Way back in March, during the early days of quarantine and the COVID outbreak, we published the first part of Buying vs Building a 1911. At the end of my Part 1 article, I said both were running flawlessly with all ammo types and it was dead even. Fast forward 6 months and about 2,000 rounds more through each gun and they are both filthy dirty. I have done a number of tests to each gun whether it’s suppressed shooting or just running the guns until they are extremely dirty. If you haven’t read my first part about these two guns, I will leave a link to it here. Now let’s jump into these two beasts and break down what is the better value between buying or building a 1911.
So far, I have taken both my built 1911 as well as the SIG 1911 Emperor Scorpion out as my main sidearm during range day and shooting courses in the last six months. I ultimately wanted to get 2,500 rounds through each gun as a benchmark and succeeded even though it nearly brought me to bankruptcy court during the ammo shortage. At the beginning of my testing, I thoroughly cleaned and lubricated both pistols and decided to run them super dirty for reliability testing 1,000 rounds. Typically anything past 300-400 rounds will make 1911s feel gummed up and start to seem sluggish but I got to the 1,000 round mark on both pistols without having to clean or service them.
One of the biggest issues I had when at the range was with my older Mec-Gar magazines with polymer base pads. These magazines are probably 11 years old and have been used fairly extensively before I started this test. I ended up having two of the four base pads shatter while at the range and the other two magazines developed feeding issues from a weakened spring. I had feeding issues in my built 1911 especially and had to clear the pistol 2-3 times before tossing the magazines and ordering the Wilson Combat Heavy Duty magazines. Once I switched over to the Wilson Combat Heavy Duty magazines, both guns ran flawlessly even after dropping the magazines in sand and gravel.
Shooting Suppressed and Durability Testing
I was curious if swapping barrels out for a threaded barrel would cause cycling issues and could affect the overall reliability of the pistols. Initially, I shot a box of 50 rounds through each as a control to make sure they were 100% reliable and neither pistol had a single issue. I decided to try out shooting the 1911s suppressed with a SilencerCo Osprey 45 can. I shot roughly 200 rounds through each handgun with the Osprey attached with no issues.
Both pistols were extremely dirty from the suppressed shots but neither one had issues. I decided to put an additional 200 rounds through the pistols without cleaning and the Built 1911 started to gum up and stove pipe occasionally. Before disassembling the gun for a good scrub down, I decided to dab a bit of lube onto the slide rails and shoot a few more magazines through the gun. To my surprise, the built 1911 cycled 4 magazines worth of ammo through it with no malfunctions. The SIG Emperor Scorpion ran flawlessly through the initial suppressed 200 rounds and the additional 200 rounds after being filthy dirty.
Buy Or Build?
After shooting these for a few months and getting comfortable with both guns is it smarter to buy or build? The SIG Sauer Emperor Scorpion is one of the nicest mid-range 1911’s on the market from my time with it. It has aggressive front checkering and the G10 grips work well to keep the gun locked in your hand. The best part of the SIG is the fact it has a warranty and support if anything ever happened and I needed it fixed. The square slide cut eliminates most 1911 holster options so that’s something to keep in mind.
The 1911 I built is different from other guns I own if I’m honest. It has a sense of accomplishment and ownership for me since it took time and a ton of energy to turn it from parts into a functioning handgun. Honestly, I didn’t think it would have the reliability it had compared to a factory gun so there’s a bit of pride attached to that gun. Building your own gun is the biggest strength and drawback depending on your skillset and how the gun turns out. If it goes well, you’ll have a handcrafted gun with personal sentimental value but if it goes wrong you’ll be out $1200-1400.
So after six months and 5,000 rounds of 45 ACP, would I buy or build a 1911? That’s a tricky question to answer because both have advantages. If you’re looking for one solid 1911 around $1,200-1,400 I would probably buy the SIG Sauer Emperor Scorpion or similar offering from their line of 1911s. I am immensely happy I built a 1911 and get to call a handgun mine after all that hard work, but it’s definitely a process and it’s much faster to pick one up from a reputable company.
With a factory handgun, you also get customer support and a warranty in case anything ever happens. My older readers may be perfect candidates to build a 1911 if you have the time and skill but for the vast majority, I would just buy one personally. I plan on keeping my Emperor Scorpion to test out and continue using so I will give you guys updates on my experiences down the road. Let me know what you think about buying vs building in the comments below. If you have questions about this article or anything in general, don’t hesitate to shoot me a message on Instagram @fridgeoperator. Stay safe out there
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