Top 5 Budget 1911s

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Here at GunsAmerica, we have been running a number of reviews for some super nice, high end 1911s lately.  There is something to say about the fancy pants custom and semi-custom steel frames.  But there is also something to say about the other end of the spectrum, the el cheapo 1911s.  Love or hate the John Browning design, you can not dismiss its history and longevity. Ones that are made right just flat out work, and you don’t have to spend $2,000 plus to get one that is made right.

When I thought up this 1911 piece I was going to pick 5 that come in under $500 bucks.  I can’t find 5 that are under that mark.  Even in today’s buyer’s market due to some slower sales, the bottom end 1911s have stayed around the same price or even gone up a little bit.

Metro Arms Classic Series

Metro Arms

Metro Arms

This is one that can be found for right at $500 for the base model.  These are some nice 1911s that are made in the Philippines.  These are not only well made, but they are pretty slick looking as well.  They all come with a skeletonized  hammer, beaver tail grip safety and a Novak-style rear sight. These and a few other features that we just don’t see very often on an entry level priced 1911, or any other pistol for that matter. We did a full review of one this summer that you can check out here.  I ran a few mags through the review gun we had and can say it was a fine shooter for any price.

Buy one now on Guns America: /Search.htm?T=metro+1911

Springfield  Mil-Spec

The good folks at Springfield have been making some nice 1911s since the 1970s right here in the US.  They used to have what they called the G.I. model that sold for under $500.  This was a no thrills parkerized 1911 that was very close to what was issued to the G.I.s during WWII.  They have discontinued that line over the past few year but have the Mil-Spec model filling its role.  The Mil-Spec is a bit more (around $600-650) but it also nicer with a few extras over the old G.I.  The Mil-Spec has a wider and lower ejection port and bigger sights. You can find my full review of a Mil-Spec here.

Springfield Mil-Spec.

Springfield Mil-Spec.

Buy one now on Guns America: /Search.aspx?T=springfield%20mil-spec

Pistola Sistema Colt Calibre: The Argentinian Colt

Pistola Sistema.

Pistola Sistema.

These are not new guns like some of the others on this list.  But they are probably the coolest, at least story and history wise.  Argentina contracted with Colt to produce 1911s under license.  Production started in 1927 and went to around 1960.  These pistols were made on equipment purchased from Colt.  Colt engineers and employees traveled to Argentina to set up the factory and train the workers.  The parts are interchangeable with Colt produced guns. Are these Colt made 1911s? No, but they are about as close as you can get and can be found for a fraction of the cost.  Prices on these have gone up over the last few years.  Not too long ago rough looking pistols could be found for under $400, but they were still in fully functional condition.  They are still out there for around $500 and up, all depending on condition.

 

Cimarron

Yep, Cimarron. The same folks that are known for Cowboy Action shooting revolvers also have a line of 1911s.  These are for the Wild Bunch shooting matches that is a break off of from the SASS competitions.  It gets its name for the Wild Bunch movie and uses 1911s.  The Cimarron is not our typical budget 1911.  For one, it is a 1911 and not an A1.  No cut away behind the trigger on the frame here.  They are offered in Parkerized, blued and nickle finishes. I have one of these in for review and will say it is a very nice bare-bones 1911 that is pretty close to the ones made around 1918.  It is not a perfect copy, but for around $500 it gets pretty close. These are made by Armscor in the Philippines.
Cimarron's 1911.

Cimarron’s 1911.

Buy one now on Guns America: /Search.aspx?T=cimarron%201911

Rock Island

Rock Island

Rock Island

Speaking of Armsco,r the Rock Island name is one that almost always comes up in conversation about budget 1911s. There is a reason for that, they are great shooting guns regardless of price.  These are also made in the Philippines by Armscor.  They offer a plethora of 1911s from budget guns to some pretty fancy target and carry models.  The Rock Island GI Standard can usually be found for under or right at $500. My experiences with Rock Island and Armscor have all been positive.  Their customer service was great on a review gun that had a faulty grip safety.  They fixed the issue and had it back to me in just over a week.

Buy one now on Guns America: /Search.aspx?T=rock%20island

{ 47 comments… add one }
  • Garth January 7, 2017, 10:05 pm

    My son bought a Rock Island tactical in 9mm. It shoots great! I like it so much I may get one for myself. It had no problem handling the cheap ammo from Walmart.

