1911 Carry gun: Size matters

This is a discussion on 1911 Carry gun: Size matters within the Defensive Carry Guns forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; Hi All, I am currently looking into a 1911 as a carry weapon. I currently carry an LC9 and a SW 442. I am going ...

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Thread: 1911 Carry gun: Size matters

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    VIP Member Array BigJon10125's Avatar
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    1911 Carry gun: Size matters

    Hi All,

    I am currently looking into a 1911 as a carry weapon. I currently carry an LC9 and a SW 442. I am going to add the 1911 to my permit for a few reasons. They are thin, which is what I love about my LC9, they hold just as many rounds as my LC9 (im in CA so I am pretty restricted anyway), and I want a 1911!

    So my question to you experts is this. What barrel length do I want? Having never shot one here are my initial thoughts: I carry IWB, love my Crossbreed supertuck and will get another for the 1911. I have decided on the Rock Island Armory 1911 for my first. I have an amazing gunsmith that has one, OR I can import one into the state. As they are reasonably priced I can have him do to the GI model what I want and it will still be cheaper than purchasing in the state. (skeleton trigger and hammer,ambi safety, larger beavertail etc)

    Non negotiable: Rock Island, 1911, Caliber (.45 acp)
    Concerns barrel length
    Magazine capacity.

    Looking at the officers model the issue is I dont like is that it is 6 rounds. I believe I would like to have 7 min. However i can make a sacrifice of one round as I always carry a spare mag, generally 2.


    So how do those short barrel 1911's shoot, is the 5 inch worth it, is it still easy to carry, 4 inch a good compromise or 3.5 inch too much to handle, wont shoot it enough as its uncomfortable? etc etc. Just things that are running through my head. Again this will be my 1st 1911, and I intend on carrying it.
    BigJon


    "Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt" ~ Mark Twain

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  3. #2
    JD
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    Quote Originally Posted by JD
    Sizes:
    Government Model (Gov’t): This generally refers to any 5” 1911 in standard configuration, it has the full 5” barrel with bushing, (although some models do exist with the 5" bushing-less bull barrel) and full frame which will hold with modern magazines 8 rounds of ammunition.

    Commander model: The original Commander model has a 4.25” bbl with bushing and full frame, several makers do not use the bushing barrel, but instead have a 4” bull barrel instead with a full frame, for Kimber this is the Pro model, and Springfield refers to it as the Champion.

    CCO: This was the Concealed Carry Officers model since discontinued by Colt; this was the 4.25” upper from a Commander mated to the compact frame of the Officers model which with modern magazines hold 7 rounds. For Kimber this is the Compact model, several others make guns in this configuration or a similar variation and their nomenclature differs.

    Officers: Originally this was a 3.5” barrel on a compact frame which is .5” shorter than the full frame of the Gov’t model and Commander. With modern magazines this will hold 7 rounds of ammunition. Springfield refers to this size as the “Compact” model.

    Defender or Micro: This is a 3” upper on a compact frame, these models in most if not all cases will have a 3” bushing-less bull barrel. Kimber refers to this as the “Ultra”, while Springfield refers to it as the Micro, other makers have different nomenclature for guns of similar size.

    Long Slides: Long slide models have 6” or longer barrels on full frames, these pistols are mainly used in competitions and for hunting, as the purpose of this piece is geared mainly for defensive use, I am not going to cover these models, they are only mentioned here to show the variety of options available.

    The following is a common question, and a good one at that.

    “I know that there are 1911 pistols with 3 inch, 4 inch, and 5 inch barrels available. Which length is the best choice for a balance of reliability, accuracy, proper ballistics performance, and concealment?”



    Looking at the factors listed:
    • Reliability
    • Accuracy
    • Ballistics performance
    • Concealment
    A Government Model gun will generally have the most mechanical accuracy, the longest sight radius, and the highest muzzle velocity, but the least amount of concealment. The Gov’t is historically the most reliable size of 1911 as it is the original design and the geometry of the pieces were designed around the .45ACP cartridge.

