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View Full Version : 1911 - full size vs. Commander


sterno
September 5, 2007, 12:03 PM
How much easier is it really to conceal a Commander sized 1911 than a full size one?

I'm a big guy (6'4", 275lbs.).

Subquestion -

I've heard that reliability in the compact 1911's can be sketchy. Is there any truth to this?

RickB
September 5, 2007, 12:22 PM
For a big person, the size of the gun won't be an issue. The big difference is in the weight. Hauling around 27 oz. plus ammo, versus 39 oz. plus ammo; that's the big advantage of the Commander. Shorter people might get some advantage from the shorter barrel as well, if the muzzle of the longer gun would rub things that it shouldn't rub, such as when seated. The shorter barrel would "clear leather" a bit faster than a 5" gun, too.

IanS
September 5, 2007, 12:25 PM
The shorter the slide the more it affects the timing of a pistol. Slide velocity is higher thus heavier recoil springs are used to try to compensate (16-18 lbs standard for 5" barrels and 18-20 lbs standard for Commander length). Shorter slide and heavier recoil spring also contributes to the recoil impulse to a sharper snappier recoil. They also tend to be harder on the gun its individual parts and more frequent spring changes are recommended.


See here why custom builders like Hilton Yam and Larry Vickers prefer the original design full size 5" barrel single stack 1911's over all others.
http://www.10-8performance.com/id8.html

First off, if you are truly serious about running a 1911, it needs to be a full sized 5" gun in .45 ACP. There certainly are any number of examples of Commander and other compact 1911s that work or can be made to work just fine, and for CCW use they can be a viable option for some users. However, take a look at the history of unit issue service 1911s – LAPD SWAT, USSOCOM, USMC Det-1, USMC MEUSOC, FBI HRT, FBI SWAT, and let’s not forget over 95 years with all the branches of the U.S. military - and you won't find ANY major units that use anything other than the original full sized gun. Why? After you field 50 or 350 guns at once and run thousands or even tens of thousands of rounds through them during training cycles, you'll figure it out. By virtue of their design, the shorter format 1911s reduce the window of functional opportunity for the magazine and slide to work together to feed, chamber, extract, and eject. This is an incontrovertible fact of life. Proper weapon setup, spring rates, and magazine maintenance are critical in running the shorter guns. Keeping after a few 1911s as a single hobbyist or aficionado is different than running a bunch of guns for a large unit. Remember that weapon down time equates to lost training and operational time. You want to minimize your maintenance issues, not increase them. Lastly, a full sized 1911 is very arguably a more efficient shooting and ballistic delivery platform than a smaller sized variant for the majority of users.


There are lots of people who own and shoot Commander and even shorter length 1911's "successfully" but we should discount those who claim they've shot a 1000 rounds without any problems. Statistically 5" 1911 tend to be better in the long run. I'm not trying to steer you away from Commander length guns if it fits your needs it may work out for you. But its good to be aware of possible issues initially or down the road based on what the experts have to say.

sholling
September 5, 2007, 03:10 PM
I think you'll find it's the full sized grip on either that's a challenge but the best way is a comfort check. Is the 5" barrel going to dig into you? Have you looked at any commander length 1911s with an officer sized grip? Then again with your size it may not matter.

As far as reliability I can't speak to the commander other than to say that I believe it's mainly been the 3" barrel 1911s that have had timing challenges. I have a 3" Ultra Carry and until it completed break in it had it's moments, especially with flaky magazines. Now it's dead reliable with Colt, Kimber, and McCormick magazines and even a couple of Chinese Colt knockoffs.

Frydaddy
September 5, 2007, 10:06 PM
I've carried both a FS and a commander sized 1911. I now carry the commander almost exclusively. The shorter barrel makes it easier to carry in my vehicle. The FS slide makes the gun either ride up higher on my belt or twists it back so it's harder to pull.

Russ

DGindlesperger
September 5, 2007, 11:58 PM
Commander to full size is not a big difference. handle is the same size, barrel a inch shorter. Officers model would make a difference as the whole gun is smaller. I love my 1911's and don't have feed issues with any. if fact i won't clean them unless i've put over 500 rounds through them :rolleyes:

The Tourist
September 6, 2007, 12:02 AM
I only found one difference.