  • Rickcad December 13, 2016, 6:17 am

    I received a Caspian Tactical Master custom made 1911 from a friend. It is a beautiful custom built gun and super accurate. It was my first 1911. The tolerances are much tighter than a standard 1911 and it was very difficult to turn the barrel bushing to break it down for cleaning. It could not be turned by hand. I tried a bushing wrench, but it was difficult to control the recoil spring and more difficult to put it back together. I decided to create the “Ultimate 1911 Bushing Tool” and it easily turns the bushing and allows for very easy assembly with the recoil spring and plug. You can see how it works at http://www.thumbee.net/1911

  • Jim June 28, 2016, 12:21 pm

    My experience with armscor is not good I had one go off in my holster while cocked and locked purely a junk gun if saving a few dollars is worth getting shot over buy one but remember beware you were warned

    • Steve Myers October 8, 2016, 11:21 am

      Wow. So both the thumb and grip safeties failed simutaneously with the hammer falling. What are the mathematical probabilities of that go on at the same time. And all while the gun was untouched by human hands. That truly is a junk gun. Thanks for letting us know.

      • Liter bro October 23, 2016, 7:07 am

        Lol I smell the sarcasm coming off this one, but really who carrys cocked and locked. you sir need not carry such a big gun when the weight of your iq is enough to crush u alone.

        • DuVall January 8, 2017, 10:15 pm

          I was thinking the exact same thing. The only thing you can expect is for the gun to go off when it’s cocked. I think it would be best to sell all your guns and admit yourself for being so reckless.

        • EWIngalls March 2, 2017, 11:24 am

          I’d like to sort this thread out. Jim it sounds like you left something out your story it goes right to the middle, no opening no closing just like Plaxico Burris a few years ago in a NY night club. Liter Bro, I agree Jim’s story is suspect unless someone tried to take the pistol away from him and was able to defeat the safeties and squeeze off a round in holster just have something to laugh about while doing 10 years. Then Litre Bro, litre of what, goat dung? Just because your confidence, shoe size, and testosterone levels all under size 10 doesnt mean Jim’s are. Jim may have bigger glands than brains but thats our national identity, check out the history channel. We elected George Bush President….twice! Who carrys cocked and locked? I do, thats right a Colt Defender in 45acp, and so do a lot of my retired LESOA friends. A man with a cocked and locked .45 AND the WILL to USE it is a force to be dealt with carefully. I have over 30 years in law enforcement and military service. The statement analysis course wasn’t wasted on me I took notes and studied you and Jim need to write less and think more compadre. That being said if Jim wants to blow his grapefruit sized glands off, then I stand for his 2A right to do it, far far away from high value property, unarmed women, unarmed children, unarmed old people, and Christian religious facilities. Go ahead Jim, make your day just don’t carry that hog leg anywhere near me or other bystanders. Liter buddy bro, in America you can feel the steel, at a proper facility, enjoy having a real “gun” in your hand, then go back to your side of the fence. In God We Trust, all others are interogated. G-6 out!

        • Gerald H Oakes May 7, 2017, 6:15 pm

          Well said I agree with you

        • Bo White July 2, 2017, 7:55 am

          1911’s are designed to be carried cocked and locked dumbass

  • Ray Braden June 23, 2016, 11:28 pm

    I own a few budget priced 1911’s. Here is my list. Taurus PT1911, $580, Citadel Full size, $499, Citadel Compact, $400, Springfield GI, $450, Rock Island Tactical, $600, Tisas Zig M1911, $329, and finally Metro Arms Commander in 9MM, $450. all have function almost perfectly. only problem I had was with the Metro Arms 1911 in 9MM would not lock open after last round. new mag cured problem. these are well worth the prices.

  • cobalt327 August 31, 2015, 9:16 am

    Bought a Rock Island Armory GI M1911A1 Mil Spec from Buds, cost was $329.00. Only thing is I wish I’d have bought a couple more!

  • Dusty Hesskew August 19, 2015, 4:49 pm

    I have a Sistema 1911 made in 1938. Colt sent me all the information on the weapon, and said they even had the names of the Colt employees who supervised the making of the weapon in Argentina.at that time. I bought the weapon in1970 when I returned from Vietnam at a pawn shop in Killeen,Texas for, ready for this, $55.00. I shoot at least 50 rounds a month out of it, along with my other 1911’s. I am a big fan of the 1911 series weapons. The only thing I have done to it since I bought it, I had to replace the recoil spring as it got weak and I also had to replace the original wood grips with new ones. I was told by a Colt rep who viewed close up photos of the weapon, prior to changing grips and recoil spring, that it was still all original based on what he could see in photos. At 25 yards, depending on ammo, I can get 3 1/2 to 4 inch groups. At 10 yards I can make a 1 inch hole with the right ammo. I can change all parts with Colt of other 1911 parts with the weapon if I ever need to. I can’t afford the high end guns since retirement, but I own 6 1911’s and did not pay more than 450.00 for any of them. They all shoot great and I have had no major issues with jams or accepting ammo.

