There was a time when Colt held the majority of the 1911 market. Since there was not much competition, new pistols became rather pricey and the quality disappointing. Some folks resorted to buying military surplus pistols imported from other countries; some were quite affordable at the time but have since become scarce and spendy. Buying used pistols can be perilous; unless one is especially familiar with the mechanics of the design one can never be sure if critical parts have been “tuned up” by some dumbass. When all of the parts function as intended, the 1911 is a very safe and reliable tool, otherwise, it can be cantankerous or even downright treacherous. Thankfully, today it should be needless to look to the used gun market to find bargains on 1911 models. It is safe for me to speculate that more companies today are making variations of John Moses Browning’s 1911 semi-automatic pistol than at anytime in history. If you have decided to purchase a 1911 model, it would be hard not to find something new that fits your taste and budget. What calibers are available and which caliber is the best? The most popular caliber for the 1911 pistol is the .45 ACP, but there are numerous other choices available, among them are the .38 Super and the 10MM. I’ll let others argue as to which the best is.
Should you go with a bare-bones bargain model or push your budget for something superbly tuned like the Wilson Combat CQB? It’s hard to go wrong by buying the best gun you can afford. Will a better gun make you a better shooter? While it is doubtful that a finely tuned pistol will ever hurt the skills of any shooter, I am unconvinced that one is essential for survival. If buying top-shelf means adding to an existing pile of family debt, go with the more affordable gun. Now, I can hear what’s coming next so please spare me from the “how much is your life worth?” cliché. We can’t all afford to move to gated communities guarded by heavily armed private security firms and we can’t all afford bodyguards and armored limos. A $2,000 - $5,000 pistol does not make a person either bulletproof or a master-class gunslinger. Each of us holds the price of life very dear but we can only do the best we can with the money that we have available. What we hanker for does not equal what we truly need.
After that rather loquacious opening, it is high time that I get to the subject of today’s post, the Springfield Armory 1911A1 (SA now calls it the GI .45). How good are these low-end 1911 style pistols? My ever-humble opinion is that they are darn respectable. This is my second SA 1911A1, the first I sold to a needy young Sheriff’s Deputy for half of what it was worth, and he only paid me half of that amount before being dismissed from duty and disappearing with the gun and the rest of my money. In any case, I was so impressed with the reliability and accuracy of that pistol that I bought another. It is a no-frills 1911 style pistol with the standard ejection port and unbeveled magazine-well. I find the Springfield Armory Parkerized finish to be durable and attractive. It has the small Mil-Spec sights, forged barrel, frame, and slide. I believe SA gets all of the parts from Brazil and assembles the pistols in the USA; the fitting is quite good. While the different makers of the 1911 style pistols strive for the same look and feel as the Colts, often there are differences whereby some parts are not interchangeable. For example, the SA 1911A1.45 ACP in the above photo uses a .38 Super firing pin (smaller diameter). The dust cover and front strap appear to be thicker than on a Colt.
Without using a Ransom Rest to do an “all-things-being-equal” test, I cannot say for sure how the accuracy of this pistol compares to my other 1911s. On the rare days when I impress myself by shooting consistent small, tight, groups, it is usually with this pistol. Most likely, there are nuances to this no-frills pistol that enhance my mediocre shooting skills. The fact that the sights are so small and hard to see may be an asset; perhaps I tend to use the sights casually instead of obsessively. I shoot more often with this pistol than with the others, so maybe my instincts are more in tune with it. I have not compared the actual weight of this pistol to the others by using a scale, but it feels perceptibly heavier so there may be less felt recoil and muzzle-flip. There is a noticeable area on the outside end of the barrel, sized to the inside of the bushing. This I believe enhances the accuracy more than a just smidgen.
Whether marketed as a bargain-gun or a high-end defensive masterpiece, a 1911 style pistol must reliably feed hollowpoint ammo or it is neither a bargain nor a masterpiece. I don’t ever remember having a jam of any sort with this pistol, but the majority of my shooting with it has been with ball ammo. If I were to move this pistol to home-security duty, I would need to prove its worthiness by exercising it with a goodly amount of quality hollowpoints. I have no doubt that it would measure up.
CLICK HERE for Xavier’s review of the Springfield Armory GI .45