I had the old "Jack-Ass" shoulder holster in the late 1970's. You probably know the rig as "The Miami Vice" model. Yikes, it was heavy. I had a full size, nickel-plated Series 70 in the holster and three loaded magazines in the right side pouches just to balance the load.

If I were ever to carry that rig, and of course, that would have been wrong, leaning forward would have "printed" the muzzle on the back of my jacket.

michael t
September 6, 2007, 12:59 AM
I have Govt, LTWCommander ,Combat Commander ,Officer, and Defender . I carry the Defender the most . As long as I stay with Colt in 3 1/2 and 3 " guns I have never had a problem . Other brands have not been as good.

AK103K
September 6, 2007, 04:29 AM
There are lots of people who own and shoot Commander and even shorter length 1911's "successfully" but we should discount those who claim they've shot a 1000 rounds without any problems. Statistically 5" 1911 tend to be better in the long run.
Over the years, I've owned a number of 1911's. The only ones I've ever had any issues with have been guns with less than Commander length barrels or had a name other than Colt on the slide. My Colt Commanders worked just like my Colt Government models, flawlessly. I've shot thousands and thousands of rounds out of the Commanders without any problems.

As far as the difference between the Government model and the Commander, its 3/4". Size wise, there is really little difference. Its more of a perception thing than anything else. Pick what feels the best to you.

Billy Sparks
September 6, 2007, 05:59 AM
I am close to 6' if not over and weigh 300 lbs. I prefer a Commander in a IWB, I find that a full 5" rubs me a little especially if I am going to spend a fair amount of time seated. As far as reliability, I have seen no difference in a full sized and a Commander. Also looking at what FBI, USMC, etc prefer IMHO is not really that usfull in that they are not trying to conceal the weapon but are generally wearing it either on a LBE vest or in a thigh holster.

GeorgeF
September 6, 2007, 09:20 AM
I cannot speak to concealability, but my experience with the Commander beat the crap out of my hands. I have an original in that Coltalloy - and for whatever reason it abuses my palm something fierce.

Has this been addressed in any way in more recent versions?

IanS
September 6, 2007, 10:53 AM
Over the years, I've owned a number of 1911's. The only ones I've ever had any issues with have been guns with less than Commander length barrels or had a name other than Colt on the slide. My Colt Commanders worked just like my Colt Government models, flawlessly. I've shot thousands and thousands of rounds out of the Commanders without any problems.



I'm not surprised by your statement and I dont' think it necessarily contradicts what Hilton Yam states in his website. There are lots of people who own Commanders and have had great luck with them. I believe Hilton Yam and LAV is speaking statistically based on the many Gov't, Commander, and Officers models that they have had to deal with.

Also looking at what FBI, USMC, etc prefer IMHO is not really that usfull in that they are not trying to conceal the weapon but are generally wearing it either on a LBE vest or in a thigh holster.

Their point wasn't concerned about concealability or comfort but that they believe, issuing Commander length 1911's to a large LEO org. can have more potential problems compared to an individual getting one for personal use. They simply believe statistically Gov't Model 1911's run better than Commander models NOT that Commander length models can't be reliable.

On a personal note, the only .45 load I like to shoot is standard pressure 230 grain loads and standard pressure 230 grain JHP's perform best out of 5" barrels. Many people who carry Commander length and shorter 1911's choose 185 +P to insure expansion. Its the classic .45 recoil impulse from a 1911 that got me into .45 ACP. If I wanted a pistol more carry friendly with snappier recoil I'd rather shoot 9mm +P or .40 S&W out of lighter smaller higher capacity guns like a Glock 19/23 or BHP MK III. But that's because I dont' believe there's that much difference between these pistol cartridges with good defense loads.

AK103K
September 6, 2007, 05:56 PM
I always carried the 230 grain Hydra Shoks in both my Commanders and Government models. I figured if it didnt expand, it wasnt any worse than 230 grain ball.

A few years back I quit carrying a 1911 altogether, after getting annoyed with the options available and Colt doing their thing. I hate buying something new, and then have to fiddle with it, even if its just to add sights or change out the trigger/MSH.

I switched to a SIG P220 in .45, and soon after, switched to a P226, and then a P229, both in 357SIG. I havent regretted the change. Every SIG I own has been totally reliable out of the box, something most of the "other" 1911's are not, and I have 13, basically 125 grain 357Mags in a gun about the same size as my Commander.

