Help me pick a new carry gun


Headless Thompson Gunner
July 26, 2007, 12:06 AM
I currently have a full sized Dan Wesson 1911 that I love. Great gun to shoot, and a pretty good gun to carry. I haven't felt the need to buy any new handguns, 'cause this gun was everything I could ever want or need.

Well, I now have a new job that requires different clothing, and much greater vigilance against being made with the gun. So I need a more concealable carry gun. I'd like some input from the folks around here.

Here are my requirements:

I need a gun with a shorter grip than my gov. model 1911. I'm 6'3", 145lbs, built like a flagpole. I simply cannot risk the butt or rear sight making my shirt bulge out.

I need a lighter gun. I'll have to wear a lighter belt, one which probably won't be able to support the weight of a 40 oz all-steel 1911. I guestimate that 30 oz, more or less, would be doable. Less would be better.

I'd like to avoid the extra short 3" to 3.5" barreled guns, because I hear they tend to be less reliable. (Is this correct?) Long barrels/slides are easy for me to conceal.

I insist on a SA trigger mechanism. I would definitely prefer a 1911-type action, but I'd also consider any other SA guns.

It's been a while since I've given any thought to a new handgun, so I really don't know what's out there these days. I know there are all sorts of super timy 1911s available, but all the ones I've seen have had the super short barrels I don't like. I haven't seen any 1911s in the stores with 5" or 4"/4.25" slides and short aluminum frames.

Anyways... Your advice, please? What should I be looking at? What should I think about?


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July 26, 2007, 03:37 AM
I realize that this may not be very helpful, but I have been looking for a carry gun (possibly of the 1911 paradigm) and have found that it is nearly impossible for me to locate a 1911 with both a 4" barrel and a short frame. I would be looking for something like the SA EMP but with an extra inch on the barrel and in .45 ACP, but have found nothing in the past few days, both online and in the shops. If you are looking for the shorter grip frame, you may have to compromise on barrel length. Likewise, if you are looking for a longer barrel, you may need to settle for a full-size grip.

On the bright side, I know for a fact that many others are a bit more knowledgable in the area of pistols of the 1911 persuasion.

July 26, 2007, 03:40 AM
Since it sounds like you like a .45, P220 Compact SAO?
Caliber: .45ACP
Trigger Pull SA: 5.0 lbs
Overall Length: 7.79"
Overall Height: 5.00"
Overall Width: 1.50"
Barrel Length: 3.90"
Sight Radius: 6.30"
Sights SIGLIGHT:® Night Sights
Weight w/ Mag: 31.2oz
Mag Capacity: 6 Rounds
Grips: Polymer
Finish: Nitron®

If you open it up to DA or TDA guns, your options are plentiful. The USP Compact might work also - it can be carried C&L.

The Lone Haranguer
July 26, 2007, 05:23 AM
I don't see the CCO - a Commander slide/barrel on an aluminum Officer's ACP frame - on Colt's website. Pity. :( Maybe you could find a used one. In fact, there does seem to be a dearth of guns of this type. There is the Sigarms Revolution Compact (, but it is all steel and is skating on the brink of your weight limit. Also, I've had too much trouble with my Revolution Carry to fully recommend a Sigarms 1911, although the replacement gun - that's how bad the first one was - shows much promise.

July 26, 2007, 09:26 AM
One pistol you might want to check out that I think will fit your needs is KAHR. They have many different model and calibers including one chambered in 45. KAHR is known to be one of the smallest, lightest, easiest concealable pistol on the market.

Mat, not doormat
July 26, 2007, 10:04 AM
Colt CCO sounds like it would be about perfect, if you can find one. Or you might could slap one together out of parts, if you've got an officer frame and commander or government slide around.


July 26, 2007, 11:02 AM
It's shorter than you want, but I highly recommend the Springfield MicroCompact.

A friend of mine has one and it's been very reliable, both with 230gr. ball and the 117gr. Aguilas. Paradoxically, I think it's more controllable than my full sized M1911s. At least it feels that way.

If reliability is your only objection, I don't think it's an issue with that gun.

July 26, 2007, 03:10 PM
Since it sounds like you like a .45, P220 Compact SAO?

but then I'm a little biased...

July 26, 2007, 07:06 PM
How 'bout a Springfield Champion? It has the shorter grip and meets your length requirements. It's not a compact and has a great reputation. Or - pay $ 400.00 more and get basically the same thing with a Kimber Pro CDP II.

Light? Kahr P40. I'll reckon it's much thinner than that Sig (no 'dis to that Sig, it's a FINE handgun) and will print less. The quality of the Sig is beyond reproach, but the Kahr smaller and if you get a good one just as reliable.

