Auto Ordnance 1911A1 Review

The Auto Ordnance 1911A1 is true to the original, but you can even get one that's MA compliant, if you must.

The Auto Ordnance 1911A1 is true to the original, but you can even get one that’s MA compliant, if you must.

Check out the specs at AO:

Buy one on GunsAmerica: /Auto Ordnance 1911A1

The 1911 has been America’s fighting handgun for over a hundred years. Considered a workhorse, the 1911 has a sweet spot in all of our hearts. Regardless of your creed or dedication to the polymer pistols of today, you can appreciate the 1911 for the piece of history that it is.

And that’s what we’re here to talk about today. History. Auto Ordnance has released an homage to the WWII era 1911A1. This is history you can still shoot (and without risking the value of a collector’s piece). The 1911A1 from AO is that rare blend of nostalgia and function. These guns are basic, effective, and retail for much less than a hot-rod modified, 1911 or a legitimate war relic.

Fit and finish of the AO 1911 is surprisingly good for a gun in this price range.

Fit and finish of the AO 1911 is surprisingly good for a gun in this price range.

The Auto Ordnance model 1911A1

  • Model: 1911PKZSE
  • Caliber: .45 ACP
  • Barrel Length: 5″
  • Weight: 39 oz.
  • Length: 8.5″
  • Safeties: Thumb safety, grip safety, firing pin block
  • Sight: Blade front, rear drift adjustable for windage
  • Grips: Brown checkered Plastic
  • Magazine: 7 round magazine
  • Warranty: 1 year
  • MSRP: $688, (retail is closer to $480)


Shooting the Auto Ordnance WWII Parkerized is like stepping back in time. More than reminiscent of WWII issue 1911, this gun is a spot on replica–only without the wear and tear (a feature that will appeal to the living history buffs). It is a fair representation in almost every way.

Accuracy is on par with much more expensive 1911s. 2" groups from 10 yards are easy.

Accuracy is on par with much more expensive 1911s. 2″ groups from 10 yards are easy.

The frame and slide are machined from steel castings and fit for reliability and not match-grade accuracy. It wouldn’t be an homage to the WWII era guns if it wasn’t reliable, so this makes sense. These guns shoot like they look. The controls are stiff, and the gritty take up in the trigger makes the gun feel as if it were manufactured on a WWII assembly line.

As bad as I make it sound, the reality is that the gun is well built. Considering the price point and throw-back design, I’d say it’s truly a bargain. This isn’t a pistol that will appeal to those looking for a 1911 for daily carry. This is a range toy of sorts. Not that it couldn’t be carried, or even used as a platform for modifications. But most of the market for this gun has a genuine interest in the gun for its historical feel, and not for its defensive potential.

And that brings us to the question of accuracy. This is where the AO is genuinely a surprise.  There’s almost no rattle in the gun, and the barrel fits snugly in its bushing. From 10 yards, I shot consistent 2 inch groups. Recoil is modest, the trigger (which could be smoothed out easily enough) resets positively, and the gun keeps chugging magazine after magazine.

With the use of modern materials and machining techniques, these handguns are tight where it is necessary for accuracy and loose where it’s needed for reliability.

The arched mainspring housing and simple checkered grips give this an accurate historical feel.

The arched mainspring housing and simple checkered grips give this an accurate historical feel.


If you know the early history of the 1911 just skip on down a bit. There’s literally nothing new here. While modern 1911s are getting thinner grips, or more checkering, this new old single-action is certainly not. This gun does have many features that were considered ergonomic in first half of the 20th century, but it is missing the now-ubiquitous over-sized controls, ambidextrous safeties, front strap checkering, flared mag-well, target sights, and forward cocking serrations.

But accept it for what it is. The lack of traction on the frame, the undersized controls, and the crude sights begin to grow on you. And it is a great way to test your Call-of-Duty skills. You want to know how hard your ancestors really had it? Run one of these along side a modern 1911, or whatever you carry, and see.

In the end

One of the best features of the AO is the price. Less than $500. There are scores of 1911s on the market now. The cheap imports keep getting better. And there are scores of American made 1911s that seem to differentiate themselves with higher prices (justified by all of the “customizations” that come standard. This working replica is going in the opposite direction. And AO isn’t inflating the price. What they’re offering is a solidly built, 100% reliable, surprisingly accurate American legend.

If you’re into the history-you-can-shoot, check out AO’s other guns. This is one of the company’s specialties.

Check out the specs at AO:

But one on GunsAmerica: /Auto Ordnance 1911A1

Would it be possible to update the AO 1911A1 and make it more functional? Of course.

Would it be possible to update the AO 1911A1 and make it more functional? Of course.

We'll be looking deeper into the Re-cover grips soon.

We’ll be looking deeper into the Recover Tactical grips soon.

Though I think of this as more of a replica, it is still a battle-tested 1911. There's nothing to say it can't get the job done.

Though I think of this as more of a replica, it is still a battle-tested 1911. There’s nothing to say it can’t get the job done.

The 1911, in all of its configurations, still remains both intimidating and formidable.

