Range Report: Citadel 9mm 1911 Handgun

Brown grip, black barreled Citadel 9mm, barrel pointed down on a white background

I think we all agree that the 1911 handgun is among the most recognized and combat-effective handguns of all time. We also agree the 1911 is not for everyone. If cocked-and-locked carry and the need for frequent cleaning and lubrication are not something you feel like you can live with, then a GLOCK or revolver is a better choice. And the 1911 appeals to many shooters, and accommodations exist for most of us.

Brown grip, black barreled Citadel 9mm with barrel pointed to the right on a light gray background
The Citadel is well made of good material and has proven reliable.

One reason some shy away from the 1911 is the perceived recoil of the .45 ACP cartridge. No doubt about it, the .45 demands practice and acclimation to master. The occasional shooter will have a difficult time dealing with the .45; I do not mean that derisively. Time is precious, and many simply cannot devote the time to mastering the handgun, which makes the 9mm cartridge attractive.

While the .45 ACP is the natural first choice in the 1911, you are missing something if you do not consider the 9mm 1911 platform. The 9mm 1911 has all the good traits of the 1911, including a low-bore axis that limits muzzle flip, a well-shaped grip that fits most hands well and straight-to-the-rear trigger compression. Quite a few of the 1911 handguns for sale are affordable—after all, a handgun can be a significant portion of  disposable income. A thousand-dollar 1911 may not be in the cards.

Among the more affordable 1911 handguns that has some desirable features is the Citadel, offered by Nevada-based Legacy Sports. Legacy Sports imports a number of good products, the Armscor-produced Citadel among them. The Citadel features good sights, an ambidextrous safety, a beaver-tail grip safety with memory pad, good fit and finish for the price and checkered wooden grips.

Dark silver Novak sight
The Novak sight is adjustable for wind. This is the premier combat sight.

The fit of the Novak sights particularly impressed me. Each is properly dovetailed in place, and the rear sight is adjustable for wind. The cocking serrations are well executed, and matte blue finish appears to be bead blasted.

I tested the compact version. Often referred to as the Officer’s Model size, that handgun features a 3.5 belled barrel and shortened grip frame. The belled barrel is necessary because of different dynamics in the locked-breech action of a short-slide 1911. Citadel lowered the ejection port and there are minimal tool marks.

Quality Shows When Field Stripped

When I field stripped and examined the pistol, the final machine work looked good, with quality CNC machine work evident.

  • The slide-to-frame fit is tight.
  • The wooden grips are lightly checkered, adequate for adhesion when firing.
  • It is supplied in a lockable, hard-plastic box with two magazines (this example is chambered for the 9mm Luger cartridge).

For a recreational shooter, the 9mm chambering makes sense. The pistol retains the many good qualities of the 1911 handgun, such as a low-bore axis that limits muzzle flip, straight-to-the-rear trigger compression, a grip frame that fits most hands well and the speed to an accurate first shot of the cocked-and-locked carry mode. The 9mm Luger cartridge is economical to get and fire.

The 9mm Cartridge

Brown grip, black barreled Citadel 9mm, barrel pointed down and to the left, with 2 silver Metalform magazines
The Metalform magazines supplied with the Citadel are a good point in its favor.

While the 9mm Luger operates at higher pressure than the .45 ACP, as much as 30,000 psi compared to the .45’s 21,000 psi, the 9mm has less momentum. As such, weapons wear should never be an issue. A nice discovery was that the magazines are Metalform brand, which produces excellent service-grade magazines. I did not expect any magazine- or ammunition-related problems. The pistol would have to perform on its own merits.

The 9mm cartridge offers significantly less recoil than the .45 ACP, allowing shooters who are unable to practice as often to master it more quickly and maintain a reasonable level of proficiency. The 9mm Luger does not possess the wound potential of the .45 ACP cartridge, far from it, although the 9mm is a reasonable choice for personal defense. Load selection is critical.

In the end, the 9mm is what it is, and the shooter’s skill is important. The 9mm is a useful cartridge with light recoil and good accuracy that promotes practice. The Citadel 1911 is chambered for the most popular service pistol cartridge in the world. In size, the pistol is reminiscent of the SIG P 225 and is actually smaller than the GLOCK 19. It is not lighter, however. The Citadel 1911 9mm is all steel (I like all steel a lot) and in this case, the weight penalty is not severe since it weighs only 32 ounces. That means recoil is less than practically any other 9mm this size.

The Abbreviated Grip

Brown handled Citadel in a medium brown DM Bullard IWB
This DM Bullard inside the waistband holster is a great option for concealed carry.

In testing the Citadel compact 1911, the abbreviated grip did not preclude obtaining a full firing grip. The trigger span and circumference of the 1911 grip remain the same with the short frame. The long bearing surfaces were lubricated, and the magazines loaded.

A word on the magazines and the capacity: there are high-capacity magazine handguns available by the dozen, and they offer a reserve of ammunition. The 9mm may demand rapid-repeat shots before incapacitating an assailant. Just the same, a pistol with a thinner grip is easier to concealed, control and handle. A limited magazine capacity is a tradeoff I am willing to accept.

