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Which 1911 pistol caliber is the best?

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I’m a huge fan of the 1911 and own several of them.

The 1911 was invented by John Browning and made by the Colt firearm company.

It’s one of the most famous and recognized military handguns of all time.

Recently, a 1911 carried during the Battle of Iwo Jima went up for auction.

The Colt 1911 .45 caliber pistol was carried by a decorated Marine combat photographer, Sgt. Arthur J. Kiely Jr., who joined the Marine Corps in 1943.

He trained as a combat photographer in Quantico, VA.

And from 1944-1945, Sgt. Kiely served as a combat photographer taking pictures during battles, including Iwo Jima.

He also served as the personal photographer to Marine Gen. Holland “Howlin’ Mad” Smith.

Smith, is known as the father of modern U.S. amphibious warfare. He was the Commander of the Fifth Marine Amphibious Corps.

Kiely photographed conflicts in the Marianas Islands including Saipan, Tinian, and Guam.

Kiely’s Colt 1911 was originally shipped to the Marine Corps in 1917.

What’s significant about Kiely’s pistol is that it’s believed to have been used in direct combat.

During a battle in the Marianas Islands, Kiely stopped taking photographs and personally killed at least three enemy combatants.

For his actions that day he was awarded the Bronze Star.

In 1945, he provided photographs for General Smith’s staff during the invasion of Iwo Jima, where he was awarded a Navy Commendation medal for his photographic accomplishments under fire.

Now, a Colt 1911 that shipped in 1917 would garner a lot of attention at auction.

But, one like Kiely’s that was used in battle would be almost impossible to put a price tag on and it will be interesting to see what it sells for.

Today, you can buy 1911’s chambered in 9mm, 10mm, .40, .357, .22, .50, and .45.

Yet, with so many different caliber options how do you decide which is the best?

Here are a few factors to consider when buying a 1911 and trying to decide what caliber you should get.

(Yes, I know it’s blasphemy to consider the 1911 in anything but .45, but just hear me out.)


With modern ammo, there is little performance difference between .45 ACP and 9mm, which a lot of people have a hard time believing. But it’s true.

The fact is, shot placement is more important than stopping power.

And most people are more accurate with a 9mm compared to calibers such as the .45, and 10mm.

So, you don’t necessarily have to use the largest round.

Instead, consider a middle of the road round such as the 9mm.

9mm ammo does everything you would need in a self-defense round.

And it’s carried and trusted by police and military personal around the world.

I would go with Speer Gold Dot ammo.

Ammo capacity:

A 1911 in .45 usually holds 7+1 rounds. But, a 1911 in 9mm can typically hold 10+1 rounds.

Plus, most 9mm 1911’s have a thicker barrel.

This means there is usually more weight in the front of the pistol. The added weight can help reduce recoil.

A 9mm compared to .45 will already have less recoil, but even more so based on the design of the 1911.

Don’t forget the cost difference and availability of ammo.

Finding .45ACP, .40, or 10mm is sometimes more difficult to find than 9mm.

Ease of shooting:

1911’s are known for being easy to shoot.

The design of the firearm is user-friendly thanks to the ergonomics of the handgun.

But there is no doubt that different calibers in the 1911 platform can be more challenging than others.

Ask anyone which caliber is easiest to shoot and most folks will agree 9mm.

This is even more true with a 1911.

That’s because the 1911 is heavy enough that it absorbs a good amount of recoil from the 9mm round, making it easier to shoot.

Bottom line,  if you like the 1911 platform, consider one in 9mm and see for yourself how much easier it is to shoot.

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