Best 1911’s [2022] Best By Category

by Travis Pike

February 28, 2022

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The 1911, aka the M1911, aka the M1911A1, has lived one helluva life. It’s been everywhere, man, and served for decades as a service pistol. In the United States, it continues to chug along and is one of the most reproduced pistols on earth. The gun that started the ole 45 ACP continues to be a favorite among a wide variety of shooters. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of different M1911s produced by a wide variety of companies. 

Once you start searching for a 1911, you might get really confused real fast by the amount of 1911s on the market. Well, we are here for you. I’ve gathered what I think are the best 1911s currently available. Trying to list the best 1911s can be tough, especially with the history the gun has. 

As such, when I chose the 1911s for this list, I had to set a few rules. First, they needed to be ‘production’ guns. Not guns made to order or high-end custom pieces made in limited numbers. I also excluded 1911s no longer being produced. Lots of companies made great guns, but they might have faded away in one way or another. 

It’s also really easy to include nothing but custom 1911s on this list. I could have made this entire list of Nighthawk or Wilson Combat products. Instead, I created categories and tried to make the list diverse. If you purchase a Nighthawk, a Wilson Combat, or Ed Brown, you know you’re getting a great gun, but what fun is a list of 4,000 dollar handguns? 

Hopefully, you find what you’re looking for on this diverse list of 1911s. 

A Life of Service 

The M1911 came from the mind of John Moses Browning. Browning is a prolific firearms designer who likely made a bigger splash in the firearms world than any other individual. His M1911 pistol became the first automatic pistol developed for the United States military. The military moved to the double-action 38 revolver and found it lacking. 

They didn’t want another revolver, but they wanted a caliber they figured proficient in an automatic handgun. Thus after years of testing, development, and competition, the M1911 became the handgun of choice for the United States military. The handgun would serve from M1911 to 1985 as the main sidearm of the United States military. 

Think about that. This single handgun saw service through two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, and dozens of small conflicts around the globe. It’s simply amazing and still pops up with special operations forces here and there. Most famously, Force Recon wielded the weapon well beyond the time it left general service. 

What’s a 1911? 

That should be an easy question to answer. Yet, the weapon has changed a fair bit with different companies producing different models of the weapon with various changes. The core M1911 design is a semi-automatic, recoil-operated, hammer-fired, single-action only, all-metal pistol that utilizes the 45 ACP round in a single stack magazine. That’s what the weapon was developed as, but over time that’s changed. 

It’s still largely a single action only, single stack, recoil-operated pistol, but you’ll find it in a ton of different calibers and even polymer frame models. Double stack guns exist, but they are typically referred to as 2011s. When you take a design and rework it for over a hundred years, you are bound to get some new calibers and design features. 

We won’t be sticking tightly to the core definition, and this list will encompass various calibers and sizes of firearm. However, you won’t see double-stack or DA/SA guns on this list. 

Why Has the 1911 Stuck Around for So Long? 

The M1911 pistol is 110 years old at the time of this writing. That’s a very long time for a weapon to be so prevalent. Without a doubt, the weapon shows its age. We have a low capacity, an abundance of safety devices, and it’s dang sure heavy for a weapon that holds a mere eight to ten rounds of ammunition. 

The 1911 persists for a good reason. Browning seemed to understand how the human hand worked. 1911-ergonomics are among some of the very best and are often imitated for a good reason. The controls are accessible, easy to reach, and the grip angle is to die for. 

The trigger is another feature a ton of guns try to imitate. It’s crisp, often very light with very short travel and an absurdly awesome reset. Browning’s 1911 also proves itself to be extremely accurate. Shooting 1911s is just a ton of fun and is always an enjoyable experience. 

