At a Glance: Keeping it Under $1000: The Best 1911s
Comparison of The Keeping it Under $1000: The Best 1911s
Our Top Pick
|Auto Ordnance 1911 A1||View Latest Price|
Our Top Pick
|Kimber MFG. 1911 Micro 9 Stainless 9mm Pistol||View Latest Price|
Our Top Pick
|Kimber MFG. 1911 Micro 9 Bel Air Pistol||View Latest Price|
There are few handguns with the history, accuracy, and long-term quality of the 1911 pistol. These storied sidearms are dependable, powerful, and have had the military’s seal of approval for decades. But if you want to keep it under $1000, finding a great 1911 handgun can be tricky.
Fortunately, we’ve already done the research for you. Let’s take a look at the best budget 1911s on the market for fun, hunting, or for self-defense.
The top 1911 handguns you can get for under $1000
To find the right 1911 handgun for you, we reviewed a selection of quality pistols across different price points and chambering options. Here’s a rundown of each guns’ primary attributes if you want to find something fast. Otherwise, check out each 1911’s in-depth reviews.
|Auto Ordnance 1911 A1||$599.99||45 ACP||7+1|
|Kimber MFG. 1911 Micro 9 Stainless 9mm Pistol||$611.99||9mm Luger||6+1|
|Kimber MFG. 1911 Micro 9 Bel Air Pistol||$804.99||9mm Luger||6+1|
|Taurus PT-1911 45 ACP Pistol||$545.99||45 ACP||8+1|
|Rock Island Armory M1911-A1 GI Pistol||$481.99||38 Super||9+1|
|Rock Island Armory M1911-A1 Tactical 45 ACP Pistol||$502.99||45 ACP||8+1|
|Springfield Armory Mil-Spec Stainless Steel 45 ACP Pistol||$752.99||45 ACP||7+1|
|Rock Island Armory M1911-A1 GI 45 ACP Pistol||$503.99||45 ACP||8+1|
Auto Ordnance 1911 A1
This 1911 pistol from the Thompson branch of Auto-Ordnance is affordable, practical, and designed for stopping power at a distance.
Chambered for .45 ACP ammunition and with a 5-inch barrel, it has enough size and accuracy to take down targets quite a ways away. The gun is made with all steel, so you’ll surely benefit from the 1911’s trademark durability even with the relatively low asking price.
The magazine can fit 7 rounds with another in the chamber – an excellent overall capacity for .45 ACP cartridges. I especially like the blade front sight and a drift adjustable rear sight. Combined, you’ll be able to hit targets accurately, even if you don’t add another optic to your 1911 pistol after purchasing.
The gun is made with military spec parts and proportions and features checkered plastic grip panels that are affordable and make this handgun easy to grip, even with a sweaty hand.
The pistol overall weighs less than 3 pounds, and you’ll benefit from a matte black finish that makes this pistol an excellent choice for concealed carry.
This option combines many of the 1911 pistols’ best features without charging too much or having awful downsides. The only minor issue is that the plastic grip panels could eventually shatter if you repeatedly drop the gun. Still, considering all the other positive points, this is far from a dealbreaker.
- Overall lightweight
- Good capacity
- Has an excellent finish
- Paired sights are optimal for general use
- Made of durable steel
- Plastic panels could break over time
Kimber MFG. 1911 Micro 9 Stainless 9mm Pistol
This first 1911 pistol from Kimber MFG. is a stainless steel model – that’s something you usually only get for firearms over $1000 in price. But here, you can get quality construction on a budget, in part because the pistol is so small and chambered for 9 mm Luger rounds.
In a nutshell, this marks the pistol as an excellent self-defense or concealed carry weapon.
Indeed, the other aspects of the pistol commence this purpose: the barrel length is just over 3 inches, and it has a relatively low capacity of 6+1. This all means that it can easily fit into most inside the waistband concealed holsters.
It’s a great option for those with smaller hands or palm sizes (like women) won’t find the weapon difficult to grip or use accurately. However, it comes with both front and rear fixed sights so you won’t be able to adjust it for long-distance accuracy.