If you are not against 'small', except for fear of reliability issues - consider the Ruger SP 101

July 26, 2007, 07:15 PM
My first thought was of the DW CBOB since you're already satisfied w/ that DW pistol. If you're looking for something w/ a shorter grip, I'd look at the Officer's sized pistols out there or maybe a Kahr 45

Headless Thompson Gunner
July 26, 2007, 07:42 PM
Thanks for all the help so far.

That SA Sig 220 looks promising. Thanks for pointing that out.

My girlfriend recently sold a Kahr K40. I thought long and hard about carrying that instead of buying a new gun, but in the end I just couldn't make myself like it. It was too small for me to hold comfortably, and I didn't like the DAO trigger. Kahr makes good guns, but they aren't for me.

I stopped by the local gunshop today. They had 2 Colt officer's model 1911s, one in stainless, one blued, $750 each. They looked like they would work well. Would one of those be a good buy? That shorter grip would be a huge improvement, but that 3.5" barrel gives me concern. I've heard that the short barrel guns tend to be less reliable, but is this really true?

What's the difference between an officers model and a CCO? Are the CCOs hard to find?

.44 magnuholic
July 26, 2007, 09:29 PM
If you do buy *any* compact 1911 from any company, make sure you take it to a qualified 1911 smith.

A fluff and buff job, polished feed ramp, etc will ensure it feeds all self defense ammo.

And yes, I am referring to Kimbers, Springfields, etc. Some may feed Corbon or Speer out of the box, but many do not.

I pretty much have a smith clean up any 1911 that I purchase (and I own 5 now)

I personally would be a Rock Island Compact 1911, get it cleaned up by a smith, and buy some reliable Chip Mc's or other quality mags.

July 26, 2007, 10:27 PM
How 'bout a Springfield Champion? It has the shorter grip and meets your length requirements.

While the Champion does have a 4" barrel, it does NOT have the short grip length as seen on the EMP, Ultra Compact or Micro Compact. The Champion's height is 5.5" while the others are 5".

July 26, 2007, 11:05 PM
Colt Lightweight Commander with bobtail modification. Lightweight. Slim. Awesome trigger. Full cap 1911 mags (8+1). Good ballistics with 4.25" barrel, nicely concealable and muy comfy in the hand with bobtail modifcation. Stone reliable. I just got my Colt LW Commander back from EGW where I had the bobtail mod, steel feedramp insert (good with those aggressive-mouthed JHP's), Novak night sights, EGW beefy bushing & plug, and carry bevel... mmmmmm mmmm, it's such a sweet carry gun. Pics at eleven....

July 26, 2007, 11:14 PM
You might consider one of Ken Null's SMZ shoulder rigs for the gun... I'm guessing you're wearing a collared shirt to this workplace, and the SMZ can go under your shirt. Slower to draw than some holsters, but it's pretty good at deep concealment. Throw it on and forget about it.

July 26, 2007, 11:44 PM

Using your criteria the S&W 1911 PD seems to be a good choice. It is a real 1911, with a 4.25" barrel and weighs in at 28 oz.

July 27, 2007, 08:39 AM
I really do not want to carry a pretty gun that will suffer the rigors of concealed carry. I would want to carry a reliable handgun that is small, light, accurate, and does not cost an arm and a leg. My answer is a Bersa Thunder 45; I would also buy a Bersa Thunder 380 for when I needed a smaller weapon. Buying both of these fine products will cost you less than a Springer 1911 Loaded. Regards, Richard:D

Bersa Thunder 45:
Bersa Thunder 380:

July 27, 2007, 10:01 PM
The SIG P220 will have the same problem as the 1911 with regard to the grip printing.

The "shorter barrel is less reliable" thing *probably* tends to mean "short barreled 1911". I've had two and both were jam-o-matics. Your mileage may vary; people on the swear their short slide 1911's work great.

Since discrete carry seems to be the new rule, try taking a look at the small polymer framed compacts, such as the Glock 26. One advantage of the G26 is you can use G19 mags...and there's a grip adapter for it (by A&G).

The main point here is to identify guns that are 4.75" or less in height (excluding sights). I suggest you look at a Glock 19 and use that as your rule of thumb. The G19 is 4.75" tall with the mag inserted (top of slide to bottom of mag). You should have no trouble hiding this gun. Anything shorter is a bonus. The advantage of the G26 (or equivalent) is added concealment.

Also, look at changing your holsters. Consider appendix carry. Also look at Thunderwear or Smart Carry.

Headless Thompson Gunner
July 27, 2007, 10:38 PM
I appreciate the info.

You're correct, when I meant to say that short barreled 1911s are reputed to be unreliable. I've no doubt that there are lots of other tiny guns that work just fine.

