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Best Budget 2011 Upgrades [2024]



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With the rise of truly budget 2011s like the MAC 1911 DS, LFA Apollo 11, and Tisas DS — we are in a golden age for the 2011-style pistol.

One great reason to jump on the 2011 train with these budget pistols is to use them as platforms to upgrade. Sure, you could spend $3,000 on a new 2011 or you could spend that money on upgrading your current build into the ultimate custom pistol that is built exactly to your standard.

But where do you start? I started with a MAC 1911 DS and then started adding parts.

BEST BUDGET UPGRADES FOR THE 2011

Grip Module

While this is the most expensive part on this list, it is also the part that is going to make the most difference. 

For grips, you have a LOT of options. If you want to get something inexpensive, look at the buy/sell/trade forums for a used Prodigy or Staccato grip. These are decent grips and are often cast-offs from other builds. 

Otherwise, your options start at about $250 are go way up from there. If you really want to flex on your friends, nothing says baller like putting a $700 Cheely stainless steel grip on a $800 2011.

Personally, my top pick is the MJD Villain grip. For $375, this is an amazing grip. MJD is the OEM for a number of the top 2011 pistols on the market and for good reason, they kick ass.

Any grip you buy will require some fitting. Like almost anything else in the 2011 or 1911 world, nothing is drop-in. If you’re not brave enough to take sandpaper and a file to a $300 part, maybe send it off to someone who is.

Huge benefit of the MJD Villain is that it is very easy to fit and pretty hard to screw up. The material sands nicely but doesn’t go so fast that you’ll overshoot it with just one pass. Both grips I’ve fit from MJD took about 30 minutes of touch-ups and I went fairly slow.

For me, this was the most critical upgrade on the MAC 1911 DS. Something I talked about in the review of the MAC is that the sides of the OEM grip really aren't great. While they look like they would have a lot of bite, they just don't.

The MJD Villain solves that with an aggressive texture that feels amazing to shoot with. MJD's special polymer also has a slight tackiness to it that locks your hand to the grip. Think of it like a baseball with a tiny amount of pine tar, but without the weird residue. You have to feel it to understand it, but you'll love it once you feel it.

Trigger & Trigger Bow

If you’re upgrading the grip, you might as well get a new trigger also. For the most part, the trigger shoe and trigger bar aren’t going to make a huge difference in how your gun shoots or feels. But it does make a big difference in how it looks. Grips need to be fit to the frame and to the trigger, so that’s why it’s a good idea to do both at the same time if you’re doing a grip.

Atlas Gunworks trigger installed

Red Dirt and Atlas Gunworks are two of the largest sources for a good trigger.
Curved, straight, large, small, all up to you. There is no wrong answer.

Ignition Kit

How useful this kit is will strongly depend on the luck of the draw in how your gun already feels. For me with my MAC 1911 DS, a new ignition kit didn’t make any difference that I felt. With other guns, I’ve seen a massive improvement in how the trigger breaks and feels with a new kit.

You can get ignition kits with or without hammers. A new hammer won’t make a difference, but it is a nice way to change things up and make the gun look like something different.

EGW is the undisputed leader for a budget ignition kit.

CAPTURED GUIDE ROD

Assuming you have a bull barrel with no bushing and assuming your guide rod requires a tool to remove and strip the gun, a captured guide rod is a huge quality of life improvement.

You MUST field strip a 2011 more often than you do most other guns. You need to oil it, clean it, and care for it. A captured guide rod makes that a lot easier. And, they really aren’t that expensive.

Atlas Gunworks, Dawson Precision, and EGW all offer captured guide rods in most sizes and flavors. Not a huge difference between them, so pick what looks best or you find the best price on. 

Springs

They aren’t sexy, but a new set of springs can make a lot of difference. There are two major springs that will help the most — the recoil spring (the one that goes around the guide rod) and the main spring (the one that goes in the grip). 

For the recoil spring, get an Atlas Gunworks Tune Kit. Multiple springs that are color-coded and you can play around with what works for your gun, ammo, and taste.

Once you know what weight spring you want, get some backups because they are a consumable item and will wear out every few thousand rounds.

Mainspring kits exist but are likely not a huge deal. Get a 17lb spring and send it. Or get a kit and play with it, up to you.

VIDEOS & TOOLS TO HELP YOU

All of the videos you need are on Atlas Gunworks’ channel. Literally, anything you want to know about the 2011 platform can be learned on this channel. If I had to pick a single manufacturer for the most educational content available on their channels, it would be a really hard pick between Atlas and MDT.

I completed all of my upgrades by using their channel. 

Basic tools like a tap hammer, files, and an armorer block are pretty standard and all things you probably already have.

Two 2011 tools you might not have: Atlas 1911 tool and Dawson Precision Bushing Tool. The Atlas tool is really basic but something you'll use a LOT and won't mess up your nice finish. From getting the safety off to trying to adjust springs into the right place, the tool just helps a lot.

Dawson's bushing tool is for installing and re-installing grips. While not critical, it does offer a nice safety net to help install and remove the grip bushings. Some grips and screws are more sensitive than others so the tool may or may not be a life saver.

WHAT TO EXPECT

My MAC 1911 DS has been packed with as many upgrades as I feel comfortable doing myself, so basically stuff that doesn’t require cutting metal.

Fitting the grip was the “hardest” part of my upgrades and even that wasn’t hard. Just take your time and remove as little as you can.

After about $500 worth of upgrades, my MAC shoots really, really well. It shot well before, but now is just mind-blowingly good for the price. I have a 2mm trigger reset, very smooth recoil impulse, and the MJD grip is rock solid in my hands.

Next on my list of things to do is send out for some barrel work and a comp…

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2 Comments

  • Rob Wilson says:

    Hoped for better from Recoil. Adding parts that won’t improve performance but “look better” is silliness for silly people.

    • David Lane says:

      Freedom means being able to do things that make you happy. Aesthetically pleasing firearms makes some of us happy. Not sorry.

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  • Hoped for better from Recoil. Adding parts that won't improve performance but "look better" is silliness for silly people.

    • Freedom means being able to do things that make you happy. Aesthetically pleasing firearms makes some of us happy. Not sorry.

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