Still, it weighs less than a pound in total, and it’s an ideal self-defense sidearm with a minimal footprint. My recommendation is to heavily consider this if you’re looking for a 1911 handgun for self-defense, as you won’t be able to do much better when balancing price and quality.
- Very small and lightweight
- Ideal for concealed carry holsters
- Made with long-lasting stainless steel
- Has textured grip for secure drawing
- No adjustable sights
- Low capacity
Kimber MFG. 1911 Micro 9 Bel Air Pistol
Kimber MFG. makes this 1911 pistol, similarly small-sized and chambered for 9 mm Luger ammunition. In fact, it’s quite similar to the last gun, with an identical barrel length of 3.15 inches and a stainless steel finish for the barrel and receiver. This ensures the gun lasts for a long time, and certainly plays a role in how it is at the top tier of the budget for this post.
It also has some differentiating features, including a blued frame for added durability and a little bit of unique style. The mirror-polished slide also helps to distinguish it from its Kimber counterpart.
It’s extremely compact and weighs less than a pound as well, though it’s made with a comfortable Micarta stock material that may be preferable for those who like slightly flashier guns.
Like the last pistol, it also has both fixed sights. But it’s still just as good for concealed carry purposes and for self-defense needs. The low recoil of the 9 mm Luger ammunition and overall accuracy for close-range fighting makes this a perfect choice for taking down an attacker with one or two bullets.
This pistol is a flashier, pricier option with slightly better durability specs over the long term.
Consider this if you have a little extra cash to spare and don’t want to have to buy another 1911 pistol for the foreseeable future.
- Made with durable materials
- Has small barrel length
- Very lightweight
- Made with stainless steel finish
- Good recoil
- Low capacity
- No adjustable sights
Taurus PT-1911 45 ACP Pistol
This 1911 pistol from Taurus is chambered for .45 ACP ammunition and features a good capacity of 8+1 overall. With a 5-inch barrel length, it’ll serve well both as a duty pistol or as a hunting sidearm, plus a good self-defense weapon.
A blued finish around the frame and barrel will help to keep the pistol functioning for a long time to come, all while keeping the overall asking price pretty low and affordable.
This budget-friendly option comes with two magazines of whatever ammunition you choose to chamber the pistol in. That’s right – you get to pick between .45 ammunition, 9 mm and .38 Super depending on your needs. These choices mean that you’ll be able to start customizing the pistol to your liking right off the bat.
It also comes with adjustable rear sights and low weight of 2.44 lbs. The grip plates are texture to prevent dropping, and the trigger features gaps to ensure a crisp, smooth pull every time.
The downside? It has a lower rail for mounting a laser or flashlight, but no top mounting rail. So you will be limited to the stock sights that come with the purchase.
- Good capacity
- Comes in three caliber types
- Comes with two magazines
- Features adjustable rear sight
- Has mounting rail beneath barrel
- No top mounting rail
Rock Island Armory M1911-A1 GI Pistol
Rock Island Armory is well known for producing some of the best 1911 pistols on the market. This mil-spec pistol is chambered for .38 Super rounds, and it has a relatively high capacity of 9 plus another in the chamber. You’ll be able to enjoy squeezing-off repeated rounds at the range with this weapon or otherwise use it as a light self-defense gun.
It comes with a parkerized finish and affordable finish that will protect the steel surface and components from corrosion. It’s not quite as hard-core a stainless steel, but it gets the job done without driving up the asking price.
The full-size steel frame means the gun weighs just over 2.5 lbs, but that’s still not too heavy for most folks’ needs.
It also comes with both front and rear fixed sights, plus relatively cheap plastic grip plates that do the job well enough but aren’t that durable in and of themselves.
The gun’s low price explains itself with these two aspects. Even so, we feel this is a great budget-friendly 1911 for those who want something fun to shoot at the range rather than a top-of-the-line pistol for finishing off hunting targets.
