Short M1911s

One of my models is on a quest for a short M1911 (with 3-inch barrel), currently considering a Kimber. Which companies make short, reliable 1911s in 45ACP?

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21 Responses to Short M1911s

  1. Hugh Davis says:

    None. I was on that quest for close to 20 years. Either you have to change out so many things with gun smithing it’s no longer a 1911 or it’s not reliable.

    • EricM says:

      Hate to say it, but the first response is the correct one. There aren’t any ultra-reliable 3″ 1911 pistols. None so reliable that I’d carry it, anyways. And, I LOVE me a 1911. So don’t think I’m down on the 3″ pistols because of that. 4.25″ is all the shorter you can go, and still have a pistol that runs like a sewing machine.

  2. E.G. says:

    Only recommendation I can make is a Rock Island Armory 1911. They make one’s with a short barrel in .45acp. I don’t personally own one but my step-father does. IIRC the only issues were during the break in period and apparently RIA doesn’t recommend steel case ammo which he learned the hard way. He still replaced it with the exact same model and seems to still enjoy using it as his carry piece.

  3. lk says:

    Actually, love my Kimber Ultra 2. It has been 100% reliable through many, many thousands of rounds, including several training evolutions. Never a failure. I carry it with the short Officer sized magazine for easy concealment, and carry full sized magazines for reloads to get an extra round (hangs out the bottom of the grip, but I doubt the bad guy will laugh or even notice if I ever needed to use it).

  4. Sean says:

    I had a Kimber Ultra Elite that was flawless(until it was stolen). I had a Colt Defender a long time ago that was the opposite.

  5. Ray says:

    Well Oleg it’s all in what you want to do. I have owned four Kimber’s and thought all of them were overpriced and overrated. If you just want a “carry” pistol and are willing to put up the coin, they are an OK platform. I just don’t see them as any better than the Springfield or RIA. Modern Colts(series 80’s) just suck. QC has tanked at Colt. My “carry gun” is a Russian TT-33. Half the size of a Commander , it hits like a sledge hammer, delivers more penetration than the .45 ACP or the 9MM, and is built like an anvil. They killed a lot of Nazi’s with them and they are cheep too. So what’s not to love? P.S I have collected 1911’s for over 30 years and have owned more than 50 of them. If you really want a 1911 “shorty” as a “carry gun” then stock up on the best magazines you can get your hands on as they are THE weak point in the 1911. Also you should take a basic maintenance class as you WILL have parts failure in a “shorty” , and wind up replacing parts if you shoot it much.

  6. Charles says:

    Why is she determined to get a 1911? There are plenty of tiny .45s that aren’t known for reliability problems.

  7. John Wisniewski says:

    STI. I owned and carried the Escort for a while, while I did not have thousands of rounds through it, it never malfunctioned.
    With a three inch barrel and an alloy officers frame, it made for one easy packing gun. It was in .45 but does come in other caliber options.

  8. Ken Rihanek says:

    I’d ditch the 3″ 1911 idea and go for a modern 3″ like the Springfield XDS 3.3″ in 45ACP.

  9. BFD says:

    I have three compact 1911 pistols from Armscor
    3.5″ barrel compact frame Citadel in 45acp (cit45csp)
    3.5″ barrel compact frame RIA in 9X19mm (CS tac 9mm)
    4″ barrel compact frame RIA in 45acp (custom)

    ALL are reliable with common HP ammo
    NONE require any special voodoo to make reliable, other than replacing recoil springs as needed and using quality magazines (cheap metalform work for all)

    I wear out springs in these, they really do get shot.
    The two 45s have had a few types of ammo they haven’t done well with, but all 3 feed mainstream HP ammo I can get in bulk.

  10. Jim22 says:

    I have owned at least seven full-sized 1911’s. Today I do not own one. They ranged from a surplus Remington-Rand pistol to a Colt Gold Cup. All fed ball ammunition pretty reliably. None fed HP well. They all needed gunsmithing.

    From all I have learned, the 1911’s become Less reliable when they are made smaller.

    I have become a convert to polymer-framed pistols entirely because of their reputation for reliablity. If your model wants a compact carry gun in .45 ACP I would suggest he/she try either a Glock 36 or a Springfield XD-S.

  11. Lyle says:

    I don’t know how long this person has been carrying, or if this is a first-time proposition, or what. That matters.

    I went through a progression. My first daily carry pistol was a teeny pocket pistol, a Beretta TomCat 32ACP. A nicely designed pistol, and reliable (once it got run-in). Once I’d done some penetration tests, it began to scare me due to its low power, so I graduated to a 45 ACP pocket pistol, an AMT Backup, which had a horrible trigger and tended to light strikes, and various cycling failures. All that time I’d had a large frame Glock, and so in disgust I decided to start carrying the Glock. I’ve been carrying a full sized service pistol ever since, and it works. I see no use for a reduced size pistol anymore, if there’s the slightest trade-off in perormance. You’re looking at a one or two inch difference in length there. Who cares? Stop over-thinking it, buy the one that fits your hands and that you like, in a major caliber, and go with it.

