How about the Sig Sauer 1911 C3 shown here in .45ACP? Would it make a good concealed carry gun? For starters, what does the “C3” stand for? Well, that is a good clue as to what this gun is designed for.
The “C3” stands for… Concealed Carry Compact.
So then as the name states is it really a very good compact pistol for concealed carry? While the C3 has been around a few years, Sig Sauer has made some improvements and I was anxious to put it through its paces to test and evaluate it. I have several Sigs and they have all proven to be very reliable, accurate, and of quality workmanship.
The C3 has a commander-length slide and barrel with a shortened officer’s-size grip. So you get the long sight radius to help with accuracy with the shorter and more concealable grip. This design has worked for several manufacturers and so I wanted to see for myself how the Sig Sauer version worked for me.
I have reviewed several carry guns in depth in the past few months, several on this website. I evaluate my Top 21 concealed carry guns in the 2016 second printing of my book “Concealed Carry & Handgun Essentials.” Now I want to analyze, rank, and compare this Sig Sauer C3 in .45 ACP to some of my top carry guns for my recommendation or not in this article.
While I favor the 9mm for concealed carry, I do have a .45 in my carry rotation and some readers and students have asked me to evaluate a 1911 Compact in .45 with the combined commander and officer features for carry purposes. I believe shot placement and accuracy, rather than caliber, are of prime importance for any personal protection gun.
The Sig Sauer C3 seems to be a quality-made and obvious choice, so I want to give my criteria and range test results for it to help you analyze your handguns and make the best selection for yourself. You can add or subtract from my criteria to meet your needs and preferences. I was very anxious to shoot the C3 and to compare it factor by factor to my other quality carry guns to see if it truly ranked in my top concealed carry pistols. Sig Sauer was nice enough to loan me a C3 for testing and evaluation purposes and even provide me some .45 ACP ammo. I appreciate that.
But, know that I am not on their payroll, have not been paid by them for this article, nor influenced to say certain things about the gun and ammo. I want to be honest and straight-forward with my opinions and ideas the way I see the pistol to sincerely help folks. Usually I do not agree to review a gun if I do not have some basic information that it is a very good gun to even consider.
Specifically, I wanted to know:
- How accurate is it out of the box, without modifications?
- How is its trigger press?
- Is the trigger smooth, soft, and crisp?
- Is it reliable?
- Is the aluminum alloy frame too light for carry and does it significantly increase felt recoil?
- How does the commander length and officer grip combine for effectiveness?
- Does it have any Metal-Injection-Molded (MIM) or plastic parts?
- As a production, rather than custom, gun does it have premium or match-grade internal parts, e.g. barrel, sear, or trigger?
- Is the gun solid and tightly fitted?
- Can I handle the recoil from this .45 ACP gun, since I am use to carrying 9mms?
- What are its pros, cons, and special features?
- Are there any issues or concerns that would prevent me from carrying this gun?
- Is this a gun I would recommend for concealed carry?
First, I want to present two charts that list the Specifications and some Features for the Sig Sauer 1911 C3 .45 ACP pistol. Then I give you my 10 criteria that I use to evaluate all guns. Finally, I present my analysis and how I specifically evaluated the gun against each of my criteria to recommend or not recommend it. As always, set your own criteria and priorities, do your own research and check my data, information, etc. with yours, for your very personal selection process.
Criteria and Considerations
Here are just 10 of my criteria and factors I use for evaluating any handgun, so I will use them for the C3. In addition to my criteria, there are other subjective features that may be appealing for some, like smooth rounded corners, a certain style, mag release location, action, caliber, appearance, number of mags included, type of sights/modifications, bore axis, rail, grip angle, non-porting or porting, included extras like a holster and pouch, customer service, etc. So, I combined these into my last Miscellaneous criterion. I must admit that ALL gun-choice decisions involve tradeoffs, but I really want ALL of my criteria to be met. I assigned a total possible point score of 10 points for each of my 10 criteria for a total possible score of 100 points. You can certainly add your own additional criteria and preferences or subtract any of mine.
Recognize that there are several features, characteristics, pros and cons, and personal criteria to include and consider and you make your own tradeoffs according to your priorities, preferences, defined needs, and use.
