I tested five products and found the Colt 1911 Competition SS to be the best 1911 under $1000 for performance.
The 1911 is one of the highest-rated styles of the pistol. It’s easy to use because the trigger keeps your sight in line while shooting. They’re more expensive because they use metal forging instead of plastic or sheet metal parts.
You can still find a quality 1911 for less than $1000. I’ve shot more expensive models and can’t tell the difference between those and the five I’ve profiled on this list.
The Colt 1911 Competition SS ranks as #1 because its undercut trigger guard and dual recoil spring system give optimal control.
Colt has a stellar reputation as a high-end manufacturer. They are one of the few that produce guns you can resell and still end up making money.
The original 1911 design was sold to Colt, so it’s no surprise that their classic design is at the top of this list. The company couldn’t keep up with the demand during World War I, so production was farmed out to other companies. These well-known companies still manufacture quality 1911s.
Several factors will ensure you get a quality gun for your money, and we’ll address them all on this list.
The five 1911s reviewed on this list all come in at less than $1000. Each has its pros and cons, so check out the complete profiles to see which weapon will best suit your needs.
Colt 1911 Competition SS – Best Overall
Since Colt was the first manufacturer to produce 1911s, it’s no surprise to find them at the top of the list. They’ve had years of practice to get it right, and their design is top-notch.
The Competition pistol is available in 9mm or .45 ACP. Both models feature a 5-inch twist barrel made out of stainless steel. The main difference between these models is the magazine capacity. The 9mm holds 9+1 rounds, and the .45 ACP holds 8+1.
This 1911 features a Dual Spring Recoil System that significantly decreases recoil after each shot. This ensures you can keep shooting without straining your wrists and arms.
Colt decided to elevate the Competition models with upgraded sights to improve shooting accuracy. The rear sight is an adjustable Novak, and the front sight is a Novak Blue Fiber Optic sight.
A blue sight might sound strange in a world with red and orange optics. You should know that Colt didn’t pick the color randomly. The scalloped G10 grips have astonishing blue patterns that make your pistol look sleek and modern.
The blue highlights work well with the classic 1911 design. The carbon steel frame has a beavertail grip safety and undercut trigger guard. These help you comfortably hold the pistol low in your hand for secure shots.
A thumb safety is on the left side of the 1911. It’s easy to access whether you’re using the pistol for defense or competition. The aluminum single-action trigger pulls straight back for maximum accuracy.
This pistol is ideal for competitive shooters. You can buy a Colt 1911 and begin shooting without needing to make modifications. This also makes it an especially great choice for beginning shooters.
The Colt Competition series 1911s offers plenty of accuracy and ease of control. This makes them an ideal gun for protection. This is one 1911 you can use for many purposes without any trouble.
- Unique blue design accents on the grip complement blued steel look
- Start shooting without having to modify the pistol
- Affordable pistol to use as a beginner competitor
- Blue sight can be hard to see in the artificial light of indoor shooting ranges
- Not many opportunities to enhance the pistol
Springfield Armory 1911 Loaded .45 ACP Handgun – Best For Race Shooting
The Springfield Armory 1911 Loaded .45 ACP Handgun almost tied for first place with the Colt 1911 Competition SS. It was so close to being the best overall pistol, but it ranks very high as a semi-automatic pistol. Because of this, we knew it would be top of the line for race shooting.
This 1911 has a stainless steel barrel and a flat mainspring housing; the custom Springfield design has no sharp edges. It’s called the “carry bevel” in the gunsmithing world.
Both front and rear sights are dovetail-mounted with three-dot tritium inserts. Springfield’s Delta lightweight hammer is spurless. You don’t have to worry about it pinching your hand.
The matte black finish on this pistol makes it look sleek and professional. The grip panels are a checkered cocobolo wood featuring the Springfield emblem.
The manufacturer uses a two-piece guide rod recoil system, which is relatively new in terms of 1911 design. The two-piece rods improve the accuracy of shooting. However, they can slow disassembly because you’ll need to use an Allen wrench.
Springfield includes an Internal Locking System on this pistol. You can lock it to prevent accidental misfires. Though this pistol is heavier than others on the list, it’s comfortable enough to hold and use for hours at the range.
This 1911 is best for race shooting because you can shoot rapid-fire. The sights won’t lift off of the target. You can shoot rounds back to back with little recoil. This ensures quick accuracy even when aiming for a moving target.