    A 4" will generally be more mechanically accurate than a 3” gun, but less accurate than a 5” gun, have less muzzle velocity, a shorter sight radius, but is easier to conceal than a 5" gun. Reliability wise, the 4.25 models with a bushing barrel have a good track record. Some of the 4” bushing-less models have had some issues.
    A 3" Has the least amount of mechanical accuracy, muzzle velocity, sight radius, but will be the most easy to conceal. Of all the sizes, the 3” 1911 has the worst reliability record from almost all manufactures. Current models are getting better, but they still have a tendency to be buggy creatures.

    Now looking at my statements, please understand that concealing a 5" gun is not a hard thing to do; great number concealed carriers do it every day.

    So to answer the question, a new in the box, 4"-4.25" 1911 will most likely be the balance of reliability, accuracy, ballistics performance, and ability to be concealed.

    The Commander sized guns are the happy man in the middle so to speak, they are not as long as the 5" so they will clear the holster more quickly, and still offer more recoil absorbing mass, while still maintaining a longer barrel and sight radius while being able to carry a full length magazine.

    So here's where it gets tricky, the hardest thing to conceal on any gun, is the grip area of the firearm. While the smaller Officers size guns have a shorter grip to ease concealment, you're cutting your slide mass, sight radius, barrel length, and capacity. While some have no problem concealing the grip (see my bit on the 5" guns) some do, if you want the benefits of a Commander sized gun but also want the benefits of an Officer's size gun you need to get a gun with the Commander length slide and barrel, but has the officers size frame like the Colt CCO, and the Kimber Compact. There are other makers of this style 1911 which will be discussed later in this text.
    You can read the rest here: Guns, Guns, and More Gosh Darn Guns: 1911 Buyer's Reference Guide - Revised 2009-12-26

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    Good questions. I wish there was a scientific answer for you... maybe there is, but it may not be the right answer...

    I carry a ~3" barreled ATI that holds 7+1. It's reliable (after I worked it over), and I shoot okay with it. I put thin grips on it, and it is about a thin of a .45 carry as you're gonna get. I also like the short barrel, as even though I carry canted, it doesn't hit the chair before I do when I sit down, which I can't always say the same for the full size 5". They say the short barrels aren't nearly as reliable as a full length, and that seems to make sense to me when you think of the physics of what the pistol must accomplish with every round that is fired.

    Now, I shoot a 5" SA 1911 better than I do any other handgun that I own. It's just a little long in the barrel for comfortable daily carry, which is why I went shorter.

    And then many split the difference with the 4" barrel. That also seems to make good sense.

    The RIA's have a great reputation. Even so, I suppose that if you're going to carry a short-barreled 1911, you may as well plan on getting very intimate with detail stripping, their function, and how to optimize their operation. I do it because this is also my hobby. If you're not wanting to invest that sort of time, and want something that is brain-dead foolproof in a single-stack .45, I suggest taking a look at a Gen3 Glock 36. JMHO, of course.
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    That is a good writeup by JD. I personally like the 5" and that is what is on my side as I type this. I carry it almost every day. The only exception is in the summer when I'm wearing cargo shorts and a Tank top, then it's my 642 in a pocket holster. But normally, all the other times I carry the 5" in a Galco IWB Summer Comfort or a Galco OWB Avenger holster, depending on how I am dressed. It shoots great, carries fairly easily with a GOOD belt, and is relativelly easy to conceal. I also carry a spare mag. And I carry "cocked and locked" as Mr. Browning designed the gun to be carried. Just my .02.
    Live to ride, ride to live. Harley Road King And keep a .45 handy Kimber Custom TLE II

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    I have read how the same platform with a shorter barrel is easier to conceal. Personally I have not found this to be true. For me at least. A shorter barrel does make it lighter but that is the only advantage I have found.
    With a inside the waist band holster the barrel is concealed by your pants. Two inch barrel or five it doesn't matter. The part that is harder to conceal is the grip. That is what I have found to be the give away when trying to go unnoticed. The grip will catch on chairs when you are getting up from a seated position sometimes. It will be noticeable to others who might brush up against you.

    This is just what I have found when carrying. Using that I would not give up barrel length if for concealment alone. I would however give it up if weight was a factor.

    Michael

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    I opt for the Colt Combat Commander ..... 4.25" Bbl. length.....in condition 1 it's fast and extremely reliable.
    JerryMac and justim like this.

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    Circumstances

    BigJon, how 'big' are you and how do you normally dress? That's going to be a large portion of the equation. Also, where do you work and where do you go aside from work? If you are in a confined area, the concealment must be greater.

