Tips on buying used 1911

I want a 1911 one day. Not really for carry (but I always like the option). Every now and then I visit a cabelas and they have a nice stock of used ones.

I would always prefer new, but 1911s are expensive. This is also not for edc or home defense, more of wanting to own a piece of American History.

What should I look for with in a used 1911?


When you say expensive, what’s your price range?
Undeniably American in design but foreign brands can be had new for about $500. I saw Hickok45 sample two of them and they were flawless.


I own a Tisas / SDS 1911. I think that is one of the brands he demonstrated. It is very affordable, and I’ve put several hundred rounds through it without a failure.

If you do your research, you can find a new one in your price range.


I would rather buy a gun new for sure, but I may be able to get a good quality 1911 used. Just curious of what to look for.

If this was my only gun, or even a back up gun playing a self defense role, I’d definitely go new, BUT I have all those roles set. I need a 1911 just because I need to own a 1911 :joy:.


As @Mlman mantioned - Tisas 1911 is a good option (NEW - below $500) . I like my Rock Island (this one will cost you a little bit more)
Buying used one… check these:

  • barrel bushing - how tight it is to the slide (shouldn’t freely move)
  • extractor (check the rear part on the back of the slide) - should be no movement. There is also a good test - with slide removed and turned upside down, use empty casing and insert it under the extractor, then turn it over and give a couple of shakes - the casing should stay still
  • function check, especially both safeties mechanism (check them separately, be sure the trigger can be pulled ONLY if both safeties are off)
  • pencil check (for firing pin functionality)

All can be fixed… but you will have to invest some money…
To be honest… I will go for used one and do all checks only if the price is below $400


Man after my own heart, sounds like you wrote the manual.


Hopefully this manual is clear enough :grimacing: :face_with_raised_eyebrow:


I’ve never heard of these, I’ll take a look into them.

Jerzy has it down.

I also check the lock up, in that the hood should not move.
Check the throat area, and know what a good one looks like (people will screw one up trying to “fix” it)
Check the safety, and push on the hammer with the safety off (cocked, push it forward). Not the best check, but you are looking for a sear that has been modified, badly.

Armscor makes a decent one too from what I have heard.


Good info so far. What is your budget, and what are you looking for? Are you looking for a WWII style, or something newer? I have seen some pretty good deals on production/semi custom used 1911’s lately. Depends on what you are looking for.

Now I’m beginning to realize the rabbit hole I just opened :astonished:

It’s starting to look like, if I decide to follow through, I should buy a budget level new 1911 to familiarize myself with it… (the only ones I’m familiar with are Taurus and RIA, I’’ll have to look into this other recommendation).

I really don’t want to go more than $500. I’d want it chambered in .45


My reintroduction to 1911’s was a RIA. Great gun for the $. Functioned well, and was accurate. Was not the best looking one out there, but it worked. I am really curious about the Taurus. I have to have front strap checkering on my 1911’s, and as far as I know, the Taurus is the only budget gun that has it.

A budget gun would be the way to try out the platform, see what you like or don’t like. I have been lucky as heck, and have had the experience of shooting RIA, Wilson Combat, Guncrafter, NHC, and a few other 1911’s touched by some well known pistol smiths.

I have owned WC, RIA, Remington, Dan Wesson, and Springfield 1911’s. I think the Dan Wesson offers the best semi custom gun for the money, but they have had some quality control issues…

See, now the rabbit hole gets deeper. :grinning:


Wait for @Craig6… once he finds this thread, you will see much more valuable info :point_up:

So Tisas 1911A1 should be your choice.
This one meets your requirements and gives you some history, being the copy of US Army Service pistol (if you get this MFG Part Number: 1911A1USARMY)
If you prefer something smaller, go with Tisas 1911 A1 45ACP TANKER
Both below $500.


ATI makes a 1911,.45 for $350-ish

Sorry, I had to post it.
I am a 1911 fan, they keep calling my name every time I go to look for primers🤔


Scoutbob…Enzo is a relative good point of contact on 1911’s. As an instructor and happy 1911 shooter, he has a lot of advice on that platform.

What I can add is this: Any USED purchase must be met with scrutiny. Grab the slide with one hand and the grip with the other and move it both side to side and front to back to see how much “slop” there is. The more it moves, the worse it is. The old military 1911’s would rattle back and forth and front to back a lot…the newer versions had less slop and didn’t move as much (and were more accurate in many cases…not all…but many). I’d also recommend looking for any stress cracks. if it’s an older steel frame…its likely not to show any…but with some of the aluminum frames…there might be stress cracks and if there are…walk away…fast.

other than that…ask enzo. I’d be willing to bet he had more experience than me in a single finger when it comes to 1911’s.

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@Jerzy You rang? :rofl:

For $500 or less you would be into a new RIA with a few bells and whistles.

Back to your original question though, you are looking on the used market for a 1911. What KIND of 1911 are you looking for? Something to approximate a 1911A1 military issue? Something with modern enhancements but still a 1911?

The next question, do you tinker with your firearms?

As to things to look for:

Frame to slide play: There will be “some” movement A lot is a bad thing.

Thumb safety: Make sure it works as designed.

Grip safety: with the thumb safety off you should not be able to send the hammer home without depressing the grip safety.

Trigger reset and sear safety check: Pull the rigger and hold it back, recock the hammer. The hammer should lock back and stay there. Now slowly let the trigger come forward. You will feel and possibly hear a “click” (less travel is better) at that point you should be able to pull the trigger again and have the hammer fall.

Firing pin check: If you brough a pencil with you point the gun straight up in the air and drop the pencil down the tube and let the hammer fall, the pencil should fly about 2.5 - 3’ up in the air. (this works for both series 70 and 80 pistols) Pushing on the firing pin from the back only works on series 70’s.

Chamber check: Lock the slide to the rear and LOOK into the chamber to see if it stock or if somebody has been inside the barrel or the ramp. Be familiar with what a stock ramp and barrel generally look like vs a modified one. If you see file marks or Dremel tracks hand it back. The barrel will move back and forth a bit, make sure when the barrel is pushed all the way back that it does not overhang the feed ramp, right up to the edge is fine.

I can’t believe I have to say this, look down the barrel and make sure there is a chamber and lands and grooves. After my son’s fiasco with a brand new Kimber I’ve added this to my bench checks.

Barrel & Bushing Check: With the slide locked back the barrel bushing should be snug in the slide. With the slide forward there should be no movement of the barrel in the bushing.

If they let you take the slide off do so and look for abuse to the frame rails and cracks over the slide release hole. If it has been used, there will be wear and but it should be the same on both sides.

The above will let you know if the gun has good bones but you will find out the truth on the range. Hope that helps




You can get new at a decent price.

There was a Springfield on sale for $549.00
There is Rock Island, anywhere from $399.00 - $500.00 and up… if you add more bells and whistles.
There is also the American Classic II which usually runs around $460.00 - $520.00

All have good reviews.

Just saying why go used if you do not need to.

If you want used, first thing… make sure it is a reputable dealer… and then disassemble it and inspect it as carefully as you can… look for weak or damaged springs, damaged firing pin, extractor, and other parts that you can visually inspect.

Then try it out at the range…if they do not have a means to test fire… I would question it.

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My bonus comes at the end of June and I’m weighing 1911 but my brain is saying decent over under and Ruger 22

Ria, armscor, tisa all good 1911 1a. Philippines has been making some for a long time…