The 1911, in all of its configurations, still remains both intimidating and formidable.

The parkerized finish helps hold oil and cut glare.

The parkerized finish helps hold oil and cut glare.

One thing I miss is a beveled mag well. The original design is hardly user-friendly.

One thing I miss is a beveled mag well. The original design is hardly user-friendly.

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  • Don February 15, 2023, 10:41 pm

    I bought an AO M1911A1 because it looks very similar to the real deal.. But I also bought an Avenger holster and a dual magazine pouch. I normally carry a Glock 48, a compact 10-shot 9mm. I consider it the perfect carry gun. But the AO is going to get carried as well. It is a classic. Good leather makes it into a good carry piece.

  • thomas e atchley March 15, 2018, 9:51 pm

    Just got one of these, salesman saw me coming, somehow spotted me for being a vet, and gave me a good price. Very much like the ones we carried back in the day and qualified with in the big canoe club. As a former US Navy Submariner, we were always the last ones to upgrade and still had M14’s and M16’s and 1911A1’s in the small arms locker, and I served in the late 80’s and through the 90’s. The only real difference I see is you can actually hit your target with one of these and it doesn’t rattle when you wave it around. I’ve only ran 50 rounds of 230 brass fmj hard ball practice rounds through it at the indoor range, but after not shooting anything for years, it was rather comfortable, kind of like riding a bicycle, and the gun performed flawless. I’ve upgraded to a couple of 10 round mags with hollow points, I was told these old school work horses would shoot anything you fed them.

  • bob foutz February 18, 2017, 8:52 pm

    hello. I’m considering one of these. my question is ; is the slide hard to cycle? I have a bhp that’s a real bear.

    • Paul Cain October 14, 2018, 8:19 pm

      This is my first 1911, Bob, and I was expecting a stiff, uncomfortable pull. I was pleasantly surprised that it takes very little effort to cycle the action. Firing is is smooth, and recoil is not as stiff as I had expected. I really enjoy this pistol.

    • Mike January 11, 2020, 10:00 am

      It is a bit stiff, that’s for sure; noticeably harder to cycle than the well-worn pistols we used in the Army.

  • Antonio Arredondo February 12, 2017, 6:23 am

    I had to part with mine do to a company layoff during a bad bill week. I miss it it was my carry gun till I sold it. But, I might get another one it’s hard to beat an ALL AMERICAN classic made here in the states.

  • Phillip Wilson October 18, 2016, 8:38 pm

    Are these made in the U.S.?

    • Wilfred Clifford April 21, 2017, 8:25 pm

      Yes, nmade ub Worcester, MA

  • James Patrick July 12, 2016, 4:40 pm

    I bought Ao Bko 1911 version this handgun been out standing. I paid under $500.00 dollars for brand new. Slide frame fit is great it tight when shake handgun it does rattle so is finish. The benefits handgun get polish feed ramp throat barrel very reliable 1911. I took mine out door rang put 250 round 230 grain fmj through mine had zero issues using cheap triple k magazines work great in it. It does have one down side trigger is match grade litte bet heave bet stiff but smooth out well shooting it. It real shoot well my handgun at 15 yard shoot out middle stander bull size target at 15 yard with first shot ever fire in it. Been one best Gi stock 1911 I have ever own.

    • Al capone October 1, 2016, 8:00 am

      Cant understand your review here too well but i get the impression that you like the pistol. Have the same on and carry it as well. Shoots really good

    • Chiefs50 July 15, 2022, 5:29 pm

      Thank you for the review.
      I have one but haven’t shot it yet.

  • Jim April 15, 2016, 11:28 pm

    I bought my AO 1911 in 1987 as a transport arm so I would not be forced to draw one from an armory with all the added hassles to turn back in. I was hauling issue long rifles for unknown destinations. sic… Reason for the AO was it was the cheapest one under the glass, took it out back and it ran fine. Good enough.
    Anyway, I think I am on the 5th , maybe sixth barrel. Mucho rounds and never a hiccup. That thing has been in more salt water than some sailors. Will eat anything without complaint and is just a good shooter. Yes, I did stone and polish some on the obvious places, but other than a mainspring, bushings and barrels, all original.
    A few years ago I was contacted by a unique metal treatment outfit looking for reps. I was dubious about the effect on details of fit and function and they asked if I had a favorite firearm they could demo on. Well, you guessed it. I took them my beat up ol 45. It got a new look, kinda brushed stainless look. ( so much for that dark parkerizing is invisible thing, huh?)
    Along with the newer look, that thing shoots better than ever! ANYway. When I die, maybe one of the youngsters will honor it and put it to intended purposes as the reliable shooter it has always been.

  • Scot March 10, 2016, 1:47 pm

    Bought a “blem” AO 1911PKZSE for $431 off the internet at . Parkerized finish on the forward frame was not up to AO standards, as it had some crackle look to the finish. I think it was too thick. Only an appreance issue, which nobody spots unless I point it out. To the range once and all 50 rounds I had went thru it in complete perfection. A real joy to the traditionalists like myself. Accuracy was very good onvce I fired a few rounds to get the gage of it. You’ll not be wasting your money even at full price for this WW2 type 1911. Auto ordnace did a bang up job! Pun intended.

