A compact 1911 9mm is actually an ideal carry gun. You get a timeless, classic design with a wealth of aftermarket accessories, parts and support. You get the excellent ergonomics, accuracy and shooting characteristics that the semi-auto 1911 platform is known for, but with tamer recoil and the increased capacity of the 9mm round.
Let’s say a person wanted to switch to a compact 1911 9mm pistol for daily carry. There are a wealth of options out there, but here are seven such self-defense guns well worth the look.
Granted, there are many more out there. If you feel there’s a different model that you own or think is worth picking up, sound off in the comments! If you feel like trolling, sound off in the comments too! If sometimes you feel like a nut, grab an Almond Joy and sound off in the comments. If you don’t, Mounds are disgusting.
First is, well, the first. The Colt Lightweight Commander. Back in the day, the US Army wanted a lighter, more compact sidearm for officers so Colt chopped the full size Government frame and – a couple of years later – offered a model with an aluminum alloy frame for easier packing. Unloaded weight is less than 30 oz, which was outstanding for the day.
Barrel length is reduced to 4.25 inches and overall length to 7.75 inches. The modern iteration adds Novak rear sights, upswept beavertail grip safety, skeletonized hammer and trigger and a tactical manual safety for easier operation.
G10 panels adorn the grips, but it goes for the rather princely sum of $999 MSRP. (More like $900 in stores.) That’s a tad steep, but the LWC is one of the better production guns Colt makes, as they polish up the Series 80 trigger a bit for this gun.
If you’re not a prancing pony fan, Springfield Armory offers a few excellent compact 1911 9mm pistols, too.
The EMP series of compact 1911 pistols are sized for the 9mm round instead of .45 ACP. You can choose the standard EMP (with a 3-in barrel) or one of two 4-in barrel models, one standard and one – the Concealed Carry Contour model – with a bobbed mainspring housing. All models carry 9+1 of 9mm.
The EMP has a slightly shorter action and ever-so-slightly shorter grip from front to back. All three models feature combat rear Novak ramp sights and a fiber optic front sight, as well as beavertail grip safeties, ambi safety levers, skeletonized hammers and triggers and other improvements. However, the EMP series will cost you; the cheapest model starts at $1,104 MSRP.
If that’s a bit too steep, they also make the Range Officer Compact,. It’s basically a CCO model (officer frame, commander slide and barrel) with a 5-in grip and 4-in barrel. The ROC has all the same improvements of the EMP series, but ditches the ambi safeties in lieu of a left-side-only thumb safety. You lose one round of capacity, but that’s fixable with aftermarket magazines. MSRP is $924, but ROCs can be found in stores for closer to $750 without too much issue.
Let’s say, however, that you don’t mind spending a bit of cash. Short of buying a Wilson Combat, Ed Brown or Les Baer ($3000+) the go-to is, without doubt, Dan Wesson. Dan Wesson 1911 pistols are second-to-none in terms of quality, as they get upward of 90 percent of the same work that goes into the aforementioned custom guns at half (or less) the price.
Dan Wesson makes multiple compact 1911 9mm pistols. The “entry level” models would be the Vigil Commander. The Vigil series are simple but elegant, with combat sights (steel rear, night sight front) with skeleton hammers and triggers, beavertail grip safeties and 25 lpi checkering on the front and rear of the grip.
Gorgeous wood panels adorn the grips, and a left-side tactical safety completes the controls. The heel of the grip is gently rounded for easier concealment. While the price is steep at $1298 MSRP, other makers are – I promise you – charging you extra for the name on the slide. With DW pistols, you’re paying for the work and if you ever handle or shoot one, you WILL notice the difference.
If you prefer something along the lines of a sub-compact, Colt still makes an Officer frame, the Colt Defender, which replaced the New Agent as the officer frame in the lineup.
A 3-inch barrel and shortened slide brings overall length to a compact 6.75 inches, and the grip is shortened to 5 inches. Capacity is reduced to 8+1, which isn’t stellar, but the specs are in line with other single-stack 9mm subcompacts. You also get Novak sights, beavertail grip safety, and skeleton hammer and trigger. MSRP is a tad steep at $1,000.
However, if the Colt isn’t what your’e looking for, Smith & Wesson happens to make a dynamite Officer frame in the Performance Center SW1911 Pro Series 9mm. It features much of the same goodies as the Colt (specs are broadly the same) but comes in a black finish rather than blued.
The Performance Center also rounds the heel of the grip, adds a full-length guide rod, an oversized external extractor and ambi safety levers. The price tag climbs to $1,330 but closer to $1100 is more like it in-store…and having shot one, I would pay for it over the Colt.
But let’s say you wanted a budget model. After all, most of these guns are on the expensive side and there’s nothing wrong with a working-class gun.
Rock Island Armory makes some of the best budget guns in the 1911 family (they make pretty good ammo too!) and their compact 9mm model is the TAC Ultra CS in 9mm. It’s an Officer frame with a 3.5-in barrel, with a fully railed dust cover for mounting a laser or light.
A Series 70 firing system ensures a crisp trigger pull, with a skeletonized K-style bar trigger and skeletonized hammer, upswept beavertail safety with a fiber optic front sight and combat rear ramp. G10 grips adorn the lower frame, and all for $786 MSRP…kinda hard to beat.