My unusual history with 9mm 1911s

As I continue to work my way through the PT1911 Torture Test, I find I really genuinely enjoy shooting the Taurus. All-steel SAO gun with a good trigger in 9mm equals fun, and I can really drive this gun hard. On bill drills I’ve had splits down in 0.15 range, so…shooting it is pretty easy.

Shelley Rae nighthawk

I actually have a really unusual history with 9mm 1911s, because I’ve really only ever shot 4 (or 5, depending on your definition of 1911). I’ll go through them here, and at the end you’ll see why I really want to get another one, but I want to move up-market with the brand that I’m shooting.

1. ParaUSA LTC 9mm
This was my first 1911 of any type, a 9mm Commander-sized gun from Para. This gun was improbably reliable, likely because it had special Todd Jarrett voodoo inside it. It was only available to attendees of the first (and last) Gun Blogger Summer Camp in 2008, and I shot the hell out of that gun. It fed all kinds of ammo, it ran and ran and ran, and it was genuinely fun to shoot. That was my first exposure to 1911s of any type, and my first exposure to 9mm 1911s, and it sort of set the table of my expectations. Again, I attribute this gun’s reliability to having magic inside it.

2. ParaUSA Tac-S (maybe this doesn’t count)
I don’t know if I should count this as a 1911 or not, because it was a double-stack 1911-style pistol built by Para around their LDA trigger. I shot this at my first Bianchi Cup, a full size DAO 1911-type gun, and it was a wreck. It wouldn’t reliably feed JHP ammo, and every single stage at the Cup I was worried about having to do a failure drill. Luckily I didn’t, but I sold this gun pretty quick. It was a lot of fun to shoot though, when it ran. But it didn’t run very well.

3. Shelley Rae‘s Rock Island Armory 9mm 1911
A few years back, Shelley had a 9mm Government style 1911 from Rock Island Armory. That gun was an utter, absolute tank. The trigger was a little rough, the GI style hammer would bite your hand, but it did not complain about anything. It just fed round after round after round. We put a ton of rounds through that gun, and used it for a while as our evaluation platform for 9mm ammo testing.

Rock Island Armory 1911

It was great. I actually really liked that gun, and thought that it was an excellent example of a reliable 9mm 1911. Sure the sights were tiny, but man could it shoot.

4. Nighthawk Custom 9mm 1911
That’s the gun that Shelley is shooting in the Bianchi Cup photo. A custom 1911 from Nighthawk that had a threaded barrel, suppressor height sights, and a truly amazing trigger. The weird thing about this gun was that we struggled to make it run reliably; I eventually had to change the hammer spring and the recoil spring to get it to cycle our Bianchi Cup match ammo. Now, you’re probably thinking that the match ammo was some cupcake load, but it wasn’t. It was a 115 grain Hornady XTP at 1100 FPS, so it was perfectly in the normal range for 9mm ammo.

However, the Nighthawk was by far the most accurate of the guns on this list, routinely turning in sub-2.00 inch groups from the bench.

5. The PT1911 9mm
You know all about this gun from the torture test.

That’s my history with 9mm 1911s, and you can see why it’s odd. I’m at the point now where I know I want another one, but I don’t know what to get. I know Springfield, Kimber, Colt, and Rock Island all make 9mm 1911s, and I know there has been interest from my readers about torture testing some more of the budget 9mm 1911 options, so what do you think? Where to next?


  1. Rock Island!

    Full disclosure: I have one in .45 ACP as JMB (PBUH) intended. 🙂

  2. I would take a look at the Springer Range Officer series. With a little tweaking, that might be a very interesting platform.

    1. In my experience, 1911’s are mostly hit or miss regardless of who makes them. I’ve had Kimbers that ran and ran and ran and I’ve seen malfunctions with Springfield “Operator” 1911’s that probably were because of silly 10 round .45 ACP mags, but hey, a malfunction is a malfunction.

      Personally, I’ve only ever owned two 1911’s ever.

      One was a Rock Island “Tactical” that needed some tweaking bad (the extractor was turds, the factory mag was worse, the recoil spring was too weak, the thumb safety was sharp as a razor and the sights were not appropriately regulated) before it ran. I tweaked, it runs. It has about 550 rounds through it since tweaking, no malfunctions to report.

      The other is a Caspian frame and slide that I (laboriously) fitted to each other, put an Ed Brown barrel in, stuffed a bunch of Ed Brown and Wilson Combat parts in, and feed with Chip McCormick, Wilson Combat, and Tripp Cobra mags. It has logged an official 10,458 rounds with 15 malfunctions, most related to an extractor that was way too tight to feed 200gr LSWC ammo (loosened the tension, problem solved) and an additional 5 or 6 malfunctions in the middle of a match that were the result of almost no lubrication or cleaning and freezing cold weather. (put on some lube, shooting still sucked, but the gun ran).

      I dislike external extractor guns because if your extractor is no good, you are boned and the gun has to go to the factory. Then again, Tim Herron does some very impressive shooting with a Sig 1911, so again…hit or miss.

      I’d suggest a Dan Wesson. Because Dan Wesson 1911’s look dead sexy.

  3. “Cupcake load.” Now that is funny!

    Wadcutters were the ammo for the “Powder Puff Derby” and in any event no matter how much you tinker with physics you still have to see, squeeze and shoot for the points.

    Keep up the good work.

  4. How about STI? Definitely up market from the Taurus. Also, Sig just started selling 9mm 1911s.

  5. If you want to buy one more at the same level as your first, get signed up for one of the limited run that Scott Warren gets made up by the Springfield Armory custom shop every year. ToddG used it for an endurance test on his website back in ’12 and it was very impressive. The link below is to his description of the gun.

  6. Give hi-cap another try. I highly recommend the STI Marauder to whoever will listen. Definitely an expensive gun, but mine’s been rock solid.

  7. A second on the STI. I have a Duty One 5.0 in 9mm and it runs like the proverbial ape. I have about 15K rounds through it in a year and it’s still running strong.

  8. Love to shoot ’em but reliability issues seem to go with design. A few years a go a friend and I were shooting the Indoor Nationals and he purchased a S&W Performance Center 1911 in 9mm. He could hardly go through a magazine without a failure. It went back to the factory twice and even after that it would only run one brand of 124g fmj.
    A beautiful gun and dead accurate but about as reliable as a Russian watch.

  9. My dad has a RIA 1911A2 that’s a double stack, convertible 9mm/22TCM. It’s a fun gun to shoot.
    He also has a Springfield Range Officer 1911 in 9mm, and that’s another good one. It’s a single stack.

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