Steel 1911: 4.25" versus 5"?


September 26, 2006, 06:20 PM
I am contemplating the purchase of a 1911 in .45 ACP. While I have shot a 5" model a number of times, I have little experience with the 4.25" barrel length.

Does the additional 3/4" make that much difference in shootability due to the longer sight radius and additional barrel weight?

Does the additional 3/4" make the gun a more effective stopper because of velocity gains and bullets designed to perform optimally at that velocity?


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Double Naught Spy
September 26, 2006, 06:27 PM
Yes on all accounts.

Actually on barrel weight, the issue is muzzle weight. You have less muzzle rise with the longer gun.

As for velocity, it isn't much difference, maybe only 75 fps or so, but there is velocity loss in going to the shorter barrel.

September 26, 2006, 09:18 PM
Double Naught is right on, but don't let that stop you. If you like the commander, it is still a fine pistol with ample power and good accuracy. It just fills a slightly different niche than the 5".

September 26, 2006, 09:26 PM
There is a difference in the feel of the two when fired back to back. After a little gettin' used to, the shorter gun's sharper recoil won't be nearly as noticeable. Velocity loss...Some. I wouldn't say 75 fps least not in my chronographing experience. More like 35 on average, all else being equal. Of course, you can get that much variation between two outwardly identical guns, too. I've seen 4-inch revolvers match and occasionally exceed the velocities from 6-inchers with a given ammo lot.

September 26, 2006, 10:56 PM
Probably the biggest difference is sight radius. Initially, I though 0.5" would not make any difference between my Ruger and my PT92. Well, it does make a difference, a noticeable one.

September 26, 2006, 11:14 PM
Tuner is right on the money in my experience.

FWIW, shooting my steel Commander after not shooting it in a while is surprising. The recoil is sharper and faster than a 5" alloy frame gun and much sharper and faster than a 5" steel gun. Doesn't mean I can't shoot it as well as a 5" gun, it just feels different is all. I don't notice the sight radius difference at all under 20 yards, and it really doesn't make a difference if I make a quality shot.

For competition or defensive use, I like the sharp and fast recoil. I can shoot faster with just as much accuracy with a sharp and fast gun up to a point. A G22 with heavy loads is about as sharp and fast as I can control in high speed shooting, and it will give me a real workout!!

September 26, 2006, 11:21 PM
I like the Commander length 1911, but prefer the full size (5"). It feels more stable when shooting and pointing - it's hard to explain, but the 5" gun has a feel to it that the 4.25" guns don't.

That having been said, I would not hesitate to bet my life on a quality Commander length 1911. The Colt lightweight Commander was Jeff Cooper's favorite carry 1911, from what I have read.

Either way, you can't go wrong.

Chuck R.
September 26, 2006, 11:51 PM
Iíve got a couple 5Ē 1911s and a Baer Stinger 4.25Ē barrel on an Officers frame.

The only difference Iíve seen shooting the exact same course of fire, same ammo, timed is that Iím slightly slower with the Stinger.

The difference in sight radius doesnít bother me in the least. The Stinger does recoil differently, itís not bad, and itís slightly less controllable, itís as the others said itís ďsharperĒ.

Iíve read from several ballistic articles that the delta for velocity for a high power rifle is somewhere between 30 FPS per inch. This article claims around 30-48 FPS per two-inch change in barrel length. So it reasons that the difference between a 5 and 4.25Ē .45ACP is pretty slight.


September 26, 2006, 11:57 PM
If all you're going to use it as is a paper puncher or a house gun get the Government Model , if you are considering carrying it once in awhile get the Commander that small amount of difference in size can make a world of difference carrying the gun especialy when sitting down .

September 27, 2006, 12:09 AM
The Commander length gun will draw very slightly faster, I think. I certainly notice the difference drawing a G19 vs. a G17, for example, and from a CZ-75 to a subcompact CZ. If the gun is not used for carry, I see no reason to deviate from a standard 5" barrel - most reliable of the sizes and least hard on your hands and eyes, as others have said.

September 27, 2006, 11:25 AM
For some reason the 3/4 inch shorter sight plane on the Commander, for me, results in a better shooting gun. The difference in felt recoil is negligible.

September 27, 2006, 01:06 PM
Thanks everyone.

September 27, 2006, 01:15 PM
The angle of the barrel. When the barrel unlocks during recoil, all else being equal, the shorter the slide and barrel, the steeper the angle required to unlock. This is important because it messes with the point of aim.

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