Concealed Carry

1911 Officer’s Model: Best Gun for Concealed Carry?

Citadel Officer's Model 1911

If there is a legitimate criticism of the 1911 as a carry gun, it is size and weight. But the 1911s are also available in smaller size configurations known as Commander, Defender and Officer’s models.

Do not let anyone convince you the 1911 is dated. It is simply from another era in which handguns were designed to save your life and were not based on liability concerns.

The pistol is designed to be as fast as a good boxer, with a well-timed and devastating blow foremost. The Colt Commander is the result of a desire for a lighter and handier 1911.

While the story goes the Commander was designed to offer the military a downsized pistol, there were prototypes of a short .45 kicking around Hartford before World War II.

The use of aircraft-grade aluminum for the frame allowed a very light and handy concealment piece. The Commander retains the full-size grip of the Government Model.

This allows for comfortable firing and a good sharp draw. Size has much to do with confidence and control. Although it is appreciably lighter than the Government Model, the Commander is a controllable handgun — with practice.

1911 in Leather Holster with Winchester Ammo
Winchester +P loads and a Galco Summer Comfort make for excellent kit.

Other Variations on the 1911

With the Series 70 production run, the Combat Commander Colt was introduced. This is a steel-frame Commander. The Combat Commander is now known as simply the Commander, while the aluminum-frame Commander is the LW Commander.

The steel frame Commander offers excellent balance. The problem with reducing the length of the pistol, as far as reliability, was higher slide velocity, which was addressed by spring technology.

But then, we also had a shorter spring that had to exert more pressure. The shortened slide length reduces the total reciprocating mass, but also alters the way the magazine presents the round to the breech face.

In the end, it was a wonder the Commander was so reliable. It’s a great pistol.

The Officer’s Model is an even shorter 1911, with a 3.5-inch barrel and a grip shortened enough to cut magazine capacity by one round. An even shorter 1911— the Colt Defender — features a three-inch barrel.

The Officer’s Model demanded considerable revision of the design, but the three-inch pistols required even more so. In order to accommodate the sharper barrel tilt in a short-slide pistol, the barrel no longer used a barrel bushing.

The Commander used a standard bushing, although it was shortened.

Ruger Officer's Model 1911
Ruger’s 9mm Officer’s Model features a nice looking step in the slide.

The Defender features a belled barrel that contacts the slide directly. One of the standard 1911 locking lugs was removed in order to allow the barrel to recoil proportionately more to the rear of the pistol.

These design changes were essential in order to produce a functioning short-slide handgun. The three-inch idiom has proven very popular.

The Colt Officer’s Model is now out of production and seems unlikely to return. These three idioms — the Government Model, the Commander and the Officer’s Model — were once the defining descriptor of 1911 frame and slide sizes.

Today Government Model, Commander and Defender are more apt descriptions of the increasingly popular compact and ultra-compact descriptions.

However, Kimber has a near Officer’s Model. Ruger has introduced a short Officer’s-style 1911. These handguns are more likely to be 9mm Luger than .45 ACP these days.

Another idiom, perhaps the rarest, is the CCO or Commanding Officer’s Model. Guncrafter Industries offers a version in their “Gun With No Name” series.

The SIG C3 is an excellent example of the CCO series. With a short Officer’s Model grip and a Commander-length slide, the CCO has much to recommend.

Three 1911 pistols
Top to bottom: a Nighthawk Government Model, Devil Dog Commander and Guncrafter CCO-type 1911.

The Four-Inch Officer’s Model

A new and very popular handgun is the four-inch barrel 1911. Some of the best of the modern 1911s are four-inch guns. These include the Springfield Champion and Springfield Lightweight Officer’s Model.

The four-inch barrel 1911s are more in line in size and weight with the popular service pistols from other makers such as the SIG P226 or GLOCK Model 23.

They are superior service pistols and take a lot of drag off of the uniform belt. They are also very good concealed carry pistols. These pistols retain the full-size Government Model/Commander grip frame.

Springfield Lightweight Champion 1911
The Springfield Champion Lightweight Operator isn’t a true Commander, but a four-inch barrel 1911.

They are available in both aluminum-frame and steel-frame versions in weights ranging from about 26 to 33 ounces. These pistols feature the belled-barrel type lockup as they are too short to utilize a barrel bushing properly.

In my experience, these are very reliable handguns. They clear leather quickly, get on target quickly, and offer excellent hit potential.

They also rate high on the smile test, with most raters reacting favorably to the handling and accuracy potential of these handguns.

A LW frame 1911 is not for non-dedicated personnel. The pistol demands attention to detail and proper technique to master.

I find the lightweight four-inch barrel 1911 easier to control than a polymer-frame .40-caliber pistol, but there is time and effort in the equation.

The difference is that you will be able to reach a high level of competence with the 1911 that may elude shooters using the polymer-frame pistols.

The four-inch pistol certainly falls into the ‘if I could have only one pistol’ category. It is that versatile. At this point, you may reasonably ask for a recommendation on which 1911 is best for you.