- Very affordable overall
- Decent parkerized finish
- Good capacity
- Grip plates aren’t durable
- Both sights are fixed
- Weight could be better
Rock Island Armory M1911-A1 Tactical 45 ACP Pistol
Rock Island Armory returns with a slightly pricier pistol chambered for .45 ACP ammunition. It comes with a standard capacity of 8+1 and a 5-inch barrel. This barrel is supported by a full-length guide rod – this will, in turn, boost user accuracy and allow this pistol to serve well as a great training weapon or a hunting sidearm depending on your needs. The guide rod essentially prevents recoil from being quite as dramatic as it otherwise would be.
It also comes with a skeletonized hammer and trigger – both of these increase consistency without increasing weight, which hovers just below 2.5 lbs.
Furthermore, this handgun comes with an adjustable over-travel stop and ambidextrous safety. Thus, it’s a great pistol for left-handed users or those wanting to train with both hands for self-defense or urban combat situations.
Unfortunately, both sights are fixed and the finish is parkerized rather than stainless steel or something a little more robust. But even with these minor quibbles, it’s a fantastic pistol and toes the line between budget and quality pretty well for most users’ needs.
- Comes with ambidextrous safety
- Has adjustable travel stop
- Good hammer and trigger design
- Barrel has guide rod for lower recoil
- No adjustable sights
- Finish isn’t as impressive as we’d like
Springfield Armory Mil-Spec Stainless Steel 45 ACP Pistol
This Springfield 1911.45 ACP pistol deserves attention. Right off the bat, you’ll notice the stainless steel finish that boosts the pistol’s overall value. But even with this aspect, you can get it for less than $1000.
It has a slightly lower than average overall capacity of 7+1, so keep this in mind if you want a pistol with more shots in the magazine before needing to reload.
This 1911 Stainless steel pistol comes with a match grade barrel – these are the best barrels you can get. It also comes with a slide constructed with slanted serrations on the rear, which makes it easier to grip.
A standard spur hammer and grip safety reinforces the classic 1911 aesthetic it stimulates and a non-extended thumb safety for added user control. The short, military-style combat trigger allows for rapid-fire shooting.
While the sights are both fixed, the ejection port for spent casings is lowered and flared to prevent casings from flying onto your wrist. We also really like the walnut grips that boost the gun’s elegant aesthetic even further.
Ultimately, it’s a top-tier piece of equipment on a budget.
- Good grip panels
- Has stainless steel finish
- Comes with extra safety
- Has mil-style trigger design
- Barrel is match-grade
- No adjustable sights
- Relatively low capacity
Rock Island Armory M1911-A1 GI 45 ACP Pistol
This last 1911 offering from Rock Island Armory is a .45 ACP 1911 with a unique “duracoat” finish. This is a little better than a standard parkerized finish, but it’s still much cheaper than a stainless steel finish, so you can get this gun for significantly less than $1000.
It has room for 8+1 cartridges overall and features twin fixed sights, unfortunately forging adjustability for affordability. Even so, there’s a lot to like.
It’s one of the most similar 1911 pistols to the original gun’s aesthetic and silhouette, and it weighs just shy of 2.4 lbs. The barrel is 5 inches long, accurate, and performs well with repeated shots. The grip plates are smooth, however – this makes the gun look good but does nothing to improve your grip or traction on the weapon’s surface.
I think this gun serves well as a collector’s item more than anything thanks to its faithfulness to the original 1911 design and its increased durability. Consider grabbing it to display it on a shelf, or to take to the range from time to time, rather than as a full duty pistol or staple self-defense sidearm.
- Has a great aesthetic
- Looks like the old-school 1911 model
- Has “duracoat” finish for added durability
- Good weight
- No adjustable sights
- Grip plates don’t help you hold the gun when sweaty
Why cheap is good in 1911 handguns
1911 handguns are classic firearms that practically all gun enthusiasts will enjoy shooting at least once. But why should you target 1911 pistols under $1000 specifically? Isn’t it better to pick up something pricier but more durable, or that offers more performance at the range?
Well, yes and no. The truth is that the 1911 handgun is relatively outdated compared to the more modular and compact firearms that can find gun stores today.
While it still remains as a serviceable pistol and a great collector’s piece, there are modern firearms you can get for less money that will do a better job for your needs these days.
