October 2003

Lightweight .45 ACP Commander Pistols: Colt’s Sets the Pace

The $950 Lightweight Commander was our pick. Kimberís Tactical Pro II, $1058, almost kept up, but High Standardís Crusader Combat Lightweight, $695, reminded us of the bad old days.

To produce a sidearm that is portable, the key is to reduce weight and size. Before the advent of durable plastics such as polymer, the only alternative was to fashion the frame from a metal alloy. Minimizing the weight of the barrel and slide is generally limited to making it shorter, which also makes the gun more concealable and easier to draw. A number of manufacturers have expanded their product lineup by adding smaller and smaller versions of full-sized models while leaving the basic design intact. One of the first variations in size that stayed true to the original design was the Colt 1911 Commander. This pistol first became available shortly after World War II. The primary variation from the Government model was a reduction in barrel length from 5 inches to 4.25 inches. This made the Commander more portable and easier to handle without reducing magazine capacity.

The subjects of this test not only have shorter barrels but also employ alloy frames further reducing their weights. Our three test guns were chosen because they represent different ways of getting the job done. Of the three pistols in this test the lightweight Colt model was the most direct descendent of the original Commander. Kimber’s Tactical Pro II was a radical variation with a shorter barrel set atop a full size 1911 frame. Our third test gun was the High Standard Crusader Combat Lightweight. This 1911 sells for much less than either the Colt or the Kimber, so we were hoping we had found an inexpensive downsized 1911. Here’s what we learned.

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