GUNS Magazine The Lightweight 9mm 1911

The times have changed

For good reasons at the time, the 9mm was the last vacuum cleaner to gain popularity in 1911 for a long time. For most of the time, the reputation of the .45 as a combat stopper far surpassed the 9mm. People who bought 9mm wanted either double-action or double-stack capacity, which the 1911 didn’t offer.

And then there was the reliability factor. John Moses Browning designed the 1911 around the .45 ACP cartridge. The .38 Super, introduced in 1929, was developed for the 1911 pistol. Both worked well. The 9mm / 1911 combo was a mid-20th century concept built in hopes of a military contract, and the 9mm Luger ‘s significantly shorter overall length created cycling and feeding problems.

Over time, the 9mm became more and more popular. The ammunition was cheap and the recoil was mild – two big selling points. Advances in ammunition made the .45 better and the 9mm much better, closing the gap on the “stopping power” side. The shooters discovered that the heavy Government model made the kick of the 9mm ridiculously soft. In fact, it was instructors as accomplished as the late Tim Noe and, fortunately, Bonnie Young, who was still with us, chose Colt Commander 9mm to both wear and teach them. It turned out that the recoil was terribly easy on the 9mm versions of these guns, too, and many found this shorter weapon to be better balanced.

Perhaps most importantly, gunsmiths learned to tune the 1911 to run reliably with the short 9mm cartridge. At the turn of the 21st century, I was doing a Masters in IDPA Enhanced Service Pistol using a 9mm Colt Government Model tuned by Al Greco. In 2005, Dave Williams designed the Springfield Armory EMP – this Enhanced Micro Pistol was a 1911 that was scaled down specifically for the 9mm Luger and fed them wonderfully. It wasn’t long before Nighthawk Custom produced 9mm 1911s that worked thanks to the joint contribution of Shawn Armstrong and Bob Marvel. Recently, Bill Wilson designed the EDC 9 series, Wilson Combat’s updated version of the 1911 concept that combines 9mm Commander-like size with great build quality and higher capacity.

By 2019, I was told by the leading manufacturer of 1911, Bill Wilson, that they made more 9mm models of the 1911s than the .45s. The sound you hear may be Jeff Cooper rolling in his mausoleum, but that’s the taste of modern shoppers.

Oh, and the commander angle? Some 1911 aficionados are convinced that the 4.25 ″ Commander format runs the 9mm 1911 most reliably, as the 3/4 ″ shorter overall length makes the breech lighter and makes the 9mm’s weaker recoil pulse lighter. Keep in mind that the original Colt Commander was an aluminum-framed pistol and is easier to carry in that format.

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