The Best 1911s by Category 

The Best 1911s by Category 

Rock Island Armory G.I. Model

Best Budget 1911

  • Plain Jane Post WW1 1911.
  • Affordable
  • Available in 9mm, 45 ACP, and 38 Super
Check Price
Dan Wesson Specialist

Best 10mm

  • Modern features and design
  • Also available in 45 ACP and 9mm
  • Rail Gun
Check Price
Colt Combat Unit Rail

Best Modern Classic

  • Modernized 1911
  • Rail Gun
  • Match Grade Barrel
Check Price
Staccato C 

Best Carry 1911

  • Unique barrel length
  • 9mm chambering
  • Optics ready
Check Price
Springfield Vickers 1911

Best Affordable Custom

  • Semi-Custom Gun
  • Designed by Larry Vickers
  • Carry and Combat Ready
Check Price
Ed Brown - ZEV 1911

Best Optics Ready

  • Optics ready
  • Rail Gun
  • Threaded Barrel
Check Price
Nighthawk Firehawk

Best 9mm 1911

  • Integrated Compensator
  • Lightened slide
  • Also available in 45 ACP
Check Price

Best 1911 Specs 

Below we’ve lined up our top 7 options to compare their specifications side by side.

Best 1911'sBarrel LengthOverall LengthHeightWeightCapacity
Rock Island Armory G.I. Model5 inches8.56 inches5.5 inches39.52 ounces8
Dan Wesson Specialist5 inches8.75 inches5.5 inches42.3 ounces8
Colt Combat Unit Rail5 inches8.6 inches5.5 inches40 ounces8
Staccato C3.9 inches7.44 inches4.94 inches26.6 ounces8
Springfield Vickers 19115 inches8.6 inches5.5 inches41.5 ounces8
Ed Brown - ZEV 19114.25 inches7.75 inches6.5 inches (With RMR)41 ounces9
Nighthawk Firehawk5 inches8.47 inches5.6 inches44.2 ounces9

Best 1911’s Reviews

We’ve listed the Best 1911’s by category, now let us look at each of our top 7 individually to see how they line up.

1. Rock Island Armory G.I. 1911

Rock Island Armory G.I. Model

Rock Island Armory G.I. 1911

Rock Island Armory’s G.I. Standard series has long been a great go-to for affordable 1911s that mimic the feel and look of the classic post-World War 1 1911.

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  • Shootability A
  • Reliability D
  • Ergonomics C
  • Accuracy B
  • Value C

Our Grade

C+

Reviewed by Travis Pike

Reader’s Grade

B

Based on 12 Reviews

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Rock Island Armory G.I. Model

  • Barrel Length 5 inches 
  • Overall Length 8.56 inches
  • Height 5.5 inches
  • Weight 39.52 ounces
  • Capacity

Rock Island Armory G.I. Model Review

Let’s say you want a 1911 just for the fun of having one. Lots of people own historically accurate revolvers and rifles. Why not own a 1911. Rock Island Armory’s G.I. Standard series has long been a great go-to for affordable 1911s that mimic the feel and look of the classic post-World War 1 1911. 

These guns are very simple, and you won’t find any fancy features. You get a true blue 1911 experience complete with tiny nubs for sights, a single-sided safety, a tiny magazine release, wood grips, and very little slide texturing. It’s wonderfully simple, and you can experience the classic 1911 at a very low price point. The MSRP for the basic model is $499, and it’s easy to find them for less than 400 bucks if you shop around. 

At that price point, you might not get a fancy 1911, but you do get a well-made, reliable, and fun-to-shoot gun. I wouldn’t use it for home defense or concealed carry, but if you just want a simple 1911, this is the way to go. They do make several models in the G.I. line, including a 9mm variant for those looking to go that route. 

Rock Island Armory G.I. Model Pros and Cons

  • Affordable
  • Reliable
  • Fun to Shoot
  • Small Sights

Rock Island Armory G.I. Model Deals

2. Dan Wesson Specialist

Dan Wesson Specialist

Dan Wesson Specialist

Dan Wesson, designed the Specialist because a police department wanted a more modern and capable 1911 to replace their aging service pistols.