- Ambidextrous thumb safety for easy access
- Comes with keys for the Internal Locking System
- Fits smoothly in the included polymer Springfield holster
- Heavier than other 1911s, weighing 37 ounces empty
- Rear sight notch could be wider for a better view
Smith and Wesson 1911 E-Series – Best For Competition Shooting
Smith and Wesson is a huge name in the firearm community, and they have a reputation to match. They always produce safe and reliable firearms, and their pistol line is no exception.
However, many gun enthusiasts recommended improvements on their 1911. The company listened and released the E-Series. This line eliminated the firing pin safety in favor of a titanium pin and firing pin spring.
Their 1911 E-Series is seen as a modern take on the classic pistol design. Smith and Wesson reshaped their ejection port to increase reliability and decrease brass denting. The trigger design was also upgraded for more consistency in your shooting.
Another upgrade to the design is the round-butt frame. The bottom corner being rounded keeps your clothes from catching on the pistol. This keeps the gun concealed when you’re carrying it. Though it’s easy to keep hidden, you probably won’t want to. This gun is incredibly attractive with a matte black finish and unique fish scale serrations.
The pistol has a stainless steel slide and aluminum alloy frame, which weighs 29.9 ounces. Users report that a variety of ammo can be used safely, including hardball and hollow points.
The Smith and Wesson 1911 E-Series is an excellent gun for competition shooting. It boasts impeccable accuracy up to 40 feet from your target. If you’re farther than 40 feet, using a rest will keep your sights accurate within two to three inches.
- Round-butt frame makes it easier for concealed carry
- Incredibly lightweight option at just 29.9 ounces
- Offers several semi-custom features like grip and mainspring housings
- Thumb safety might be spongy with initial use; a gunsmith can improve it
- Extractor pin slips after an average of 400 rounds
Springfield Armory 1911 Range Officer Champion .45 ACP Handgun – Best For Aesthetics
This gun is the coolest-looking 1911 on the list. We’re biased, but once you see the carved handle and the trigger, you’ll have to agree. The glossy cocobolo hardwood stocks have a great pattern on them, along with the classic Springfield Armory emblem.
The frame is made from a lightweight aluminum alloy that cuts out a few ounces and makes it easier to handle. While this is a full-frame pistol, it has a four-inch barrel that gives it a nice balance when you’re shooting.
This 1911 has a corrosion-resistant coating that keeps it looking new even with extensive use. Narrow serrations on the slide help speed up your reloading time. They also add a streamlined look to your pistol.
The slide fit is tight, so it won’t shift sideways and throw your shot off course. The front sight is a red fiber optic, and the rear sight features a white dot. Skeletonization on the hammer and the trigger reduces mass to make this pistol easier to carry and makes it look unique.
This gun is good if you’re looking for a low-priced 1911 for a beginner shooter or something compact to use for defense. The Springfield Armory 1911 Range Officer Champion .45 ACP Handgun delivers everything you need in a neat little package.
- Aluminum alloy frame makes it a lightweight option
- Comes with a spare magazine and polymer holster
- Hammer and trigger are skeletonized to cut mass
- Only holds 7+1 rounds
- Requires some work to be field stripped with the guide rod
Kimber Aegis Elite Ultra Compact 1911 – Best For Concealed Carry
The round-butt frame of the Smith and Wesson helped concealed carry, but the Kimber Aegis Elite Ultra Compact 1911 was made for it. It weighs about 25 ounces, making it the lightest pistol on the list by far.
Besides the weight, this pistol has a sleek design that makes it easy to carry. It has a three-inch barrel and thin profile so that you can carry it all day. A spurless hammer keeps the Kimber Aegis from snagging on your clothes.
The frame is rounded where the trigger guard and front strap connect, so you’re able to keep a high grip when you’re shooting. The thumb safety has been sized down in consideration for concealed carry but is still easily accessible and not spongy.
Reviewers say the recoil on this pistol is very minimal, with many men saying their wives could handle it like a pro. When fired at distances like 10 and 15 yards, the Kimber Aegis Elite Ultra Compact was incredibly accurate. This makes it an excellent pistol for self-defense.
The Aegis has fiber optic sights with red at the front and green at the rear. These sights helped ensure accuracy was spot-on regardless of distance. The trigger has a short reset, so you can fire follow-up shots quickly.
- Incredibly lightweight frame at just 25 ounces
- Compact design ideal for concealed carry
- Fiber optic red front and green rear night sights
- Only comes with one steel magazine with an 8+1 capacity
- Additional magazines are expensive and must be a specific type to prevent malfunction
Product Reviews – Other Great Options
The 1911s above are our top five, but there are a few other options on the market that stay below the $1000 price point. The following options are quality honorable mention weapons.
