Tuesday, August 17, 2010


     Discussions of the 1911 pistol usually revolve around the standard, full-size, 5" barrel "Government" model. With good reason. It is the original configuration for the gun, and is arguably its simplest and most reliable platform.
   The introduction of the aluminum framed Commander model, followed by its steel Combat cousin, got people thinking.
     Mainly, "Hmmm. I can have my 1911 and carry it too." (I know, people carry full-size 1911's every day. But it's a lot of gun, and not everybody wants that much size and weight).
     Then the Officer's model came out, and it was downright little. A shorter frame and grip, and a 3 1/2" barrel. Some people loved it, and still do. Some people noticed reliability problems with the shorter slide and barrel that weren't as prevalent with the longer barrels of the Commander and Government models.
     So now what?
     The grip's the part that that sticks out, so let's keep it short - how about we keep the Officer's frame, and then stick the shortest reliable barrel and slide on it - the Commander's. Voila, the CCO was born.
     "CCO" is an abbreviation for "Concealed Carry Officer". I always thought that was a misleading name. It implies that the base gun is an Officer model that has been optimized for carry. How, by making the slide longer? The 4 1/2" barrel and slide are there for maximum JMB design-spec functionality. The carry-friendly aspect is the shortened Officer-style grip. So by rights, it should be a Concealed Carry Commander, or "CCC".
     Anyway, this is as good a time as any to make a point: everything I've described up to now has referred to models of Colt pistols. We're not talking feverish wartime production, so no Remington Rands or Ithica's, and Kimber, Wilson Combat and all the custom and production/custom shops have not yet exploded across the landscape.
     So what? Well, most of what follows will refer to the CCO form factor, and I have no doubt that someone out there will protest that I can't refer to my Springfield Armory gun as a "CCO", as it "refers strictly to a specific model of Colt pistol" (insert haughty tone here). Well, guess what, my friend, so does "1911" (*Update: I'm wrong). And "1911" has officially become the "Kleenex" of the pistol world. Published gunwriters, and other people with lawyers attached to them, may refer to "1911-style" pistols, but most normal people will look at a Les Baer and say, "Hey, nice 1911". So with all due respect to the Prancing Pony People, a gun by any manufacturer with a 4 to 4 1/2" barrel on an Officer's-size frame is basically a CCO. Sorry. Have a drink. It'll be OK.

     When I first heard about the concept of a CCO, I was immediately interested. I had a Government model 1911, and loved it. Big. Heavy. Steel and walnut. Carry? I didn't think so. I was new to carry anyway, and was looking for the best of all possible worlds, and the CCO looked like a perfect solution.
     So here I am at the gun show, with a few hundred dollars in my pocket, and a roving eye. What I was actually hunting for was a S&W 625 in .45 ACP with no lock and in the half-lug Mountain Gun configuration. For a good price. Yeah, I know. Good luck, Charlie.
     So, striking out on that front, I began browsing. I passed on a very nice Model 28-2 for $400 (Stupid.Stupid.Stupid), then headed over to the bottom-feeders. At this point I was through tire-kicking and was just sightseeing. I figured I would look around a bit, stock up on bulk ammo with some of my money and go home.
     I skimmed over the new-in-box guns; I was looking for someone with a table full of old iron. "Used" to me means more interesting, and sometimes less expensive. I saw an old man with a motley assortment of pistols and revolvers. A 1911-shaped object caught my eye. It looked short - 4" barrel maybe. I asked if I could handle it. Whoa! Lightweight! The slide said Springfield Armory. Good. My other full-size was an SA GI model, and I was happy with it. Good steel, dimensions to standard spec; a good gun. The model on this one's slide was "Compact". Never heard of it before. Then I noticed the grip. Short. Officer-sized.
     "Interesting", I said aloud.
     In my mind: ("OMG!OMG!OMG!).
     "Do you mind?"
     "Go ahead".
     I checked for clear. Twice. Then gave her a good once over. No cracks, fairly good fitting, nothing obvious.
     "Trigger's a bit rough...".
     No shit, dude. Massive understatement. Ever toss a handful of gravel into a running blender? Of course not. That would be really stupid. Anyway, that's how this trigger felt.
     And here's where I made my mistake. Instead of insisting that he knock about $100 or more off the price to cover the cost of parts and a trigger job, I said, "No problem, I can fix that".
     Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
     I paid the cost of the gun plus the stupidity premium, and took it home.

     I disassembled the poor thing, and jeez, what the hell? The sear looked like it had been polished with a chainsaw, and the disconnector wasn't much better.
      How the hell does that happen? No, seriously, these are Internal Parts. Did the former owner say, "Hey Dave, I left my Dremel at home - how about we just run over these parts in the parking lot a few times?"
     Anyway, it explained the trigger pull.
     Fast forward. The new parts arrived from Brownell's, and I tried again. Much, much better. Time to go to the range.

     This is where I discovered the minor glitch in the "perfect solution/best of all possible worlds" concept. If you take a gun, make it smaller and lighter, and keep the ammo the same, guess what happens? Yep. I was used to the firm but genteel "push" of my all-steel Government model. I pulled the trigger on the CCO, and it said, "BARK!". I pulled the muzzle back down from the ceiling, and tried again. "BARK!"

    Well, OK then. I actually got used to it pretty quickly, but it was a prime example of TANSTAAFL in action.

     In fact, when the gun ran, it ran great. I had never used three-dot sights before, and didn't think I'd like them. Well, they worked pretty well. The barrel lockup on this gun was much better than my .gov, and resulted in a very rewarding level of accuracy. The fit to my hand and the weight - the overall feel of the gun, was perfect. But the damn thing wouldn't run consistently.
     As a courtesy to those of you who've made it this far with me, I'll spare you a rundown of the wierd little hitches and glitches that this gun has presented me with. I honestly think the next step is a trip to Springfield. Then maybe to George Smith at EGW for a steel feed ramp insert. And finally maybe to John Harrison with a case of his favorite hootch and a really, really pitiful letter.

     Because I want to carry this gun, dammit. It's just too perfect. But in the meantime I'll be at the gunshows. Sightseeing. Because you never know.

* It occurred to me later that "1911" and "1911-A1" are of course military model designations, rather than copyrighted private company model names. So not only was I wrong, but invalidated my own point, and was a smartass about it to boot. Lovely.


  1. I finally gave up on sub 4" 1911s due to reliability. I like the CCO concept but what I've settled on as perfect for carry is a "Bobtailed" Commander. Ed Brown introduced the concept I believe: using a customized mainspring housing, cut the corner of the grip starting at the back of the magwell. It removes the part of the grip that is most often the culprit for printing, yet still retains the ammo capacity of a full size gun.

    Once purely a custom feature, many manufacturers make a production bobtail now. Mine is a Dan Wesson, but Ed Brown and Wilson both offer production guns with bobbed tails.

    And, if you've already got a commander sized gun you really like, any good gunsmith can convert it for you. Ed Brown sells the mainspring housings, as well as a jig for cutting the frame.

  2. Joe,
    I've seen the bobtails, and like the idea, but most of them are too angular-looking for my tastes. I have seen some that have a more rounded look, and those are pretty slick.
    I have Smith & Alexander arched mainspring housing/magwells on both 1911's, and my thought was to round off and smooth the back corner of the MSH. This would create a rounded bobtail effect without involving any modification to the frame itself.
    The trick will be taking my time so that it doesn't look more WECSOG than neccesary.

    Thanks for visiting! I appreciate the comments.


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