I’ll cut right to what I consider “affordable”: $400 to $1,600. But please bear with me and hold your comments until you have read the full explanation of my definition of “affordable”. Then fire up your keyboard and feel free to give me your thoughts. (But please keep it civilized. This is a family channel and responses that aren’t suitable for all age groups may be deleted.)
I’m guessing that two concerns immediately come to mind: 1) A $400 1911 must be junk; and 2) Who in their right mind would think that $1,600 is “affordable”?
To answer #1, watch the “Great Affordable 1911 Comparison” video series and you will see several decent 1911s that can be bought for around $400. (See series info on the right side of this page.)
To answer #2, keep reading (and no one ever accused me of being in my right mind).
Affordable means different things to different people in different situations. We all know that (so why did you freak out at $1,600?), and everything should be taken in context. There are some who may consider a $90,000 engraved Cabot to be “affordable”. There are many who keep Ed Brown, Guncrafter Industries, Nighthawk Custom, Wilson Combat and the other semi-custom shops in business selling 1911s from $3,000 to well over $6,000, so that price range is “affordable” to some. Yet many folks may have trouble coming up with the cash for a Hi-Point, Kel-Tec or Sccy and may argue that even $400 isn’t “affordable”.
But with the proliferation of polymer frame guns from Glock, Ruger, S&W and others flying off the shelves at $400, give or take, $400 must actually be in the “affordable” range for many folks.
So, with that in mind, $400 is our “affordable” floor, though there are 1911s out there that can be purchased for less than $400. In our “Great Affordable 1911 Comparison” series, one of the guns we will look at actually cost me less than $400 and three of them came in right at the $400 mark. (Full disclosure, they were all pre-owned and I tend to bargain.) Stay with me and I’ll talk about how to afford that $400 gun.
But $1,600?? That’s certainly not “affordable”, is it? Well, for many, it isn’t, but for many of you who think that a Dan Wesson or even a Les Baer is out of reach, where there is a will there is a way.
Before I go any farther, I breakdown “affordable” into three ranges:
< $400 - $800 = Entry Level
$801 - $1,200 = Mid-Level
$1,201 - $1,600 = Upper Level
In each video I’ll mention Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP), the average price on Gunbroker for new guns, and the lowest I find for pre-owned models, and I’ll assign the category based on the price each gun can be purchased through the auction sites.
I do have to mention that many of the guns in the comparison series were pre-owned. Many others were bargain finds on Gunbroker or the used or consignment case at my local gun shops. For example, the Les Baer Stinger .45 retails for around $2,500 with the options on our comparison gun, but I bought it used for less than half that amount. And I purchased a gently used Dan Wesson ECO (MSRP $1,623) for less than $900. And while the new prices on the auction sites generally fall into our Upper Level bracket, pre-owned ECOs can still be had in our Mid-Level price range.
So, if money is tight, how can one afford a decent 1911 without eating rice and beans or beans and rice for a year, or sending the kids to school without lunch money?
Let’s start with simple arithmetic: The average worker works around 250 days each year, when one subtracts weekends, holidays and a vacation (our “affordable” 1911 series is aimed at the average worker). Save $1.60 each working day and you’ll have $400 in a year. If you regularly stop for a fast-food breakfast each morning, consider making coffee or tea at home and having a couple slices of toast or a bowl of cereal. That will save you more than $1.60 each day. Or, watch a couple of sporting events on TV instead of taking the family to the stadium – saving a couple hundred per game. Or, don’t update your wardrobe for a year. Yes, you might be out of fashion, but you could have your new 1911 in a year or less.
Want a new Dan Wesson Commander Classic (MSRP $1,688)? Or an STI Staccato C (MSRP $1,495)? Save just $6.00 each working day and your new gun is “affordable” in one year. Skip the “gourmet” coffee shop breakfast with the “Venti double shot caramel macchiato extra whatever” and the “gourmet” breakfast sandwich, and instead eat at home, and you’ll easily save that $6.00 each day. Or take the family to the nearest National Park or historical site, rather than a weekend at a theme park and you’ll probably be half way to that new “Upper Level” 1911. (And the family will have a better appreciation of nature or history.)
You get the idea. There are many, many ways to save for a pistol (or rifle, or shotgun, or whatever), if you put your mind to it. So, $400 - $1,600 really can be “affordable”.
Out of the 44 1911 pistols in the “Great Affordable 1911 Comparison”, only one isn’t likely to be found in our “affordable” range. With some searching and a little patience, 43 of those 1911s can be “affordable” to all but the most struggling worker, and I would venture a guess that if you are really struggling financially, you probably aren’t in the market for a 1911, at least not right now.
(Side note: I’m very fortunate to have a spouse who has been supportive of my hobby and occasionally even goes shooting with me. For those less fortunate, you may need to find a way to compromise and maybe help your other half indulge in his or her hobby. Or, convince them to join you in the shooting sports.)
Please feel free to email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or post them on our introduction video to the “Great 1911 Comparison” series by clicking here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZEHYrCpBoc
This series will go live in mid-July, 2019. We will look at almost four dozen 1911-style pistols, two at a time. The series will also include a couple of “almost” 1911s, and a few 1911-wannabees.
The following guns will be compared (subject to change):
Items in BOLD are live on YouTube and GunStreamer
See "Links To Video Reviews" to watch.
-Colt Govt (1911) vs Springfield Mil-Spec (1911-A1)
-Ruger SR1911 Navy Seal Fnd vs S&W “E” Series
-Sig Sauer Scorpion vs Sig Nitron Fastback
-Taurus PT-1911 vs Norinco Model of 1911-A1
-STI Duty One Lite 5.0 vs Rock Island Standard FS
-Kimber TLE TFS vs Dan Wesson Vigil Supp-Ready
-Springfield R.O. vs Sig Sauer Elite Target Stainless
Commander Class .45ACP
-Colt LW (1971 vintage) vs Colt Wiley Clapp
-Ruger SR1911 CMD – Lightweight vs Steel Frame
-S&W SC vs S&W PC
-Kimber KHX PRO .45 vs Kimber Aegis Pro 9mm
Commander Class 9mm
-Dan Wesson Guardian vs Springfield EMP CCC
-Kimber Pro Carry II vs Ruger SR1911 NSW Edition
Commander Class .40S&W
-Rock Island Tac Ultra MS vs STI Duty One 4.0
-Les Baer Stinger vs (To Be Determined)
-Dan Wesson CCO vs Kimber Compact Stainless
-Dan Wesson ECO vs Citadel M-1911 Officer
-S&W Pro Series vs Kimber Ultra Carry II
-Nighthawk T4 vs STI Guardian 1911
-STI Staccato C vs Springfield R.O. Compact
-Dan Wesson ECO vs Ruger SR1911 Officer
-Kimber Stainless Ultra Carry II vs STI Elektra
-Browning Black Label Pro .380 vs Rock Island Baby Rock .380
-Colt Mustang vs Kimber Micro vs Sig Sauer P238
- Kimber Micro 9 vs Sig Sauer P938