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  • Shootability A-
  • Reliability B+
  • Ergonomics B
  • Accuracy A-
  • Value B

Our Grade

B+

Reviewed by Travis Pike

Reader’s Grade

A+

Based on 1 Reviews

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Dan Wesson Specialist Specs

  • Barrel Length 5 inches
  • Overall Length 8.75 inches
  • Height 5.5 inches
  • Weight 42.3 ounces
  • Capacity 8

Dan Wesson Specialist Review

According to Dan Wesson, they designed the Specialist because a police department wanted a more modern and capable 1911 to replace their aging service pistols. I would’ve said go Glock, but Dan Wesson developed the Specialist. They developed the weapon in various calibers, including the powerful and hard-hitting 10mm. 

The trigger and inherent accuracy of the 1911 mixes well with the powerful 10mm. It’s a flat shooting cartridge with 100-yard capability with a full-powered 10mm load. With 10mm, you want a well-built gun, and Dan Wesson makes very well-built guns. The Specialist gives you that classic 1911 design but adds a modern rail for an accessory. 

Dan Wesson tossed on an ambi safety, a massive beavertail, a magwell for quick reloads, Novak-style sights, enhanced slide serrations, and mainspring housing checkering. All in all, the Specialist is built to be a modern firing pistol. The 10mm works well for gunfighting, and when mixed with the right pistol, you get a versatile and capable weapon. 

The Specialist offers a solid weapon that can stand up to thousands of full-powered 10mm rounds without issue. You won’t see a cracked frame before the break-in is over by any means. Plus, it’s modernized for carry considerations and will certainly provide you with a top-of-the-line 1911 for all your daily needs. 

Dan Wesson Specialist Pros and Cons

  • Modern features 
  • Excellent Trigger 
  • Powerful Caliber 
  • Mag taps out at eight rounds

Dan Wesson Specialist Deals

3. Colt Combat Unit Rail

Colt Combat Unit Rail

Colt Combat Unit Rail

The Colt Combat Unit takes the M1911A1 and modernizes it with a variety of add ons. The weapon comes in the classic 45 ACP and features the government profile.

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  • Shootability B+
  • Reliability A-
  • Ergonomics C+
  • Accuracy A
  • Value B+

Our Grade

B+

Reviewed by Travis Pike

Reader’s Grade

A+

Based on 1 Reviews

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Colt Combat Unit Rail

  • Barrel Length 5 inches
  • Overall Length 8.6 inches
  • Height 5.5 inches
  • Weight 40 ounces
  • Capacity

Colt Combat Unit Rail Review

Do you want a real Colt 45? Well, we got you covered. Beyond that, we are going to not only give you a Colt 45, but we want to provide you with a modern classic. The Colt Combat Unit takes the M1911A1 and modernizes it with a variety of add ons. The weapon comes in the classic 45 ACP and features the government profile. 

Beyond that, the Colt Combat Unit Rail modernizes the Colt M1911A1 to the bleeding edge of the platform. Obviously, we get the Rail. It’s in the name. That allows for modern attachments. Colt installed an ambidextrous, extended safety, a massive beavertail, front and backstrap checkering, and an extended magwell for quick reloads. 

Colt’s DLC finish coats a stainless steel frame to make the weapon near impervious to destruction. A set of Novak sights give you a clear and consistent sight picture and obviously easily interchangeable sights. This weapon features the 80 series firing system, and the weapon comes with the National match barrel for all the accuracy you could ever need. Colt’s Combat Unit Rail takes the classic Browning design and works to push its platform forward. 

Colt Combat Unit Rail Pros and Cons

  • Modern Ergonomics
  • Rail for accessories
  • Classic Colt Design 
  • Series 80 trigger is safer but less crisp than series 70

Colt Combat Unit Rail Deals

4. Staccato C

Staccato C

Staccato C

The Staccato C clings to the traditional 1911 design, or well, kind of. It’s a single stack 9mm 1911 with a short 3.9-inch barrel. The Staccato C comes with eight-round magazines and a ton of features that make it a fantastic carry gun.

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  • Shootability B
  • Reliability B+
  • Ergonomics B
  • Accuracy B+
  • Value A-

Our Grade

B+

Reviewed by Travis Pike

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TBD

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Staccato C Specs

  • Barrel Length 3.9 inches
  • Overall Length 7.44 inches
  • Height 4.94 inches
  • Weight 26.6 ounces
  • Capacity 8 rounds 

Staccato C Review

Staccato, previously known as STI, made their name producing the double stack 2011 designs, but they’ve still kept to their roots. The Staccato C clings to the traditional 1911 design, or well, kind of. It’s a single stack 9mm 1911 with a short 3.9-inch barrel. The Staccato C comes with eight-round magazines and a ton of features that make it a fantastic carry gun. 

From the top-down, we get an optic cut for a red dot, a fiber optic front sight, with a Dawson rear sight. The front and rear of the slide are heavily textured, and the gun even features a short single slot rail for an accessory. Under the slide sits a bull barrel for excellent accuracy. Ambidextrous safeties aren’t a surprise, but the grip sure is. It’s a lightweight alloy frame covered with a polymer grip that’s aggressively textured to make sure it stays put. 

The thin nature of the 1911 makes it carry friendly, and the shorter, 9mm Staccato C makes it even more so. The main downside is the weight to round ratio, but what’s new with the 1911. Like every Staccato, it’s a fantastic firearm. The reliability is top-notch, the trigger is fantastic, and from the factory, you can bet your life on it. 

Staccato C Review

  • Optics ready
  • Brilliant Ergonomics
  • Unbeatable reliability
  • Heavy for a carry gun

Staccato C Deals

5. Springfield Vickers 1911

Springfield Vickers 1911

Springfield Vickers 1911

If you want a semi-custom firearm at a great price point, the 1911 Vickers Tactical Master Class is a great way to go. Delta Force veteran Larry Vickers teamed up with Springfield Armory to put together a 1911 custom cut for his purposes.

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  • Shootability B+
  • Reliability A-
  • Ergonomics A
  • Accuracy A
  • Value A-

Our Grade

A-

Reviewed by Travis Pike

Reader’s Grade

TBD

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Springfield Vickers Specs

  • Barrel Length 5 inches
  • Overall Length 8.3 inches
  • Height 5.5 inches
  • Weight 41.5 ounces
  • Capacity 8

Springfield Vickers Master Class 1911 Review

The custom 1911 market is everywhere in price. It’s easy for guns to get up into the thousands of dollars. If you want a semi-custom firearm at a great price point, the 1911 Vickers Tactical Master Class is a great way to go. Delta Force veteran Larry Vickers teamed up with Springfield Armory to put together a 1911 custom cut for his purposes. 

Springfield already does a great job producing high-quality 1911s, and the core gun is obviously a Springfield. Beyond that, it’s crammed full of Vicker’s selected parts and pieces. This includes a Wilson Combat hammer and safety. The hammer is smooth and light, allowing for a crisp trigger pull, and the safety is a single side design with a large shelf for easy engagement. 

We get Vickers Elite Battle Sights that use a big rear notch sight with a tritium front sight. They are fast and easy to align. The woven front strap checkering and the G10 grips provide a rock-solid grip on the gun and make it easy to handle. It’s an accurate and reliable 1911 and has that custom feel without the custom price point. 

Springfield Vickers Pros and Cons

  • Excellent Ergonomics 
  • Price well for the features
  • Great sights
  • Awesome magazines
  • No ambi controls

Springfield Vickers Pros and Cons

6. ZEV 1911

Ed Brown - ZEV 1911

ZEV 1911

Ed Brown, a famed 1911 custom hour, teamed up with ZEV, a company famed for Gucci Glocks, to bring you the Ed Brown Zev 19 RMR.

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  • Shootability A-
  • Reliability B+
  • Ergonomics A-
  • Accuracy A+
  • Value A

Our Grade

A-

Reviewed by Travis Pike

Reader’s Grade

TBD

Based on 0 Reviews

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Ed Brown – ZEV 1911 

  • Barrel Length 4.25 inches
  • Overall Length 7.75 inches
  • Height 6.5 inches (With RMR) 
  • Weight 41 ounces
  • Capacity

Ed Brown – ZEV 1911 Review

Ed Brown, a famed 1911 custom hour, teamed up with ZEV, a company famed for Gucci Glocks, to bring you the Ed Brown Zev 19 RMR. That’s a mouthful, but two big companies produced a helluva gun. It’s chock full of both Ed Brown’s mastery of the 1911 and ZEV’s high-tech custom ideas. Optics on handguns rule, and sadly the 1911 platform has been slow to adopt the idea. 

Ed Brown and ZEV clearly saw the benefits and produced an optics-ready 1911 that’s tough to beat. You can have the RMR installed at the factory, which is obviously a simple option for those seeking optics. They also installed suppressor height sights for cowitnessing purposes, and is a gun truly optics ready if it doesn’t have cowitnessing sights? 

Optics are great, but so is the rest of the gun. We get an Orion slide cut package for stylish and efficient slide texturing. The barrel is dimpled, the gun comes light ready, and the barrel is threaded and suppressor-ready. Shooters get a commander-sized 1911, and with a compensator, it’s roughly the same size as a government profile 1911. This team-up of old and new school make the Ed Brown/ZEV 19 an awesome option for a modern, optic’s ready 1911. 

Ed Brown – ZEV 1911 Pros and Cons

  • Optics Ready
  • Suppressor Height Sights
  • Outstanding Ergonomics 
  • Expensive

7. Nighthawk Firehawk

Nighthawk Firehawk

Nighthawk Firehawk

The Firehawk uses a Command length spring and reverse plug, and with the compensator, the weapon is government profile in size.

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  • Shootability B+
  • Reliability A
  • Ergonomics A-
  • Accuracy A+
  • Value A-

Our Grade

A-

Reviewed by Travis Pike

Reader’s Grade

A+

Based on 2 Reviews

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Nighthawk Firehawk Specs

  • Barrel Length 5 inches
  • Overall Length 8.47 inches
  • Height 5.6 inches
  • Weight 44.2 ounces
  • Capacity

Nighthawk Firehawk Review

The Nighthawk Firehawk is the weapon that made me realize the value of compensated firearms. My goodness, is it nice to have a comped 9mm 1911. It’s one of the sweetest shooting guns on the market and provides shooters with a fantastic design. The Firehawk is not just a comped 1911, but a custom weapon with a fantastic design. 

The Firehawk uses a Command length spring and reverse plug, and with the compensator, the weapon is government profile in size. Since the compensator essentially stays put in relation to the reciprocating slide, Nighthawk mounted the front sight to the comp. This allows you to quickly track the front sight and to stay on target. The French border makes the compensator integration seamless as well. 

Nighthawk lightened the slide, and when that is combined with the compensator, the recoil is extremely light and controllable. As a 9mm, it’s already a smooth shooter, but the compensated design and integral design choices make this an extremely smooth shooter that’s easy to control and a joy to shoot. The aggressive grip texture and the ultra hi-cut front strap allow for a nice high grip that interacts wonderfully with the rear beavertail. 

Nighthawk Firehawk Pros and Cons

  • Extremely easy to shoot
  • Soft Recoiling
  • Chock full of custom features 
  • Expensive 

Nighthawk Firehawk Deals

Into the 1911 Platform – Buyers Guide 

Calibers – What caliber should you get your 1911 in? Goodness knows they’ve produced the 191 in just about any caliber you could ever imagine. The big three are the Lord’s caliber, 45 ACP, followed by 9mm, and of course, 10mm. 

The 45 ACP gives you the classic experience with a capable and common round. Albeit, it’s not the cheapest handgun round. The 10mm provides you more power and range than the classic 45 ACP and reaches 41 Magnum status. This powerful cartridge hits hard and shoots flat well beyond most handgun calibers. The little 9mm provides an extremely smooth shooting experience that’s soft and well balanced, especially with compact 1911s. 

Outside of the big three, you can find a 1911 of some kind in nearly any caliber. This includes oddballs like the 357 SIG, the 9mm Dillon, the 38 Super, and more common rounds like the 380 ACP and 40 S&W. Heck, you can get a 22 LR 1911, although it’s not a true 1911 with a recoil-operated design and is more likely blowback operated. 

Like most things, you have to look at what you’re trying to do. My two favorites are 10mm for hunting and 9mm just because it’s cheap and pleasant to shoot. The original 45 ACP caliber offers you tons more accessories, magazines, and more. If you are shopping for a 1911 you want to shoot a lot, then I’d go with the 9mm over any other caliber. 

Size Matters – The 1911 comes in various sizes these days, and I’ll do my best to describe and define some of the terms we used above. When you go to choose a 1911, this can be invaluable information. 

Government – When you hear the term government in relation to 1911s, the meaning isn’t government-issued. It’s a descriptor of the classic 1911 with a five-inch barrel and full-sized frame. These are the most prevalent 1911s. 

Long Slide – Long slide 1911s use a government-sized frame with a longer barrel and slide. These exceed five inches and are typically 6-inch options. They increase sight radius and help with accuracy as well as velocity. They are popular with 10mm and other similar powerful cartridges. 

Commander – Commander-sized 1911s slightly shorten the slide to 4.25 inches, although most people refer to 4-inch barrels as Commander models as well. They have shorter barrels but retail the full-sized frame of the Government 1911. 

Officer – Officer-sized 1911s shrink the design even further. They commonly have 3.5-inch barrels and a frame trimmed to reduce size. They typically fit one less round than a Commander or Government model. 

Defender – Defender is Colt’s name for ultra-small 1911s. It’s become a term applied to most subcompact 1911s with barrels shorter than 3 inches and Officer sized frames. 

The Little Things – 1911s are a broad subject. So much so, that entire books have been written about them. As such, why don’t we take a quick peek at some of the more common extra features and define and describe what they are and what they do? 

Ambidextrous Safeties – Back in 1911, no one cared about left-handed shooters. Right-handed shooters got all the love. This includes the safety on the original M1911. It’s a thumb safety situated when the thumb of a shooter’s right hand would sit. Over time we realized left-handed shooters exist and that sometimes even righties need to switch hands. 

Thus ambidextrous safeties were produced. They obviously offer you a thumb safety on both sides for easy use. They are handy but not a deal-breaker, at least for righties. I often find massive ambi safeties get in the way of my nice high grip, but I also have huge hands. 

Sights – Woo boy, 1911s come in a wide variety of sight configurations. This is important to know prior to purchasing in case you want to swap sights. The most common 1911 sight dovetails are as follows: 

  • Colt Government
  • Novak LoMount
  • BoMar BMCS
  • LPA 

If you plan to buy a 1911 and swap sights, you might want to ensure you know what sights fit prior to doing so. 

Rails – Do you need a Picatinny rail? I mean, if you want to attach a light, then yeah, you want one. I prefer to at least have the option, and the added cost is often worth it as far as I’m concerned. This simple add-on can vary in length, but with the big 1911 frame, you can typically attach a powerful weapon light. 

Checkering – Handgun grips are made up of four different surfaces. We have the interchangeable side grips, then a front and backstrap. The interchangeable grips make it easy to attach aggressively textured grips, but the front and backstrap are a little trickier.

One awesome upgrade you can get on your 1911 is checkering of the front and backstrap. This additional checkering to better secure the gun in your hand. This checkering is measured in lines per inch or LPI. An LPI of 25 is pretty standard, but 20 and 30 aren’t uncommon. 

The lower the number, the more aggressive the checkering. Some find 30 too light and 20 too aggressive, so 25 is the just-right porridge of 1911 grip checking. 

An Elegant Weapons For a Less Civilized Age 

The ole 1911 will likely keep kicking until we get Gauss guns or laser pistols. It seems to be the gun that just won’t die. 1911 pistols can be as fancy or as simple as you’d like them to be, and they come in almost every caliber and size you could ever want. Hopefully, we’ve made this a little less confusing and guided you to some of the best 1911s on the market. 

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About Travis Pike

Travis is a former United States Marine Corps Infantryman and currently a firearms writer, instructor, and works in Emergency Management.

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