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I'm in the market for the next new gun for my collection (isn't everyone? Lol) and one this that I was entertaining was a small 1911. Colt New Agent, Colt Defender, Kimber Ultra Carry 2, STI Spartan and etc.

Talked to a guy at a LGS and when I asked about the small 1911's he frowned as said "you shouldn't even bother". He explained that the smaller lighter 1911's don't handle the hard punching .45 ACP as well as commander or larger 1911's. They tend to be more prone to FTF and FTE because of user input - mainly the lack of a stone hard grip. That's not a given in an actual confrontation so it got me a little nervous.

I've had bad experiences with smaller single stack pistols like the Shield, XDS and Millenium Pro so I'm not surprised to find out about small 1911's. I had hope that the 1911, being an older and more studied platform, would do better with miniaturization but maybe not.

Any thoughts or experiences with this?
 

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I own a colt defender in 9mm had zero problems, my bud has a kimber think it is a super carry with laser.. I shoot it and he shoot it day 1 out the box no problems but most magazines even this months combat hanguns suggest the 3" 45's aren't worth the trouble (read the article on STI)
 

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My EDC is a SA micro-Compact 3”. Springfield discourages the use of +P type of ammo and having tried a few I found none that were reliable. Mine shoots best with any FMJ but the only reliable HP round I have tried so far is the Winchester 230gr Personal Defense. After about 100-150 rounds it will sometimes FTF but a drop or two of oil and it is good for another 100-150 rounds. If I were to get into a firefight where I need more than 100 rounds I am in the wrong place. People are always condemning the 3 inch 1911s but I will trust mine anytime and have been carrying it more than eight years.

IMG_0576.JPG
 

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I have a Colt Officers Model and have never had a problem with it and it's accurate and fun to shoot. Of course it has the 3 1/2 inch barrell. If I buy any more 1911's I wouldn't buy one beneath the Commander in size. Just a personal preference for me.
 

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I have had two Kimber Ultra Carry 2's in stainless and neither of them has had a single hiccup. So many people parrot back to customers what they hear second hand with no personal knowledge. I had a guy at my LGS telling me how great Rock Island 1911's were, I asked "have you ever shot one?" He said "nope". That rendered his opinion worthless. (By the way, I think Rock makes a nice 1911, I was just using this as an example, not a slam on Rock 1911's in any way)

3" 1911's are an awesome little firearm. Hell, my $499 Citadel compact ran flawless before I sold it. My wife carries it now, it is her EDC. She handles the recoil just fine. Find me a full sized 1911 that weighs 31oz loaded and I'll carry that. Until then, my little 3" guns make me smile. Oh, and they are as accurate as my 4" and 5" 1911's.
 

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I don't know where this came from. That is, the notion that compact 1911's are unreliable. A lot of people carry them with complete confidence. Kimber, Colt,
Les Baer, STI, Para Ordnance, et al, are all reputable firms and would not be selling so many of these popular guns if they were as untrustworthy as some people claim. When I first got a compact 1911, my intent was to use it solely as a fun range gun. But when I found the gun to be every bit as reliable as my full size 1911, I pressed it into service as a carry gun. The only thing I changed in it was the recoil spring; I upgraded to a Wolff spring.
 

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If you polled all 1911 users and got truthful answers, you would probably find that there are more problems reported with the sub-4 inch guns. However, quantifiable data is hard to find.

What we can quantify is the loss of velocity in a short-barreled gun. See some real data here: BBTI - Ballistics by the Inch :: .45 Auto Results
From a full-size down to a 3-inch gun the .45 gives up around 100-150 ft/sec - not all that bad, acutally, when you consider a more substantial loss in revolvers from 4" guns to snubs.

Clearly you've been bitten by the 1911 bug, and lucky for you there's probably no cure. Since it's a given that your collection will expand, I suggest your next one be an alloy-framed 4-incher. That'll knock about 11 ounces off the weight of your full-size gun. One of my favorite carry guns is a Kimber CDP Pro II, which has a lot of nice features and it's probably the most accurate 1911 I own. That's a nice intermediate step on your way down in size.
 

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I've never been a fan of the 3" 1911's, but I will say that one day a few years ago I happened to walk by a STI Escort that somehow followed me home. Muzzle flip is significant when compared to a commander or full size, but the undercut trigger guard let's me get a good grip on the officer frame without feeling like there's too much gun missing.

Obviously the geometry for feeding and ejecting is changed significantly when compared to a 5" model, so that's the reason you hear of so many FTF/FTE issues. I didn't expect much from mine when I got it, it just called to me. Now years later with no history of problems, I'm not scared to carry it if my commander needs a day off.
 

