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What's a WWI 1911 Worth?

34805 Views 53 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  Jim K
I am interested in owning an original WWI 1911 and I'm trying to get a feel for what I need to save up. I know that I can find them online for asking prices in the $1500-$2500 area. However, I was at the local gun shop and they repeatedly scoffed at online prices, saying they often sell identical guns for substantially less.

So if I were to maybe forget the online scene and search for an example at a gun show or get lucky and find one at a gun store, or if I do look diligently enough online for that perfect deal, what can one be snagged for? I'm not made of money, so I'd be willing to buy one that is cosmetically flawed, perhaps seriously so, but of course I'd want one that still functions. Can they be had for less than my initial impression, or is that about the gist of it?


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I have a WWI 1911 and my local dealer ball parked it at 2 grand, and there are a lot of little details that will effect the value, the more corect the higher the value and the incorrect brings thing down fast...
Thanks for the input. But how much does condition effect the price? If you had two identical guns, all original, one that looks like new and the other rusted, nicked up, etc...?

Is there a good online resource for spotting what's original and what isn't, BTW?


Here's my nicked and rusted 1911 :) its all original minus the spring cap which was missing when I got the gun...... on line resources I am not up on , most of my research came from local family owned gun shops , small shops are a wealth of info the big shops not so much info...

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Thanks for sharing the pic. I'm drooling.

I have 2 military 1911s. One is a 1918 colt and the other a 1944 ithica and neither one is worth more than maybe 1200.00 or so.
Where did you find them?

The ithaca is original and the colt is not but I am an FFL and have acquired them over the years.
An original 1911 Military Colt in 80 to 90 percent condition can easily can run into several thousands of dollars. There are a number of factors involved. Condition, originality of all parts ( Grips, barrels,, magazine, everything ). Just having the wrong grips can drastically reduce the value. The same is true of WWII 1911's, plus the added factor of who manufactured it. ( WWII 1911's were made by Remington Rand, Colt, Ithaca, USS, and Singer ), Singer only made 500 1911's, I have seen one sell for 14,000 dollars. To top off the problems in values, there are the fakes, a few re-cuts of the serial number, a couple of phony markings, and a 700 dollar gun is now a 3000 dollar gun. Fakes are now very common in WWI and WWII era 1911s. Now, the experts can spot the counterfeited guns , but the novice can't until it is too late. My advise to you ( and my advise is only worth what you are paying for it ) is to do your homework before you buy, for starters go to Culvers Shooting Page and start reading all the back post on the 1911 forum, there are some real, big name , experts on that forum incling John Holbrook who specializes in Navy 1911's, It has really gotten to the point in military 1911's " buyer beware "
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Surely there are reputable dealers that can be trusted?

Unfortunately dealers can not be experts on every thing. Many times they don't even know that the item they are selling has been altered or does not have the original parts.They are not being dishonest, just ignorant of that specific item. But then again, some of them do know and are just hoping that no one else does. As with early Colt revolvers, it is very much "Buyer beware". You would have better luck with a later 1911, WWII or Korean era, there are a lot of arsenal ( depot rebuilt/repaired ) that have mixed parts ( all proper, just on the wrong gun ) for 5 to 800.
I buy big truck parts from a guy that is a SERIOUS 1911 collector(has 44 right now),he won't buy a "collector"unlesss he strips it,photos every part and researchs it.He has so that costs in the 100s and 10 that cost over 5k each..........I just buy 1911s and shoot/carry them:)
Wow, $500 to $800 for a WWII 1911 is something I can get behind. Otherwise, sounds like I have some research to do. So it's fairly possible to tell if a part's original or not, so long as you know what to look for?

With my budget, I'd be quite happy with a WWI firearm that had the original slide and frame, even if much of the rest was replaced.

Blimp just go shopping for a dealer you will see quickly that the dealers are not all the same, some are better than others and some are just plain full of BS , you need a good knowledgeable dealer that is willing to help you get what you want and at the same time educate you on firearms once you get that dealer just be a loyal customer and buy buy buy.....

and btw why a WWI 1911 there all the same I think, except check the mag in my pic I have been told that the half blued and half steel mags are a WWI 1911 thing.
Because I appreciate the history I guess, same as anyone. Though surely you're aware that the M1911 is a fair bit different that the later M1911A1? I think it'd be neat to have the original incarnation of the 1911.

Blimp, its pretty common to find these old jewels that have been rebuilt and are not original and are considered "parts guns". My 1918 colt qualifys. While the frame and the slide and many parts are from the correct era, many guns were rebuilt and sent back into duty. They still have the history and are still worth owning but the value is not nearly the same as an original. Alot of people end up buying what the think is an original only to find out later its not. If your looking to own the correct specimen, you do need to educate yourself prior to shopping. If its the history that lures you, a parts gun may satisfy you and be much easier on your wallet. As already stated, many of these parts guns can be had for well under a grand.
No doubt shooting a piece of history is nice but what if something goes wrong , my 1913 issue 1911 has fired about 800 rds in the last two years while its a blast to shoot I want a modern 1911 so as to preserve the old war dog. I have heard that the forward sight on the early 1911 have been known to fall out :eek: I am always checking the sights ......

and no I am not up on the differences of the 1911A1 please pass on the info
Yea, I shoot mine too but not that much. I shoot my newer ones much more.
I suggest splurging on a copy of Clawson "Collector's Guide to Colt ,45 Service Pistols...."

Get the Third edition if possible, but either the 1st or 2nd will do. And study them, lincluding the pictures. Then go to gun shows if possible and look at as many pistols as you can, regardless of the era. It might be a good idea to take along someone knowledgeable to help and guide you. Go easy and just look at first until you know what you are looking at.

There are a lot of fakes out there, some good, but most so atrocious they would fool only the most naive novice. Yet, they apparently sell. I was at a fairly recent show with a friend who wanted to buy a 1911 and found what he thought was a good one. I was able to point out that 1) the slide was from a Colt 1911, while the frame looked like a 1911A1, but 2) the serial number and marking on the frame were bogus with some of the marking put on by individual letter stamping and the rest missing, while 3) the parts were a combination of wrong era and repro parts. It took literally one look to dismiss the gun as junk and point my friend at another genuine gun for not much more money,

But knowing the things that were wrong did not come by magic; I own a number of those guns, have worked on many more as a GI armorer and gunsmith, have seen and studied hundreds, and have books for reference if necessary.

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Thanks for the book reference. Sounds like a must-have.

The "parts gun" sounds very intriguing, especially at under a grand. Though if they were gone through and recommisioned for service, does that mean they're more like a 1911A1 at this point? I'd really like one that still has the original 1911 characteristics.

Jackman, I'm sure I'm the last person to answer this question, but there are a few differences between the original 1911 and the 1911A1, which came out in the mid-20s. The most notable to my eye is that the 1911 has a larger trigger, like yours. Compare yours to most other 1911s, which are generally A1s. The "diamond" grips are also generally typical of the original 1911. There are a handful of other, less obvious changes as well, like a slightly different hammer and a bigger ejection port.

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