Firing the Pistol

I fired the pistol with a variety of loads. Prior to this Shooter’s Log review, it I fired some 400 rounds without a single failure to feed, chamber, fire or eject; no break-in malfunctions and no problems. The eight-round magazines give the pistol a nine-round capacity. For those who practice, that should prove an adequate supply.

Brown grip, black barreled Citadel 9mm, barrel pointed down on a white background
The bushing-less barrel locks up tightly. Note the slight wear on parkerized finish.

I loaded the pistol with the American Eagle FMJ loads for this Cheaper than Dirt! test. I have enjoyed firing and using this pistol, and that is why it has more than 500 rounds on it as I finish this report.

  • The Citadel 9mm compact pistol is easy to use well.
  • Recoil is not a consideration.
  • It weighs a solid 32 ounces, which is nearly as much as full-size service pistols.
  • The steel frame absorbs momentum.
  • The low-bore axis limits muzzle flip.
  • Trigger compression is a controllable 5 pounds.
  • There is some take-up, with no discernible creep or backlash (good trigger action in an economy handgun).
  • The pistol came out of the holster smoothly and lined up on target quickly.
  • First-shot hits were obtained quickly firing at man-sized targets at 5, 7 and 10 yards.
  • Rapid follow-up shots were accurate.
  • When practicing speed loads, the magazine release was tight, maintaining good contact with the magazine, and easily manipulated to quickly drop the empty magazine.
  • The slide lock functioned properly.
  • The Novak sights offer an excellent sight picture (all who fired the compact handgun commented on the efficiency of the sights).
Citadel 9mm at the top with 3 different medium brown holsters on a white background
The Citadel gave good results from a variety of leather gear.

I fired a variety of personal defense loads from the pistol.

  • The Speer 124-grain Gold Dot is accurate, reliable and gives good expansion.
  • The 147-grain Gold Dot is among the best performers in the heavy-weight 9mm class. If you have a need for deep penetration, as is the case when felons are wearing heavy clothing during the winter months, that is a viable loading.
  • The Federal HST, in both 124- and 147-grain weights, gave good results.
  • Common wisdom tells us that the Speer 124-grain Gold Dot +P Short Barrel load would be ideal in the handgun. That load uses a bullet especially designed for short-barrel handgun performance.

Just the same, all the loads test fired are credible and a good choice for those who practice. All are controllable in this handgun. Frankly, recoil is not a problem, and I would choose the load that fits your scenario, being certain that it functions properly.

The pistol was surprisingly accurate. I bench rested the Citadel 9mm on several occasions, with good results.

Firing Results

Here are a few results from the Shooter’s Log trail at 15 yards with 5-shot groups.

Manufacturer Load Group
 Federal American Eagle 147-grain 9mm   1.2 inches
 Speer 124-grain, Gold Dot   2.0 inches
 Speer 124-grain, Gold Dot +P (Short Barrel)  1.8 inches
 Federal 124-grain HST  2.1 inches
 Speer 147-grain  1.6 inches
Brown carved leather holster with brown-handled, black barreled Citadel 9mm on a white background
The D.M. Bullard Zombie-Carved Combat is a fun holster that is also a great choice for serious use.

The Citadel is both reliable and accurate and should serve well for personal defense. I tested a variety of quality leather holsters when carrying it. The Zombie holster from D.M. Bullard has seen much use with all of my 1911 handguns. The 9mm is a lot of fun, and that holster makes a range outing even more fun. For concealed carry, the D.M. Bullard inside-the-waistband holster (shown at left) features a durable, single loop and excellent boning, a compact IWB that well handles the Citadel.

The Citadel 9mm 1911 is well worth your time and effort to investigate, is a joy to fire and use and may serve well in serious conflicts.

What are your thoughts on the Citadel 9mm 1911? Have you used it? If not, are you planning to give it a try after reading this range report? Share in the comments section.




About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
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 (13)

  1. Question Does anyone know if the new (2019) Citadel 1911 compacts have any name plate (either white paint or large letters stampedl on the left side of the slide.
    Rock Island used to have a large logo on theirs, but now have a small logo above the thumb safety at the rear of the slide near the hammer.
    Thank you for your help.

  2. My EDC is a Citadel full size .45. Never had any failure to fire or feed with it. Extremely accurate. I shot on our State Rife and Pistol team for many years with a Semi-custom Colt and to be honest, I actually like the Citadel better. Every bit as accurate and dependable. Fits the same and I can use any holster for either. Price is a big deciding factor as well. Great gun.

  3. Just bought my citadel 9mm and took it to the range to test it out, I was eager to see just how it performed but sadly right off I noticed after every 3rd shot it missed fired,I ejected the shell each time and seen that they all had very light strikes on the primers any ideals on how to fix this myself without taking my pistol to a gunsmith?

    1. Had the same problem with my Springfield R.O.9 mm. Change out the firing pin with a heavier pin and spring. Cost me 20 bucks and now I shoot all kinds of ammo and have no problems since .