I handled a Glock 23 in the gun store the other day. Its grip was just about perfect - long enough to get my whole hand onto, short enough to conceal well. The grip length of the Officer's Model 1911s felt similarly "just right". The HK USP compact felt a smidge too long. Looking up the published heights of each of these models, it seems that your 4.75" guideline is absolutely right. I'll keep that in mind, thanks.

I insist on carrying on my right hip. I'll definitely need a new holster and probably a new belt too. But I'll carry my Kel Tec .380 before I resort to Thunderwear or other unconventional carry methods.

Any other pearls of wisdom from you folks?

July 28, 2007, 10:02 AM
If you have any available at your local gunshop, you might try to handle any of the Kahr lineup. The single stack metal and polymer Kahrs are just about perfect for IWB carry, IMO.

July 28, 2007, 10:18 AM
The Kahrs may carry well, but the triggers aren't in the same galaxy as a 1911 SA pull. Check out Dan Wesson's bobtail 1911's - they may have a Commander length and weight, and the bobbed grip frame helps avoid printing.

The CZ Rami 9mm is short and light (although fat, like a Glock), and it can be carried cocked and locked, for a nice SA pull.

July 28, 2007, 11:01 AM
If you can, do what you can to get your hands on the Sig 220 compact before making a decision (gun show or something maybe). They've really refined their compact .45 with this model. I'm impressed enough with them that it may replace my current carry gun. Also, FWIW, I had two of them and they went for less than the "2 Colt officer's model 1911s, one in stainless, one blued" you mentioned.


Headless Thompson Gunner
July 28, 2007, 01:18 PM
The CZ Rami can be carried cocked and locked? Hmm...

Can any of the other CZs be carried cocked and locked, or is it just the Rami?

July 30, 2007, 06:58 AM
My personal favorite is Smith & Wesson's M&P 40c. I bought mine last March and carry it all the time. Some of these guns had a problem with the magazine catch (mine included) but it is a simple fiix. You can even do it yourself in 5 minutes (no tools needed) and the part cost less than $3.00. Or just send it back to S&W. They pay shipping both ways. The problem likily has been resolved on the newer M&P's by now anyway. I've put 1000 plus rounds through my gun and except for the above mentioned bobble the gun is 100% reliable. It is my favorite gun that I own.

July 30, 2007, 12:26 PM
The magazine drop problem isn't a simple fix for many M&P's. Wear of the mag catch engagement surface occurs and sometimes in a few hundred rounds or sometimes in a thousand rounds or more, the surface wears and the mags strat dropping. Mine has been through 5 different mag catches, each "new and improved" according to S&W and my gun is back at S&W for the third time as of this writing for the mag drop problem. There are at least four factors which contribute to the M&P mag drop problem - 1) soft engagement surface of the mag catch which wears easily, 2) weak mag catch spring - just the slightest touch and the mag drops out, 3) mag body has too much "play" inside the mag well and shifting inside the mag well can bring the mag catch periliously close to release, 4) the mag catch thumb button is the most protruding part on the side of the gun and is too easily depressed.

FOr current status on the issue, spend some time at forum in the tech difficulties folder and you will see that the M&P design has a design flaw with the mag catch that can easily be a serious problem for any M&P buyer.

July 30, 2007, 09:09 PM
The shortest barrel I own in a 1911 is my Colt Commander at 4.25". I wont speak on your reliability concern over short barreled 1911s as I've never owned one. Keep in mind, however, that the .45 ACP is a low pressure cartridge. A .45 ACP out of a 3" or 3.5" barrel will limit your ammo selection to +P, lighter bullets, or both.

If a standard pressure 230 gr. .45 ACP reaches around 850 fps from a 5" barrel what can we expect from a 3.5" barrel? I would guess 650 to 700 fps.

I think .40 S&W is a better choice if you want a barrel of 3.5" or less.

July 30, 2007, 09:22 PM
.40 cal is definitely better when one is restricted to a shorty 3' or 3.5" barrel... as is 9mm. .45 acp loses too much velocity with the short barrels. And lighter bullets don't help... because when going from a 5" barrel to a 3" barrel, the lighter bullets lose velocity at a higher percentage than the 230 gr. does when fired from a short barrel.

Best ammo for 3" guns in .45 acp is CorBon PowRBall and DPX... or +P ammo. SPENDY! Next best choice would be 230 gr. FMJ - just go for good penetration and don't worry about expansion, cause it ain't going to happen with conventional .45 acp JHP with a 3" barrel. Better yet, stick to Government and Commander length 1911's or go to SIGs, Glocks, and HK's in .40 cal. and 9mm if you must have a short barrel.

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