The 1911 Handgun in 9mm

By Bob Campbell published on in Firearms

There are many equally valid reasons for purchasing a 1911 handgun. By the same token, there are numerous good reasons for choosing a 9mm handgun. The 1911 does not have to be a .45, and the 9mm does not have to be a GLOCK.

9mm 1911 Barrel

The 9mm marking on the barrel means this 1911 is a little different.

The handling of the 1911, its solid ergonomics, reliability and a distinctive appearance are impressive. While the logic-ladder approach works, other approaches are just as important. Seldom is an intellectual decision made that is as compelling as the call of the heart, glands and movie memories.

9mm 1911 — the best bet for an all-around defensive handgun.

The 9mm 1911 just may be the best bet for an all-around defensive handgun.

The 1911 has grace and friendliness for those who speak the language of steel. If you intend to use it for personal defense or IDPA competition, it is unlikely a professional trainer will show up at your doorstep to train you. You must make a significant investment in time, effort, study and ammunition to master the handgun.

For many, the 9mm 1911 makes sense.

Why the 9mm 1911

Throughout the years, there have been two types of 9mm Luger 1911 pistols. The Colt is manufactured in only one style, although some makers have manufactured pistols in each style, so be certain what you get.

Purpose-designed compacts, such as the Springfield EMP and Para Ordnance Carry 9, are true 9mm Luger-caliber handguns that cannot be converted to .38 Super. The Colt-type 9mm pistols feature a 0.384-inch-wide breech face, while the .38 Super uses a 0.405-inch-wide breech face.

Paraordnance 9mm 1911 and magazine

The single-stack 1911 is much easier to handle and fire than the double-column magazine 9mm handguns.

By opening the 9mm breech face, inserting a .38 Super barrel and using Super magazines, you can convert 9mm Colt .38 Super. The Super usually functions fine with a 9mm barrel and magazines, although you may have to tune the extractor. For many reasons, the 9mm Colts, with their short cartridges and blocked magazines (a liner in the back of what is basically a converted .38 Super magazine), are not as reliable as .38 Super or .45 ACP pistols.

Wilson Combat ETM magazines in 9mm and .38 Super go a long way to addressing that problem. The shorter Springfield EMP and Para Ordnance Carry 9 pistols are true 9mm-size handguns with short grips and specific magazines and cannot be converted to .38 Super. They seem to be more reliable than the 1911 9mm template that preceded them.

The 9mm 1911 is the second most popular type today, far more popular than the 10mm or .38 Super. The 9mm is a fine practice cartridge that offers real economy. For those who want to engage in cost-effective practice, the 9mm has much merit. And, while I prefer the .45 ACP, there are numerous high-output 9mm loads from which anyone would be well advised to get out of the way.

9mm Luger 95-grain DPX Ammunition in a box

9mm ammunition can be high energy and effective.

Among my favorites is the Cor©Bon 115-grain DPX.

A good point is that a purpose-designed 9mm 1911 may be shorter and lighter than a standard 1911 .45, such as the Para Ordnance 9mm. The real advantages of the 9mm 1911 are handling and recoil control. While we often state that there is no faster handgun to an accurate first-shot hit than the 1911, there is no handgun faster in follow-up shots than the 9mm 1911.

Control is excellent. Those handguns also are often very accurate. They offer a rock-solid firing platform and a straight-to-the-rear trigger compression with conventional single-action design. For example, the Citadel 9mm compact has turned in 25-yard groups of 2.5 inches for five shots with American Eagle 9mm ball. That is superior performance.

With light 9mm recoil, there is really no good reason to invest in a Government Model 9mm. The compacts are great shooters—unless you are going to hunt small game and engage in competition. For those tasks, the 5-inch gun has much merit.

For many reasons, I have used a Citadel 1911 9mm as a test bed for 9mm handloads, new defense loads I review and various experiments revolving around the 9mm cartridge. I realize I have fired thousands of rounds with this handgun, without a single failure to feed, chamber, fire or eject. The Citadel has been very comfortable in firing and gives a good idea of the accuracy potential of any 9mm loading.

I own several well-made and accurate 9mm handguns from HK, SIG, Beretta and CZ. The 9mm is so similar to my 1911 .45 carry gun that it makes sense to use the 1911 9mm in such pursuits.

Citadel 9mm 1911 and two magazines

With the Citadel and a couple of extra magazines, you have a good ammunition.

For those who prefer the .45, a 9mm 1911 is often a good piece to have. Ammunition is comparatively inexpensive. Less-dedicated partners, or teenagers breaking into centerfire shooting, will appreciate the 9mm. I have developed a belief that the 9mm 1911 just may be the best bet for a first 1911.

While the .22 kicks less and is less inexpensive, the 9mm has more authority. The 9mm 1911 lets you concentrate on marksmanship without the distraction of .45 ACP recoil. Recoil control is learned, as is marksmanship. Yet, if the piece is called on for personal defense, it serves.

