1911 sizes hero image

1911 Sizes: Government, Commander, Officer and Defender

If you’re in the market for a 1911, you may have encountered several different 1911 sizes. Colt’s Government and Commander 1911 pistols are well known, but they’re not the only 1911 sizes Colt developed. In this brief discussion, we’ll compare the Colt Government, Commander, Officer, and Defender 1911s.

1911 Sizes: Government vs. Commander vs. Officer vs. Defender

Colt 1911 Sizes Chart

NameBarrel LengthFrame SizeFrame MaterialCaliberCapacity (45 ACP)Capacity (9mm)
Government5"Full Sizesteel.45ACP, 9mm, .38 Super, 10mm7+1, 8+19+1
Commander4.25"Full Sizesteel, aluminum (LW Commander).45ACP, 9mm, .38 Super8+19+1
Officer3.5"Officersteel, aluminum (LW Officer's ACP).45 ACP6+1
Concealed Carry Officer4.25"Officeraluminum.45 ACP6+1
Defender3"Officeraluminum.45 ACP, .40S&W, 9mm7+18+1

Colt developed several different 1911 pistols of various frame sizes, barrel lengths, calibers, and capacities.

The primary 1911 sizes are:

  1. Government
  2. Commander
  3. Officer
  4. Defender

The Government and Commander share a full size frame while the Officer and Defender share an Officer-sized frame, each with different barrel lengths. The Officer frame has a shorter magazine well and dust cover than the full size frame.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these 1911 pistols.

a box of 45 acp ammo with text saying shop 45 acp ammo here

Government 1911

an old colt advertisement for the colt government 1911

Barrel Length: 5”

Frame Size: Full

The Government is the original, full-size 1911 developed by legendary gun maker John Moses Browning and adopted by the U.S. military in 1911. Whether you opt for the original 1911 or the later updated 1911A1 configuration, your Government 1911 will have a 5” barrel and total length of 8.25” sitting on a steel frame. The original Government model is chambered in .45 ACP with an 8+1 capacity, though the original 1911 pistols had a 7+1 capacity. Colt offers 1911s in other calibers using the Government frame, including 9mm, .38 Super, and 10mm. Beyond Colt’s offerings, you’ll find other manufacturers designing Government-sized 1911s in even more calibers. Browning designed the gun to be carried on the hip and over 100 years later you will still find shooters carrying the 1911 in that manner. 

It’s not surprising that the Government has maintained its popularity and influenced many other 1911 designs. Its single-action trigger pull is short and crisp. Its recoil is easily manageable, likely due to the 5″ barrel and heavy frame. The Government is well balanced and functions reliably when maintained appropriately.

Commander 1911

an old colt advertisement for the lightweight commander

Barrel Length: 4.25”

Frame Size: Full

Colt introduced the Commander 1911 in 1949. The Commander uses a Government-sized frame but with a shorter 4.25″ barrel. This means that the grip is the same as the Government model, giving it an 8+1 magazine capacity in .45ACP. The original Commander came with an aluminum frame, making it a light 27.5 ounces compared to the Government’s 39 ounces. In response to complaints of the Commander’s bad recoil, Colt introduced the steel frame Combat Commander. Eventually, Colt renamed the aluminum-frame Commander to to the Lightweight Commander. The Commander comes in .45ACP, 9mm, and .38 Super offerings.

Despite sharing the same frame size as the Government, Colt had to make some small changes to the Commander in order for the pistol to function with a shorter slide. Some differences that the Commander has from the Government include:

  • Frame rails and impact abutment are 1/10th” further rearward
  • Shortened barrel bushing, spring plug, and spring guide
  • Shortened recoil spring
  • Slide take-down notch 1/4th” rearward
  • Slide stop notch 1/8th” rearward

Officer 1911

an old colt advertisement for the colt officer's acp

Barrel Length: 3.5″

Frame Size: Officer

Introduced in 1985 and officially named the Officer’s ACP, the Officer is even smaller than the Government and Commander. Officer 1911s are based off the original Government 1911, shrunk down to a 3.5″ barrel length. The grip is shortened to cut capacity by one round, giving it a capacity of 6+1 in .45ACP. The original Officer featured a steel frame, but in 1986 Colt introduced the Lightweight Officer’s ACP with an alloy frame.

The Officer is no longer in production, likely due to the many mechanical issues it faced. Officer owners reported issues due to weak barrel bushings and recoil spring plugs. Many ended up replacing them with tougher aftermarket parts, which sometimes required machining of the slide.

Concealed Carry Officer’s Model

Barrel Length: 4.25″

Frame Size: Officer

Colt introduced the .45ACP Concealed Carry Officer’s Model in 1998. It featured an aluminum Officer frame and stainless steel Commander slide with a 4.25″ barrel. Like the Officer’s ACP, it is no longer in production.

Defender 1911

the colt defender pistol in 45 acp

Barrel Length: 3″

Frame Size: Officer

Colt introduced the sub-compact Colt Defender in 1998. The small, lightweight pistol features a stainless steel slide that sits on an aluminum alloy Officer-sized frame. It has a 3″ barrel, making it an easily concealable choice for everyday carry. It was the first 3″ barrel 1911 on the market that functioned reliably. The original Defenders were chambered in .45ACP and .40S&W, though the .40S&W variants are considered a rare find today. Colt revamped the Defender in 2016, offering a stainless steel model in .45ACP and a black and blued model in .45ACP and 9mm.

Other 1911 Sizes

the dan wesson classic 1911

Many firearms manufacturers produce 1911s that may not necessarily be built to the same specs as Colt’s Government, Commander, Officer, and Defender 1911 models.

For example, 4″ 1911s have become increasingly popular for carry in recent years. The Kimber Pro Carry II and Springfield Range Officer Champion are two 1911s with 4-inch barrels that don’t fit into the standard Colt 1911 sizes.

1911 Sizes: The Takeaway

a woman shooting a 1911 at the range

To sum things up, Colt produced four primary 1911 sizes: the Government, Commander, Officer, and Defender.

The Government and Commander share a full size frame. The Government has a 5″ barrel and the Commander has a 4.25″ barrel. The Officer and Defender share an Officer size frame. The Officer has a 3.5″ barrel and the Defender has a 3″ barrel. The oddball is the Colt Concealed Carry Officer that used an Officer frame but a Commander length barrel at 4.25″.

Share this article with your friends!