCW pistols, the Browning 1911-380 provides you with sufficient surface area to acquire a full firing grip, allowing you to maintain control of the weapon. This also helps to ease the snap that often accompanies dedicated CCW handguns in this caliber. 

Despite this increased height, the 1911-380 is not a full-size handgun; it’s based on the Colt Commander, the compact variant of the Government Model, substituting a 4.25” barrel for the standard 5”. That’s not the only difference. Its frame is polymer composite rather than steel, which is why it only weighs 18 ounces. However, the slide is blackened stainless steel. 

The 1911-380 also features a skeletonized hammer, upswept beavertail grip safety, an extended ambidextrous manual thumb safety, and a target crown. 

The magazine capacity is the same as standard 9mm and .45-caliber variants at 8 rounds.

8. Auto Ordnance M1911A1: Best 1911 .45 ACP Pistol Under $1,000

Auto Ordnance M1911A1

Why you’ll love it:

If you want an inexpensive 1911 pistol as an introduction to the platform or want to experience an authentic reproduction of a WWII-era GI .45, the Auto Ordnance 1911 delivers.

What we liked

  • An authentic reproduction of the WWII-era M1911A1
  • Gray parkerized finish
  • Wooden grip panels with U.S. logo

What we didn’t like

  • No bells and whistles
  • Low-profile combat sights may be hard to see

Whether you’re interested in getting back to basics or honoring the heritage of America’s most iconic sidearm, the Auto Ordnance M1911A1 is a superb place to start. Chambered in .45 ACP, Auto Ordnance began producing this all-American pistol to serve as an authentic reproduction of the firearm that saw action in World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam. 

When you buy one of these GI .45 classics, you’re experiencing the same equipment that a U.S. soldier or Marine would have carried into battle in the 1940s and ‘50s. The M1911A1 has a parkerized steel finish, low-profile fixed combat sights, a short trigger, arched mainspring housing, and 7-round steel magazine. The grip panels are wood, feature a diamond pattern, and are emblazoned with the U.S. logo

If you need an entry-level firearm, this is also one of the best mid-priced 1911 pistols on the market and provides an authentic glimpse at what was on offer over 70 years ago. 

Don’t expect this to provide the modern bells and whistles that adorn combat and competition pistols today. This gun doesn’t have an upswept beavertail safety, adjustable target or high-visibility combat sights, or extended speed safety. This is a bare-bones .45, the kind used by American servicemen to fight the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese.

9. Walther Colt Government Model: Best .22 LR 1911 Pistol

Walther Colt Government Model

Why you’ll love it:

If you’d like to experience the 1911 in all its glory, without the expensive and recoil of full-power .45-caliber ammunition, this .22-caliber variant by Walther is a winner.

What we liked

  • .22-caliber 1911 for range practice and familiarization firing
  • Weight, fit, and finish replicate service-caliber 1911
  • 12-round magazine capacity
  • Picatinny accessory rail
  • Inexpensive and low-recoil alternative for plinking

What we didn’t like

  • .22 LR underpowered for self-defense

The 1911 pistol with the lightest recoil is undoubtedly the Walther Colt Government Model, chambered in .22 Long Rifle. Walther manufactures this pistol under license from Colt. 

Weighing approximately 34 ounces, the Walther Colt Government Model’s purpose is the same as the famous Colt Ace of the 1930s and ‘40s. It is meant to replicate the weight, fit, and feel of the full-size, all-steel .45 pistol without the recoil or expense associated with full-power combat loads. The .22 rimfire ammunition is perfect for teaching beginners and children the fundamentals of marksmanship and firearm handling. 

The .22 Long Rifle can be fired without the same range restrictions or backstop requirements demanded from more powerful centerfire rounds. 

The primary difference, other than the caliber, relative to the centerfire offering is the magazine capacity. Rather than 7 or 8 rounds in .45 or 9 rounds in 9mm, this pistol’s magazine holds 12 (+1 in the chamber for a total of 13). 

Although the Walther Colt features the typical features of a modern 1911, from the upswept beavertail grip safety to the extended manual safety lever, the Picatinny rail is the part that you may be surprised to see on a .22-caliber variant. However, it’s become a standard feature of 1911 pistols designed for self-defense or duty.   

