How to Choose a 1911 Pistol

By Dan Abraham
Posted in #Guns
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How to Choose a 1911 Pistol

November 30th, 2023

18:30 runtime

People have very strong feelings about the 1911, on both sides. Those both for and against the pistol often point out the age of the design as well as the materials from which it is made. Interestingly, they both feel those are the negative and, conversely, the positive attributes of it.

how to choose a 1911 pistol handgun 45 acp 9mm gun ccw
Balanced and powerful, the Springfield Armory 1911 line-up offers a wide-range of pistols. One is bound to be perfect for your needs.

For me, the decision is not hard. I like the 1911. I like its longevity, its design, its accuracy potential, and its construction. But selecting a particular 1911 can be a bit more complicated and can be a daunting task.

Springfield Armory has a large line of 1911’s, and each one has their own personality. Choosing between the features, caliber offerings, magazine capacity, overall size, and the slide and frame finish can be challenging when choosing the perfect 1911.

selecting the best 1911 pistol for your ccw personal defense needs self defense handgun
Selecting the best 1911 pistol for your personal defense needs varies according to the individual.

Well, fear not. This review will give you all of the relevant information you need when choosing the perfect 1911 pistol for you.

Confusing, Much?

To simplify, I broke this down into five categories. First is the primary purpose on how you plan to use the 1911. Is the 1911 for home defense, carry, competition, range fun or all of the above?

Second is choosing the right caliber. Springfield offers 1911’s in various calibers that will directly impact your shooting performance and purpose with the pistol.

springfield armory garrison 1911 9mm pistol
The Springfield Armory Garrison is an excellent full-sized 1911 pistol. Recoil is mild and the accuracy is excellent.

Third, we will explore what magazine capacity will fit your preference and shooting style.

Fourth, we will check out the various features the shooters find advantageous,

And finally fifth, the cost. Let’s face it, the price matters and Springfield Armory offers a 1911 to fit everyone’s budget without sacrificing the quality of the 1911 pistol.

I will give you my choice with each category. I completely understand that each shooter has their own preferences. There are several to showcase so let’s get to it. 

Primary Purpose

For home defense, I am going with the 1911 Operator in .45 ACP. The 1911 Operator has aggressive G-10 grips that will help with sweaty hands.

It has a front tritium night sight and a dust cover Picatinny rail for adding a light. Combined, the defender can focus on the night sight and spot the light when needed. Those modern 1911 features are why I chose the 1911 Operator in .45 ACP.

accuracy testing the 1911 pistol handgun self defense range
While most self-defense encounters are at much closer distances, the 1911 is capable of good accuracy to even 100 yards and beyond.

If you are a competitive shooter, my choice is clear: it’s the 1911 DS Prodigy in 9mm for the win. The 1911 DS Prodigy has a bull barrel, steel frame and a light single-action trigger. A competitor will benefit with decreased felt recoil when transitioning between targets. It has a fine textured grip, it’s optic ready, has an ambidextrous thumb safety and magazines that carry 17 and 20 rounds of 9mm. The 1911 DS Prodigy offers every advantage a competitive shooter needs to be successful.

Most concealed carriers prefer a small, lightweight pistol. The 1911 Ronin EMP 3” is chambered in 9mm with an aluminum frame with nine-round magazines. It is available with a bull barrel and a fiber optic front sight. A 4” model with a 10-round magazine is also available. The 1911 Ronin EMP weighs only 24 ounces. More importantly, the pistol shoots as accurately as a full-size 1911. Not only does the 1911 Ronin EMP look beautiful with the two-tone finish but it performs in a way that a concealed carrier will be confident in.

how to pick a m1911a1 pistol
Some 1911 handguns follow a traditional form, but others include modern features including an accessory rail for adding a white light.

Can we all agree that 1911 fans are show-offs? Considering 1911’s are gorgeous handguns, there is none more beautiful than the 1911 Emissary. It is available in 9mm and .45 ACP, and the shiny black slide and the silver two-tone finish is stunning. The thin G-10 grip texturing mimics the flat mainspring housing and the front strap, which blends together incredibly well. The 1911 Emissary has a Tri-Top cut to the slide that sets it apart from most 1911’s. Beautiful is an understatement when looking at or shooting the 1911 Emissary.


The most popular caliber in the world is 9mm. Springfield Armory offers several 1911’s chambered in this round. In the video, I featured the 1911 DS Prodigy, the Ronin EMP, the 1911 Operator and the 1911 Garrison. However, Springfield Armory did not stop there. The 1911 Emissary and the full-size 1911 Ronin pistols also have 9mm models.

author shooting a 1911 to pick the right one for ccw
The Springfield Emissary is a thoroughly modern 1911 pistol. It features aggressive texturing, unique slide cuts, squared trigger guard and an accessory rail.

John Browning created the 1911 in .45 ACP, and Springfield Armory has many in their line of 1911’s. The list of .45 ACP pistols is as follows:

  • 1911 Ronin
  • 1911 Garrison
  • 1911 Operator
  • 1911 Emissary
  • 1911 TRP
  • 1911 Mil-Spec
  • 1911 Loaded

You may have noticed that 10mm has grown in popularity in recent years. Springfield Armory has met that demand with the 1911 Ronin 10mm. The 1911 Ronin shoots the 10mm round softer than any other 10mm handgun I have ever fired. It is built very strong and it looks amazing with a stanless blued slide, silver stainless steel frame and cross cannon laminate grips. The accuracy the 1911 Ronin 10mm delivers is as precise as the 1911 Garrison in 9mm. Equipped with an eight-round 10mm magazine, the 1911 Ronin will exceed your expectations at the range.