My recommendation is always to begin with a steel-frame five-inch barrel Government Model. I might add that it is best to purchase the best quality handgun you can afford for a good return on performance and future trade-in.

If you are beginning with a concealment pistol, then the steel-frame Commander is an excellent first choice. I simply do not recommend jumping into a lightweight-frame 1911 without considerable experience with the Government Model.

A good four-inch barrel steel-frame pistol may be concealed, and with proper selection of a good holster such as the inside the waistband holster illustrated from Galco, you will have a comfortable platform for carrying the pistol.

There is more weight, but as you begin your shooting career you will appreciate it. Moving to lightweight three-inch barrel pistols such as the Colt Defender is a gradual process.

Shooting Officer's Model 1911
Handling with a quality Officer’s Model is excellent, leading to real speed and accuracy for those that practice.

The short sight radius of the Defender and the Kimber compact pistols may challenge marksmanship. A slight misalignment of the front sight is less noticeable when the sight radius is shorter than average.

I recommend that any compact defensive handgun have good sights. Superior sights are an aid in hit probability, perhaps more important in the case of the compacts than with the full-size handguns.

Fit, feel and a long sight radius may be compromised in the compact pistols, but, just the same, these are first-class defensive handguns.

Despite their short grips and short sight radius, the position of their controls is all 1911, and that means very ergonomic. Increased recoil is far from startling if you have begun your shooting career on the Government Model.

These handguns are a technical accomplishment well worth your praise and attention.

As a blanket recommendation for a shooter wishing to be all they can be with the 1911 and concealed carry, the steel-framed Officer’s Model is perhaps the best concealed carry 1911.

If they are chambered in 9mm, you may fire all of the +P or +P+ loads you wish. My Ruger Officers Model has fired thousands of rounds, including several hundred Winchester 127-grain SXT +P+, with excellent results.

There are several 1911 frame sizes, but these days I am most likely to carry the Officer’s Model, especially when concealment is at a premium.

What is your favorite model of 1911? Have you tried an Officer’s Model? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the Author:

Wilburn Roberts

When Wilburn Roberts was a young peace officer, he adopted his present pen name at the suggestion of his chief, as some of the brass was leery of what he might write. This was also adopted out of respect for families of both victims and criminals. The pen name is the same and the man remains an outspoken proponent of using enough gun for the job.

He has been on the hit list of a well-known hate group, traveled in a dozen countries and written on many subjects, including investigating hate crimes and adopting the patrol carbine. He graduated second in his class with a degree in Police Science. It took him 20 years to work himself from Lieutenant to Sergeant and he calls it as he sees it.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (23)

  1. A co-worker and I had a discussion many years ago about what would make for good concealed carry 1911. Several years after he left, he called me up one day and said “You remember our discussion about concealed carry 1911?” I said yep and he replied he built one. Long story short he built a 1911 with an Officer lower and a Commander upper. Beautiful gun. Runs great. Only problem is it’s all stainless and weighs more than my Para Tac Four hi-cap 45 with the aluminum frame. But it is very concealable and comfortable and more importantly reliable and accurate.

  2. My first handgun was a Colt Officer series 80 In 45acp purchased in 1984 while a PFC in the Army. A great weapon that I still have and shoot. I will leave it to my daughter…

  3. When I was in service I was given a 1911, told it was my assigned weapon and go the range and fire it. Offhand, I fired Expert and it’s been my weapon of choice ever since. Colt Model 70 Government, full Custom Combat Conversion, Crimson Trace, 3 lb. trigger, etc. Rapid fire at 10 yds. will consistently deliver a 3″ pattern for a full magazine. Kramer appendix carry.

  4. I have a Kimber RCP . Snappy on the barrel flip, but far more accurate than i expected ( especially given the trench/groove sights). I appreciate the carry melt , as it’s he closest i will likely ever get to the old S&W ASP 9mm. Although i did have to install an extended beavertail & combat hammer. I did NOT care for the bobbed versions, in shooting/action.

  5. I have not found a better carry gun than my Colt Officers. The 4” barrel, reasonable grip size and .45 punch makes this ideal. I have tried other smaller .45, with less satisfaction. The Para double stack was a bit thick to be comfortable. The Para 6-45 was a great size, but between the cheap reverse plug and problematic recoil system I had to relegate it to paper weight service. (No customer service at Para.). The Smith .45 Chief Special did not fit my hand right. However, the weak link of the Officer’s model is that without dehorning it will shred your coat lining. So it is my favorite as well, after all it was The Generals’ gun. BTW before Colt went into production, the military would chop down full size 1911s to custom make guns like this for general officers.

  6. Have an Ed Brown Kobra Carry, great gun! but as I get older I carry my Dan Wesson ECO. I have small hands so the officer’s grip is perfect and it’s a lot lighter than the Ed Brown and just as accurate.

  7. I have RI CS in 45apc for Winter Carry. Got new S&W 9m Ez for Summer Carry. Or Springfield XD9 Mod 2. The Springfield is nice in not having to carry another magazine if I don’t want to (14rds). Always wanted Kimber in 3.5″ Barrel. Plan on that oneday soon. Birthday Next year. Not quite happy with the weight of the Rock Island CS (all steel). But it’s easy to make the target go “Gong” at 30 feet. (2″ and 6″ Steel Plate). Springfield XD9M2 is gun I have never had a stovepipe. Can’t say that of my RI CS.