There are several pistols from the Springfield range on this list, so you know you’re getting something good from this manufacturer. Their line of Mil-Spec 1911s features a rugged, full-size frame with original mainspring housing. You’re getting the classic style with an upgraded interior.
The fixed combat dot sights will improve your accuracy. A short military combat trigger has been effective for years of military use, so you know you’re getting the best.
Remington was one of the leading manufacturers of 1911s during World War I, but they stopped making them a few years later. In 2011, the company introduced a 100-year commemorative 1911 with classic features with a few modern upgrades.
Some reviewers have commented that the pistol is too tight when they first use it. They have to either make some adjustments on the barrel or shoot close to 1000 rounds before it feels natural. This is an incredibly accurate 1911 once you get the hang of it, and it’s worth the money for the quality and brand name.
Rock Island Armory (RIA) has an extensive line of 1911s that look classic but are built in a way that makes them more affordable. With this in mind, you should know that the sights are low-profile and not top of the line but can be upgraded if you want to customize your pistol.
This 1911 is just as accurate as any of the pistols included in the top five, but it does have more recoil than the rest. You’ll see some bite marks on your thumb webbing after a day of shooting. For this price range, however, you’re not going to find anything better.
Learning about the top five 1911s on the market is a good starting point, but you most likely want to know what makes these weapons stand out. Various features can help you choose the best pistol for your needs.
Each 1911 on the list had a qualifier, such as best overall, best for competition, and best for concealed carry. Knowing the purpose you’ll use your 1911 for is the first thing you need to consider before buying one. You’ll also want to consider the following aspects.
Why Should I Buy a 1911?
The beauty of a 1911 is that it might be a basic weapon, but it’s functional right out of the box. The traditional style looks old-school cool. However, if you want to modify it, so it’s customized for your needs, it’s easy to do so.
In addition to the specific models we outlined above, you can also find a quality 1911 from:
- Dan Wesson
- Ed Brown
- Les Baer
- Sig Sauer
- Wilson Combat
Models from these manufacturers are more expensive, but these are all reputable brands. Buying a 1911 is an investment, so you should get what you want to ensure you use it often. A quality 1911 will last for years and can even be passed down through your family.
If you find that a particular model isn’t right for you, you can resell it and pick something that’s better suited for you. 1911s are one of the best guns for resale value. You won’t have to worry about taking a loss if you buy a pistol that doesn’t fit your needs.
Many people see their weapons as extensions of themselves. If you feel this way about your gun, make sure you get the pistol that reflects your personality. Getting a gun you love will ensure you get the most out of it.
How to Choose the Best 1911
Each 1911 has different features that will matter to you depending on your purpose. If you’re buying a pistol for self-defense, you’ll want something compact that you can conceal carry. If you’re buying for competition or race shooting, you’ll want something with little recoil and quick follow-up shots.
The features you’re looking for can get personal. Do you want something small and lightweight so you can carry it comfortably? Do you have young children, so you want something with extra secure safety?
Many of these guns are good buys whether you’re a beginner or a more experienced shooter. If you’re just getting started, you might want to spend less on a more basic gun. Once you feel more comfortable shooting, you can find features that will improve your shooting experience.
Basic features like grip, barrel length, and weight can be tested if you have a chance to hold a gun at a store. Otherwise, you might be better off going with something that seems like it will suit your needs. If it’s not everything you thought it would be, you can sell it and try something else. Most 1911s have high resale values, even after use.
What Problems Can You Have With a 1911?
Several different 1911s will have problems right out of the box. Often this is because the manufacturer made them with tight slides and barrels. You have to shoot several hundred rounds to loosen them up.
Some problems will be more severe than that, and you’ll have to send the gun back to the manufacturer. They can tweak it or send you a new one to see if the problem is fixed. Reviewers who commented that they had a problem with any 1911 on this list said the manufacturer fixed the issue. You’ll know you’re getting quality customer service with these brands.
What Are the Advantages of a 1911?
The 1911 got its name because of the year it was first manufactured, so why is it still so popular today?
First off, this gun was designed and manufactured in the United States. It’s pretty cool knowing you’re getting a government model gun that’s part of American culture. Plus, it was used by the military in both World Wars, which makes it interesting for nostalgia’s sake.
The design of a 1911 is classic, and even more traditional-looking models have had some modern improvements that make it a quality sidearm. It’s versatile, so you can use it for target practice, self-defense, competition shooting, and more. Talk about a gun with a wide range.
This is also a great gun for beginners to use while they learn. It’s easy to pick up and get used to firing a weapon. Many 1911s are also customizable, so as you learn what you like, you can adapt your gun to best suit your needs.
