At a Glance: Best Budget 1911
Comparison of Best Budget 1911
Our Top Pick
|Auto Ordnance 1911 A1||View Latest Price|
Our Top Pick
|Kimber 1911 Micro 9||View Latest Price|
Our Top Pick
|Kimber 1911 Micro 9 Bel Air 9mm||View Latest Price|
The 1911 pistol is likely the most recognizable handgun on the planet. Due to their popularity, the market is flooded with dozens of variations of this American Classic. They range from as little as $350 to upwards of $4,000. You may be asking yourself how much a quality 1911 actually costs. Read on for our breakdown of the top eight 1911 handguns under $1000.
Our guide to the best 1911’s for under $1000
1911’s come with a variety of features, colors, and even calibers. Thanks to their popularity, you are left with nearly endless options when selecting your 1911. Whether you want a full-frame 1911 chambered in .45 ACP or are seeking a scaled-down frame or a more manageable round, our list has an option for you. This review only features well-respected brands that make high quality, dependable handguns.
Auto Ordnance 1911 A1
The Auto Ordnance 1911 A1 sports a classic, simple look which includes a matte black, all-steel frame, and checkered wood grips. It has a barrel length of 5” and an overall length of 8.5”. It comes with only one seven-round magazine.
The gun weighs 39 ounces (unloaded with magazine inserted). The gun shoots well right out of the box, thanks in part to a polished barrel mouth to help improve feeding of rounds into the chamber. The gun was not “ammo finicky” and fired reliably with various types of ammo. Top-end 1911’s can sometimes be sensitive to cheaper ammo due to being the tight tolerances. It also has a slightly beveled magazine well to make reloading smooth.
While a nearly 2.5lb gun may seem excessively heavy, you will appreciate that extra weight once you start shooting it. The weight of the firearm helps to absorb some of the recoil from those .45 ACP rounds. The weight aids in preventing muzzle rise and makes it easier to stay on target for follow-up shots. The sights are somewhat small, but putting rounds on a man-sized target from 50 yards is easily achieved using good trigger control and sight alignment.
If you are looking for an affordable, yet reliable 1911 pistol that remains true to its historical roots, the Auto Ordnance should be on your radar.
- Classic design
- All-steel frame
- Beveled magazine well
- Polished barrel mouth
- Not ammo-finicky
- Small, plain sights
- Only includes one magazine
Kimber 1911 Micro 9
The next gun on our list is the Kimber 1911 Micro 9 Stainless 9mm. Kimber has a long and storied history of producing top-quality 1911 handguns and they knocked it out of the park with this design. The Micro 9 line is geared towards the concealed carry market and this particular model is a great option if you are looking for a concealable firearm that looks as good as it shoots.
The Micro 9 comes with Rosewood grips, stainless steel slide, and a solid aluminum trigger. It has a 3.15” barrel and an overall length of 6.1”. The Micro 9 weighs a mere 15.6 ounces with an empty magazine, making this firearm all too easy to comfortably carry throughout my day.
As expected, the Micro 9 shoots great right out of the box. It allows for tight, consistent groupings and did not experience any failure to feed issues when shooting various types (and qualities) of ammunition. The Micro 9 comes with one 6-round and one 7-round magazine. The recoil of the 9mm round is easily controlled in this artfully designed and balanced handgun. My only complaint is that the Micro 9 deviated slightly from the traditional 1911 designs by omitting the grip safety and slightly modifying the activation position of the thumb safety.
- Simple but classy design
- Easy to conceal
- Smooth trigger pull with a crisp break
- Manageable recoil
- Thumb safety varies from traditional design
- Grips may be too small for larger shooters.
Kimber 1911 Micro 9 Bel Air 9mm
This next choice is also in the Kimber Micro 9 line. The specs of the Micro 9 “Bel-Air” are very similar to the stainless Micro 9 above. The weight and dimensions are identical to the stainless Micro 9, as is its magazine capacity. It also comes with two magazines, a 6 and a 7 rounder.
