My new 3" 1911 keyholes


May 31, 2004, 09:55 PM
Hi. My new Springfield Armory Micro Compact Bi-tone is one handsome pistol, and it's incredibly accurate, considering the smallish grip and short barrel/sight radius. Unfortunately, my targets are showing definite keyholing, not nice round holes, with two different brands of 230gr. hardball. I used to have the same problem with a 2" snubbie revolver. I only have about 100 rounds through this guy so far, but I don't think this is a break-in factor. Am I stuck with keyholes, or is there a solution?


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Quintin Likely
May 31, 2004, 10:14 PM
Maybe the 3" barrel is too short to provide the velocity or spin to stabilize a 230 grain bullet? :confused:

Old Fuff
May 31, 2004, 11:14 PM
No, I don't think it's a break-in sort of thing. Keyholed shots usually indicate a problem with the barrel. You could try some other kind of ammunition (other then ball) to see if it made any difference, and if you know any muzzle-loading shooters you might bum a .454" round ball and slug the barrel. It should measure .451-.452 inches. I suspect that if you return the gun to the maker, along with a sample target, they'll replace the barrel.

James Bondrock
May 31, 2004, 11:50 PM
I would first be sure the bullets are truly keyholing by firing them into a stiff piece of white paper, e.g., construction paper or thin cardboard. The flimsy paper on most paper targets tends to tear and might give a false impression of keyholing. If they are, send the gun back to the factory and have them take a look at the barrel. Although only about two inches of the barrel is actual rifled bore, this should still stabilize the bullet. The barrel may have been mismanufactured with improperly cut rifling, excessive bore size, etc.

George Hill
June 1, 2004, 01:26 AM
Does it really matter if a 3 inch .45 is making keyholes?

Just wondering out loud... considering it's a belly gun and .45 is a nice size hole anyway. Maybe the barrel isnt' stabilizing the round well, but then again this isn't a 100 yard target rifle, is it?

The only concern that I see would be if those key holes are where you wanted them to be or not.

Now, if this was a 4 inch Commander or something, then that would be different. I guess. Then again, my wife's old V-10 didn't key hole.

Is it doing this was different ammo or just that old box of loose rounds you had in the back of the sock drawer? Try some different ammo with different weights. If this wont go away with a different brand of ammo, give Springfield a call.

June 1, 2004, 05:59 AM
Hard to imagine that a pistol could keyhole and be accurate too....I
agree with Bondrock. Be sure that it's keyholing first.

Standin' by...


June 1, 2004, 06:06 AM
If you're using it for close in defense (which the 3" is only suitable for that purpose) keyholing and still maintaining reasonable accuracy should serve your purpose. Just imagine the bullet keyholes as it enters flesh......the tumbling effect will make hollowpoint expansion meaningless.

June 1, 2004, 06:29 AM
I dunno, the velocity out of a 3" barrel isnt go to be real great. I dont think going in sideways is gonna help penetration too much even if it is accurate enough.

June 1, 2004, 01:19 PM
I can attest to the fact that the gun in question is both accurate and appears to be keyholing at 7yds. I just happen to have lots of .45 ACP ammo that I won't be using with my current gun. You are welcome to it. As you would expect, I have a large selection of brands, wts., and configuations. Steve

June 1, 2004, 02:10 PM
The only question I ahve is what kind of ammo are you putting through it.

I've run into a number of people getting keyholing in 45acp with using copper plated lead reloads if they put too much of a crimp on it.

June 1, 2004, 02:39 PM
I am not getting any key holes with my 3 inch Kimber Ultra Carry II. If it were my gun having this problem it would be going back to the Mfg. real quick.

June 1, 2004, 04:55 PM
This pistol held shots inside a 2 1/2 inch circle at 50 feet, held in a Weaver stance/grip, if I did my part. As the esteemed "fedlaw" attested, it is both accurate and it keyholes. Nothing severe, mind you- it's not like the bullets strike the target sideways! I do plan to try shooting at paper plates to see if the problem is apparent in a thicker medium, as suggested. Thanks for all of your input. It sure is a nice pistol, though!


June 1, 2004, 10:32 PM
My Colt Defender is accurate and does not keyhole. The barrel in yours must have a severe flaw - I would get it fixed immediately.

June 1, 2004, 10:44 PM
The targets are tearing. Try shooting a target mounted on something solid. I'll bet it goes away.

June 2, 2004, 03:50 AM
Try shooting at cardboard. If it keyholes then you have a problem.

June 2, 2004, 10:28 AM
if it's accurate and reliable, i don't really see the problem... sounds like it can put roughly .45" holes in a badguy pretty much wherever you want them at any likely engagement distance. so what if they aren't perfect circles?

can a barrel that short push a hollow point fast enough to expand?

June 2, 2004, 11:49 AM
I disagree with the earlier statement that a 3" barrel is only good for "close-in" work.

I carry a Defender as a backup to a 5" when on-duty. I shoot the same qualification course with each weapon. The 3" accuracy is only slightly less than the full size. 25 yd C.O.M. shots are consistent, as are the 15 and 7 yard failure drills.

Load the 3" with 180 grain ammo to help keep the velocity up, and the targets look just about the same as the ones shot with the 5".

June 2, 2004, 02:46 PM
Hey, thanks everyone. I put another 100 through her today. Not a hiccup and, with targets firmly attached to a thick cardboard backing, perfectly round holes. Y'all are great. So's my 1911.


George Hill
June 2, 2004, 07:02 PM
"I disagree with the earlier statement that a 3" barrel is only good for "close-in" work. "

Well, if we were talking about revolver barrels, I'd agree with you. But ottermatics are measured differently. A 3 inch auto is definitely a Snub Nose kinda gun... at least in my book they are. To me, the ideal is closer to a 4 inch barrel... which would be about the same as a revolver's 3 inch barrel.

I know snubs can be very accurate - I out shot my entire police academy class with a 2 inch Model 10 S&W in the qual course. But I would really have rather done this with a longer sight radius.
Other guns are better suited for longer range work and snubs are intended for close in social work. That's just what they are for.... a 3 inch auto is the same way.

June 2, 2004, 08:24 PM
After always shooting five inch 1911s for over 30 years I now have a five inch a four inch and the three inch Kimber 1911s. The five inch is the eazyest to shoot nice groups with but both the four and three with care can also shoot very nice groups. I will always use the three inch for close defence this is really what it was designed for.

June 3, 2004, 04:58 PM
when I first shop my Wilson SDS (4" barrel) with S&B hard ball it would tear the targets and had me wondering if mine was keyholing too. I didn't have any thicker targets to try, but when I loaded Winchester Silver tip JHP rounds they cuts nice round circles in the target, almost like wadcutters. Try a hollow point or jacket type semi-wad cutter ammo and then see what it shows on the target.

my new Kimber Ultra TLE 3" .45 should be arriving any day now. I'll be field testing it ASAP and I'll let you know how it shoots.

M2 Carbine
June 3, 2004, 10:58 PM
No, a 3 inch barrel should not be keyholing.
First thing I'd try some different ammo.

I don't agree a three inch barrel (or a two inch barrel) is only good for close in work..

The short barrels make the guns easier to carry but shouldn't be a problem hitting anything within pistol range that can be hit with a 4 or 5 inch barrel.

8x11 inch paper

Texas CHL target (standing, two hands)

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