How Do I Carry a 1911?
When you’re shooting your 1911, you’ll want a quality holster to keep it close at hand. Look for a material with durability to your mind at ease when you’re carrying the weapon around.
Duty holsters will let you quickly draw your weapon when you need it, but also keep it in place when you’re moving around. Competition holsters have a similar design because they’re made for quick-draw, but they’ll be bulky to wear.
If you intend to carry concealed, you’ll want a slimmer holster. These won’t allow you to remove the 1911 quickly, but they’ll ensure the gun isn’t visible through your clothes.
When you store your 1911, you can keep it in a hard case. Some guns come with a branded case, but if not, you can buy one from a third-party manufacturer. Hard cases can be used for home storage and are also convenient to use when you’re traveling.
The cases are rigid yet lightweight and have padding to decrease the force of impact when you carry them around. A fabric lining keeps your gun’s finish from being scratched when it’s packed away.
Hard cases have interiors that can be customized to fit your 1911 and relevant accessories. Everything has its place and will ensure you always have your weapons and backup magazines on hand.
Having a gun safe at home is another way you can securely store your 1911. You’ll have it nearby but don’t have to worry about children or criminals getting their hands on the weapon. A quality gun safe is made of a minimum of 11 gauge steel, with seven gauge steel being ideal.
Hidden safes can conceal your weapon from others, but they can be cut out of the wall and aren’t fire safe. To protect your 1911 and other guns, you’ll want a sturdy steel safe that’s fire-resistant and thick enough to withstand a beating.
The size of the safe is up to you, but we think bigger is better. Not only can a good gun safe protect your weapons, but you can also keep important documents and other valuables inside.
What Should I Look For in a 1911?
You’re checking out 1911s because you like the idea of owning a weapon that has been proven to be good for various uses. 1911s are great for anything from self-defense and concealed carry to competition and race shooting.
Besides the broader reasons you might choose a 1911, you must consider some features to ensure you find the best 1911 for you.
You’re not superficial if you choose a 1911 based on its style. These guns are classic, so many shooters want something that reflects the traditional look of the pistol. Other people want something that looks sleek and modern.
There are different style options on the top five list. The honorable mention weapons have different looks as well. You can choose from stainless steel, Parkerized finish, aluminum alloy, and more.
Matte black can make your gun look professional, but the blued steel of the Colt 1911 Competition SS complements the blue grip nicely. Checkering of the grips can vary according to the model of 1911.
Style doesn’t just refer to the metal frame and finish of the 1911. Most models on this list have longer, standard-sized barrels. There are two options with shorter, compact barrels. The Springfield Armory 1911 Range Officer Champion .45 ACP Handgun has a four-inch barrel, and the Kimber Aegis Elite Ultra Compact 1911 has a three-inch barrel.
These barrels make the 1911s better for concealed carry, but they also affect the overall look of the gun. It’s important to consider how you want your pistol to look. You want something pleasing to your eye, so you’re more likely to pull it out and use it on the range.
Every 1911 on this list—the top five and the three honorable mentions—costs less than $1000. Even with that budget consideration, there are still differences in the price. You’ll want to consider how much you can spend on your firearm.
If you spend more money, you’ll get a high-quality weapon in return. However, it’s good to consider customer service, warranties, and what comes in the box, along with what you’ll pay upfront.
Saving money buying a pistol that comes with only one magazine isn’t a very good deal if you’re going to need two or three magazines every time you go out. You’ll end up spending more money to get extra magazines than you could have spent on a different 1911.
There’s a lot to consider when you’re buying a 1911. The knowledge we’ve shared will give you a great foundation when you’re shopping.
Which Is the Best 1911?
The Colt 1911 Competition SS is the best overall pistol because it offers everything you could need. It has two models: the 9mm that holds 9+1 rounds and the .45 ACP that holds 8+1 rounds.
While this pistol is excellent for beginning shooters, it’s also ideal for competitive shooters. You can use it straight out of the box without needing to make any customizations. Since it has quick follow-up shots, it’s also a good weapon to have on hand for self-defense.
You can use the Competition SS in many different situations without modifying the gun or changing up your shooting style. There’s no way we could give the #1 title to any other 1911 on this list.
Which 1911 Will You Choose?
You can’t go wrong with the top five 1911s on this list. The three honorable mention pistols are also great guns for beginners. If you’re not a pro or a collector, these 1911s will be more than enough for your needs.
When you’re ready to buy the best 1911 under $1000, use our site, so you know you’re getting your money’s worth.