Need 1911 advice

This is a discussion on Need 1911 advice within the Defensive Carry Guns forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; Here lately I've been looking more and more at the 3" and 3.5" barrel 1911's. I've never had that small of one and only shot ...

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  1. #1
    VIP Member Array Coty's Avatar
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    Sep 2015
    East Tennessee

    Question Need 1911 advice

    Here lately I've been looking more and more at the 3" and 3.5" barrel 1911's. I've never had that small of one and only shot one that small. I'd really like to get an officer size one to start carrying. Almost a decade ago a Kimber Ultra Covert II (that black and green looking one with the digital camo grips ) caught my eye but upon seeing the price, I got over it real quick! Anyway, a few weeks ago I handled a coworkers mini 1911 and it got me to remembering how much I wanted one so long ago when I couldn't come close to affording one. Well, now I might can! Within a budget but I'll get to that in a sec. Problem is, I'm pretty much mini-1911-ignorant. The only one I ever shot was a Llama mini size double stack .45 and it did nothing but teach me malfunction clearance. It kinda scarred me for life and so all I ever owned was 5" 1911's. All I've ever heard and read is to not trust anything 1911 wise that's smaller than a Commander, or that the small guns are more tempermental than they're worth. Funny thing about that to me is about every manufacturer sells the officer size too so somebody is buying them. Kinda weird...

    Well, I know that they've got to have a solid grip and be clean and lubed but I do that with all my guns anyway so I think that's kinda a moot point for me. I want to stay with either a 3" or a 3.5" barrel, preferably stainless and with dovetailed-in sights. I've been actively researching the following: Colt Defender, Springfield Armory Ultra Compact (single stack), and the Kimber Ultra Carry II's in stainless. I am open to other suggestions within this size range as long as they're 1911's. I've been looking at RIA and Armscor offerings as well, and naturally I like their price tag better but they don't make many stainless guns that I can find. I don't HAVE to have stainless but I much prefer it. I'd rather stay around the mid-range offerings but I'd have a hard time turning down a RIA that fits this criteria. I won't spend over $1,000 but if I find something I like for half that I'll warp out the check book. I know it's a reasonable budget because I've been pouring over Gunbroker and Buds Gun Shop webpages for weeks drooling over different ones and all but memorizing prices.

    So tell me your experiences with these type guns and if the rumors are untrue as I suspect. I know that they may be more picky about ammo to work the lighter slide with a heavier spring but that seem to me like it's a trade off for that size envelope and I'll live with it as long as it's not too extreme. I suspect that these type guns also need more frequent maintenance, like more frequent recoil spring changes, due to maybe a more violent slide cycling but I could be wrong. I'm sure with a solid grip, proper lube, good mags and ammo will make them run as designed. But having never had one I just can't be certain.

    I have had 1911's and am comfortable with them. I carried my Springfield for several years so I'm not a total noob to the 1911. What I need are opions on that size gun from people I trust and can communicate with that have experience with them that I don't have. Before somebody says "Google (or search) is your friend", see previous sentence. So chime in here and share your thoughts on the matter.

    Oh, before I forget, I probably need to add that I'm not exactly put off by quality MIM parts in guns that are backed up by their manufacturer. I don't want a whole gun made out of MIM but I'm not paying over a grand for a chopped and hot rodded carry gun so I'll live with it until it becomes a problem. Also not too concerned about Series '80 safeties or that Schwartz type safety Kimber uses. I much prefer a Series '70 but I'll live with a trade off but if it becomes an issue for me it'll be removed and happiness and balance will return once again.

