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Some years ago I was teaching a Master Series pistol class for Jeff Cooper when the subject of small 1911 pistols came up. We had recently seen some cut down, sub- Commander size pistols in class and many of them did not function very well. Jeff concluded that the Commander (4” barrel) was about the optimum size for a 1911 and thought that trying to make pistols smaller created all sorts of problems with functioning.
Making 1911s tiny is a tricky proposition, something gunsmiths have been wrestling with since Armand Swenson cut down a full size 1911 to create the Bobcat back in the 1950s. The Bobcat went on to lay the groundwork for the Colt Commander and there have been all kinds of attempts, some successful and some not, at making 1911s smaller in the years that have followed.
These days we are fortunate that major pistol manufacturers seem to have figured out how to make little 1911s run and we have some excellent examples available from Springfield, Colt, Kimber and others. Most recently, I have had an opportunity to work with one of the newest of the breed from Smith & Wesson, the Pro Series 1911. This little pistol is about the size of a Colt Officer’s Model, with a 3” barrel and a slightly cut down grip accepting a 7 round magazine. It weighs just a bit over 22 ounces, making it a little more than two ounces lighter than my daily carry Colt Lightweight Commander. It is a lightweight compact package just perfect for concealed carry…and it shoots!
Not only does it shoot, it shoots extremely well. The sights are Novak style with three white dots and, to me anyway, they are dead on with 230gr. hardball ammunition. As a matter of fact, this little pistol meets my personal accuracy standard, that being that the pistol and I need to be able to work well enough together to make head shots at 25 yards. It is also surprisingly controllable in close range rapid fire; the kind of shooting you might need in a defensive situation.
So far I have run the little pistol with hardball and a couple of hollowpoints. Like just about every 1911 I have tested, it did not like Federal 185 gr JHP “flying ashtray” ammunition, which is too bad, since this is excellent defensive ammunition and I just happen to have a bit of it stashed away. On the other hand, the Pro Series did well with Remington 185 gr. hollowpoints, but where it really shines is with Federal 230 gr. Hydra-Shoks, shooting to exactly the same point of aim as hardball and being perfectly regulated with the sights. That settled the issue of carry ammunition!
Comparing the 3” Pro Series to a full size 5” barreled 1911, I discovered that the velocity loss when going to the shorter tube averages about 100-140 feet per second depending upon the load. My tests showed Black Hills 230 gr. FMJ coming out of the little pistol at an average of 784 fps, while the Hydra-Shok clocked 834 fps.
This is a nice little pistol. I like it and trust it well enough to have left the LW Commander at home and carried the Pro Series to work for several days so far. It’s an easily concealed pistol packing a serious wallop and I would not hesitate to recommend it as a suitable defensive carry pistol.
Ed is the operations manager at Gunsite. Ed retired as a Field Operations Supervisor with the US Border Patrol in 2001. In his 30 years of law enforcement experience he has served in a variety of patrol, investigative and training capacities and has been a federal and state certified firearms instructor for more than 25 years. Ed has been a Gunsite instructor since 1991 and a Rangemaster since 1997. He teaches Pistol, Carbine, Rifle, Shotgun and Specialty classes.