A great subcompact 1911 truly is a work of art. This is John Moses Browning’s Government model, the World War special, shrunk down to a convenient carry pistol.
That’s much harder than it sounds to make. Reliability was a major thorn in the side of the big guns, until just a few years ago.
Now everyone has cracked the code, kind of, and there’s a glut of these Officer size 1911s on the market.
But which one is best for your concealed carry handgun needs?
Here are our favorite subcompact 1911 pistols for sale in 2021.
1. Kimber Ultra Carry CDP
- Price: $1,099.99
- Caliber: .45 ACP Auto
- Barrel: 3 inch
- Total: 6.8 inch
- Weight: 1.6lb
Kimber’s full-size pistols are standard issue for some of the finest law enforcement and military teams in the world. And the small guns have a real passionate following in the wider world too.
This is a Kimber Custom gun, and that’s important. They’re simply better than the production line guns and get a little more attention in the construction phase. That reflects in the price tag, but it’s worth it.
You don’t have to go for this color combo and the Raptor is largely the same gun with those iconic feather print serrations.
But if you want the benchmark Kimber subcompact 1911, this is it. The Kimber Custom Defense Package, at this price, is enough to take the crown.
Serious Custom Shop Upgrades
A match-grade trigger, night sights and ambidextrous thumb safety all come as standard. There’s a rounded heel for a quick draw and even the edges on the gun are treated for a snag free finish and rapid personal defense.
The only complaint is the plastic flat mainspring housing, which owners have been known to throw in the trash and upgrade. Apart from that, this gun is all net.
The aluminum frame and steel slide cut valuable weight, even on this smaller Officer’s model. There are lighter guns here, but this is right in the sweet spot for most of us and it’s a proven winner that could become your new EDC.
Everything about the Kimber Ultra Carry CDP just fits. That’s resolved design, and that’s a near perfect concealed carry 1911.
2. Colt Defender
- Price: $1,019.99
- Caliber: 45 ACP Auto
- Barrel Length: 3 inch
- Total Length: 6.75 inch
- Weight: 1.5lb
- Capacity: 7+1
The Colt Defender is the poster child of the Officer size 1911 movement, and it remains right at the head of the pack.
Availability has been an issue in 2021, though, and the Kimber takes it right now on that criteria alone.
Make no mistake, Colt vs Kimber almost comes down to the flip of a coin. It’s that close. Kimber has packed a lot of custom work into a gun that goes against Colt’s production line fare. While Colt has the history and heritage on its side.
History of the Colt Defender
The Colt Defender hit the shelves in 2000, when Colt finally cured the reliability issues that went with chopping down a Government model 1911 first to 4 inches for the Commander, then to 3 for the Defender carry gun.
You can buy a sub-compact 9mm 1911 with slightly less impact, but one more bullet. Maybe that matters.
This is a Colt Series 80 with an internal passive firing pin safety, as well as the beavertail grip safety and the frame mounted thumb safety. That’s a lot of, ummm, safety, but then this gun can spend its days pointed at your family jewels.
Carry Pistols Are For Life With Colt
Novak-style rear sights in a dot sights set up make for a fast draw, while dual recoil springs help control this snappy little carry pistol.
A skeletonized hammer and trigger give an aggressive look and the blued finish should develop its own unique patina over the years you spend together.
It’s a great gun, and seriously it is one that could spend years by your side. For fans of the brand, nothing else will do. In your own way, you’re right. Buy yours now and you won’t regret it for a single second.
Upgrade to the Combat Elite?
We love the Colt Combat Elite range and if you can afford the $1,399, and you can find one, then do that.
That’s an awesome concealed carry gun you can show off to your friends. But the Combat Commander is the same price and you get more gun for your money.
It’s a weird lack of pricing structure that is confusing. A full-size Government model is the same price as the Colt Commander and Defender. That covers home defense too…
But personal defense doesn’t get prettier. Just look at that undercut trigger guard, and the trigger pull is just creamy.
