By Virgil Caldwell
The 1911 handgun is an American icon, one recognized across the globe. John Moses Browning’s 1911 pistol platform is generally available in three frame sizes, the government model, commander model, and officer’s model, with a number of micro and long slide pieces out there as well.
The modern 9mm 1911 has become a popular handgun and the officer’s model is perhaps the best fit for the 9mm Luger cartridge. I recently obtained a decent, but affordable 1911 from K-Var Armory, the Citadel . The pistol has proven reliable, accurate enough, and fast handling which is all I can ask in a carry gun.
While the .45 ACP is the king of wound ballistics, the occasional shooter may have a difficult time dealing with the .45 in an officer size pistol. You’re missing something if you do not consider the 9mm 1911 platform. Today’s 9mm 1911 handguns are reliable and have all the best traits of the 1911, including a low bore axis that limits muzzle flip, a well-shaped grip that fits most hands well, and straight-to-the-rear trigger compression.
With the Citadel M1911 officer size 9mm you have a handgun that has proven to be the fastest to an accurate first shot of any pistol platform, and cambered in an even more controllable caliber. And while it isn’t a thousand dollar pistol it works every time I pull the trigger.
Manufactured in the same facility as the Rock Island Armory Armscor handguns in the Philippines, the Citadel has upgrades in finish and grips that make it more desirable.
The Citadel features good sights on the famous Novak Lo Mount pattern. A speed safety, a beavertail grip safety with memory pad, good fit and finish for the price, and checkered wooden grips are part of the package. Each sight is properly dovetailed in place and the rear sight is adjustable for windage. The cocking serrations are well executed.
The Citadel 9mm features a 3.5 inch belled barrel and a shortened grip frame with checkering on the backstrap below the grip safety. The belled barrel is necessary due to the different dynamics in the locked breech action of a short slide 1911.
The ejection port is lowered. The Parkerized black finish is eve a there were were no visible tool marks when the pistol was field stripped and final machine work looked good.
Slide to frame fit is good. The wooden grips are lightly checkered, adequate for adhesion, but not raspy.
The M1911 9mm ships a lockable hard plastic case with two magazines. The low bore axis limits muzzle flip, straight to the rear trigger compression offers good control, the grip frame fits most hands well, and speed to an accurate first shot is excellent.
The Citadel M1911 and its 9mm ammo are economical to obtain and easy to shoot. While the 9mm Luger operates at higher pressures than .45 ACP — as much as 30,000 psi compared to the .45’s 21,000 psi — the 9mm has less momentum. I didn’t expect any magazine or ammo-related problems as the pistol is supplied with two Metalform magazines and I didn’t experience any.
In size the Citadel officer model is reminiscent of the SIG P 225 and is smaller than the GLOCK 19 (though the all-steel Citadel isn’t lighter). Like many shooter’s I’m a fan of steel handguns and in this case, the weight penalty isn’t severe. The Citadel weighs 32 ounces. That means felt recoil is less than practically any other 9mm in its size class.
In testing the Citadel compact M1911, the abbreviated grip length didn’t preclude obtaining a full firing hold on the pistol. The trigger span and circumference of the 1911 grip remains the same with the short frame.
The long bearing surfaces were well lubricated out of the box and magazines loaded smoothly.
A word on magazines and capacity — there are high capacity magazine handguns available by the dozen and these handguns offer a bigger reserve of ammunition. The 9mm may demand rapid follow-up shots before the assailant is incapacitated. But so may a bigger bore.
A compact pistol with a thinner grip like the officer M1911 is generally easier to conceal and also easier to control and handle. A relatively limited magazine capacity is a tradeoff I’m willing to make for a handgun that’s fast and accurate.
Nine rounds isn’t exactly a low capacity handgun and the officer-sized 9mm Citadel 1911 is perhaps the easiest shooting “slimline 9” you will ever holster. The single action only adjustable trigger is 1911-crisp and light at 4.5 pounds. I would set the trigger for travel and then Loctite the screw in place.
I have test fired the Citadel M1911 with a variety of loads. The sights are properly regulated for 115 to 124 grain loads. The pistol effortlessly ran through over six hundred rounds without a single failure to feed, chamber, fire or eject. There were no break-in period malfunctions and no problems.
The pistol was loaded with Winchester Forged 9mm FMJ loads. These are clean burning, reliable and accurate enough for meaningful practice. In the final session my opinions were born out.
The Citadel 9mm compact pistol is easy to use well. Recoil is not a consideration. To repeat, the pistol weighs a solid 32 ounces nearly as much as full size service pistols. As such the steel frame absorbs momentum. The low bore axis also limits muzzle flip. Trigger compression is controllable and while there is some take-up but no discernible creep or backlash- this is a good trigger action in an economy handgun.
The pistol came out of the Galco holster smoothly and lined up on target easily. First shot hits were obtained quickly firing at man-sized targets at self-defense distances (5, 7 and 10 yards). Rapid follow-up shots were accurate.
When practicing speed loads, the magazine release was tight, maintaining good contact with the magazine, but easily manipulated to quickly drop the empty magazine. The slide stop functioned properly. Novak style sights offer an excellent sight picture. All who fired this compact semi-automatic single action handgun commented on the efficiency of the sights.
As for personal defense loads, I prefer the 9mm +P. Winchester offers a 124 grain PDX +P with a good balance of expansion and penetration. I don’t like trick loads or unknown reliability for serious business. Winchester has been producing military and police loads for over one hundred years.
This load breaks 1190 fps from the Citadel’s 3.5 inch barrel length. Shot placement is most important, but these Winchester expanding bullet loads make the most of the caliber. I have bench rested the Citadel 9mm on several occasions, with good results.
Here are a few results from the range at 15 yards, 5 shot groups:
Winchester Forged, 1166 fps, 2.0 inches
Winchester 115 grain Silvertip, 1159 fps, 1.5 inches
Winchester 147 gr. PDX, 940 fps, 1.2 inches
Winchester 147 gr. Defender, 960 fps, 1.3 inches
Winchester 124 grain PDX +P, 1189 fps, 1.4 inches
The Citadel M1911 in 9mm is an ideal concealed carry handgun. An inside the waistband holster such as the Galco Summer Comfort features a dual belt loop and excellent molding. The Citadel 9mm is well worth your time and effort to investigate.
Specifications: Citadel M1911 Government
Caliber: 9mm (.45 ACP model available)
Finish: Black Parkerized
Barrel Length: 3.5″
Overall Length: 7.5″
Weight: 33.6 oz.
MSRP: $599 (street price about $400)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style and appearance: * * *
The 1911 design is inherently attractive. The Citadel is credible, but pretty it isn’t.
Reliability: * * * * *
It fed, fired and ejected every bullet type from subsonic loads to +P.
Accuracy: * * * * 1/2
Compared to other compact 1911 9mm pistols it’s in the same range for accuracy, but much better than others with a real advantage in accuracy for the first shot.
Overall: * * * *
It may fall a little short in an IDPA match, but for concealed carry and home defense the affordable Citadel M1911 9mm is a strong choice.