The “Bel-Air” model of the Micro 9 series sets itself apart in terms of appearance. It has a mirror-polished stainless-steel slide and a Bel Air Blue frame. In case there were any doubts about whether or not this was a run of the mill 1911, the “Bel-Air” also has Ivory Micarta grips.
The “Bel-Air” has a crisp trigger pull and allows for consistent groupings from 25 yards. A skilled shooter can consistently produce groupings right around the 3” mark.
The “Bel-Air” is a smooth shooting, flashy 1911 that is capable of putting holes in your target without doing the same to your budget. If you are looking for a blend of timeless design and modern performance that is presented in a stylish and sleek package, look no further than the Micro 9 “Bel-Air”.
- Eloquent appearance
- Tight, consistent groupings
- High-quality brand
- Smooth grips, which can be slick when shooting in hot, humid environments
- Grip size is a concern with larger shooters
- Finish may discourage owners from using as an everyday carry (EDC)
Taurus PT 1911
Transitioning back to the full-framed 1911’s, the Taurus PT 1911 .45 ACP is next up on our list. The PT 1911 has the standard 5” barrel and a total overall length of 8.75”. Like our first pick, it weighs right around 2.4lbs with an unloaded magazine. The PT 1911 comes in a classic blued finish and includes two 8 round magazines. But I promised choices, right? Don’t worry, Taurus offers a variety of finishes and calibers.
One of the best things about the PT 1911 is that they have something for everyone in terms of finishes and calibers. In addition to the blued finish mentioned above, they also offer stainless, two-tone, and Cerakoted options. Just in case you aren’t familiar, Cerakote is a ceramic finish frequently that allows for better abrasion protection and a variety of color options. They also offer the PT 1911 chambered in 9mm and .38 super if you prefer a higher magazine capacity and less recoil. This review is of the .45 caliber version.
The PT 1911 is user friendly and forgiving to inexperienced shooters. It was not prone to malfunctions and fired a variety of ammo with ease. It even has an ambidextrous safety for my fellow “southpaws” out there.
Despite its great price tag, the PT 1911 still produced consistently tight shot groupings. The “gold standard” for a high quality 1911 is that it can produce 2” shot groupings at 25 yards in the hands of a skilled shooter. The PT1911 delivered.
- Competition quality accuracy
- Variety of calibers/finishes
- Short, reasonably weighted trigger pull (5lbs)
- Ambidextrous safety
- Additional safety features (Taurus Security System)
- Picatinny Rail
- Length and weight may make concealment difficult for smaller shooters
Rock Island Armory 1911 A1 GI .38 Super
The Rock Island Armory 1911 A1 GI chambered in .38 Super has a barrel length of 5” and an overall length of 8.56”. It weighs just over 2.5lbs with an unloaded magazine and includes one 9-round magazine. The A1 GI has an all-steel frame and plastic, faux wood appearance grips. It is simple and functional.
The Rock Island Armory A1 GI is a good choice if you are looking to join the 1911 owner’s club but are seeking a more manageable round and can do without any additional features. The A1 GI offers the reliability you would expect out of a 1911 and has a clean 5.5lb trigger pull. The .38 Super is also an easier round to master if you have limited shooting experience.
The A1 GI will not produce as tight of shot groupings as some of the other guns listed. However, consistent groupings of 3”-3.5” are possible with good fundamentals.
The A1 GI in .38 Super is a great choice for new shooters due to its’ durability, ease of use, and low price tag. Like the other full-frame 1911’s on this list, the weight and length of this gun may make concealed carrying impractical, especially for smaller framed shooters. This is a good range gun to hone your skills on and familiarize yourself with the design and function of the 1911 pistol.