    Here's an internet pic of the basic style and features I'm after. I don't need an ambi safety but I wouldn't mind it since I'm ambidextrous lol.
    Last edited by Coty; January 8th, 2016 at 04:59 AM. Reason: added pic
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  2. #2
    VIP Member Array zonker1986's Avatar
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    I am no 1911 expert, but am a fan of the Commander size aluminum frame guns. I was told long ago to stay at least with a 4" barrel 1911 for assured reliability. No experience with the Officer size guns, so please take those words with a grain of salt. I know several folks that have the smaller 1911 and have had no issues. My only sub 5" 1911 is below, the SA Lightweight Champion Operator that comes with night sights and match grade barrel. Haven't found one in this category I like is a shooter. Good luck on your never ending quest.

    first 2 mags I ever fired from this gun back in 2009 at 10 yards....I think I got him.

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  3. #3
    VIP Member Array Coty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zonker1986 View Post
    Good luck on your never ending quest.
    LOL thanks. Nice looking gun BTW.

    ETA Nice shooting too, just now noticed that pic.
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    When the zombies come I'll carry carry my Colt .357 on an old Sam Browne belt like Rick Grimes Loaded with Black Talons!

  4. #4
    VIP Member Array deadguy's Avatar
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    A CCO size 1911 would do you well. Weighs less, and has shorter grip for concealability. Extra slide length is usually not an issue.

    Zonk is right. It never ends.
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  5. #5
    VIP Member Array PAcanis's Avatar
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    I haven't shot my Kimber Ultra Carry II in a while, but I recall that extra inch it doesn't have noticeably opening my groups up. It was nice for appendix carry though.
    I too recommend the CCO for a smallish 1911. I like that size so much I have two.

  6. #6
    Member Array keepitsimple's Avatar
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    Corn Everywhere!
    This has been my EDC since 4/2015. First I'll go into what it is, then I'll go into why I chose it.

    It's an RIA 1911-CS (3.5") in the original parked finish, for now. If the parkerizing doesn't hold up I'll have it refinished, but so far it's taken a TON of abuse from my kydex holsters and still has not worn through in the 'high-friction' areas. It was flawless out of the box with no malfunctions of any kind, feeding 100 rounds of 230 grain ball and 25 rounds of 230 grain Winchester JHPs on the first outing with nothing more than me cleaning the packing grease out of it and lubing the slide rails. Your mileage may vary, I'm just relating my personal experience with this one pistol.

    For personal preference I added the following items to fit it to me, daily carry, and my shooting style a bit better:

    ultra slim (3/16" thick) cocobolo double diamond grips
    Caspian Trik trigger - flat face
    John Masen extended slide release, ground down and re-shaped
    Armscor GI grip safety cut down and blended to the frame tangs
    Armscor GI hammer with spur removed
    Stock mainspring housing w/ butt rounded and serrations removed
    Satin black Gunkote on MSH, trigger, hammer, slide release, thumb safety, and grip safety.

    All said and done I'm into it for about $600 performing all of the work myself and using a lot of parts I already had available (quite common with 1911 nuts). You'll notice in that list of modifications that I left the thumb safety, sear, disconnector, mainspring, and sear spring alone and in OEM configuration. It still has the creepy, stock 3.5-4 lb trigger, and I wanted to keep it that way as this isn't one of my 'hair off a nat's ass' target guns, but pre-travel and over-travel have been eliminated. For the same reason, I decided to keep the GI combat sites. My eyes are still young and sharp so I have no problem seeing them and putting all rounds into one ragged, fist-sized hole at 50 feet. The more I collect, build, and shoot 1911's, the more I find myself preferring the plain Jane GI features.

    I carry it cocked and locked AIWB in a custom kydex holster I made. Primary magazine is a high-polished Kimber tac pro 7-round with a flush base plate, and I'll also typically carry an additional full-size GI 8-round CMC shooting star mag with an x-grip spacer/base pad, for a total load out of 16 rounds.

    Now, I too had questions and considerations eerily similar to yours while I was making my decision of whether or not to carry an Officer frame 1911. I have several 5" guns and shoot them all well, but heard nasty things about the chopped-down guns. RIA was inexpensive enough to let me dip my toes in the market without too much risk as they're fairly inexpensive as far as 1911's go and they hold resale value decent enough. They also don't have any plastic parts (triggers, MSH, guide rods, etc.) like some of the other off-the-shelf brands. Putting plastic in a 1911 should be a capitol offense, and I've seen both Colt 1911's and Kimber 1911's with composite or plastic parts. For shame.