Another advantage is hand fit. Most 9mm defense handguns have large grips that hold double-column magazines. They may offer 15 rounds compared to a 1911 9mm handgun’s 9 rounds, yet hand fit is very important in fast, accurate fire. After all, when have you seen a quality, single-column magazine 9mm for sale? Not many times.

The 1911 9mm neatly solves that problem. The 9mm 1911 is one of my favorite handguns, and it may be yours, too. Give it a shot.

What are your thoughts on the 1911 mm? Do you agree, or disagree, with the author’s preference? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

SLRule

Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.

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Comments (40)

  • bob

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    Secundius

    Check your facts. The HIgh Power was John Browning’s last design.
    He died in his office in Belgium.
    Bob

    Reply

    • Secundius

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      @ Bob.

      Yes, I know in 1923, but not before giving Licensing Rights, to Fabrique Nationale (FN), that same year.

      Reply

    • Secundius

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      @ Bob.

      Why do you think both gun were produced in 9x19mm Parabellum and 7.65x21mm Parabellum??? It because all of Fabrique Nationale (FN) were Metric Tool Stamped Equipment and not in US. SAE Standard. The gun measurements and weights were incompatible with John Browning’s Factory Equipment. So, FN compromised and made their Licensed guns in standard metric measurements.

      Reply

  • Pete in Alaska

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    I think that the 1911 is a fine platform with a lot of history and have several versions in my collections. I find it odd that in the discussion of the 9mm chambered in this platform that there is no mention of the P-35 Browning Hi-Power in 9mm. This platform may be the quentasential 9mm of all time. It’s certently the first of the stagger clip, hi capacity, pistoles of the modern era. I don’t know how there can be a discussion that covers the 9mm without the Browning being at least mentioned. With all it’s variants the P-35 will cover all the requirements mentioned in this blog for a 1911, 9mm. Just thought it was worth bringing up …..

    Reply

    • Secundius

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      @ Pete in Alaska.

      The P-35 is not a John Browning design. In point of fact, its a Licensed Copy of the 1911 in either 9x19mm Parabellum or 7.65x21mm Parabellum. Aquiring Licensing Rights in 1923. Produced by Fabrique Nationale (FN), which produced the HP-35 Grand Rendement or High-Yield, in 7.65x21mm Parabellum and the GP-35 Grande Puissance or High Power, in 9x19mm Parabellum. And was also known as BAP (Browning Automatic Pistol) by the Irish Police in the 1930’s.

      Reply

    • Pete in Alaska

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      Secundius
      I found it odd and just a bit agggont that you took such exception to the Browning name. So, before responding to your comment and information I wanted to research what I had come to understand as the facts concerning the P-35.
      John Browning did indeed design, patente, and produce two prototype platforms under contract to FN before his death. The design had to work around the 1911 patents which he had sold to Colt some time before. So it wasn’t a licenced copy of the 1911. When the 1911’s patents ran out the platform was reworked using some of the 1911 design features but retained the “Browning” name in most of its iterations. Regardless of the samantics, design history, country of origin, or production history, the-35 Browning Hi-Power should be included in any conversation concerning 9mm platforms as perhaps the “father” of the hi-capacity pistols of today. It may also be noted that there is or was a .40 SW offering of the P-35 although I have never seen it. I hope this information adjustment helps avoid any future issues that might crop up in future blogs that you participate in. I look forward to reading your continued comment stream.

      Reply

    • Secundius

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      @ Pete in Alaska.

      My bad, I was relying on memory. I remember reading a piece about John Browning’s Fabrigue Nationale (FN) connection. And one of the thing’s I found interesting about the piece. Was Browning, was trying without much luck. Trying to send over US. Manufactored Machinery Equipment to Belgium. Apparently, the US. Government blocked the shipment, because they didn’t want Europe to have American Arms Manufacturing Equipment. Because they didn’t want to compete against their own Euro/US. manufactored goods. And, I thought John Browning Died in bed, at home in the US. I, didn’t know he died in Europe.

      Reply

  • Larry

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    I like the idea. The 1911 is a good solid well-engineered platform for the 9mm, and of course a 1911 designed expressly for the 9mm has probably got some reliability advantages over a conversion kit. I wonder if there’s any weight loss too as an added bonus. For the time being I’m extremely satisfied with my S&W Shield 9mm. Can’t praise it high enough for performance and looks. Plus, the ergonomics have somehow made the perceived recoil very light. I’ve put over 500 rounds of various brands through it and have yet to have a misfire. Along with my little S&W .380 Laser Bodyguard they are my constant companions when I leave the house. I have $655 invested in them both right now. And that’s BRAND NEW. A new LaserLyte for the Shield will be another $70 on sale online. I’m a happy camper.
    Oh-I forgot…got a Desantis for the Shield, and a Galco for the Bodyguard…..another $60.

