The 1911 pistol is one of those “darlings” of the American handgun shooter–so much so that one can hardly think of a serious handgunner who doesn’t own one or a customization that hasn’t been done to it. This is your opportunity to show off your favorite 1911, and share those customizations that make it your favorite so others can benefit from your experience. If you have a favorite 1911 that you’d like to share with other www.handgunsmag.com users, simply email a clear photo and approximately 200 words about it to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will post new contributions to this ongoing, interactive article as they’re submitted.
My first Armand Swenson 1911 is my favorite. I learned of Swenson’s work in 1966 thanks to U.S. Secret Service Agent Gary Weistrand, who had one and let me handle it-—truly “gun art” from a master craftsman. I was hooked. But life interfered with my quest for a Swenson 1911 until 1980, when I met and hit it off with Armand at the Bianchi Cup competition.
Back home after finishing the match, I called him and asked if he could build me a full-house hard-chrome gun. He simply replied to this by asking, “Do you have $1,200?” I sent the check, and he sent the gun.
My timing was perfect. One of Armand’s customers had backed out, and he had a gun all ready to go. It was everything I had wanted, except for hand-carved ivory grips, which I quickly acquired.
My “Swengun” rode on my hip for more than two decades. Now I take it out only for a nostalgic range visit or sometimes for a dress-up affair. After all this time, I don’t want to lose it to theft or a police evidence locker. It’s still my favorite 1911, though.
Colt Gold Cup
My favorite Model 1911 might seem a little unconventional to many, but it works for me. I was shooting the PPC circuit here in the Northeast and wanted to get into shooting IPSC really badly, but I had a young family and money was tight—spending big bucks on a “custom” .45 automatic was not in the budget.
Looking through the catalogs and listening to other competitive shooters, I decided to save up for the Colt Gold Cup. At that time (1972), it was less than $200 and working at the lumberyard at night paid for it in no time. The only thing I did to that gun was to replace the target spring with a stronger one, had the beavertail safety replaced with a wider, more comfortable safety lever and went on to my shooting duties.
As time went on, the bluing was worn and I sent the gun to Devel to have it hard-chromed. I added a set of Colt rosewood grips and to this day that gun will shoot groups under two inches 25 yards in a rest.
When word leaked out that the U.S. Marine Corps might be interested in replacing its Beretta M9 pistols with a 1911-style .45, several companies developed guns, and I had the opportunity to test and evaluate Unertl’s effort for Handguns magazine. I was greatly impressed and said so.
The two fellows behind the gun, Rocky Greene and Aaron Davis, became my friends, and when I retired from nearly three decades in law enforcement, they presented a MEU-SOC to me with my badge number as the serial number.
The gun has everything you could want in a fighting 1911: a smooth five-pound trigger with snappy reset; ambidextrous safety levers; extended beavertail safety; Ergo grips; a magazine funnel; a special sight package that “pulls” the eyes to the orange front sight; and a frame rail for the mounting of weapon lights. It’s completely reliable (I have yet to have stoppage) and has a level of accuracy that allows me to hit eight inch plates out to 75 yards (really—-with witnesses.).
But it is the caring of two friends at a turning point in my life who took the time to present me with something very special that makes this gun my favorite 1911.
Nighthawk Custom 10-8
When I decided to purchase a custom-built combat pistol, I wanted one that was built from the ground up for one purpose and one purpose alone: to keep its bearer alive. And the pistol I settled on was a Nighthawk Custom 10-8.The 10-8 is a no-frills, all steel, .45 caliber 1911 that doesn’t have any unnecessary features, just the ones that count. The ejection port is lowered and flared and all edges radiused. The 10-8 Performance rear sight features a generously sized U notch which, when matched with a fiber-optic front sight, lets me put rounds were I want them—fast.
A hand fitted, match-grade barrel ensures accuracy, the slide release, safety and magazine catch are modestly extended for positive manipulation while the beavertail grip safety provides enhanced recoil control. With ammo it likes I can keep all my rounds in one ragged hole at 25 yards.
The 10-8’s VZ Diamondback grips, checkered frontstrap and mainsp
ring housing ensure a firm purchase and a modest magazine well funnel insures smooth reloads. Lastly, a Dawson Light Speed Rail and high tech PermaKote finish completes the package.
This pistol is set up the way I’ve always wanted one to be. ‘Nuff said.
In the fall of 1978, I bought an Ithaca 1911A1, made in 1943. I soon had it customized to the latest IPSC style and have owned and used it ever since. It has gone through three slide, two barrels and was for 10 years my constant IPSC gun and for 15 years (a lot of that concurrently) my go-to bowling pin gun.
It has had well over 100,000 rounds through it since the last barrel change, and while it is not the most high-tech or modern pistol extant, it has the essential attributes of reliability, accuracy and proven performance.
This 1911, among all my competition guns, has won me the most loot, trophies, plaques and medals. It taught me reloading, both the gun and the ammo for it. Using it as an exemplar, I learned a lot about gunsmithing other 1911s, lessons that have served me well both in competition and in writing.
If the zombies were beating down the door, and I had to reach into the safe to extract a 1911 with which to dispense truth, justice and the American way, this one would be first. Were I a fan of Viking funerals, this one would be on the boat with me.