The result? Most people who by 1911 firearms, purchase them as “fun guns,” not staple sidearms they expect to perform as primary self-defense or concealed carry pistol, or as a hunting sidearm.
While you certainly can use 1911 pistol for either of these purposes, most will buy one of these pistols for the sheer fun of it and shooting at the range.
Thus, getting a 1911 under $1000 is more monetarily practical and still allows you to see the weapon perform at a high base level of effectiveness. In other words, a 1911 under $1000 still isn’t “too cheap,” so you shouldn’t have to deal with any manufacturing problems or significant issues.
Customizing your budget 1911
Cheap 1911 pistols also allow you to more readily and affordably customize the pistol exactly to your liking. The base 1911 pistol frame is fairly customizable – it’s a lot like the handgun equivalent of an AR-15 in this regard.
What do you customize?
Almost everything! 1911’s can be:
- chambered with barrels for different ammunition types
- you can modify the grip for style or substance
- you can add a textured grip that makes the pistol easier to hold, even when your palms become sweaty
- you can also add new optics
- change the built-in sights
- add high-tech parts, like lasers beneath the barrel, or on top if you have a rail mounting system added to the pistol
Regardless of what exactly you do to your pistol, we repeat: getting a 1911 relatively cheaply is the way to go since you’ll be able to modify it more to your liking or aesthetic that way.
Read more about customizing your 1911 pistol in our review of the Best Trigger Upgrades
History of the 1911
The story of the 1911 begins in the latter half of the 1800s. In those days, one of the most reliable self-loading pistols was the .38 Long Colt. However, a self-loading pistol chambered for .45 ammunition was in demand, and John Moses Browning decided to fulfill that demand.
He designed the 1911 such that it would pass most military field tests; at the time, he imagined the US military as the biggest likely buyer for his future pistol. To this end, Browning built the 1911 to withstand significant environmental damage and still perform. This trademark durability is still seen in modern 1911 pistols.
Browning’s efforts eventually paid off because the US purchased nearly 3 million M1911s between 1911 (the first issuing date and where the pistol gets its name) and 1986, when they finally replaced the pistol with the Beretta as their standard service sidearm. Still, in all that time, the 1911 saw action in both World Wars and the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
Although the Beretta is now the standard-issue pistol, some special forces operatives in the Navy and Marine Corps still use the 1911. This goes to show how popular the gun was and remains to this day.
How the 1911 works
Although the 1911 pistol is fairly customizable, it’s also a relatively simple pistol when you break it down. The 1911 is:
- magazine fed
It’s also usually chambered for .45 ACP ammunition, although other versions in 9 mm and other rounds do exist.
Like all guns, a hammer strikes the ammunition and sparks a primer at the end of every individual round. As gases combust, as gases expel the round down the 1911’s barrel at around 850 ft./s. At the same time, the empty bullet case is ejected and the slide is pushed forward as a new cartridge is pulled from an angled magazine, where that new cartridge is deposited into a firing chamber. This “self-loading” mechanism is the kind mentioned above.
The 1911 is fairly durable since it doesn’t have very many fasteners, except for the grip screws. Instead, the pistol’s main recoil spring helps to keep most of the vital components in place. Fewer areas of stress that the 1911 breaks down less frequently than many other pistols, especially when you take regular maintenance into account.
You can also disassemble and reassemble a 1911 using its own components as tools. This field-strip appropriateness is one of the reasons why the military favors the weapon so much.
In addition to the above aspects, some 1911s will come with a grip safety and manual safety, which some commercial versions also include a third firing pin safety.
How to choose a budget 1911
There are a few major aspects to keep in mind when choosing a budget 1911 to make sure you buy something right for your needs.
A 1911 pistol’s magazine capacity describes how many rounds it can hold before needing to reload. Larger capacity often means a larger gun, though this is also influenced by the size of the cartridges themselves.
Some 1911’s are made with high-quality grips with textures that make them difficult to drop. Others may have ornate or aesthetically pleasing grips.