  • Larry Chapman April 12, 2015, 3:15 am

    In my area I can get the Rock TAC for just under $500, a Metro Arms Commander for $519, or the Citadel (also Armscor) full size in 9mm for $379.

    • Don September 24, 2016, 1:03 am

      Do you know where to get a citadel compact 9mm for $400 or less?

  • steve April 3, 2015, 9:15 am

    I just bought a cidadel 1911 model in a 9mm and its made by armsco and i like the feel and cant wait till it warms up to go shoot it.

  • Steve Kaminski April 3, 2015, 9:07 am

    I just bought a CITADEL 1911 model in a 9mm amd its made by armsco but i havent shot it yet bit it feels and looks great i’m just waiting till the warm weather comes,,from what i have heard its a great gun.

  • Alan Sanwick April 2, 2015, 4:36 pm

    I bought one of the ACII when they first came out. Since then I have added 6 more 1911s to my collection but the ACII is my daily carry. All I have added is a beefier bushing and night sights and it shoots as well as ones that have cost me 2-3 times as much.

  • Larry March 28, 2015, 11:47 pm

    I can find Rock Island GI models for $350-400, and their TAC model for $400-450 in my area.

  • Old 1811 March 28, 2015, 8:50 pm

    Regarding the Cimarron 1911: Does it hammer-bite you like a real 1911?
    I have a Colt 1911 (shipped to the Army in 1913) and, while I love the gun for its history, if I shoot more than a magazine out of it I have to stop to dress the bleeding wound on the web of my hand. The long hammer spur and the short tang are a bad combo. (Yes, I’m bad-mouthing John Moses Browning.)
    I know I could change out the hammer and/or the tang on my Colt, but I don’t want to mess with a piece of history. If the Cimarron has a shorter hammer spur and/or a longer tang, I might look into it.

    • Leonard Raymond Komar March 22, 2017, 2:11 am

      What’s a 1913 colt M1911 worth? I just acquired one. I was rather reluctant on firing it due to the age but I might go out and try it.

  • john perkins March 28, 2015, 3:36 pm

    Just got my first rock island ma1911 tactical fantastic gun definitely worth it priced at about 460$ butbe careful with ati read in another review someone had problems with his ati 1911 titan I think it was called he ended up having to replace his recoil spring and rail and mag with interchangeable kimber parts for it to cycle and fire right and he bought it brand new

  • Bruce Toker March 28, 2015, 11:35 am

    My vote goes to the ATI GI model 4.25″ Commander……….. $180 after rebate last year. Only change I made was an oversize firing pin stop, with a tight radius. Eats anything, has run flawlessly!

  • Clint March 27, 2015, 7:27 pm

    I’ve carried a Springfield Mil-Spec for about 12 years and have about 10,000 rounds through it. I bought it in Waco, TX for around $500 new in 2003 or so. I’ve never had any kind of failure from it on the range. The only modifications I made were Ebony grips w/ allen screws, I polished the feed ramp and the parts where the slide and frame hook up. Did it myself with some 600 grit sandpaper. Solid gun and I’d bet my life on it any day.

  • Justin March 27, 2015, 7:16 pm

    Regent r350cr commander sized. Has an accessory rail, bull barrel skeletonized trigger and hammer. Decided to try a budget 1911 and this thing is just as good as any of the others I’ve spent lots more on. Price was right below $400 NIB.

  • Tim March 27, 2015, 2:07 pm

    The only thing I don’t like about my ROCK ISLAND is the the logo change. I really liked the old one much better than the little one. Almost like they’re ashamed of it…but I’m not..it’s an excellent sidearm!

  • DerekD March 27, 2015, 1:33 pm

    I own a citadel compact 1911-a1 CS and right out of the box was shooting 1″ groups at 28 Feet. Could have shot better but the operator is not as skilled as the pistol. Never a single issue with it.