Magazine Capacity

Springfield Armory’s 1911’s are very consistent in terms of capacity. For example, the 1911 pistols that are chambered in .45 ACP ship with either a seven or eight-round magazine.

prodigy ds 1911 double stack 9mm handgun pistol
The Prodigy uses a double-stack magazine to pack up to 26-rounds into each one. The gun is also ready from the factory for a red dot sight.

Springfield’s 9mm 1911’s are also very consistent. Almost all of the Springfield 1911’s that are chambered in 9mm will use a nine-round magazine. From the larger Government size 1911’s to the Commander size 1911’s and even the smaller Ronin EMP pistol, a nine-round 9mm magazine is the capacity. There is however one exception. The 1911 DS Prodigy has 17- and 20-round magazines. A 26-round magazine can be purchased separately from the Springfield site. That is some serious 9mm firepower.


This category is quite extensive. Springfield Armory offers a variety of features on their 1911’s. They create a 1911 pistol to suit all preferences and personalities.

Let’s begin with the grips. Springfield basically uses three types of grips on their 1911’s. One will notice they have several 1911’s with G-10 grips, wood or wood laminate and gritty polymer grips. The 1911 traditionalist would prefer wood grips like the 1911 Mil-Spec or wood laminate on the 1911 Garrison, 1911 Loaded and 1911 Ronin pistols.

shooting 10mm 1911 pistol for testing
1911 pistols are offered in a variety of calibers. The .45 is the most popular, but others include 9mm and 10mm.

G-10 grips look and feel great. They are installed on the 1911 Emissary and the 1911 Operator.

The polymer on the 1911 DS Prodigy is an incredible grip texture. It fits the 1911 DS Prodigy perfectly. The same adaptive grip texturing is on the Echelon and Hellcat handguns. Shooters rave about how well the adaptive grip texturing feels on their hands when shooting their handguns. 


There are several types of sights that Springfield Armory uses with their 1911 pistols. First is a fiber optic front sight with two dot rear sights. A good example of that sight picture is the 1911 Ronin line of 1911 pistols.

Next is night sights. The 1911 TRP has both rear and front night sights. The 1911 Operator and 1911 Emissary have a large tritium front sight; however, the rear sights are different. The 1911 Operator has serrated black rear sights. When aligning the serrated black rear sights with a large tritium front sight, the front sight stands out like a bright light bulb.

micro small 1911 pistol 9mm handgun self defense personal protection ccw concealed carry
Compact 1911 pistols like this Ronin EMP 3″ are quite popular for CCW. They offer many of the benefits of their larger cousins in a smaller package.

The 1911 Emissary has a large “U”-shaped rear sight. It is commonly known as a U-Dot sight picture. The U-dot sight picture is also installed on the Hellcat and Echelon handguns. Personally, I love the U-Dot sight picture. Just sink that large tritium night sight inside the “U” and you are shooting dead nuts all day long.

The 1911 Garrison and the 1911 Mil-Spec have a standard three-dot sight picture.


If there is one quality that 1911 fans enjoy the most, it is the trigger. A 1911 trigger reigns supreme compared to any other type of trigger on the market in my opinion.

In particular, Springfield Armory 1911’s have incredible triggers. The single-action trigger weight ranges between 3.75 to 4.5 lbs. I have found the trigger pull, reset and weight extremely consistent with all Springfield Armory 1911’s.

springfield armory trp 1911 pistol much better than
In the author’s opinion, the Springfield Armory TRP is one of the best pistols of any kind on the market. For many, it is the king of the 1911’s.

The most common trigger used in their 1911 line is a skeletonized trigger. We see this trigger on the 1911 Garrison, 1911 Operator, 1911 TRP, 1911 EMP and the 1911 Loaded pistols. The 1911 Ronin also uses a skeletonized trigger.

There are few Springfield 1911’s that have a full body trigger. The 1911 Mil-Spec has a full body trigger that is common with the original John Browning design. The 1911 Emissary uses a full body flat trigger.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to remember that choosing the right 1911 isn’t about finding the shiniest or most expensive option. It’s about picking the one that fits your needs like a glove — a trusty sidekick you can rely on for your needs, whether self-defense, competition or just collecting.

testing a 1911 for self defense use
How do you choose which 1911 is best? Start with a list of your needs and see which of these handguns is going to check all of those boxes.

So, whether you’re embarking on this journey as a seasoned shooter or a novice, take your time, do your research, and make a choice that feels right for you. Your 1911 should be an extension of your confidence, skill, and values. Treat it with respect, train diligently, stay safe, shoot straight and make every shot count.

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Springfield Armory® recommends you seek qualified and competent training from a certified instructor prior to handling any firearm and be sure to read your owner’s manual. These articles and videos are considered to be suggestions and not recommendations from Springfield Armory. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Springfield Armory.

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Dan Abraham

Dan Abraham

Dan "TheFireArmGuy" Abraham is a gun enthusiast, collector and 2A advocate. Sending a strong 2A message and showcasing firearms is a passion for him. He enjoys featuring firearms that suit the "working man." Dan believes firearm ownership is an essential American value. Understanding that firearms are not a "one size fits all," Dan offers gun reviews that help the reader choose the best fit for them. Within his reviews, the reader will observe the gun's features, specifications, shooting impressions and best applications. He attempts to be informative, concise with "no fluff" and on point.

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