Sig Sauer 1911 C3 .45 ACP Pistol Range Test
To determine how well the gun cycled and handled different loads, I used high-quality Sig Sauer Elite V-Crown .45ACP JHP in 230 grain, Sig Sauer Elite Ball FMJ in 230 grain weight, and a few Polycase Inceptor ARX. I only fired about 250 rounds total to evaluate this gun (usually I shoot 500 rounds over a couple of days) to decide if I want to carry the gun or not. The ammo worked very well and I had the information I needed after shooting the C3. Below are my evaluations for each of my 10 criteria for my concealed carry purpose. I wanted to put the gun through its paces and check it thoroughly for malfunctions, stoppages, and performance with quality JHP ammo and FMJ rounds. I want to thank Sig Sauer for providing the FMJ and JHP Elite Performance ammo for me to test and evaluate the C3 and Polycase for the ARX .45.
The C3 has really nice ergonomics. With the fine 25 LPI checkering on the front and 20 LPI on the rear backstraps, it felt good in my hands, was comfortable, and enhanced my grip. The beavertail and grip safety had a distinctive palm swell to help with my tactile grip and high repeatable hand positioning. With the combination of the long Commander slide/barrel and short Officer’s grip, it did seem a little front heavy, but the grip felt so nice I was able to handle it for good results. Yes, it felt great in my medium-sized hands and I had no pinky finger dangle. With the comfortable but shortened Officer’s grip, came my wish that it had more than 7 rounds because one round was lost. I know the benefits of the tradeoffs however, e.g. generally easier to carry and conceal than a full-size. The moderate fine grip stippling on the front and mainspring housing, the smooth no-snag rounded edges, and the nice thin grips were perfect for me. It did not slip from my hands, given the moderate felt recoil from the aluminum frame and steel slide. It does NOT have an ambidextrous safety and controls. Of course, that was fine for me as a “righty” and I did not want the added width so it would still fit in the IDPA box for my shooting events. The slide was very easy for me to rack and the felt recoil and muzzle rise were very manageable given its .45 caliber. I was surprised at the mild recoil, given the aluminum frame and .45 caliber. The sight radius was 5.7 inches. But I must admit that my felt recoil with this .45 was more, of course, than with my 9mms I usually carry. The C3’s aluminum frame did transfer slightly more felt recoil compared to my steel Colt XSE .45 commander, but has the advantage of lighter all-day carry weight. I wonder if a titanium frame and/or slide would help? I guess the titanium would be more costly and maybe not such a weight advantage or worth the extra cost for a relatively small advantage? Below I will get into these factors and my ideas for each of my criteria after my range testing.
I had no malfunctions or stoppages at all with the various Sig Sauer types and weights of ammo fired. After my range live fire, the C3 compact impressed me as an accurate and reliable (with limited rounds fired by me) carry gun. After initially cleaning the gun and then shooting it at the range for the first time, my first 14 rounds fired rapid fire with a mag exchange with the Sig V-Crown 230 grain Elite Ball FMJ at 7 yards all hit in a nice (for me) self-defense group (about 3″ or so), considering my declining eyesight and start of cataracts. These hits were acceptable for close-up self-defense encounters, since I am not bullseye shooting. I had similar and slightly better results with the Elite V-Crown JHP 230 grain ammo. I prefer the premium JHPs for defensive use because of the expansion and less over-penetration. The 29.5 ounces weight of the C3 + ammo weight helped offset the .45 recoil. You should shoot it for yourself to make your own decisions, based on your abilities, goals, proficiency, and purpose. Below are the specifics of my tests.
Range Test Results for the Sig Sauer 1911 C3 for each of my 10 Criteria:
1. Accuracy and Reliability – Score: 10
The Accuracy of the C3 compact with its 4.2″ barrel was very acceptable for me at distances of 3, 7, 10, and 15 yards, with my aging eyesight. My groups at each of the up-close encounter distances were about 2.5-3.0 inches for the first time I ever fired the gun, after first cleaning it. Groups were not as good for me at 15 yards, but I’ll take them for self-defense purposes. The gun is more accurate than I am. A fellow instructor and my students liked its accuracy. I fired about 250 total rounds and want to fire a total of 500 rounds to break-in ANY carry gun I’m betting my life on. The slightly less than 5.0# trigger press I experienced was crisp, soft and acceptable, meeting my personal preference press range and criterion. The weight of the gun and ammo (albeit aluminum frame), its excellent grip surfaces and beavertail swell, and quality build features (no MIM parts) certainly helped. The tight quality fit was very evident with no rattles at all for extra movement. The longer slide helped to increase velocity for the premium Sig Sauer defense ammo and the long sight radius helped with accuracy. I like that the C3 has a standard barrel bushing, plug, and guide rod, not a full-length guide rod. It was easy to field strip. I used my Modified-Isosceles Stance, a two-handed grip, & shot high-performance Sig Sauer Elite V-Crown 230 grain JHP and Elite FMJ rounds and Polycase ARX.