- Good for new shooters
- .38 Super ammunition is slightly cheaper than .45 ACP
- Simple design
- Cheap grips
- One magazine
- No Picatinny rail
- Slightly looser shot groupings
- Restrictive manufacturer’s warranty
Rock Island Armory M1911 A1 Tactical
Sticking with Rock Island Armory, we will take a look at the M1911 A1 Tactical chambered in .45 ACP. The A1 Tactical is also a full-frame 1911 and has an overall length of 8.5”. It is slightly lighter than the A1 GI .38 Super, weighing in at just under 2.5lbs unloaded. The A1 Tactical comes in a Parkerized black finish and included one 8-round magazine. Parkerizing is similar to bluing and simply protects the steel from rust and corrosion.
The A1 Tactical has several improvements when compared to the A1 GI. The Tactical has a raised rear sight, a skeletonized trigger, wood grips, and ambidextrous safety. All of these added features make the A1 Tactical easier to use than the A1 GI without substantially increasing the price tag.
The A1 Tactical has a consistent and smooth trigger pull, coming in around 5.5lbs. It fires reliably every time and has a great value to performance balance. Rock Island Armory also offers a 9mm version of the A1 Tactical.
One major downside to the A1 Tactical is that it does not have a Picatinny rail on the frame. This omission means that adding light is not an option.
If you are looking for a few more features than the A1 GI while still adhering to a strict budget, the A1 Tactical is a great option. As with other full-framed 1911’s, size factors should be considered if you intend to use this as an everyday carry gun.
- Raised rear sight
- Ambidextrous safety
- Choice of calibers
- Good performance
- No Picatinny rail
- Bland wood grips
- Only one magazine included
- Only one finish option
Springfield Armory Mil-Spec Stainless 1911 .45
The Springfield Armory Stainless Mil-Spec 1911 is a full framed 1911 with a match grade 5” barrel. This pistol pays homage to the original design while seamlessly incorporating a few modern upgrades. The Mil-Spec 1911 weighs in at just under 2.5lbs unloaded and comes with one 7-round magazine.
This pistol has high-quality wood grips and fixed steel combat sights. The trigger pull on the Springfield Mil-Spec 1911 is short and flawless. The combination of the match grade barrel and quality trigger makes accurate shooting a breeze. I could have spent all day shooting this gun. Well actually, I did.
This gun is great right out of the box. However, there are high-quality upgrades available for 1911’s. Wilson Combat is one such company and has several competition-quality parts that are compatible with this Mil-Spec design. Its something to keep in mind if you want to make some modifications down the line.
There are only a few small downsides that I noticed with this gun. One, the grip safety is a little coarse for new shooters. Two, it is only available in Parkerized or Stainless finishes. Lastly, it only comes in .45 ACP. Springfield Armory does have a few other 1911 variations that offer different calibers and smaller frames.
If you are looking for a gun that lives up to its heritage in both performance and appearance, the Mil-Spec 1911 is worth a good, long look.
- Match grade barrel
- High quality grips
- Great trigger pull
- Steel combat sights
- Only one caliber option
- Rough grip safety
Colt 1991 Government .45ACP
Last up is the Colt 1991 Government chambered in .45 ACP. The 1991 Government is a full framed 1911 pistol that weighs 2.4lbs. It has the classic rosewood diamond checkered grips and comes with two 7-round magazines. It also has a more traditional, long trigger pull similar to the original 1911.
The Colt 1991 features white dot sights and a slight extension of the tang on the grip safety, which helps prevent the shooters hand from being “bit” by slide. During testing, we were able to produce consistently tight groups under the 3” range. The gun is well-balanced, and the all-steel frame helps counteract some of that recoil.
The Colt 1991 is geared towards a 1911 traditionalist in that it is only chambered in .45 ACP. It is available either a blued finish or in a stainless steel finish and does not have a Picatinny rail.
This gun looks and feels great, but is lacking some options that may appeal to newer shooters, such as a choice in calibers and finishes. The trigger pull breaks cleanly but is longer than some other options on this list. The trigger pull requires the shooter to be more mindful of each shot while familiarizing themselves with this pistol.
If you want a classic looking 1911 and do not mind giving up a few of the bells and whistles on more modernized iterations, the Colt 1991 can provide years of great range trips.