10. Kimber Micro CDP 9mm Pistol: Best Compact 1911 Pistol

Kimber Micro CDP 9mm Pistol

Why you’ll love it:

If you don’t mind the increased snap of an ultra-light and compact 9mm and want a 1911-inspired backup weapon, the Kimber Micro 9 checks all the boxes.

What we liked

  • Ultra-lightweight — 15.6 ounces
  • Proprietary non-snag Carry Melt coating
  • Compact — 4.07” in height

What we didn’t like

  • Recoils may be stout due to small size

At less than a pound (15.6 ounces), the Kimber Micro 9mm achieved this weight by combining an aluminum frame with reduced dimensions. Its height is only 4.07”, and the overall length is a mere 6.1” with a 3.15” barrel. This ultra-compact and lightweight package is a superb choice for concealed carry.

The Micro CDP 9mm allows you to carry a 1911 derivative for deep concealment or as a backup weapon while keeping printing to a minimum. Chambered in 9mm Luger, the Micro delivers more power than a .380 ACP but not as much recoil as a .45 would in a pistol this size. 

While the ECO is an excellent choice for EDC, the Micro CDP 9mm is the lightest pistol on the list. A tradeoff is that even when firing a soft-shooting round, the recoil can be snappy at this weight when there’s not enough surface area to assume a full firing grip. 

Fortunately, the front strap of the grip is checkered to increase traction. There’s also no grip safety to worry about when holding the pistol. Instead, the frame reproduces the lines of the upswept beavertail safety common to modern 1911 service pistols. Micro relies solely on the ambidextrous manual thumb safety lever

Despite its lightweight construction, the Micro 9 has a set of tritium-illuminated 3-dot night sights and features the company’s Carry Melt coating. Combined with the rounded edges, this ensures the pistol won’t snag on clothing or equipment. 

11. NightHawk Custom 1911 TRS Comp 9mm: Best 1911 Competition Pistol

NightHawk Custom 1911 TRS Comp 9mm

Why you’ll love it:

If you want the best competition 1911 and one of the best custom 1911 pistols available, you should consider the NightHawk Custom 1911 TRS.

What we liked

  • Nighthawk-brand premier craftsmanship
  • Double-stack frame and 17-round magazine
  • Integral recoil compensator
  • Lightweight aluminum target trigger
  • Dimpled texturing for grip

What we didn’t like

  • A costly weapon

Nighthawk is a premier name in 1911 firearms and spare parts, manufacturing some of the highest-end weapons out there. Although expensive, these handguns are finely tuned machines hand-crafted with care to fulfill a purpose. Whether that’s competition shooting or life and death, Nighthawk is at the forefront. 

The Custom TRS is a 1911 designed from the ground up as a competition pistol. Built on a double-stack frame, this 9mm weapon has a magazine capacity of 17 rounds plus 1 in the chamber, which affords the continuity of fire that many competition shooters need for winning matches. 

Featuring Nighthawk’s own IOS (Interchangeable Optic System), the TRS is optics ready. Removing 2 set screws, a slide cover plate can be replaced by adapter plates specifically designed to accommodate miniature red-dot sights. 

This provides you with the option for rapid target acquisition and sight recovery compared with traditional fixed or adjustable iron sights. However, if you’d prefer iron sights, Nighthawk has you covered. The TRS comes standard with Heinie Ledge black rear sight — serrated to reduce glare and containing no markings to distract from the front sight — and a prominent gold bead front sight to draw your attention. 

The texturing consists of a dimpling pattern that is less abrasive than the more aggressive checkering while still allowing you to retain the necessary grip.

The Nighthawk Custom TRS includes an integral compensator, ensuring that muzzle rise is kept to an absolute minimum during sustained rapid fire. 

Best 1911 Pistol Overall: Colt Competition

Colt Competition

The Colt Competition is the best 1911 pistol on the market because it updates a classic design without straying too far from the design’s roots. Modern where it counts, the Competition has a Novak adjustable rear sight and fiber-optic front sight, an upswept beavertail grip safety, extended speed safety, and lightweight aluminum trigger. It also features a dual recoil-spring system to buffer the recoil impulse and an undercut trigger guard, both of which work to keep the muzzle down and on target


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