Ask your father or grandfather and they will tell you how quickly a generation passes away. When I was a young man, every gun person worth their salt knew and understood the history of John Browning’s, M1911 .45 ACP pistol. Keep in mind, we did not have the Internet, we had to read books and magazines.

As my words hit the paper here, it has been 35 years since the US Army decided to replace the M1911A1 pistol with the M9 Beretta. For those too young to remember, there was much consternation and contention over that choice. Nonetheless, the die was cast and over a period of about five years, the US Armed Forces made the change over. It was mid-1989 before the unit where I was assigned made the switch.

m1911 75 years

The M1911 in one form or another saw service for 75 years with the US Army.

When was the M1911 Made?


To most that might seem a simplistic question. However, John Browning worked on the pistol that would eventually be adopted by the US Army for many years. Browning had already been working on semi-automatic pistols, at the time a brand new invention, but the 1904 Thompson-LaGarde Pistol Tests pushed the US Army toward the .45 Automatic Colt Pistol Cartridge and Browning’s handgun was officially adopted by the Army in 1911. The original pistol remained the same until a few modifications were made and it became the M1911A1. That model served as the standard sidearm from 1924 to 1986.

If you consider the history of the US Army, when the M1911 was adopted we were using horses for our Cavalry units. By the time the M1911 ended its service, we had super-sonic jet fighters. It’s pretty amazing if you think about it. Of course, the M1911 in .45 ACP is still a popular self-defense choice today.

Beast Mode Paul 1911

The Author got all dressed up to shoot the SDS Imports Army 1911.

US Army M1911A1 from SDS Imports.

During the course of the pistol’s life, the primary maker was Colt Firearms, but dozens upon dozens of other companies produced licensed models. SDS Imports of Knoxville, Tennessee is now bringing in a faithful reproduction of the original US Army pistols at very reasonable prices.

Consider the manufacturer’s specifications:

  • Accurate Reproduction of the WWII Issued Sidearm.
  • 5″ Hammer Forged Barrel.
  • Hammer Forged Full Size Frame and Slide.
  • Durable Military Parkerized Finish.
  • Series 70 Internals.
  • Subtle Magazine Well Bevel.
  • Polished Feed Ramp and Lip.
  • Includes 1: 7rd. Magazine and Owners manual.


As you can see, this imported model is not a cheap knock off as it is built with a hammer forged steel barrel, slide, and frame. All of the controls on the pistol mimic the original to include the grip safety, manual safety, slide stop and magazine release button. They even kept the lanyard loop on the butt of the gun for historical accuracy. The grip scales are the off-brown polymer with flathead screws just like the original guns.

On top of the slide, the front and rear sight are the spartan design that came on Browning’s first guns. Internally, the US Army M1911A1 from SDS is just like the one your grandfather carried. While some folks do make special tools for the M1911, this pistol can be disassembled for cleaning without any tools. The magazine base can be used to turn the bushing just like Browning intended. The magazine holds 7 rounds because that was the capacity for the original pistols.

Reverse m1911

The SDS Import pistol is a faithful, well made replica of the original US Army handgun.

How Much Do M1911’s Cost?

How much do M1911’s cost? That my dear reader is a loaded question. If you are talking about purchasing a WWII original, these have become collector’s items and a real one will set you back anywhere from $1000 to $3000 on average depending on the condition of the gun and who made it. A Singer M1911A1 from WWII went for $80,500. That is not a typo.

Most modern replicas of the M1911A1 will run you between $900 and $1000 for a newly made pistol. According to the SDS website, their MSRP for the US Army M1911A1 in .45 ACP is $419. That is a
considerable savings. I don’t know about you, but I like to shoot the guns I buy and am not looking for a collector’s item to hang in a shadow box on the mantle.

Thumbnail Image SDS Imports

The author fired several different .45 ACP loads and the pistol consumed them all without issue.

Range Testing with the SDS Imports M1911.

For my range/field testing session I grabbed some .45 ACP ammunition from Black Hills and Barnaul Ammunition. The Black Hills loads were their 230 grain ball with brass casings and the new HoneyBadger self-defense loads. The Barnaul ammo used a 230 grain FMJ (ball) bullet and a grey steel case. I also grabbed a couple of modern 8 round magazines.

Before I headed to the range, I stripped down the gun and applied some EDC CLP to all the right places. Unlike your favorite GLOCK that you lube annually, M1911 pistols run better when they begin clean and lubricated.

During my testing I ran the gun with a strong two-hand grip as well on right hand only and left hand only. I was very pleased to not experience one single stoppage or hang up. Such could not be said for out of the box M1911 pistols from decades ago. In addition to the gun being very well made, SDS specified that the feed ramp be polished from the factory. In older guns that was an aftermarket gunsmith job.

As someone who has been shooting and carrying an M1911 for 35 years now, I have absolutely no reservations recommending this version from SDS Imports. Strike-fired, polymer framed guns run well and they are fun, but if you are looking for something historical that you can shoot, this pistol is worth a hard look.

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Paul G. Markel has worn many hats during his lifetime. He has been a U.S. Marine, Police Officer, Professional Bodyguard, and Small Arms and Tactics Instructor. Mr. Markel has been writing professionally for law enforcement and firearms periodicals for nearly twenty years with hundreds and hundreds of articles in print. Paul is a regular guest on nationally syndicated radio talk shows and subject matter expert in firearms training and use of force. Mr. Markel has been teaching safe and effective firearms handling to students young and old for decades and has worked actively with the 4-H Shooting Sports program. Paul holds numerous instructor certifications in multiple disciplines and a Bachelor’s degree in conflict resolution; nonetheless, he is and will remain a dedicated Student of the Gun.

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