Colt Series 70 ‘Freedom Gun’My favorite slab-side is a Government Model .45 ACP make-over that started out as an early 1970s-era Colt Mark IV. Along the way, it got an unintentional “melt” treatment by someone who buffed and reblued it without realizing you had to keep the markings sharp. I bought it for a song from an old buddy, and inspired by two illustrations I owned of presidents Washington and Lincoln, I had the Colt reblued and gold etched by Baron Technology. Then I added a set of Second Amendment Ultra-Ivories from Eagle Grips and I had the old King’s Gun Works install a match trigger, speed safety, and white-outline rear and orange ramp front sight. The gun became a tack driver.
Today, I carry it without concern for the original finish because there isn’t any of it left. But whether on the range or in the field, my favorite .45 always invites commentary—not all of it complimentary.
Some have called it “Hacker’s Hollywood Special,” but I call it the “Freedom Gun” because it symbolizes much of what we value in America: personal gun ownership, two of our greatest presidents, and the right to keep and bugger up a handgun if that’s what makes us happy.
I have a fairly extensive collection of 1911s that includes some pretty fancy guns from some of the biggest names in the business. But my favorite gun isn’t made by any of them. Oddly enough, it was made by Briley Manufacturing, a company best-known for making shotgun choke tubes.
My Briley-customized 1911 is a classic, simple gun that Briley pistolsmith Claudio Salassa built on a new-production Colt Series 70—my favorite platform for full-house builds.
He checkered the front- and backstraps to 30 lines per inch, installed a set of Heinie sights with a plain black rear and a tritium front sight insert, and hard-fit one of Briley’s wonderful match-grade barrel and bushing sets. A little reliability work; a nicely fitted, old school (sans speed bump) beavertail grip safety; and a trim, tactical thumb safety round out the package. The finished product is an accurate, reliable pistol that hasn’t so much as hiccupped in 15,000 rounds.
There’s nothing particularly fancy about my pistol, but its deep, rust-blued finish, dark Cocobolo grips and clean classic lines combine to make it one eye-catching carry gun. The fact that is the most reliable pistol I’ve ever owned is icing on the cake.
My favorite was manufactured by Springfield Armory c. 1914. Condition is okay but not great, and it works about as well as a stock GI .45 should, but what matters to me is how I got it.
When I first started at Guns & Ammo magazine, I worked with a knowledgeable individual named Harris Bierman. We hit it off right from the start, and at some point I talked him out of the Springfield .45—-with the promise that if he ever regretted the sale, it would be returned for exactly what I paid for it.
I kept the piece for a while, and then we decided a change of ownership was in order, and Harris got it back. Eventually Harris left to become an armorer in the motion picture business, not long after that was diagnosed with cancer. One day he called me over to his apartment, told me he was pretty sure he was nearing the last roundup and wanted me to have the 1911 back. We spent a fine afternoon talking guns and shared misadventures, and not long after that he died. There is not a time when I shoot or handle my Springfield that I don’t think about my compadre.
Kimber Raptor II
I’ve always wanted one since seeing it years ago on a forum. Something about the scallops on the slide, frame and grips. Here she is. Will be in good company with the Colts.
From “Mark” Online
Kimber Eclipse and Kimber Stainless Target
I bought the Eclipse a couple of months after Kimber’s first 1,000 Custom Shop-built guns were gone. It’s a production-line pistol with adjustable MeproLight night sights. Certainly I liked the looks of the gun but I’m really pleased with the way it shoots.
I’d had such good luck with the Eclipse that when I went looking for a pistol to use for Single Stack and Limited Ten competition I settled on the Kimber Stainless Target, which is essentially the same gun save the cosmetics and the sights. I had Bob at Hunter Customs do a program of accurizing and reliability modifications to the Stainless as well as the magwell installation seen here. Among other things Bob tuned the trigger to my specifications and fitted a National Match bushing and a new extractor.
These pistols have run flawlessly for me and both shoot like a dream.
“Colt Roy” Online
Para Ordnance P13
This is my Para Ordnance P13. It is refinished with Duracoat, has a Houge grip. I like the simplicity of the 1911 design, but wanted a CCW that didn’t give up much size, so the 4.5″ was a good compromise. I also wanted a higher capacity so the double stacked P13 really appealed to me. Para Ordnance had a good reputation for building quality double stacked 1911’s so for me it was a no brainer. For a gun carried daily, function-ability is my goal, so the wider mag and rubber grips don’t bother me. This is a working gun, not a BBQ gun!
Thanks for doing this interactive article. It’s the reason this gun got refinished!
Tom Clair, Adair, OK
My Favorite 1911’s are both are from 2000. The Springfield Ultra Compact V-10 Ported and the Springfield V-12 Full Sized Ported. Once you go ported you wont go back! I modified the V-12 with Ed Brown all black parts to go with the stainless, and added the Crimson Trace Grips. The V-10 is pretty much stock except for the Hogue grips, Both guns are easy on recoil but the downside is they tend to be louder!
From “Carl” Online
Here is a picture of my 1911 right out of the box.
I had this many years now. I had a .45 and sold it, but missed shooting the .45. I ran across this new one at the range one day and liked the finish on it. Also the fact it was designed like the original as much as possible but with a chamber ramp smoothed and magazine slot at the bottom at the factory.
As you can see I may not be the best shot, I don’t get a lot of range time but the gun
is accurate for being stock. This is ten shots at the target, standing, not on the bench.
I’m sure in more capable hands this gun would do better, and I never had a jam or misfire. I guess that’s what keeps the Colt going.
And to think I almost bought a 9mm, but why? Couldn’t be happier with my choice.
Have a favorite 1911 you want to share? Send an image and a short description to email@example.com. We will add more “Favorite 1911s” as they come in.