- Two magazines included
- Long-standing, reputable brand
- Handles well
- Historically accurate design
- Long trigger pull
- Only one caliber option
- Only two finish options
- Limited modern features (i.e. no Picatinny rail)
|Included features||AO 1911 A1||Kimber Micro 9||Micro 9 Bel-Air||Taurus PT 1911||RIA A1 GI||RIA A1 Tactical||Springfield Mil-spec||Colt 1991|
|Choice of caliber||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||No||No||No|
|Match grade barrel||No||No||No||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes|
Now that you’ve read our list of the top 8 Budget 1911’s, you may be asking yourself which one is right for you. Well, read on for some keys to your buying process.
Why cheap is good in 1911 handguns
A cheaper 1991 handgun is advantageous for many reasons. For one, a high dollar 1911 is unnecessary unless you either have stacks of cash to burn or plan on competing in high-level events. Even then, many of our budget options can be customized later to suit your preferences. These budget picks also leave more room for holsters, ammo, and training.
Premium 1911s also have tighter tolerances, meaning that every measurement on the moving parts has less leeway. Less leeway means higher performance, but it also increases the probability of a malfunction, especially if shooting a large number of rounds or lower quality ammunition. For instance, a competition quality 1911 manufacturer may require something to measure .500” and allow for a leeway of only +/-.002”. A non-competition model may allow a leeway of +/-.005” on a particular part, meaning that the gun is more likely to continue cycling, even if a round doesn’t feed or eject perfectly.
- Leaves more money for accessories and training
- Generally, more reliable and less ammo finicky
- Custom parts available to improve performance
Customizing your budget 1911
As mentioned above, there are dozens if not hundreds of customization options available for your 1911 handgun. These options include triggers, extended magazines, new grips, lights, lasers, and sights. One important thing to keep in mind is that most of these options are geared towards the standard, full-framed, 1911s.
The compact options on our list also have some customizable features, such as their sights. However, the dimensions of the scaled-down versions of these pistols vary largely from manufacturer to manufacturer. If you anticipate buying custom parts for your handgun, ensure that any parts are compatible with your model. Again, the full-sized variants will provide you with the most choices.
When shopping for aftermarket parts, you should first determine what your intended use of the firearm will be. If you intend to carry it concealed on your person, an extended magazine or larger aftermarket sights may make this difficult. On the flips side, laser grips such as these Crimson Trace grips may be beneficial for a concealed carry gun.
- Many customization options
- There are more parts available for full-size 1911s.
- Pick the best parts for your intended purpose.
History of the 1911
The 1911 handgun was invented by one of, if not the most renowned firearm designer of all time, John Moses Browning. The firearm was created several years before its namesake and went through rigorous testing in 1910. It was officially “adopted” by the U.S. Military in the spring of 1911, hence its name.
Browning’s original designs called for the use of a .38 caliber round that is similar to the .38 super round. However, the U.S. government required that their official sidearm be chambered in .45 caliber due to concerns of the smaller caliber having inadequate stopping power.
The 1911 handgun became centric to multiple stories of heroism among U.S. troops during both World Wars and was utilized as the official sidearm of the U.S. military until 1985. However, some 1911s are still carried by military members today.
- Adopted in 1911 by the U.S. Military
- Officially replaced in 1985, however, some servicemembers still carry it due to its reliability.
- Invented by John Moses Browning
How the 1911 works
The 1911 pistol, like any magazine-fed handgun, is first loaded with a full magazine. The user then racks the slide to the rear, which simultaneously chambers a round and cocks the hammer. The 1911 is a single action pistol, meaning that the hammer must be cocked to fire the first shot. Each shot will send the slide back, eject the old round, and chamber a new round. The movement of the slide will also cock the hammer. Single action handguns tend to have a much shorter, crisper trigger pull.
In a double-action pistol, each trigger pull sends the hammer to the rear and then sends it forward when the trigger “breaks”. Double action pistols have a much longer trigger pull due to the hammer being moved backward at each trigger pull. They also tend to negatively affect a shooter’s accuracy due to the long, drawn-out trigger pull.