You can technically choose from a vast range of Colt Defenders, Wiley Clapp editions and color combos. But most of them are sold out right now.
3. Dan Wesson Eco
- Price: $1,399.99
- Caliber: 45 ACP Auto
- Barrel length: 3.5 inch
- Total Length: 7.25 inch
- Capacity: 7+1
- Weight: 1.7lb
Dan Wesson makes some of the finest full-size 1911s on the market. So when it set its low profile rear sight on the concealed carry market, nobody was really surprised when the Dan Wesson Eco turned out to be a world beater.
Only the price really holds it back from a higher position on the list. The Dan Wesson Eco is competition spec and beyond every step of the way to create a reliable concealed carry handgun that is also controllable.
Custom 1911 Finishing Touches
The flush cut, bull barrel is pushing the bounds of a subcompact classification at 3.5 inches.
But the Dan Wesson Eco is simply so good that we wanted to include it. It is full of high-end 1911 tech at a price that compares pretty favorably with the designer Colts and Kimbers.
A flat recoil spring is just one of the technical innovations Dan Wesson has brought to the familiar looking silhouette of a classic 1911 Officer’s model.
You get a Cerakote finish, proper 25 LPI checkering on the flat mainspring housing, a variety of color options and one of the straightest shooting semi-auto, ultra compact carry 1911s in the firearms industry.
If you can afford to splash out on your concealed carry pistols, then you won’t regret buying the Dan Wesson Eco for a second.
4. S&W Performance Center SW1911 Pro
- Price: $999.99
- Caliber: .45 ACP Pistol
- Barrel: 3 inch
- Total Length: 6.9 inch
- Weight: 1.6lb
- Capacity: 7+1
The Smith & Wesson SW1911 has a fine reputation. But the Pro Series offers a number of upgrades and is billed as a bridge between the workhorse SW1911 and the full-on Smith & Wesson Performance Center handguns that cost way more.
Is the end result a fashion label gun from Smith & Wesson? Is it serious engineering that can take the fight to Colt and the Kimber Custom shop? Thankfully it’s more of the latter, and just a little of the former.
Smith & Wesson has gone after the base level Colt Defender and the full fat Kimber with a minimalist, younger design. The strong two-tone black and silver color scheme does turn this into a designer gun, and it has enough trick tech to back it up.
It’s suddenly a seriously compelling subcompact 1911 concealed carry that can mix it with the big combat handguns.
New Lightweight Alloy Frame Shaves Grams
The Smith & Wesson SW1911 comes off the production line before hand matching the scandium alloy frame and slide.
S&W has invested heavily in Scandium and the S&W 329PD is riding high in the 44 Magnum revolver charts thanks to this lightweight alloy. There are clear performance advantages over the old world steel frame, mainly weight and durability.
A full-length guide rod, external extractor and a flared and polished ejection port all promote smooth cycling. Those extra sticky grips, together with proper checkering on the back, ensure a firm grip when you need one.
Under the skin it’s a match-grade barrel and next-level components. It’s not quite a custom 1911, but it’s cherry picking the best of custom gunsmithing and mass manufacturing economies of scale. That’s good.
It does all this while looking ravishing, which counts a little bit in an EDC. Is this defensive handgun enough to drag you away from the top two? It just might be you know, and if not then the stellar owner reviews might make the difference.
5. Ruger SR1911 Officer Style
- Price: $869.99
- Barrel: 3.6″
- Total Length: 7.25″
- Weight: 1.94lb
- Capacity: 7+1 Rounds
Ruger could have simply settled for producing a competent 45 Cal Concealed Carry firearm for less than the competition.
That’s really the company motto: Do it well, for less.
But here Ruger has dared to stray close to the high cost, high spec class leaders with some innovation of its own. Mainly centered around shifting the balance to accommodate a substantially longer barrel.