    In my younger days, I have carried a full size Government Model pistol in a set of shorts covered by a pull over shirt. One has to practice looking casual. In anything close to 'business attire' one can carry two of just about anything. Much of this depends on finding the proper holster to fit the pistol and you.

    I find the Lightweight Commander sized pistols very convenient for carry. The barrel is a bit shorter (a whopping .75 inches!) but the twelve ounces of weight saved is a marked difference. However, I don't know if RIA makes such a pistol.
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    VIP Member Array BigJon10125's Avatar
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    Thanks for the replies this far.

    To answet some questions: I am 6'2 250 lbs. I use a beltman belt so i have a quality rig to hang something on. I wear cargo shorts, 5.11 pants and jeans. I wear polo and button up shorts which has helped me conceal. I do plan on becoming very familiar with the gun as I will be carrying it all the time. It is something I make sure to do to avoid, and be able to fix any issues. Weight is a concern. Another reason for considering a shorter barrel. Cant is an option I've looked into to help with length. Compared to what I'm carrying now (lc9) five inch barrel seems huge, but it is something I mage have to get used to.

    I am positive it will not be my only 1911 eventually, but this one will be specifically for carry. So if a 3.5-4" barrel works for cqc and general devensive purposes ill be happy.
    BigJon


    "Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt" ~ Mark Twain

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    What is more important, conceal or accuracy. the 3 inch is so small conceals deep but is harder to hit anything past 40 feet. The 5 inch or goverment size is great at the range but harder to conceal.

    I consider the 5 inch a "range" or match pistol. 4 inch is a "sidearm" and 3 inch a "conceal". I like the small bull barrels. I also agree with Archie ( above)
    I know you will love your 1911 and its a great choice no matter what size you decide on.
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    Senior Member Array Herknav's Avatar
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    Grip size is harder to conceal than barrel length, since you specified IWB. Your desire to stick with Rock Island rules out a Detonics Combatmaster, which has an even shorter frame than the Officer's ACP. The key here is grip length. An OACP is going to be easier to conceal, but your hands might be too big for it, given your size. A Commander will be easier to shoot, but the grip is going to be a bit longer. If you can conceal the full-size grip, there is really little difference in concealing a Cmdr and a Gov't Model (only barrel length).

    It's really a personal decision, and everything's a trade-off. Only you can decide which is best for you.

    Best of luck,
    Herk
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    VIP Member Array Rollo's Avatar
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    From what I have both experienced and read, the shorter the barrel (IE farther away from the original Browning design) the more finicky they tend to be. That's not to say that their aren't 3 inch 1911's that run like well tuned sewing machines and 5 inch 1911's that run like ....well.... something that doesn't run well. You get the picture.
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    If I ever get another 1911 I will get the full length barrel but have the grip bobbed. It is much less noticeable under a shirt than the standard sharply squared grip is.

    Michael

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    One of my boys opted for the Kimber Compact, a 4" slide with an alloy officer's size grip for concealment and light weight. It looks just like the mil spec, but slightly downsized. I feel that the 5" is a bit long when I sit, but 4.25" or less is better in that regard. The full size grip is recommended for large hands, but if you can get all your fingers on the shorter grip, it won't stick out or snag as much. A bit of cant helps conceal the grip. Years ago I moved from the Combat Commander to the 3" Kimber, and I don't regret it. But dang, 1911's multiply. I still use the 5" Series '70 Gold Cup to see how much caffeine is in my system, the 4.25 heavy Combat Commander for range games, yet the 3" is my constant companion.
    JerryMac likes this.
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    As Herknav points out, the grip is the harder part to conceal. Based on personal experience, I don't trust shorter than 4.25" (true Commander size) frames for carry guns.

    Two options to consider: A CCO type gun -what is essentially a Commander slide on an Officer's size grip. 7+1 max. Or, and this is my personal favorite, a bobtailed commander. This keeps the 8+1 capacity of a full size gun, but is essentially as concealable as an Officer's frame. The chopped mainspring housing is available from Ed Brown, and is a simple modification by a gunsmith.

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    Unless you plan to carry AIWB, there's no reason to get a short barrel. Even then, there are a lot of people who can pull off appendix carry with a 5" model.
    Trust in God and keep your powder dry

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