The original question was concealable between the Government and Commander. In reality, with proper dress, holster and belt, and attitude, you can carry just about any of the large frame guns with no troubles at all. I've done it daily for 30 some years now, most of that with 1911's.

Find the gun you shoot well with, regardless of size, and then find a way to carry it. Dont do it the other way around.

BigJimP
September 6, 2007, 06:15 PM
I'm 6'5" and 275 as well - and I doubt you'll see much difference. But being a bigger guy - means I have a little less room around my belt line than I would like as well and getting a holster to fit properly is tougher than a skinnier guy too / but my coats are a little longer and broader as well so it's probably a trade-off. Personally I like the 1911 in a full size and 5" barrel and I shoot them better than smaller frames. Depending on my mood - I carry a 5" Wilson CQB in .45 ACP / or a 5" Wilson Protector in 9mm / or even a Sig 226 all stainless in .40 S&W .

I like all 3 of them for shooting and for carry / and I practice with them alternately at the range most weeks. I'll agree with one of the other responders - carry what you shoot well - vs trying to shoot what you think you ought to carry. Smaller is easier to conceal - but something like the SIG 239 / or a 1911 with a 4" barrel just doesn't fit my hand very well and I don't shoot it very well. They are lighter guns, have smaller stocks etc but in every 2 or 3 rounds I yank one 6" out of the pattern .....so I stick with what I like/what I'm more comfortable with.

Socrates
September 6, 2007, 06:33 PM
How much easier is it really to conceal a Commander sized 1911 than a full size one?
I think a lot, due to the weight of the full size, and, I have one. You need a real heavy belt, like Dillon sells, to hang the holster on. The alloy Commander frames make a big difference.

I'm a big guy (6'4", 275lbs.).

Subquestion -

I've heard that reliability in the compact 1911's can be sketchy. Is there any truth to this?

Yes. The 3" models have to be tuned to tighter tolerances, and, as the springs wear down, things may fail. The only one I know of that that is NOT an issue is Detonics. Mine ran for 5 years, using heavy loads, and heavy springs, without a hiccup.

By the way, my gunsmith worked for Colt for 9 years, and knows more about Colt 1911's then Colt does, and, he's better and faster at tuning them then anyone I've ever watched.
Jack Huntington.

S

Esq.

orionengnr
September 6, 2007, 07:02 PM
I have owned at least a dozen 1911s in the last 25 years.
Two were 5", and I had serious trouble with one (Colt).
Two were 4" or 4 1/4", and I had trouble with neither.
The other eight (or more) were 3 or 3 1/2". I had minor trouble with two (extractor tuning or magazine issues) and major trouble with one (Springfield replaced the pistol after trying to fix it, no charge to me).

I prefer the 3" alloy framed 1911s, shoot them reasonably well and tend to actually carry them, unlike the larger/heavier 1911s which stay in the safe until I sell them. :rolleyes:

Of course, I'm a 50 y.o., 145 pound skinny old geek with a bad back, and carrying a 43 oz (plus ammo) steel 1911 works for me...about as well as carrying a cop on my back, complete with his Crown Vic :)

VirgilCaine
September 6, 2007, 07:05 PM
I carried a full size Remington Rand in the Army in a standard issue flap holster, a Bianchi high rise/w cant and also in what would be called a "jack-ass" system or rig. It was heavy, but I kinda liked the weight of it. I never had to worry all that much about complete concealment.

I now carry a Colt Commander everyday. Much better in terms of weight and fit to body. Carries like a dream ( I'm 6' 180lbs). I use a high noon IWB and a fobus mag carrier with a Gunner's Alley belt.

With your size, you might be fine with a full sized 1911. Is there anyone you know with a full size or commander that will let you wear it around the house all day?

Heck, man...tall blonde or short brunette, you really can't go wrong. :cool:

pistolet1
September 7, 2007, 09:11 PM
I'm not exactly what you would consider a "big guy" at 5'11", 189, but I prefer to carry the Commander over the Government, with the Officers Model coming in second place over the Combat Commander. I think I just like the feel and balance of the shorter and lighter guns over the full size model. And probably equally important in your decision should be finding a holster arrangement that you feel really comfortable with no matter what size 1911 you choose. As far as reliability goes, I've never had any concerns over that with any of my shorter barrel guns; they all work just fine.