It might not sound like a lot, but that extra 0.6 inch barrel length makes a world of difference to the accuracy, handling and repeatability. This is a big deal, and it’s mated to a triple spring recoil system.
This adds up to a real commitment to taming the kick of today’s 45 ACP ammo from a 3 inch barrel. That’s substantial, by the way.
Ruger Prettier Than The Colt? Yes…
Skeletonized details and a stunning pair of 1911 grips that set off the brushed stainless perfectly. This is a classy finish for this company.
You might want to upgrade the rear sight for something sexier and the front for fiber optic numbers. Maybe do the extended beavertail grip safety while you’ve got the gunsmithing tools out.
Do that and you’ve got a real contender here in a flat out beauty contest. We don’t often say that about a Ruger Government model 1911. Or the matte black 9mm pistols tbh.
Oversized Officers Model Works Better?
The Ruger SR1911 is a Series 70 1911 Officers model engineered to deal with the longer barrel. The end result is a slightly larger gun, which is an issue when it comes to concealed carry. If you can handle the added size, though, this is a more complete gun.
The Ruger SR1911 Officer Style at least offers something different. It’s a gun that sits between the standard Officer and Commander sizes. So it’s a subcompact handgun for people with fat hands.
Alternatively, it’s just a more comfortable EDC that gives you a proper grip, designer touches and mass manufacturing reliability. These are all good reasons to buy yours today.
6. Rock Island Armory M1911 GI Standard
- Price: $449.99
- Barrel: 3.25 inch
- Total: 7.25 inch
- Weight: 2.16lb
- Capacity: 7+1
Rock Island Armory is a sub-culture within gun culture these days. Yes, they’re cheap guns, but some people have pretty much every RIA. That’s not saving money…
Most people come for the cheap pistols, and now shotguns, and stick around for the amazing value for money. Yes these guns will never win any beauty pageants, but that’s part of the Rock Island appeal too.
What’s Wrong With Rock Island Armory Pistols?
The hammer and trigger aren’t skeletonized. Like not at all. The gun weighs more than 2lb as well, which is kind of laughable for a personal defense weapon. It’s no surprise this is a proper steel frame.
The wooden grips look like they got made in a prison woodwork shop and that black parkerized finish looks ready to rub into an antique patina on about day two.
And none of this matters.
RIA handguns tend to shoot straight, forever. Parts are cheap, you get a solid frame that will accept all the standard 1911 parts and accessories and a gun that just shoots with minimal fuss. The slightly longer barrel and sight radius does help you contain the 230gr hollow point ammo as well.
It’s also a total anti-fashion statement, and some people dig that with a personal defense handgun.
7. Sig Sauer Ultra-Compact 1911
- Price: $949.99
- Barrel: 3.3 inch
- Overall: 6.8 inch
- Weight: 1.8lb
- Capacity: 7+1
The Sig Sauer Ultra Compact carry is pretty much the sweet spot in terms of the length of the barrel, the overall length, and the all-important weight.
Is this semi-auto Sig Sauer Officer’s model the perfect 45 ACP concealed carry gun? Well others would stake a claim to that throne, and clearly have, but the single-action Sig Sauer is a great gun.
This is a shrunken 1911 and you don’t have to go for this signature look. The Sig Sauer Ultra Compact pistol has a stainless option we really like, and the Black Nitron finish is sexy too.
Sig Sauer doesn’t make cheap 1911s. It does make high-quality pistols with true attention to detail every step of the way. The Sig 1911 Ultra Compact pistol has followed in the family footsteps.
8. Magnum Research Desert Eagle 1911 Undercover
- Price: $949.99
- Barrel: 3 inch
- Total: 6.85 inch
- Weight: 1.61lb
- Capacity: 6+1
This is a seriously pretty gun from the folks who bought you the Desert Eagle.
This Magnum Research 1911 Undercover boasts a high-ride beavertail grip safety, flared mag well and properly flared and polished ejection port.