    It requires more maintenance, cleaning, and upkeep than one of my former EDC snub revolvers, but so do a lot of other bottom feeding pistols that get carried on the body under clothing every day. A field strip once every 2 weeks and quick wipe down with an oil infused cloth are about all I really have to do as far as constant care, as it gets a proper cleaning and lube after every range trip (once per month minimum). You will want to purchase some additional recoil springs though, as they tend to wear out faster on the little chopped-down guns than the full size 5" guns. I swap mine out about once every 500 rounds, or until once the old spring is between 1-2 coils shorter than a new one.

    No malfunctions in 650 rounds. None. No feeding issues from any of the mags I've tried or from different bullet profiles (185 gr. SWCs, 230 JHPs, 230 FMJ). Could be because I shoot 1911s well, could be because I got an AWESOME unit from RIA. I'm not gonna look a gift horse in the mouth though, just going to accept it as a machine doing what it's supposed to.

    Make no mistake about it though, these cut-down guns are still all-steel and heavy. You'll want a sturdy gun belt (preferably the reinforced kind) and a quality holster to carry it in. Those two items relate directly to the support and comfort of wearing a heavy gun like this for 10+ hours a day, and IMHO, will make or break ANY 1911 carry decision.
    Last edited by keepitsimple; January 8th, 2016 at 09:07 AM.

  7. #7
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    I shot the ultra when I was first looking for a 1911. My accuracy was way off from what I normally shot. It very well could have been in my head because I just wasn't comfortable with it from the start. I went with the Kimber Pro Carry II. It's 4 in and shot very well.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member Array revldm's Avatar
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    My Kimber Ultra Carry II is the best shooting gun I have. I can hit my targets better with it than I can with my Colt gov. even though the Colt has a 2" longer barrel. To be honest, the gun took about 300 rounds to break in, but after that it has never failed me. I have no idea how many rounds I have shot in it but it is one of my favorite range guns and is my EDC when weather permits a cover garment.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member Array HotBrass45's Avatar
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    Both my Kimber UC and Colt Defender have been 100% with reloads and factory ammo. No feed/fire/eject problems at all. I put 150 consecutive rounds through the Defender last weekend with zero issues (100 reloads, 50 factory). I have no idea how many rounds through the Kimber at this point. Both guns were purchased new in the last 3-4 years. FWIW, the Colt is easier to disassemble for cleaning and the Kimber has a better trigger (you can't beat a Kimber trigger). Neither gun has had a discernable break-in period.
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  10. #10
    Member Array Deej6519's Avatar
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    Dec 2015
    South Illinois
    I just purchased a Range Officer Champion 4", feels great the trigger is incredibly crisp and light abt 4lbs I think. I steered away from the subcompact as I wanted to keep the full-size grip and the 2 extra rounds.
    Paid 730.00 for it and while a case is way down the list of reasons to purchase a particular gun, this case I swear I could though off a building, it and its contents would fine.


  11. #11
    Senior Member Array Bar99's Avatar
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    I have a Colt Officers Model Stainless from about 25-30 years ago that I really like. I would stick with Colt but honestly, you just WILL have more malfunctions with the smaller 1911's than the larger ones. It was never designed to made that small and apparently there are some mechanical and engineering reasons why it does not work the best. I used to shoot/carry 1911's alot in the 80's and I would never feel undergunned with a 1911. And I also think the Series 80 firing pin block is a good thing on a carry gun. For me, 1911's are pretty much fun/range guns these days though. If this is a direction you want to explore though, Colt makes the Defender that I've heard is pretty good. Good luck Coty and let us know what you get....
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  12. #12
    Array AzQkr's Avatar
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    In the Superstitions
    Won't consider carrying anything in 1911 guise that's under 4.25" barrel [ commander ]. The 1911 was designed with a 5" barrel, timing was set accordingly. Over 40 years, the commanders haven't exhibited timing related malfs, yet,------- the sub commanders length models haven't exhibited enough reliable function to consider them edc sd fodder.