Keep in mind the sights and mounting options in 1911 pistol offers. Some sights are really good for short-range combat, while others are suitable for precision work at the range or when hunting. Many budget-friendly 1911 handguns will have partially-adjustable rear sights or basic sights out of the box, but you may be able to add your own optics if a rail mounting system (Weaver or Picatinny) is included in the gun’s design.
Read more on the best sights for your 1911 here.
Don’t forget to consider what the pistol is chambered for. Different rounds behave differently and offer different functions or uses. Let’s break this aspect down in more detail.
Choosing the right caliber for your 1911
As mentioned, the 1911 pistol was originally designed for firing .45 ACP ammunition. These days, you can also find 1911 pistols chambered for 9 mm and 10 mm, or even .38 Super ammo.
Which should you pick? It’s all based on the muzzle energy and recoil energy that different ammunition types produce. Some cartridges produce more recoil but offer more bang for your buck, making them a better choice for taking down large game as a hunting sidearm. Others use smaller ammunition – this often leads to more bullets in a magazine, and it may be a better choice for self-defense pistol.
Here’s a few example attributes of the different caliber types:
- .38 Super ammunition produces 502 lbs of muzzle energy
- 9 mm ammunition makes 335 lbs
- 10mm makes 615 lbs
- Lastly, .45 ACP ammo makes 378 lbs
So which should you choose?
The truth is, there’s no perfect right or wrong answer for everyone. Different folks prefer different ammunition for different reasons.
If you’re looking for a low recoil 1911, go with a 9mm pistol. These guns won’t produce a ton of recoil. At the same time, the ammo won’t have a lot of stopping power, so they may only be good as range pistols you shoot for fun.
10 mm pistols produce much more stopping power, though 10 mm ammo is more commonly used in the civilian world for self-defense. 10 mm bullets are one of the better choices for hunting. When in doubt, remember that .45 ACP ammo is the standard 1911 chambering for a reason – it offers a good balance between stopping power and recoil.
Our advice? Go with the ammunition you have the most experience with, as you’ll be as accurate as possible with that ammo than if you tried to switch.
Differences between budget and high-end 1911s
While we are championing budget-friendly 1911s to some extent, you should know the main differences between cheaper pistols and more expensive ones. There are certain trade-offs you should be comfortable with before proverbially pulling the trigger on a purchase.
|Budget 1911s||Expensive 1911s|
|Frame||Cast, then machined with a few tool marks||Precision-machined, cleaned before shipping out|
|Slide||Fitted to frame multiple 1911 pistols at the same time||Hand-fitted to 1911 frame, usually individually|
|Barrel||Production-grade||“Match-grade”, meaning designed for competitive matches with a highly polished feed ramp|
|Sights||Just a fixed three-dot or black sight, sometimes an adjustable rear sight||Often made with high-end sights and fully adjustable rear sights|
|Grip||Often made with wood panels||Sometimes made with exotic hardwood varieties and/or laser engraving. Other durable composites may be used|
|Internals||Made on a machine line, some imperfections occasionally crop up||Mechanisms are usually hand-fitted for closer tolerances/fewer issues|
|Magazine||Often made with stamped sheet metal and a metal floor plate||Usually made with stainless steel metal and/or a rubber base pad|
|Finish||Usually a blued or “parkerized” finish||Often stainless steel and polished. Sometimes finishes are hand buffed|
All of this doesn’t mean that a cheap 1911 isn’t worth your time. But it does mean that budget-friendly 1911’s get their lower prices for a reason. Be sure that you know what you’re paying for so you don’t expect match-quality hardware for a price of less than $1000.
Ultimately, any of the above 1911 pistols will be a great choice for shoppers on a tight budget. However, we have to recommend the Auto Ordnance 1911 A1 as the best of the best when you consider its affordable asking price, adjustable rear sight, and solid capacity. It balances quality and budget better than most other pistols on the market, and we feel it can be used well as a self-defense gun, hunting sidearm, or showpiece depending on your needs and goals.
They’re all solid choices that will let you enjoy the performance and power that the 1911 was designed for. Let us know what you think if you do end up trying one of these pistols out and if you have any other questions. Good hunting!