Though the 13-round 9mm Browning Hi-Power was introduced in 1935, high-capacity semi-automatic combat pistols were not popular for self-defense until much later. Someone looking for a “combat-ready” semi-auto would often look toward the venerable Colt 1911A1 .45. With the introduction of the Smith & Wesson Model 59 in 1971 and the Army’s adoption of the Beretta 92 in 1985, high-capacity pistols became more popular. However, many civilian carriers still preferred the crisp single-action trigger pull, flat profile, accuracy and unquestioned stopping power of the .45 ACP 1911 despite its magazine capacity.

But enough people were unsatisfied with the 1911 status quo for minor improvements and options to be added over the years. Stainless steel models became available to reduce rust potential. More prominent, factory-installed front and rear sights replaced the tiny military 1911 and 1911A1 sights. Extended slide releases and hand-protecting “beavertail” grip safeties became standard on all except bargain basement or vintage-styled models. As well, calibers other than .45 ACP such as 9mm, 10mm and .40 found a following. Some manufacturers switched to full-length guide rod operating systems. And skeletonized hammers replaced spur hammers, while synthetic grips replaced the original walnut grips.

However, in the overall scheme of things, the 1911 remained the same despite these refinements. The final impetus to advancing the 1911A1 was the polymer revolution ushered in by the 9mm Glock 17. In essence, the development of the 2011 pistol format can be seen as a survival reaction by 1911 manufacturers. If the 1911 was to continue to be popular, it had to adapt prominent features of the polymer pistol generation … and improve on it rather than creating a Frankenstein pistol.

What Is a ‘2011’ Pistol?

The best answer would be a 2011 pistol is the 100-plus-year-old original 1911 design brought up to 21st century tactical standards to accommodate the needs of both personal and professional users. It adopted as many 21st-century upgrades that genuinely improve the design as possible.

As this has been an evolutionary process more than a revolutionary one, there is no one defining standard of what a 1911 pistol must have to be considered a 2011. But there are certain characteristics that appear to be universal in these designs. A side-by-side comparison of 1911 pistols vs. 2011 pistols designed for self-defense concealed carry may explain this best. Note that not every single 2011 pistol characteristic that I have listed here needs to be present on a given gun for it to be considered a 2011, but the more the merrier. In any event, while this new generation of pistols won’t be identified as a “2011” on the boxes, hopefully after perusing this list, you will be able to recognize one if you see it.

2011 vs. 1911

Basic 1911 Pistols 2011 Pistols
Caliber .45 ACP Available in .45 ACP, .40, 9mm, 38 Super, 10mm
7- or 8-round magazine capacity 7- to 17-round capacity (depending on caliber)
Steel or aluminum frame Steel, aluminum or polymer frame
Plain fixed or three dot sights Updated high-visibility sights and/or optic-ready capability
Right-hand control configuration Partially or fully ambidextrous
Standard ergonomics Undercut triggerguard for optimal grip (preferred but not required to be considered a 2011)
Standard frame configuration Accessory rail included for light/laser use
Wood or plastic grips Synthetic G10 enhanced grips optimized for use under wet or high-stress conditions
Standard grasping grooves Wide grasping grooves (usually front and rear)
Standard barrel Enhanced match-grade or bull barrel for optimal accuracy potential
Threaded barrel for suppressor use
Blued or Parkerized carbon steel construction Polymer, aluminum or stainless steel used in construction combined with enhanced protective finishes
Standard trigger Enhanced overtravel adjustable precision trigger


As you can see from the table, the 2011 pistol includes or has available almost all the features of other more “modern” pistol designs. Yet it maintains the precision and accuracy of the 1911 design not found on most striker-fired pistols.

Who Makes 2011 Guns?

There are a number of manufacturers or companies that make or import 2011 pistols.

American Tactical: HGA FXH Moxie .45
Colt: Delta Elite Rail 10mm
EAA: Girsan MC1911S-STV .45, Girsan MC1911 Noel
Kimber: Rapide, Desert Warrior, Aegis Elite Pro and Custom, KHX Custom and Pro
Sig Sauer: 1911 Emperor Scorpion Full Size .45.
Smith & Wesson: E series Round Butt Scandium, 1911TA Tactical Rail, Performance Center 1911 Pro Series 9mm
Springfield Armory: 1911 DS Prodigy Series, TRP Operator, 1911 Operator, 1911 Emissary

What Is the Best 2011 Gun?

The list above is just scratching the surface of the evolution of the 1911 to the 2011 pistol. There are many more available. I must admit that the 1911 traditionalist in me has only tried (or is about to try a few of the pistols from the list). But I am now starting to develop an affinity for the 2011 pistol design. Of the models listed above, two are currently standouts.

Best Overall Example of a 2011 pistol: The Springfield Armory Prodigy
Best Example of a Popularly Priced 2011 Pistol: The HGA FXH Moxie .45. MSRP of $459.95

For those of you who are 1911 traditionalists, don’t worry; there are still plenty of more conservatively styled 1911s around for you as well.