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)

  • Joe Vegas

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    The secret for reliable feeding and overall weapon reliability when using any 1911 format in any caliber is using a well-made magazine. My years of shooting many 1911’s in various calibers (9mm, 10mm, 45ACP, etc.) have taught me one invaluable lesson: a 1911, regardless of cost or build quality is only as good as the magazines you run in it! If your magazine is inferior or damaged, your 1911 will not run, period! Some of the finest magazines I have found in any caliber are made by Tripp Research. You may know them as Cobra Magazines. Their build quality, springs and follower design are, by far, the best I have ever used and their reliability is rock-solid!

    Reply

    • Secundius

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      @ joe Vegas.

      Thank’s, I’ve been using Wilson Magazines. But I’ll Tripp Research a try asap!!!

      Reply

  • Steve O

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    I too have the Citadel officer model in 9mm. Such a nice shooter and quality equal to more expensive choices. This is my 2nd one in 9mm., my 1st being fullsize. The secret to reliable jhp feeding for these and any 9mm 1911, is using the metalform “Springfield” magazines.

    Reply

  • Secundius

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    @ Martin Pierce.

    Have you ever tried “Spalling” your ammunition, when you hunt Brown Bear. And I’m just assuming you do.

    Reply

  • martin Pierce

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    I Like the commander spurless type hammers but on my govt. had to double hammer spring tension and cut a deeper cocking notch, (Very carefully,of course). Life is short, shoot hard and fast with what you like and somebody will fix it iff–.

    Reply

    • Secundius

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      @ Martin Pierce.

      I personally don’t like the lanyard hole in the hammer of the 1911 Gov’t. I personally think they put it there to balance out the weight of the gun.

      Having a hard time seeing right now, eyes starting to blur.

      Reply

  • Martin Pierce

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    Not much Percieved weight diff. that I notice outwordly. But BIG diff. in felt and apparent recoil bwtween the 2. Especially with 10mm max.loads. Like running a LA Marathon in summer and a Oregon Marathon in the winter (Maybe, I’m just a Sissy?). But thats why I have to elastisize my right wrist to shoot for extended periods. Liking the fact that it would take a bear if need be necessary. Ruger .44 mag carbine better for that but won’t fit on belt or in pocket.

    Reply

  • Secundius

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    @ Martin Pierce.

    Yeah, if I had known about that little tidbit of information before hand. I probably wouldn’t have gone that route. You know, “Stupid Is, As Stupid Does.”

    Reply

  • Martin Pierce

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    I have a Glock Mod. 20 10mm i bought soon as they came out in ’90 ‘s something? when I bought my wife a Baretta 92f at the same time. Also have the barstow stainless .40 drop in barrell for it to to save on cost. You can’t just run out and buy a 1000 brick of 10mm when you feel like it, Where is that?. I reload 10’s anyway since I got it way back when and still have about a thous. of them left to shoot. I shootum’ up while i reload more @ the same time span Same bullet in both of same weights , Hornady XTP’s I reloaded w/ hp’s. 9mm is anywhere you go. in the beginning I couldn’t find 10mm brass @ all until I found Star Brass @ gun show in Riverside,ca.& bought 5000 new brass cases.

    Reply

  • Martin Pierce

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    I was just getting ready to say don’t get caught with it–until I read further down about you making it Legal/ Totally illegal ortherwise. Just go to the Post Office and read the flyer they have up about illegal weapon conversions. A short shotgun less than “18 barrell is not a shotgun anymore it is a smooth barrelled handgun with no rifiling in it–also totally illegal, or a handgun with stock or thompson style foregrip up forward is also illegal unless it was originally manufactured that way from the start. In the gangster days Baby Face Nelson had a Full Auto 1911 with a thompson foregrip up front allowing control in full auto and being able to escape an FBI firefight @ the Michigan lakes? shootout.

    Reply

  • Martin Pierce

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    It is also SA only on the first shot like a 1911. Good in that there is no real learning curve adjustment.

    Reply

    • Secundius

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      @ Martin Pierce.

      I thought I lost you there, Or, just maybe your wife had finally come to her senses and done you in???

      Reply

  • Martin Pierce

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    Colt used to make conversion kits for the 1911. Slide, barrel, recoil spring & guide + mag. I know because I have 3. 38 super, 9mm,, and .22 ace. Good Idea for us, bad idea for them. One gun, 4 cal/s. Buy 2 1911’s in .45 ( Colts only). Leave one .45, the other .22 ace. I have a series ’70 govt. and a gold cup national match.

    Reply

    • Secundius

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      @ Martin Pierce.

      Well you should be able to chamber substitute 9x19mmParabellum and .357Sig (9.03×22.86mm) with your .38 Super.

      Reply

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