Not only that, the aluminum frame is machined from billet and the Officer’s model slide is carbon-infused steel.
Lessons Learned With Big Bore Pistols
Magnum Research learned valuable lessons with its iconic 50 Cal Desert Eagle. That and the even more insane 45-70 Government revolver that was the world’s most powerful production handgun for a time.
That engineering has trickled down to an underrated line of semi-auto 44 Magnums and compact pistols like this .45 1911 line.
The fit and finish is stunning, all the parts & accessories are top notch and this gun will look like jewelry next to anything this side of a Kimber Aegis. I mean you’ll need to dump the front sight and rear for fiber optics, but these are details.
It punches above its weight in every department, including the looks. it’s an officers model in every sense.
The single-stack magazine capacity could be better, but you effectively lose one round for a more compact carry handgun. It’s a trade plenty of people are willing to make.
9. ATI Firepower Xtreme Titan 1911
- Price: $379.99
- Barrel: 3.1 inch
- Total: 6.93 inch
- Weight: 2.21lb
- Capacity: 7+1
It’s way too cheap, it’s made in the Philippines and at first glance this ATI Firepower Xtreme Titan 1911 looks to be the kind of poorly thought out compact 45 ACP we’d tell people to avoid.
The thing is, though, the user reviews for these compact pistols are nothing short of euphoric. People that own this gun, love this gun. So who cares what some cynical before their time writers think?
Yes this semi-auto looks pretty cheap and the textured mahogany grips and matte Parkerized finish are very much in the mold of RIA. This is basic stuff, but you do get a full length stainless steel guide rod, stainless steel recoil spring and the same magazine capacity as the market leaders.
Better Than The Sum of its Parts
On paper, the ATI Firepower Xtreme sounds like something you’d find for a few bucks in the local pawn shop. It’s like a poor Eastern European country’s Officer’s model.
The reality isn’t like that. At all.
So if you want a cheap 45 ACP carry handgun and you don’t want the RIA for whatever reason. Well you’re wrong, the RIA is still better. But this officers model is available and does a very similar job.
This steel frame bargain is also developing a very RIA-like cult following. So maybe try one for yourself and see what all the fuss is about.
Alternatives to Consider
Springfield Range Officer Compact Pistol
If you can accommodate a slightly larger gun, then the Springfield Armory Range Officer Compact is arguably one of the finest modern concealed carry 1911s.
The Springfield Armory Range Officer compact pistol is a lightweight 1911 frame Commander with a 4.25″ barrel and aluminum frame. That longer sight radius and beefier recoil controls help contain the power.
You can order the compact 9mm, or the more traditional Springfield Armory 45 ACP ammo version.
The Best of the Best: Wilson Combat
If you’re sold on the longer barrel, and you have a lot more money to spend, then check out the Wilson Combat CQB Elite.
The shrunken version of the award winning full size Government model CQB still costs more than $3,500, but it’s the ultimate concealed carry 45 ACP. You can order a compact 9mm as well, if you’re rich and love combat handguns.
All the onboard features arguably do justify the eye-watering Wilson Combat pistol prices too. The 4.25 inch barrel is a match-grade, flush cut bull barrel, natch, and it is built around a carbon steel frame.
You get a rounded butt mag well, an enhanced mag release, G10 flat bottom grips and 25 LPI checkering on the front strap too. It’s the King of carry pistols, if you can afford the price of admission and don’t mind the slide length.
Where to Buy 1911 parts
You can buy, gear, accessories, upgrades, optics, scopes, everything really, online with our partners. We’ve got some live links to save you having to search, search and search some more.
Save yourself the time, go here to our favorite dealers for parts and accessories.
- Brownells – Massive selection of 1911 upgrades, accessories and parts.
- Primary Arms – A goldmine of firearms parts.
- Rainier Arms – Massive selection of pistol parts: 1911 & plastic pistols.