2. Trigger Press – Score: 9
The Trigger Press averaged slightly less than 5.0 pounds with 10 readings from my Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge. This met my limits for my press range for my carry guns and it was not too light for carry. It will probably improve after break-in and shooting it more. I prefer that my carry guns have a max. of 6.5 pounds press or much less (especially with SAO 1911s like the C3), so this is within my range. I analyze and compare 21 of my top 21 concealed carry guns & their presses in my recent book. I really like the short, crisp and smooth trigger press.
3. Trigger – Score: 10
The SAO match-grade steel Trigger had a very identifiable click and reset point. I really liked the short takeup and positive reset trigger. The press was soft, smooth, short, and crisp. I could feel the quality in the match-grade trigger. My shots were consistent each time and I could easily recognize the short reset point.
4. Barrel Length – Score: 10
The 4.25-inch Commander-length Barrel helped control muzzle flip and felt recoil. The C3 uses a standard barrel bushing and a regular normal-length guide rod (no full-length guide rod) and is well within my parameters. The steel barrel was of high quality and the barrel length was certainly concealable. For me and my carry purpose, the Commander-length barrel and slide had good balance, handled & pointed well, was comfortable to carry, and I had no feeding problems whatsoever.
5. Sights – Score: 8
(5) The low profile 3-Dot Contrast Sights were satisfactory with the Novak Dovetailed front sight. They were distinguishable and certainly acceptable. But for my impaired vision and color blind eyes, I prefer the bright green fiber optic (FO) front sight for a better lock on the front sight and wanted a larger front sight dot. Green tritium inserts are optional to improve the sight picture, but my loaner had none nor night sights (NS). I think a pistol intended for concealed carry should have NS or something for getting on target faster in low light. You can black out the rear and use FO front, or use FO front and NS rear, or even use red dots or many other options.
6. Proper Gun Weight – Score: 9
The 29.5 ounce unloaded weight of the C3 was very solid, although at times it did seem front muzzle heavy. This is due, I guess, to the combination of the long slide and shorter grip. But a longer slide does help with efficient powder burn and increased velocity for accuracy factors, while helping the expansion of premium self-defense loads. The added weight with a loaded mag (about 32 oz.) did help my accuracy and perceived lower felt recoil. Compared to my other all-steel compact .45s, it was lighter for carry with the aluminum frame, but the loaded weight was still a small comfort concern for me. Of course, there are pros and cons for gun weight and design (like this Commander-Officer blend) and there are tradeoffs. A very personal decision. For me, the aluminum alloy frame contributed to an acceptable weight and performance was not hampered, but it was very slightly heavy at the end of the day for concealed carry with the loaded weight.
7. Caliber – Score: 9
Shooting the C3 was comfortable in my hand and the .45 ACP Caliber recoil was manageable, although I did find myself gripping the gun tightly, more so than I do for my 9mms as expected. Yes, I’ll carry the C3 if I decide to buy it, but I still prefer the 9mm caliber for my main concealed carry gun. I just practice more with them, know my proven accuracies with them, and just like shooting them better. But, the felt recoil for the C3 .45 was manageable for me and I would carry it. The C3 digested the various 230 JHPs and FMJs easily without a single malfunction or stoppage. I used the two included Sig Sauer 7-round mags without any problems at all. It will accept standard 7 and 8 round 1911 magazines, but the lower portion hangs from the frame for the 8 rounder, so carry it in your pouch. The C3 features a positive firing pin block or drop safety. It keeps the firing pin locked until the trigger is pressed completely to the rear. Another nice feature is the proven SIG external extractor.
8. Capacity – Score: 9
(8) There were two Sig Sauer mags included, both 7-round in Capacity. They were quality made, but I would have liked to have had one more mag with one more round included. But given the shorter officer’s grip, I understand the tradeoff. I did not have any feeding problems whatsoever and the mags fed into the magwell great and chambered rounds easily without any malfunctions or stoppages at all. The mags dropped freely.