  4. I bought the Citadel 9MM tactical and love it. It works flawlessly, is accurate, and good looking too.
    All 1911 magazines I have tried in it work great also.
    This is one of my favorite 1911’s.

  5. I bought a used Citadel 9mm 1911.The guys I shoot league with derided me for buying a cheap gun,that is until I started shooting a man size target at 15yds and my shots were all in the heart! I only paid $300.00,and it is my favorite,even for carry.One ? though.My mags hold 9 round not 8 Have they changed? Just wondering.

  6. I enjoy reading these articles and readers comments. There are many different opinions and most offer good input. Personally as a handgun enthusiast of over 30 years the 1911 platform is my favorite overall. There are so many different models and endless customization options it’s like building custom cars…only smaller and cheaper. I currently have 14 1911s from a compact Detonics Mk VI up to an AMT Longslide, a Colt Delta Elite and an STI Eagle. I had one Citadel 1911 5″ 9mm. I was impressed by how well it is put together and shoots. Recoil is non-existent. The only drawbacks for me were the all black sights and the serrations on the trigger were a bit sharp. It fed everything I gave it and shoots to point of aim. Last month I caught them on sale for $329 so I bought a second one. I love shooting them and the 9mm is much cheaper, recoils less and doesn’t hammer the gun like 45acp does. Even though the 1911 is my favorite pistol I don’t think I’ll every conceal carry one. I tend to agree that for semi autos the compact DAs are better suited for this job. Depending on situation I carry either a Taurus Titanium slide 24/7C in a Crossbreed IWB or sometimes a S&W 442 38 snubby. The Taurus is super light, holds 14 rds and has been very reliable with good accuracy (I wonder how many here will bash it though). I also like Beretta 92/Taurus PT92 style pistols but for fun, collecting, history, customization etc. I’ll always favor the 1911 and the CItadel fits in very nicely with the rest of my “family”. I wouldn’t hesitate to depend on it if the need arose. One last thing, someone remarked 9mm in a 1911 seems wrong… how about 10mm… ala Colt Delta Elite? Thanks guys.

  7. Bought the 9mm Citadel full size in May. It’s my first 1911 and what a hoot it is to shoot! Mine is flawless, shoots my reloads (guys, gotta do the plunk test!), and fit/finish are excellent.
    I’ve been used to polymer semi’s and thought it would be too heavy to lug around. I mainly do target shooting and find the extra ounces smooth out the recoil.
    My question is: Why did I wait so long to buy a 1911?

  8. I tend to agree with David 2014, I do have a nice 1911, well more than a year now, and have yet to fire it. I still need to find a suitable holster for it, but decided to go with the Springfield XDs in .45acp, as it was so much more concealable. I’d never had a double action auto-loader, but for concealed carry it has been just about a perfect choice. That Citadel is a cute little gun, and although I’d be very curious to fire a box through one, the double action just makes more sense to me for a day to day carry gun. How about buying aftermarket sights, grips,etc, for that gun Bob? Are the threads and dovetails etc cut to specs? You think it would accept most custom parts etc? I did like the leather you displayed with the gun. Would like to hear what others think of it.

    1. As the Citadel uses the Model 70 firing system, just about any aftermarket part for it will fit. Grips, holsters, Etc. As to the dovetail, Tru-Glo or just about all will interchange.

  9. I don’t know, a 9x19mm 1911? Somehow that sounds like a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron. The next thing you’ll be say is a ,45ACP Luger!!!

  10. I purchase d a citadel in 9 mm cuz I had some extra ammo left from a previous pistol I used to have . Right out of the boxes had issues with the magazine falling out of the handle. Then come to fine out the thumb safety was not working properly when you rack the slide and operate the the safety and pull the trigger the hammer drop which was a very big and not expected situation! All this while standing in front of the the sales person who I informed was a big safety concern. I still went on and purchase the pistol only because I knew I could fix the problems. This has been one of my best 9 mm after the work was done To make it safe so always system check before using live ammo!

  11. I’ve never been a fan of a 1911. I worked with a lot of deputies that liked the ‘Cocked & Locked’ carry. But they usually carried in a leather holster, with their thumb release retention strap placed between the hammer and the frame. I saw a few draws in a self defense situation where the strap slowed their draw significantly as the snap / leather strap hung up as the deputies tried to draw faster than their strap would clear their weapon’s hammer. Also there is the issue of the hammer and beaver tail protruding to the rear to hang up on seat belt straps and clothing.

    That was one thing that really made me appreciate the DA only Glock [and handguns like it] with their smooth rounded corners. You can draw it fairly easily from a Serpa II or III holster… while wearing a seat belt or loose clothing or from under a jacket / coat without much concern of your weapon hanging-up on a protrusion. No safeties to worry about disengaging.

    A 1911 may be great for target shooting… but in today’s world of crime & self defense, and what with bad guys armed with high capacity semi-auto handguns… I want a double action only handgun with no external safety to fool with.. that can be accessed quickly. My every day carry weapon is a Glock 27 with a 40-9mm conversion barrel installed….loaded with Hornady Critical Duty 135 gr 9mm… carried in a BlackHawk Serpa II holster.

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