The 1911 Dilemma – Buy vs Build a 1911 For $1,400 Part 1

    In the AR15 market, asking what the best rifle for $1,400 bucks would probably start an all-out internet battle between some of you, but this is a bit different. Looking up 2011’s a couple weeks ago I started thinking I could probably build my own for the same amount if not cheaper than companies like STI and Nighthawk. After some thinking, I decided to purchase a regular 1911 kit to cut my teeth and go from there.

    I ended up picking up an 80% kit along with the tooling to build my own 1911 handgun in 45 ACP. To make things even more interesting I decided to purchase a SIG Sauer 1911 Emperor Scorpion to do a direct comparison in a Buy vs Build a 1911 battle to the death. So what is a better bang for your buck with a budget of $1,400?

    The Built 1911 Specs

    I wrote an earlier article on how I built my 1911 from 1911 builders and picked up a pair of Truglo fiber optic sights. The 80% kit came with a 5″ government barrel and slide precut with slide serrations. I decided to pick the frame with a Picatinny rail for shooting in low/no light conditions. After about a week or more of work, I decided to Cerakote everything with black and FDE to finish it.

    I thought it would be a good finish to compare to my other gun. With the 80% builders kit and tooling needing to create the gun, I have just over $1,400 into the gun at the moment. This is the more expensive of the two options, but in the end, you have a custom hand-built pistol rather than something from an assembly line. I finished this build off with a SureFire X300-B to keep the weight and overall feel the same.

    SIG Sauer’s 1911 Emperor Scorpion

    For the factory option, I decided to pick up a SIG Sauer 1911 Emperor Scorpion as the factory alternative to building out your own 1911. MSRP on the Emperor Scorpion is $1,179.99, but usually the street price is $1,049 for one of these. Even with adding a threaded barrel for $239.99 to try out some suppressed shooting, the cost was nearly identical down to the exact dollar amount with the built 1911.

    The SIG Sauer Emperor Scorpion has an 8 round capacity, Hogue G-10 Piranha grips, and an FDE PVD coating that seems to be tougher than their Cerakote on past scorpion models.The Emperor Scorpion also comes standard with SIGLITE night sights and two 8 round magazines. I was rather surprised how tight the slide and frame were fitted and it felt buttery smooth straight out of the box. I spent hours polishing the contact points on my built 1911 and I almost felt defeated because the SIG 1911 basically felt identical to my 1911.

    Major Differences Between My 1911 and SIG’s 1911

    Probably the most obvious difference between my classic style 1911 and SIG’s 1911 is the updated design and overall look of the SIG slide. It looks familiarly 1911 but has a modern twist that really mirrors something like the P-Series from SIG with the square slide profile. Probably the one other major difference between the two guns is the fact SIG’s 1911 is equipped with an external extractor where my built 1911 has the more traditional internal extractor.

    There have been a number of manufacturers who claim external extractors are more durable as well as reliable in the long run but time will tell.  Other than those two features, the guns are fairly similar to each other with small minor changes. For starters, my 1911 has FDE Cerakoted parts where the SIG has PVD finishes which will hold up to wear better over time. The last small difference is in the magwell of the SIG. The 1911 I built has a standard magwell, but the SIG 1911 has a small magwell flare from the grips coming down past the frame and becoming skinnier creating a funnel for the magazine. Other than those differences, the guns are nearly identical in terms of size, weight, and overall construction.

    Range Time

    About three days after I picked up the SIG 1911, I was blessed with a beautiful sunny day. I couldn’t waste the opportunity, so I packed up both pistols with a variety of magazines as well as some ammo and headed to the range. I had six magazines total between the two guns so I loaded up all six and shot until I ran out of ammo. Once I finished up six magazines through one gun I would load back up and switch guns to run 50 rounds through each at a time. I did this six times for a total of 300 rounds through each gun by the end of the day.

    At the end of the 600 rounds, I started to notice a few things about each gun. The Cerakote did start to wear slightly on my homemade 1911 where SIG’s PVD finish was unphased by holster wear. The Truglo sights I installed on my 1911 were incredibly fast to pick up when shooting but did make it difficult to make accurate shots at further distances. When shooting at 25 yards and further out, the SIG Emperor Scorpion was easier to accurately put rounds on target for me. I was happy to see both guns made it through the 600 rounds without a single malfunction. Both pistols had a tiny amount of metal shavings coming from the slide/frame fitment.

    Overall Thoughts

    So far both pistols have been flawless and I couldn’t be happier with the test. Neither handguns had any issues and now we just have to put the rounds down range to see what happens. After having both for a few weeks, it honestly pains me to say I like the SIG 1911’s looks better with the more square body slide, but I’m still happy I poured so much time and effort into the 1911 build. In the next part, I will be shooting both suppressed and will start to torture them a little more now I know they both are functionally 100%.

    If you guys have ideas about testing them don’t be afraid to leave suggestions in the comments below. Let me know what you think about buying vs building a 1911 in 2020. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to shoot me a message on my Instagram @fridgeoperator. Stay safe out there!

    I’m an avid shooter and love educating whether it’s at my job or in the shooting community. I’m an average joe that really loves talking with other people about firearms and other passions
    .I’m active on Instagram on @fridgeoperator @just_pistols @thedailyrifle.


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