9. Ergonomics – Score: 10
The Ergonomics of the C3 were excellent. The Slim Profile was great and the Custom Rosewood Grips were thin, beautiful and comfortable. I could grip them firmly and easily with my medium-sized hands. The rear mainspring housing checkered steel had 20 LPI stippling, while the front strap had very fine 25 LPI checkering. Just right for a solid grip and without roughing up your hands. You could see and feel the quality fit, finish, function, and fine craftsmanship. The gun was tightly fitted. No shake, rattle, and roll. I was able to easily reach all the controls without changing my grip. The attention to detail in all ergonomic-related functions was superb. The palm swell of the Beavertail Grip Safety was really nice for a high tactile and solid grip. The beavertail safety design helps those of us who use a thumbs forward grip style. We tend to sometimes raise our palm from the grip safety which can activate the safety and lock the trigger, so this beavertail design helps that. I did not have this problem when shooting the C3. The shortened butt is less likely to protrude from concealed carry or to print against cover garments.
10. Miscellaneous – Score: 9
I disassembled, lubed and cleaned, and re-assembled the C3 before I shot it, as always with any gun. Having a regular bushing and a normal-length guide rod made it easy and routine to disassemble. I did NOT have to press the trigger to disassemble it and it was quick to takedown without tools or even a bushing wrench. There is no rail which is fine with me for a carry gun. It does have a Series 80-type Firing Pin safety to prevent negligent discharge if the pistol is dropped and has an external Extractor. The C3 does not include accessories like some other compacts, e.g. a holster, mag pouch, other backstraps/grips, or third mag, but given its quality and design you do not even think about those things. I did find a well-made Outside-the-Waistband kydex pancake holster called “The Flapjack” made by Alabama Holster Company in Silverhill, AL. See it above before this section. They use .093 thick kydex which makes it very strong and it has good retention, while riding high and close to the body for very good concealment. The C3 has a Limited Lifetime Warranty. You usually get what you pay for, so you can shop and buy this fine quality carry gun for about $900.
Total Points = 93 out of 100 Possible.
I certainly RECOMMEND this quality handgun for consideration as your concealed carry compact .45 ACP SAO pistol. I especially like its accuracy, manageable recoil for an aluminum-alloy gun, its short, smooth, and soft press and takeup. The Custom Rosewood Grips are beautiful and functional, as well as very thin for me. The smooth, rounded edges help make it nice for carry. The blend of a Commander-length slide and barrel with the Officer’s shorter grip make it a great option and very concealable. I really like this gun! But, I wish this concealed carry gun carried more rounds, included a third magazine, and had night sights. Its felt recoil was very manageable and not a problem for me. The high quality and attention to details in its design and its lack of routine Metal Injection Molded (MIM) parts, no plastic parts but with fine machining exuded fine craftsmanship. A very tightly fitted gun. I just wish it came with more than 7 round mags, but that is what spare mags are for. While the 5# trigger press is very good for me, I believe after more rounds are down range the press will lighten some after break-in. I do want to shoot it more to see its long-term reliability, but I will probably buy it and put it in my concealed carry rotation. I certainly was very impressed with its accuracy and reliability, since I had no malfunctions or stoppages whatsoever with the 250 rounds I fired. This is a solid, somewhat heavy loaded, and well-made pistol. You usually get what you pay for. These are just my opinions and ideas, so handle and shoot it for yourself. I hope this review of the C3 .45 pistol has helped you gain some information you did not previously have. Again, consider that these are just my opinions with limited live-range fire and shooting myself only about 250 rounds of ammo. Like always, I recommend that you shoot any handgun yourself before you purchase it. Decide on your criteria, how you will primarily use the gun, and what features are important to you and you are willing to pay for ahead of your range time. Then critically evaluate the gun YOURSELF per your criteria and purpose, with standard drills (several mentioned in my book), with various ammo types and brands, over an extended break-in period of about 500 rounds. Remember, Safety First Always and “Always Shoot Straight.”
Newington, NH 03801
Sig Sauer Elite V-Crown JHP-FMJ Ammo
Newington, NH 03801
Alabama Holster Company
Silverhill, AL 36576
Polycase ARX Inceptor .45Auto Copper-Polymer, RNP High-Velocity Projectiles/Ammo
Savannah, GA 31408
Photos by Author.
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.
© 2017 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected].