Citadel 1911

Citadel 1911 Review: Best Budget-Friendly Pistol?

Another 1911 review.

Why? Well, why not?

The old 1911 is experiencing a resurgence, the likes of which it has never happened before.

I daresay the 1911 is more popular now than ever. Not bad for a 109-year-old design, eh? But why is it so popular? Here are a couple of thoughts on that.

Here, we have the Citadel 1911 review. If you want to know more about this gun, read on.

Citadel 1911 Review: Pros and Cons

  • Affordable price
  • Aggressive but sleek look
  • Quality construction
  • Excellent trigger and grips
  • Ambidextrous and ergonomic controls
  • Black sights

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The 1911’s Popularity

In your mind, there’s no reason to just get rid of something that has proven its worth for something that is newer, just for the sake of trading. So you keep your old car or whatever.

This also goes for the 1911. So why in the year 2020 with its preponderance of polymer-framed, striker-fired wonder pistols, is the old warhorse still so popular?

One of the reasons is because it isn’t a poly-framed wonder gun.

Huh? But, everyone knows that the double-stack striker-fired gun is superior in every way, right?

Not so sure about that, are we? So how does the old 1911 compare to its newer cousin? Let’s look at a quick, informal chart I drew up.

Of course, this is strictly my opinion, but it is one born of several decades of carrying, shooting, buying (and selling) guns and observing others doing the same.

I have been interested in the shooter’s mind and habits for over 40 years and have also studied the topic fairly extensively.

1911 vs the Polymer Striker

Action:SADA/SA, pre-cocked SA or other
Frame:Metal, with some polymer frames out therepolymer
Frame Width:generally thincould be thin or chunky, depends on caliber
Slide:usually round profile at top, thinusually square at top, with exceptions
Trigger:SA, can be tuned to 3 pounds or soSA or DA, usually around 5 pounds stock, can be tuned
Safeties:Grip, Thumb, Drop (Series 80)Usually bladed trigger, drop, sometimes thumb
Sizes:Officers, Commander, GovernmentAnything from tiny to jumbo
Calibers:Usually .45, 9mm, .38 Super, 10mmSeveral to choose from, from .380 up
Grips:Replaceable, customizableUsually molded into grip frame
Backstrap:Grip safety, beavertail, mainspring housingSometimes replaceable, different sizes
Sights:Usually dovetailed, replaceableUsually dovetailed, replaceable
Weight:Heavy. Just heavy. Like, 40 ouncesLighter, usually
Optics:Not too easily attached, by and largeSome models are equipped for optics
Holsters:Too many to count. Everyone makes oneSome models are easier to come by than others
Tune-ability:Very easy to find someone to tune a 1911Easier than it used to be but still no 1911
Reputation:Saw us through 2 World Wars and othersStill earning a reputation, usually very good
Overall:The choice of select special forces units and many discriminating shootersThe police and civilian weapon of choice

Take from this what you will. The 1911 is here to stay and is more popular than ever.

If you’re wondering if I’m a bit prejudiced toward the old warhorse, I’m the first to admit I am. I have owned several.

  • Colt Commander, blue
  • AMT Hardballer, stainless
  • Llama full size, stainless
  • Taurus PT1911 full size, blue
  • Citadel full size, blue
  • Rock Island Armory Compact (officers-size), parkerized

I like the platform. I currently do not own one, but I think that will be rectified before the year’s end. I’m thinking maybe a 10mm — that seems the next logical step up from the .45. It’s deer-legal in my state.

I truly like the way they shoot, the way they feel in my hand. The single-stack grip is thin enough for me to get a good grip on the thing, and with some decently-checkered wood or G10 grips, the gun stays in my paw.

Where Did the 1911 Come From?

I’ve written several reviews and articles about various 1911s. They include:

And in terms of some of the best ammo for 1911s (or any gun, for that matter), check these out:

If you want to know a bit of background on John Browning’s wonderchild, check out my history of the 1911.

It’s an interesting read about an interesting gun.

What truly amazed me as I researched the history of the gun was that it was the first semi-auto pistol adopted by any U.S. military branch, and that happened way back in 1911. Talk about forward-thinking!

Carrying the 1911

I’ve had some experience with the old girl. As the saying goes, I’d brought her to more than a few dances.

I even carried one for a while, which is saying something since I’m a fairly round five-foot-nothing guy and have few places to hide the five-inch barreled mini field gun that some call a pistol, but carry it I did. (Check out our article on CCW insurance)

As with any pistol, the barrel is not the hard part to conceal. It’s the grip. That’s what will print through your clothes if it sticks out. Also, the 1911 grip is not very conducive to hiding well in a concealed carry holster, at least in its stock square-butt persona.

Some companies make what they call a bob-tailed frame — 1a frame with the lower rear corner cut at an angle to take the “point” off the frame bottom.

It’s amazing that removing a relatively small amount of metal makes a really big difference when you carry it. It just doesn’t stick out as much.

Anyway, enough about carrying 1911. What about the gun we’re examining, the Citadel?

Citadel 1911 Review

The Citadel 1911 is made by the Armscor Global Defense, Inc. Company in the Philippines. This company makes guns and sells them under different names. One of the familiar brands that they make that you might recognize is Rock Island Armory.

Yearly, Armscor makes over 200,000 guns and almost half a billion rounds of ammo. 80% is exported to more than 60 countries. It is also an ISO 9001-certified company located in Marikina City.

In addition to Citadel and Rock Island, other 1911 gun brands made by Armscor include Charles Daly, STI’s Spartan and Cimarron Firearm’s pre-1923 pistols.

I owned a Rock island 1911 (see above), and it was well-made. Not flashy, but reliable. I had a reason to call RIA’s customer service — it was missing the ambidextrous safety that was supposed to come on it — and talked to Ivan in Nevada.

I had the part, plus extra goodies, in three days. This is just to say that the guns are well-made and are backed by very good customer service.

Anyway, the Citadel and other pistols made by Armscor tend to be good buys for the money.

Citadel 1911 Review: Specs

Here are the specs, then some photos of the Citadel. This example belongs to one of our sons, who graciously offered it to me to review.

Obviously, this is not a new gun — he has carried it and shot it a lot. Also, it has holster wear on the metal, but this is a good thing to me. It means it’s not a safe queen.

Importer:Legacy Sports International
Caliber:.45 ACP
Sights:Novak-style, drift-adjustable rear
Overall Length:8.5 inches
Width:1.38 inches (across the safety levers)
Barrel Length:5 inches
Stocks:Checkered wood grip panels
Weight:36 ounces
Trigger Pull Weight:Average of 4 pounds, 9 ounces -- very crisp
Capacity:8+1, 2 magazines included
Safeties:Extended, ambidextrous thumb; extended beavertail grip
Finish:Matte black, parkerized
Other Features:1911 round trigger guard, Series 70 firing system; full length guide rod, skeletonized hammer
Ships In:Lockable plastic case

Various owners have suggested that Armscor Precision International told them in Nevada that Citadel guns would be treated like Rock Island Armory guns, with their lifetime warranty.

Prospective buyers should do their research into this. Technically, it is five years.

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Here are some photos of the gun. As stated, you will see wear marks and other signs that the gun has been shot, but all that means to me is that the thing works well, so it gets used. Anyway, here you are.

Citadel 1911 left side
Left engraving logo
Logo close-up

Note the full-length guide rod — it does not have a hole for a paper clip in order to capture the spring for takedown. So remember to keep a thumb over the plug when you take it apart.

Nothing new here. It’s your typical 1911 drill.

Frame left side rails
Frame up close.

Notice the non-cut-out frame just above the plunger button.

Please read my review of the Colt Delta Elite (Battered Frame Syndrome, about halfway down) to see how Colt handled their frames’ stress cracking by removing some metal above the slide stop cutout.

It’s really interesting how they solved that issue.

In my reviews of 1911s, some companies will follow Colt’s example and remove that part of the frame while others mill their frames like this Citadel, where an “arch” of metal is left intact. Again, interesting reading.

Also, note the skeletonized trigger with an overtravel screw in its base (can’t really see it here). The thumb safety is extended and ambidextrous, and the hammer is obviously not the typical spur-type. Not sure what he did to the grip panel.

They must’ve backed into a belt sander. He told me he copied a trick he got from watching a Jerry Miculek video.

He said Jerry does this to some wooden grips so that sweat won’t build up on the grip — the scratches make a channel — but the grip is still slick enough to allow re-positioning in the hand if needed. Not sure if it works, but my son swears it does.

On hand

Here’s a good vantage point to see the extended thumb safety levers — longer but thinner as well, so they don’t get moved inadvertently. You can also see a good shot of the windage-adjustable rear sight. The sights are excellent.

Rear sight slide stop safety
Rear sight, serrations, safety, slide release.
Front sight dovetail
Front sight, is its dovetail.

You can replace the sights if desired. Also, note the forward slide serrations. They’re great for press-checks.

Citadel 1911 barrel shroud caliber

Just in case you might forget what handgun caliber gun you bought.

Citadel 1911 Review: Shooting Performance

I am a fairly busy guy, so I don’t a chance to shoot as much as I’d like sometimes. Today was no exception.

I wanted a target to photograph for this review, and I knew the gun didn’t have to prove itself — my son has had excellent accuracy in this particular piece. So I settled for a quick eight-round magazine of some plain Monarch 230-grain full metal jacket round nose cartridges.

I have some other types of .45 ACP self-defense ammo, but sometimes I just like to shoot what the gun was originally designed to shoot — great big FMJ Punkin balls.

It is interesting to note, however, that the .45 ACP in its original loading shot a 200-grain FMJ — it wasn’t until a little later in its career that the move was made to 230-grain bullets to improve ballistics a bit.

I also didn’t try any of my several .45 ACP handloads in this gun. Although my son has shot several of them over time through it. I stuck to factory loads. This Monarch load is also chronographed right at 838 fps and is made by Prvi Partizan in Serbia. It is decent ammunition. (For more on .45 ACP ammo, check out my article here).

Anyway, this gun is more than accurate enough for whatever purpose you want to use it for. I’ve even seen some Rock Island .45s used in slow-fire competitions, and the same company makes this gun. With a match barrel and bushing and maybe some sight and trigger work, this would be one serious 1911.

But it ain’t bad the way it is now. For a little over $500, you can get a working, accurate gun out of the box that should work for you just fine. Add in the warranty backing it has, and you have a winner.

Wrap Up of the Citadel 1911 Review: Is It a Good Gun?

I think sometimes we tend to go a bit overboard writing about guns that are very well built but may not be available to many shooters due to their higher cost.

That’s why I try to keep it real by reviewing other guns within reach of that segment of the shooting population that are good buys that function well. The Citadel is a great example of this.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive full-size 1911, check out a Citadel. It’s no wonder that, as I perused websites checking on real-world prices for this gun, most of the places I checked were out of stock on Citadel 1911s — that says something in and of itself.

If you’ve had experience with one of these critters, please tell us about it below. As always, shoot straight and be safe.

You might also like to read:

  1. oh a 1911 was and is one of my dream guns and i finally purchased one for my self about two years ago.Its a Springfield RO SS AS target model and i have to say i love it! But i have always had issues with filling the mag.If its a 10rd mag i have to put 9rds in it or if an 8rd mag i gota put 7rds in it.I think its a thing with the new springs in the mags and once they break in ,will be fine! If i fill the mags i get a 1st double feed! lol but i love the gun i just wouldnt trust my life to it 100% thats for my Glock19 lol or my Ruger security9 lol

    1. Michael, some experts recommend leaving the mag 1 short of capacity, because of the reason you state – nothing wrong with that! And, for those out there who are worried when 8+1 becomes 7+1 or so, don’t forget about the 5-shot snubbies…5 rounds is what you get there and thousands of folks think that’s enough. Good luck with your Springfield and thanks for writing!

  2. Love the article, as i own one of each. Rock island and CitadeAlso an oldl. Both shoot work great Also an old Norinco 45acp. which likes hardball not sure about jhp. Thanks for the information.

  3. Looks pretty good for a low end 1911 though I picked up my Kimber on sale for not too much more. Has nice features in the fore and aft cocking serrations and dovetailed front sight – room to play w/preferred sights. Not sure about the steel quality but the good stuff is easy to come by and I’m sure they know what to use and how to treat it as this is common knowledge. Other examples I viewed online have checkering and I’ll guess there are other factory options – saw one sized down a step for easier carry – neat. My one gripe with yours is the oil staining on the top of the grips where someone had enthusiastically oiled the slide and it dripped down to the obviously poorly finished panels- by all appearances from the inside out. Oil soaked wood is anathema to me . something my Pa emphasized when I was coming up. Hard to fix once it gets started so you can forget getting a new finish to stick once it’s started unless you are ready to jump through the hoops of number of arduous cures out there. Gun oil/solvents have little in common w/Linseed or Tung oil other than sharing the “oil” appellation. How many bolt guns have you pulled out of a safe or rack where standing upright the wrist of the stock was similarly discolored ? Common on old surplus but can happen to any if the inner wood is not well sealed. If it was me I would immediately remove the grips as soon as I opened the box and apply a good sealant to the backside – maybe several coats if it was not too late already. Granted they are easily replaced but start throwing in the nickles and dimes and soon your bargain begins to close up in price to higher end models.

    1. Swaybackmule (great handle!), I see your point. It seems, anymore, that for a pistol to even have wooden grip panels is something so we might as well take care of them. I appreciate your comments – thanks for writing!

  4. Thanks for the honest review I kept seeing so many negative ones about this firearm and I was on the fence about purchasing my first 1911 and after your review on the citadel and the budget I was working with i decided to get 1 myself

  5. I am an avid 1911 shooter and personally own a Kimber, STI and 2 citadels in (1 in 9mm and the other a 45). I’ve built out the 9mm citadel with a match grade barrel and changed the sights and can tell you it will outshoot the Kimber all day long. I’ve read that the Citadel (which is actually imported by Legacy Sports) is a better spec than a RIA but haven’t personally confirmed. (it didn’t really matter to me.) Bottom line is a 1911 is a solid gun and even better you should have ZERO issue’s running a Citadel. Anyone that says different or complains about quality isn’t being truthful to themselves or the the gun. Buy and shoot with confidence – Good Luck!

  6. I have had my 9mm Citadel for a few years. I have added a fully adjustable rear target sight and granular skateboard tape tucked under the front strap. Otherwise it needed nothing but LOTS of ammo. I don’t remember a malfunction, ever. Cheap magazines and limp wristing are most peoples’ problems. I am a 1911 collector, and can say this is a good pistol.

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