  • Greg January 30, 2016, 1:58 pm

    I recently purchased an A-O 1911A1BKO. Out the door complete with shipping and taxes it came to $478. I opted for the. black phosphate type finish. because I wanted as little light glare as possible.
    I’ve been very impressed with this weapon. I spent 5 years of my service in the army as a battery and later battalion armorer back when the 1911A1 was the issued sidearm. Compared to the tired and over used Remington Rands, Colts and Union Switch and Signal 45’s we had in our arms room, the A-O is a joy to handle and fire. The relationship between slide and frame is snug compared to the old war horses I issued that was casual from wear to say the least. I found the accuracy of the A-O to be rather good. My only turn off from this weapon is its peculiar (to me!) magazine assembly. While it had no problems feeding standard military type FMJ ball while firing, it was baffled cycling HP and LSWC rounds. My standard issue USGI magazines performed flawlessly feeding all of these types of rounds through it.
    All in all, I’m very impressed with this A-O product.

  • Patrick November 24, 2015, 7:50 pm

    It is what is but that being said I love own all American made 1911 that what is at very affordable price.

  • Richard August 31, 2015, 10:02 pm

    I’ve been a big fan of the 1911 for over 50 years. It’s nice that they kept the markings small like the originals, unlike some of the other brand’s markings that look like a large backlit sign. I too wish the hadn’t added the firing pin block.

    I have the following:
    1915 Colt commercial
    1943 Colt
    1944 Ithaca
    1944 Remington-Rand
    1952 Colt commercial
    1952 Argentine Sistema 27
    1951 Ballester Molina
    1952 Ballester Molina
    Taurus PT1911
    Remington R1
    Pre WWII Colt ACE
    Post WWII Colt Service ACE
    1950 Argentine Sistema 27 converted to Service ACE by Arg. govt.
    Current production Browning 1911-22

    As you can see I love the 1911 design and may have to get an Auto Ordnance.

  • paskidog August 31, 2015, 8:37 pm

    Just did a local search here in south central PA (ever hear of the Red Land Little League!!)
    One of these out the door for $495.24 including sales tax and fees. Might just have to add it to the collection!

  • George August 31, 2015, 8:33 pm

    I purchased a parkerized GI version from Springfield arms several years ago. Around $400.00. It’s a good gun at that price point.

  • cobalt327 August 31, 2015, 8:59 am

    Nice enough, but did they have to add that FP block?

  • Tommy August 31, 2015, 8:51 am

    I also own one of these I found on GB for under $500 shipping and all. Love it and it’s very accurate right out of the box! I also have a WW2 Rem. that my Dad carried in the European theater that I have shot, but only once!

  • John August 31, 2015, 7:28 am

    I own one of these pistols, it is my second Auto Ordnance 1911. I am a big fan of the venerable .45 automatic as used by our military for decades and have my own 1944 Remington. The Remington shoots fine but it is too valuable to shoot much so my Auto Ordnance gets all of the range time. It is a faithful copy of the military .45, reliable, accurate, reasonably priced and the shooting experience is pure fun without the risk of damage or wear to a historic firearm.

  • Mark N. August 28, 2015, 2:34 am

    Where do you find this magical sub-$500 price? The MSRP is $688 for this particular model. AO does have a model certified for California (PKZA), but I don’t see it on their web site, only models approved in MA, nor other (blued) models also approved for our market, leading me to suspect they’ve been discontinued. They do have a matte black finish pistol (1911BKO) which has a MSRP of $588, new for 2015, probably the same type of finish now seen on the low cost model SAA clones

    • Mike Hunter August 31, 2015, 8:29 am

      We sell these at the Marine Corps Exchange for UNDER $500 and tax free all day long. Just look around and/or look up the part number. Once you have the part number, any FFL can look it up through their distributors.

      • Dan August 31, 2015, 11:42 am

        Wish the PX had them when I bought one in 2011! As it was, I paid $549 total for the AO 1911A1 PKZ from a gun shop in Melbourne, FL. I received a Military issue magazine with it and had some I’d already purchased with the same markings. It looks great in the era holster and utility belt with the mag pouch! It also shot right out of the box (added some lubricant) with ball .45 with no issues. A complete gem of a .45 to own and shoot!

        • Don February 15, 2023, 11:08 pm

          Wow, I feel robbed, since in 2023 I paid $700. Nice gun. wrong thumb safety (commercial shape). Very good, all-be-it heavy for a carry gun. Add $100 for good leather. Don’t go cheap on the leather. It will carry for years in a quality Askin’s Avenger.

  • Will Drider August 27, 2015, 10:54 pm

    Author nailed it as did AO with this Classic throwback. I like it right down to the laynard ring which most service copies don’t have. Pay your dues as you get use to it. Your compact and larger Glock have them. Lol

  • Tom Horn August 26, 2015, 11:48 pm

    Let me know when these are available through the Civilian Marksmanship Program (just kidding).

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