RNATB, the answer’s probably somewhere at this site devoted to the 1911. My guess is that some of the major differences are incorporating a firing pin safety (to prevent ADs caused by dropping the pistol onto the muzzle, as was infamous with Series 70 1911s), a beavertail and/or a bobbed hammer to prevent ‘hammer-bite’, and things like bull barrels that remove the need for a barrel bushing.
That said, my own choice for the AK-47 of the pistol world would be a Glock. Famously rugged, high capacity, easy to disassemble, goes bang every time you pull the trigger, and doesn’t go bang unless you pull the trigger. I can hand a Glock to a complete noob to pistols, and provided they can cycle the slide, they will be able to use it adequately in an emergency, with little to no preventative maintenance. EDIT: Other than using a holster. They’re so essential for Glocks, that IMHO, one should come with the pistol when you buy it.
By itself, the SAO manual of arms on a 1911 would dissuade me from handing it to a newbie, never mind trying to also teach a beginner to remember a malfunction drill. Will a Glock win bullseye matches against a tricked-out 1911? No, but I’d trust its reliability a lot more vs a 1911 that cost as much to twice as much. My own Glock is capable of a lot more precision than I am.
Yes, a DAO revolver is even simpler to use, and if it doesn’t go bang, just pull the trigger again, something you can’t do with a striker-fired pistol like a Glock. But if you should ever have a malfunction with a revolver, good luck trying to fix it yourself. The heavier trigger pull on a DAO revolver also precludes it from being used by frailer people.