    Reply

  • Paul

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    I have a Llama Xl 9mm and it’s sweet firing piece, I also have owned two 45 autos. I would never give this piece up. As much as I likew a 45…I’m very happy with my 9mm

    Reply

  • charles drumm

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    A .45 1911 has been on my wish list for several years, only because I shot one years ago and found myself hitting what I was shooting at. I am no 1911 expert and would like input on what brands are suggested and upgrades. I don’t want to buy one and find out an upgrade in trigger assembly , etc., is needed.

    Reply

    • Rob

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      Charles, check out ARMSCOR and their Rock Island Armory 1911s.
      I bought one of their 1911 full size Tactical models in .45 ACP (#51431), for about $482 + tax + background check fee, at my local gun shop. The best money I have spent in a while…

      Has Novak style snag free sights, combat hammer, skeletonized trigger (short travel), extended beavertail grip safety and comes in a hard shell case. The down side is it comes with only one magazine.

      Reply

    • Stephen

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      Depends on intended use. A 1911 is different from other handguns in that there are many makes, levels of quality, fit and finish and cosmetics. (Just like an automobile.) My brother would never spend more that $1,000 on any gun. To him it is all about hitting the target reliably and economically. He is all about shooting and not the gun. He owns a Remington R1 .45acp 1911 and drives a Chevy Trailblazer.

      I, on the other hand, have been saving for a year for my first 1911. I am just as much about the gun as I am shooting. Whenever anyone sees my 1911 (I am ordering this month.) I want it to be different than anything they have seen. (Of course all 1911 have many commonalities.) I have decided on a Nighthawks Customs and am still tossing about options before I pull the trigger on the purchase. The cost is likely to be around $3,700-$3,800 so I had better get it right (right for me) before I part with that big chunk of money. I shoot some USPSA competition but my 1911 will not be an open division “racegun”. I want a 10mm as it is the ultimate semi-auto handgun caliber (besides .50 and that is too much for me). I want to be able to drop in a .40 barrel (springs and mags) and use it more economically for defense training, carry, the range and Limited 10 Division competition. I like the tapered cone bull barrels. I like all the fancy controls, machining, sights, grips, etc.

      Reply

    • Secundius

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      @ charles drumm.

      When I bought my first M1911, back in 1988, it olny cost me around $350. USD. But thats because the gun store owner/operator, was trying to get rid of it. Because he was trying to sell his new line-up of Glock 17 9x19mm Polamer Semi-Automatic Handguns. The first M1911 model was produced in 1907, by John Browning himself. Went into governmental service in 1911, and is still in service with the USMC, today. Its a great “Show Stopper”, “Bad Guy Intimidator”. But not so great as a 450-pound Brown Bear Stopper, unless you using Armor Piercing Rounds, in which case your going to have a lot of explaining to do when the State Police show-up at your front door. Around 2000, I tricked out my 1911, into an Artillery Pistol. Or, non-history buff-type, a Carbine. I replaced the stock barrel w a 18-inch barrel, attached a folding rear-stock, added some wood finish, and replaced the standard 7-round magazines with 21-round magazines. And then to my surprise and consternation. Had to have the thing re-certified by the State Police, so it would stand muster with the BATF. Great FUN that was. A little over-kill hear, I know. But, their a lot of GREAT 1911 models out there, but, are also VERY BAD ONE’s as well. Take you time, research the models you interested in, and than make an informed and wise choice. What’s great for somebody else, my not be so great for you. Make your own decision, don’t let somebody else choose for you. Your going to loose friends that way.

      Reply

  • Martin Pierce

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    Its been a full day here too. I agree with other also; I have to go to doctor tomorrow too. I got a piece of pointed lead shard in my toe from bullet casting last week. Its Ok but wants to look @ it anyway.

    Reply

  • Martin Pierce

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    It’s a Salty sort of thing.

    Reply

    • Secundius

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      @ Martin Pierce.

      Watch out for the “Borers.” I have too get of soon, going to be a busy day. Being fitted for a new Wheelchair, going too cost me at least, a couple Grand!!! Fun to be had???

      Reply

  • Martin Pierce

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    Money floats my boat.

    Reply

  • Martin Pierce

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    For years I’ve had Colt Series ’70 conversion kits for the 1911. I have a .22 ace kit, a .38 Super, and a 9mm kit. The .22 Ace I got @ a Dealer in Inglewood, Ca. that he said was broke, but only the firing pin was stuck back in the slide from a burr or something. 10 Min. easy fix. The kits sold for about $300.00 then. I got the .22 for $150. out the door. The others were bought @ retail price from Western Auto in Hawthorne, Ca. I liked to go there because they had Custom Colt 1911’s there. Beautiful in a holster or in your hand. It used to make my mouth water.

    Reply

    • Secundius

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      @ Martin Pierce.

      Whatever floats your boat!!!

      Reply

  • Secundius

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    Isn’t that some kind of OXYMORON??? A, 1911 Short .45ACP in 9-mil Lugar, DRAG!!!

    Reply

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