    Ammo prices and available have really affected my fun shooting.

  8. There’s still great 1911 and 2011 to be had.
    The best are Colts . I’ve owned a Colt Defender in 45 for years and a Colt XSP mustang and though very expensive, the value retains itself.
    They print small and though the Defender is heavy it shoots very well.
    Colt feel so good in the hand and are a pleasure to own and shoot.

  9. Striker fired handguns are just a better option when looking for self defense weapon. Point and shoot. No messing with cocked and locked safety. Simplicity wins the day when wanting a defense gun. I do love the older style 1911 models, but feel theyre more of a range gun these days.

  10. Another more important criticism of the 1911 for carry is it light single action first trigger pull. Another is the grip safety not being suited to all shooters. Answer? Carry a DS/SA like a Sig, CZ, FN, HK etc.

  11. I have been a Glock guy since 1992 when I purchased a Glock 21 gen 1 from a San Diego Police Officer (I still own it). Then I saw her, a Colt Defender, chambered in 9mm and fell in love. I purchased her in 2015, and she is and always will be my EDC. She puts the round on target every time and is reliable as can be. The details of operating a 1911 as opposed to a Glock? Well, that’s why I fell in love, I know it wasn’t the price, but you get what you pay for in my opinion.

  12. I have owned a Series 80 Colt Officers model since 1989 (or 1990) Hard to remember the year now. I bought it new, I have carried it plenty, and I still own it. Stainless steel. i have 3 original 6 rnd mags, and have since bought two 7 rounders. I don’t carry it a lot these days. It is mostly designated as one of the house defenders. It shoots great (with practice, as with all guns) and still has a better feel than any Hi-cap 9 I have ever owned.

  13. ive got a Springfield Range Officer Champion in. 45 got it used for 600.00 last year and love shooting it. I’ve added hogue finger groove grips, EGW trigger kit and trigger and that made even more enjoyable to shoot.

  14. I carried a Colt LW Officers ACP For years. It was a fine pistol without a bit of trouble despite having many rounds through it. Around 2000 I purchased a Kimber Combat Carry from the then new Kimber custom shop. This was the early days of Kimber’s 1911 Production. It has a 4in. Barrel on a LW Officers frame. Here is the ideal carry 1911. It has the “Melted” treatment popularized by Jim Clark, a Louisiana gunsmith of that time ( Clark custom guns). As an aside, Jim’s daughter is married to that Miculek fellow that seems to be a fairly good shot. This has been my go to EDC for the last 20 some years.

  15. I’ve got a Kimber Ultra Carry 2 in 45acp and a Colt New Agent in 9mm that went through the Talo shop and has sights instead of the trench. Both guns have been outfitted with XS tritium sights. One has the Big Dot the other has the standard dot. Pretty tough to choose which one I like the best.

  16. I have had a Colt Officers model since 1989, in 45 acp. I still own it. Carried it for years. WIll never let it go, except to my son when I die

  17. I have found the double stack 9mm 1911 a nice compromise between size, weight and round count. I have carried full size 1911s since the mid 1980s and while I do like my .45 with an alloy frame for weight, it still only holds 9 rounds (8+1). The Double stack 9mm holds 17+1 and a spare mag has 17 more. That should be more than enough for almost any occasion.

  18. Currently, I have two 1911’s, one is a Caspian Government Model .45 ACP, adorned with Crimson Trace grips and other than the grips, it is pretty much like the piece I was issued back in the early 70’s to carry as a medic on a team that did SAR and Recon in some forgotten place overseas. I love that gun and that was the one that I used to certify with a firearm for my CC course. I outfitted it with a .22 conversion kit for the certification and the instructor was not happy. The firing was done at his private range and he told everyone at the outset that he was keeping all brass. He had also looked at all the guns before we shot to determine if they would be allowed. He looked at my 1911 from several feet away without checking the thing and nodded. A little later, he was unhappy when he realized he was not getting any .45 brass from me.
    My second 1911, also in .45 ACP is a Smith & Wesson ProSeries. It has a 3” barrel, Crimson Trace grips and is my EDC. Since Oklahoma is also open carry, that is the way I carry when I go out in the woods. I love that Smith. It has a great hand feel and also handles beautifully. It is almost just an extension of my hand when I am shooting. It feels like it is a part of me and I can point and shoot with a high degree of accuracy. Looks good, feels good, shoots good. I don’t feel I could ask for anything more out if any gun.

  19. Have a 1911 and a STAR BM in 9mm. The BM is a 1911 knock-off, and it is too bad that it is no longer made. With a 4″ barrel, it is the gun that the 1911 Officer could be, if properly sized for the 9mm round. STAR also made a similar model in .45, (FIRESTAR?), and those “shrunk” 1911s are almost worshipped.

    Meanwhile, the only good option available today are the KAHR various .45s. Not a 1911, but still a viable alternate.

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