    Best of luck in the search, losing another round on board with the officers frames when the 1911 is short on ammo on board to begin with isn't my idea of preparedness on the street. From 7 minimum on the commander/govs, to 6 max on the officers models, you've lost another 15% of available ammo before a mandatory reload.

    ETA, Bar also mentioned the timing on the smaller models [ the design not made for smaller barreled 1911's ].
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  13. #13
    Member Array Berumen's Avatar
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    I own 3 RIA's now, a 1911 Tactical CS (3.5 inch), 1911 Ultra Tactical CS (3.5 inch), and a 1911 Tactical FS (5.0 inch) all in .45 acp, single stack (pics in same in order). (note the 3.5 inch is the same length as the Colt Officer version and it holds 7 rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber - that's 8 rounds ready to fire). My gunsmith measure the trigger pull on all my RIA and they are all 4 lbs triggers.

    File_000 (4).jpeg

    And I think they are awesome guns. If I was going to buy a compact for the first time, I would go with the 1911 .45 acp Ultra Tactical CS because it came standard with VZ grips. Only thing I can really say negative is both of my Compact CS did not want to feed JHP until I put about 1000 rounds down range. My carry gun, I even sent to a gunsmith and had the feed ramp polish, which definitely helped, but in the end I still get a hang up once in a while (maybe 1 out of 50 rounds of ammo or so, it keeps getting better as I use it more). Therefore I have chosen to just carry FMJ in it (and test it with hollow points every other range trip) so I know it's always going to be a hundred percent. However, I got a gunsmiths info from a member on this site and I plan to send it to him to get it to be 100% reliable with JHP soon... Other than that, the guns work perfectly and I think they are definitely worth the cost.

    Note the 1911 Ultra Compact can be found on at prices between $380 - $420. I paid $380.00 + $20 for shipping for mine (the one with the red background). The only thing I feel is a must do when you get them, is to place a dab of white paint in the indented areas on the novak sites, because they come black (which I felt made the sites hard to see when shooting in a poorly lit gun range, therefore I added a dab of white paint so they look similar to a set of Colt sites).

    Since I just went to the range yesterday to break in my new 1911 FS, I did also shoot my compact from 9 and 15 yards (this pic of the target was at the 15 yd marker). The bottom left target is the 3.5 inch CS and the right bottom and top target I did with the 5 inch RIA (which shot a little better, you can see on the bottom left my first few rounds hit low so I had to compensate and raise my site above the bulls eye to hit in the middle with the compact CS, but it still shot almost as consistent as the 5 inch).

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  14. #14
    Member Array Northface's Avatar
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    May 2009
    My advise is to look at the chart from Ballistics by the inch before choosing a "mini" 1911.
    The 4 inch barrel of the Springfield Range Officer (compact model...left that out before) is a better choice. That is what I would choose if I were buying today, and did not own a Colt CCO with a 4.25 inch barrel.
    Last edited by Northface; January 8th, 2016 at 10:17 PM.
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  15. #15
    VIP Member Array denclaste's Avatar
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    The sub 4" models have earned a reputation for being problematic; for every good one there seems to be a evil twin. From what I've seen at the range and what the guys in my shooting group have experienced this seems to be the norm. I've owned every size out there over the years and the sub 4" models have given me the most problems. Yes, they can be made to run and run well. Colt, Dan Wesson, Springfield, even RIA have had success doing it. But, if this will be a carry piece, you're betting your life on (possibly) you had better be very, very certain it's what you want. My choice would be a Colt Commander or Springfield RO compact. These would be just as easy to carry as the sub 4" and have great reliability records. Lightweight or steel, that's up to you.
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