  • Will Drider March 26, 2015, 11:44 pm

    A top five list may not have been the best title due to the limited experience and exposure with all 1911s at a $500 limit though you breached that on one. Your call to skip the 1911-22 was correct due to the difference in internals. Everything you list is bare bones, so I find it odd that with all the standard features on the Taurus PT1911 you skipped it (6th you say). When the market was flooded with 1911s last year, blue were listed under $400 and normally run around $500 now. Sold a 100% reliable PT1911, bought a $1200 clunker. Then bought a SIG 1911 TACOPS TB: FLAWLESS. I then bought another PT1911. An odd pair up but again 100% reliable and both take eight round mags.

  • ocny17 March 26, 2015, 10:19 pm

    If the Springfield Mil-Spec was mentioned, why not the Ruger SR1911? Same price, more value.

  • Marshall March 26, 2015, 8:34 am

    Desert Eagle 1911C is a great 1911. It’s a very tight gun. They’re a little bit higher than $500. My local pawn shop can order me one new for $625. I bought mine brand new for $500 cash. I’ve had several 1911’s. Including a Taurus pt1911, I put 50 rounds through it and it got so hot it messed up the blue finish. Leaving my gun looking like it was spotted.

  • joey March 26, 2015, 8:15 am

    I picked up a pair of ATI 19 11s a few months ago for around $280 on PSA. A officers model and a full size. So far a few hundred rounds later they are pretty awesome. Not a single malfunction with any ammo. Made in the Philippines. One of the best bang for my buck deals I’ve got in a while.

  • Ed March 26, 2015, 8:11 am

    I looked at the American Classic II for $499 and the Citadel for $399 at my local gun shop. I read many positive reviews for the Citadel online, and the only negative reviews were from people who never actually fired one. I really like that Citadel (except for the all black sights), but I literally just bought 2 guns that I’m picking up this afternoon.

  • Steve March 26, 2015, 12:59 am

    Um, what about Girsan or Tisas?

  • Jacob March 25, 2015, 11:53 pm

    What about the Taurus pt1911. All the features of a custom 1911 for less than $600

    • Sam Trisler March 26, 2015, 12:34 am

      That one would be number 6 on this list. But it only goes to 5.

  • Scott March 25, 2015, 11:22 pm

    Coming in right around $600 was my STI Spartan V. Fit and finish is amazing for the price.

  • aubrey March 25, 2015, 11:17 pm

    Also there’s the SAM 1911 its a flat top commander for a little over $400

  • bleslie March 25, 2015, 11:13 pm

    Very weak attempt here. You missed a number of quality 1911s that fall well under the $500 mark. Use Google much (other than to Google yourself)?

    • Sam Trisler March 26, 2015, 12:30 am

      I picked ones I have personal experience with. Yes, there are some other 1911s that are around the $500 mark but I have no idea if they are worth it or not. I stand by the ones on the list and I am sure there are others that could go here just as well along with some that are a total POS. These article are meant to generate a discussion. So instead of being rude, why don’t you tell us the ones Google turned up for you?

  • Victor March 25, 2015, 11:07 pm

    have the cimarron and its a very good shooting handgun. Have put a lot of rounds through it and no problems. Qualified with it for my chl and never fired it before that day.

  • cameron March 25, 2015, 10:48 pm

    I found an Argentina made 1911 about 10 years ago at a pawn shop. They had it marked for $299, I kick myself for not buying it when I had the opportunity.

    • clarkwgriswold October 21, 2015, 2:26 pm

      Coulda, shoulda, woulda…..

  • Ryan March 25, 2015, 10:40 pm

    I recently picked up a Rock Island (Armscor) Tac2 (doublestack) it shoots great and is very comfortable! Price point was very affordable

  • Mark March 25, 2015, 8:11 pm

    A really quick Web search turned up two 1911’s, from Tisas and Girsan, both for around $400.

    • Sam Trisler March 26, 2015, 12:34 am

      Yeah, I looked at those but I have never shot one so I didn’t want to put them on a list without having at least some experience behind the trigger. I almost put the Sig 1911 in .22LR on here. Those are around $300. But are they really a 1911?

      • Robert H. March 27, 2015, 4:57 pm

        I recently purchased the Girsan .45. First. ..a beautiful weapon, well made. Second….I put 300 rounds through it on day one. Only one FTE. I LOVE this weapon!

  • Slim March 25, 2015, 8:01 pm

    My vote goes for the American Classic 2 or Commander model.

    • WiscoGunner March 31, 2015, 9:08 pm

      I concur. The ACII in hard chrome is one beautiful 1911. The trigger is 3lbs or less. Finely finished and decked out. The only thing to upgrade is the grips. Put some Pachmayr American Legend grips on it and listen for the wolf whistles!

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