- Crisp, short trigger pull
- Hammer must be cocked manually or by pulling the slide to the rear.
- Visual of 1911 Operation
How to choose a budget 1911
Before choosing a budget 1911, you must first determine what your intended purpose is. If your intent to carry it on your person for self-defense, you should consider your size factors and the size of the firearm. Whether or not you want to customize the weapon is also an important question to ask yourself. The caliber of the weapon should also be a primary consideration, but more on that in a bit.
Range gun or self-defense?
If you are a smaller framed person, a full framed 1911 may require you to wear baggie, loose-fitting, clothing anytime you are carrying the weapon. In these instances, one of the smaller sized 1911’s may be more suitable for your needs. Generally speaking, people are less prone to regularly carry a firearm if it is cumbersome and limiting to their wardrobe.
If you intend to use the weapon for home-defense and at the firing range only, the full-framed options are probably a better choice for you due to the variety of calibers, finishes, and customizable parts available.
- Smaller frames are better for everyday carry (EDC)
- Full frames have more options in caliber and finish
- It is important to decide if you intend to carry the weapon daily or use it for home defense.
Choosing the right caliber for your 1911
If you are new to 1911s or a new gun owner entirely, the caliber of your handgun is a key consideration. The traditional caliber of the 1911 is .45 ACP. This is a great round with high stopping power, making it great for home protection and self-defense. However, it does yield a large amount of recoil and may be difficult for some shooters to effectively manage. Personally, I am picking the .45 every time. This depends purely on your experience and comfort level.
Some of the options on our list are chambered in 9mm and .38 super. Both rounds are more manageable than the .45 ACP and are generally cheaper too. Buying a caliber that you enjoy shooting and can effectively use is vital. The benefit of the .45 ACP round is negated if you hate shooting it or cannot consistently put rounds on target.
Your local gun range likely allows you to rent handguns to try different calibers. If this is an option and you are a new shooter, I highly recommend firing several different handguns of varying calibers.
- .45 ACP has high stopping power
- Smaller calibers may be more manageable for newer shooters
- Smaller calibers generally have higher magazine capacities.
- Choose the best caliber for your needs
Difference Between Budget and High-end 1911 Pistols
There are a handful of differences between the budget picks featured here and the high-end 1911s. As mentioned above, one of the key differences is their tolerance. While you do not want a gun with extremely loose tolerances as this can adversely affect accuracy and performance, these overly tight tolerance guns drive up manufacturing costs and increase the frequency of malfunctions. Most shooters simply don’t need a gun manufactured to competition quality tolerances.
High-end 1911s will consistently produce groupings of 2” or less at 25 yards in the hands of a skilled shooter. While this stat may sound appealing, all of the guns on our list are much more budget-friendly and can, at a minimum, produce groupings of around 3” consistently. Groupings of 3” or less from 25 yards is more than adequate for target shooting and self-defense purposes. All of our picks consistently stay near the 3” and several are very near the coveted 2” grouping mark.
The next major difference is the level of customization. Top-end 1911s pistols are generally more feature-packed. These features can include specialized engraving, magwell options, and higher quality finishes. These types of extra features generally make little to no difference in performance and are primarily aesthetically focused.
The phrase “budget picks” does not mean bad, especially when it comes to these 1911 handguns. Anyone of these can be a good investment for a shooter of any experience level.
And the winner is…
The hands-down best budget 1911 is the Taurus PT1911 and it isn’t even close. The other guns on our list, while still good firearms, either lacked a few desirable features or were simply outpaced in terms of performance. The PT1911 delivered on both counts.
This pistol provides the best combination of value, performance, and customization. As can be seen in the chart above, it is the only budget 1911 that provides a choice of finishes, calibers, a match grade barrel, and a Picatinny rail. It was also one of the best performing 1911s, capable of giving much more expensive guns a run for their money straight out of the box.
The PT1911 shoots great, looks even better, and is light on the wallet.