Gun Tests November 2013 Look-Ahead: Commander Size 1911 Self-Defense Pistols


( — Gun Tests’ South Carolina test team recently obtained a trio of self-defense handguns in the popular Commander-size 1911 frame size to test: the 4.25-inch-barrel SIG Sauer Carry Stainless 1911CA-45-SSS 45 ACP, $1142; and the new Ruger SR1911CMD No. 6702 45 ACP, $829. The third gun was a 4-inch-barrel aluminum-frame Kimber Pro CDP.

Contributing Editor Bob Campbell said, “To keep the advantages of the 1911 design and to mitigate its shortcomings, many civilian carriers have adopted shorter and lighter 1911s of the Commander size. The original Colt Commander featured a barrel and slide ¾-inch shorter than the 5-inch Government Model. The Commander pistol also had an aluminum frame, making it lighter. Later, the steel-frame Combat Commander was introduced.”

”Some have stated that ¾ inch off the slide was pointless when the weight of the pistol was considered,” Campbell added. “We do not find this to be true for one specific reason: The shorter length is just right to prevent pinching the buttocks when seated. The shorter pistol is also faster from the holster, and though the short sight radius may limit absolute accuracy, the Commander lines up on target quickly at combat ranges.”

Gun Tests Editor Todd Woodard said, “Some shooters also worry about the physics in the Commander-size pistols leading to more malfunctions. And it is true that the compact 1911 pistols with 4.25-inch-or-shorter barrels develop increased slide velocity because the same cartridge working on a lighter slide speeds things up. Therefore, a heavier recoil spring is needed for the short pistol. Of course, there are still more variables in a short 1911 that only hands-on testing can reveal, as Bob’s article showed.”

SIG Sauer’s Carry Stainless featured a 4.25-inch barrel like the original Commander. The frame and slide were steel, which gives the pistol excellent balance. The SIG was heavier than most Commander-size steel frame pistols, possibly due to the slide design, and showed excellent fit and finish.

The controls were positive in operation, and the slide lock safety engaged with a positive click. The pistol was supplied with two eight-round magazines with basepads. The grips were well checkered, and the beavertail grip safety felt good to our testers. The mainspring housing and the front strap were checkered in efficient machine checkering at 25 lines per inch for the frontstrap and 20 lines per inch on the mainspring housing. If you have sensitive hands, custom-grade 30-lpi checkering may feel better, but for good adhesion with cold or sweaty hands, 25 lpi works great.

Ruger began an association with the 1911 with the introduction of the SR1911 Government Model-size pistol. Ruger fans — and they are legion — took to the pistol. The primary difference between the SR1911CMD and the original Ruger 1911 is barrel length. Like the SIG Carry Stainless, the CMD pistol features a 4.25-inch barrel with the original barrel-bushing design. The pistol was supplied with two mags and a bushing wrench.

While it may not be a true Commander because of its weight, the CMD is a short-barrel 1911 true to the original configuration. In this regard, the CMD might be regarded as a Combat Commander, Colt’s steel-frame variant. Colonel Jeff Cooper was of the opinion that the 1911 didn’t need much to be a first-class personal defense gun: A good trigger, good sights, and a speed safety were all that was needed. The Ruger arguably comes very close to that ideal.

The Kimber was also the most expensive pistol tested, so it’s no surprise that the CDP was well put together and showed attention to detail. This loaner had perhaps 7,500 rounds on the frame but only showed a bit of wear on the KimPro finish. The trigger originally broke at just over 4.5 pounds and had settled into a crisp and smooth 4.25-pound break. The stocks have been stained dark by perspiration.

The Kimber featured a stainless slide and low-mount sights with tritium inserts. The pistol featured the aforementioned ambidextrous safety. This was one of the better designs, smooth and snag free and positive in operation.

Gun Tests subscribers should receive their printed magazines around October 27. Subscribers with electronic access can also check to read about this matchup, Publisher Tim Cole said.


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