  12. SportPilot says:

    Let’s just say been there and done that and concur with the HD response. I will wholeheartedly recommend a SA XDs 45 3.3″ though instead.

  13. Sean says:

    I shot my stepbrothers Dan Wesson ECO .45 today. 100 rounds through an already dirty gun. Not really all that scientific a test, but it ran perfectly. Accurate as well. The first magazine of crap Wolf hardball all went into the same half dollar sized hole at 15 yrds. Impressive. But it should be for that kind of money.

  14. Annie says:

    I have twelve 1911s and my choices of “carry” are either 3″ or compact (3″ frame with 4″ bbl). I did experience feed issues when using hollow points, at first. (You’re taking a 100 year old design meant for round nose through a 5″ and shortening the frame while asking it to feed something flat…) The easy fix-all was a Wilson Combat magazine. The angle is different (whether the follower is concave or convex) and there’s less surface contact between the nose of the round and the feed ramp. With a convex follower, the round sits higher and is pretty much stripped off the mag right into the throat. Since switching out all the Kimber mags, Colt mags, and ACT mags for Wilsons, I’ve not had a reliability issue since. YMMV.

  15. Rick says:

    10 years ago I bought a used Kimber CDP Ultra 2 & have put around 2000 rounds through it. It’s still absolutely reliable and amazingly accurate with both hardball and SWC ammo. It hasn’t been my choice for CCW because of mag capacity, but I know I could depend on it.

  16. Will says:

    I have a couple of Colt Officers Model .45\’s. Steel and Lightweight. Bought new around \’88-\’90, back when Colt was having Union problems. The steel had a warrantee problem and went to one of their repair locations. They fixed the hood length problem and did an excellent job on the feeding/throat so it would feed hollowpoints. Flawless function for a couple thousand rounds until the recoil plug broke, and sent the recoil spring downrange. A replacement lasted 700 rounds. I bought a flanged plug, and filed the back of the dust cover to fit it. Have had to replace the ejector when it got loose, which was causing erratic ejection angles. Have replaced and tuned the extractor when I noticed it was loose fitting on the stop plate, and seemed to be losing it\’s tension.

    Made the mistake of fitting a beavertail grip safety to it. Not that helpful for my hands, and causes major problems with proper recoil grip if using a high thumb hold (thumb on safety). That style of hold is absolutely not compatible with the typical beavertail grip. Lifting your thumb like that pulls your palm away from the backstrap, which encourages the gun to twist in your grasp under recoil. The industry fix for this induced problem is lots of expensive parts and gunsmithing to try to get the gun to stop moving around. How stupid is that?

    Did the same work to the Lightweight gun, minus the beavertail. The steel gun has at least 12k through it, and the aluminum maybe half that. Both guns have been to multiple classes, and have never failed, other than the early problem of the bad design of Colt\’s recoil plug. The steel gun will feed empty cases.

    As one commenter has mentioned, good mags are a must. I have used OEM Colt mags, with follower kits by MagPak, which seems to have disappeared. It was a plastic follower, with a contour to fit the case, and a ball bearing inset where the extractor groove would sit. One of the peculiarities of this model is it will stovepipe the last round with a stock type follower. Needs a bump to keep the round in position due to the high velocity of the slide. (shorter the slide, therefore lighter, the faster it moves)

    Both guns have recoil buffers installed since day one. The original recoil plug would cut them up pretty quickly, but the flanged plug has the wide, flat area to hit the rubber with, and they last quite a while. No shredding, and do not detract from reliability. I change them when I replace the spring.

    Would I take a box stock 3.5 \

  17. Will says:

    Hmm, lost some of it:

    Would I take a box stock 3.5 ” 1911 and trust my life to it? Absolutely not. It needs to be proven to be reliable first. Bear in mind, that a 3″ will tend to be more sensitive to problems, since that slide will be moving even faster. Timing of the various movements gets more critical.

    Frankly, what I think would be better is a longer slide, and shorter grip. The grip length is typically the hardest thing to conceal, depending on the carry method. A Govt Model with the Officers grip might be more useful. Better ammo function, to start with.
    I’m a small person, and the barrel length of 3.5″ has not really been a factor, but even the short grip can be. I’ve been mulling making it shorter, but mags become the limiting factor. I’ve been told there is a Bobcat modification for the Officers, but still haven’t seen the parts.

  18. Josiah Kronz says:

    As much as I hate to say it, there are none. I have a $1300 3″ Kimber. It is obviously a very nicely manufactured gun. While it shoots very nicely, the reliability is simply not there. The smallest reliable 1911 platform is a CCO. That is a short Officer’s frame (shorter butt, makes concealment easier) with a Commander barrel and slide mounted on top (4.25″ barrel). Sorry.

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