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Sub compact .45

I have been a lurker here for a few years, but have been shooting the 1911 variants for over 45 years. I own a Kimber Ultra Carry II, and in hundreds of rounds, have only had problems with the stock magazine, which I discarded. I only use Wilson Combat magazines, and have had zero failures with them. It is my choice for carry, and I load it with hardball. I believe the major reason for failures is improper grip. The little ones like to be held "hard" in order for them to operate properly. Thanks for an informative forum. Bill
 

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I have a Kimber Tactical Ultra II and I love it. If it hiccups, it is my mistake, not the gun's mistake. I shoot a friends Springer with a 3" barrel occassionally and it, too, is a dream to shoot. I have had nothing but positive experiences with 3" 1911's.
 

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I have been a lurker here for a few years, but have been shooting the 1911 variants for over 45 years. I own a Kimber Ultra Carry II, and in hundreds of rounds, have only had problems with the stock magazine, which I discarded. I only use Wilson Combat magazines, and have had zero failures with them. It is my choice for carry, and I load it with hardball. I believe the major reason for failures is improper grip. The little ones like to be held "hard" in order for them to operate properly. Thanks for an informative forum. Bill
My wife and daughter both shoot our Ultras fine and neither are big enough to grip it super "hard" yet the guns do not fail in their hands. Not an issue with recoil control either.

Wife shooting:
 

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3" 1911's are an awesome little firearm. Hell, my $499 Citadel compact ran flawless before I sold it. My wife carries it now, it is her EDC. She handles the recoil just fine. Find me a full sized 1911 that weighs 31oz loaded and I'll carry that. Until then, my little 3" guns make me smile. Oh, and they are as accurate as my 4" and 5" 1911's.
You SOLD it to your wife so she could make it her edc? What a nice husband lol :)
 

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You SOLD it to your wife so she could make it her edc? What a nice husband lol :)
Bad sentence structure. She carries the Kimber I mean.
 

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Pros and cons of 3 inch 1911s

I have been shooting 1911s since the 1970s and have tried all of the barrel lengths. I usually use the 5 inch guns for range use and the shorter barrels for carry because they conceal better. My one experience with a 3 inch is a Colt Defender I've had for about 6 years. I have over 1000 rounds through it with no problems, so I trust the gun and have carried it on occasion. I wouldn't hesitate to try another 3 inch 1911 based on my good experience with this one.

The biggest pros of the 3 inch 1911 are the excellent trigger feel and accuracy, ease of concealment, comfortable grip and similarity in controls to other 1911s I have. On the con side I would cite the need to replace recoil springs regularly and some loss of muzzle velocity with the short barrel compared to longer 1911s. I would mention recoil as a neutral factor for me - it is stout, but not objectionable.

I think the 3 inch 1911 is a good choice for carry if you like 1911s and .45 caliber, and are comfortable with the controls.

 

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I had a Colt Defender for a few years. It felt good and was surprisingly accurate for a 3-inch barrel. But......it didn't like hollowpoints. When firing them, I had to really hold it in a death grip. I traded it for a 5-inch Springfield and it fed JHP's with no problem.
 

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I have a Colt Defender
Colt Defender.png

and a Sig Ultra
Sig Ultra Compact 1911.jpg

and a Dan Wesson ECO
Dan Wesson ECO.jpg

All have been flawless and I regularly carry the Colt and the Sig (the Dan Wesson will never see the inside of the holster I wear).
 

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If they are tuned correctly and have the right springs they will run fine. Back 30 yrs ago with sloppier clearances that was more difficult. Today most are pretty good right outta the box.
 

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I have a Kimber Ultra Carry II and it has been 100% reliable with factory ammo with over 500 rds through it now. I had a Colt Defender years ago and it was 100% reliable as well. Little 1911's might be a little fussier than their big brothers but they can be very reliable.
 

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I just put 200 rounds through a well used early 80's colt officers lightweight and the gun ran just fine with 230gr Hardball..
 

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It's tough to get someone who just dropped 1K on a pistol to say it doesn't hold up to extended combat shooting. Rob Pincus is a well respected instructor with a pretty bold challenge.
Subcompact 1911s Just don't work well.... - YouTube

Of course, if you clean and lube regularly, and you probably won't shoot more than one mag in self defense, you should be o.k. Still, what have you gained? 1.25" of barrel length does not really affect concealment; slide width and grip length do. So why put yourself at a disadvantage over very little barrel length and a lot of performance?
 
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