Beauty and the Beast. Well, the Sig Sauer 1911 Ultra Compact 9mm with nickel slide and frame finish certainly looks beautiful, but can this “beast” do its dangerous job and function well? Is this beast an effective fighting tool for self-defense against a “bad guy or gal” opponent? I just grabbed my shield, battle helmet, put on my tunic, strapped on this beast, and am heading to the Colosseum to test this wild monster. Better make that grabbed my ear protectors, eye protection, ammo, put on my holster and belt, and took this 1911 sub-compact to the range to test and evaluate it. But first, I had one important personal question I had to answer for myself.
Should There Be Reliance On Small 9mm 1911s For Performance And Self-Defense?
In the past, small 1911s with short 9mm barrels have had some cartridge feeding, extraction, and ejection problems, mostly arising from ammo, magazines, and feed ramp designs. But with today’s improved ammo designs and ballistics and 9mm handgun designs and improvements, I have not realized these reliability problems for the small 1911s in 9mm I already own and use.
So, for ME the answer is “YES” I want to rely on a 1911 sub-compact 1911 in 9mm for self-defense because mine (and most) have proven to be reliable and accurate. I have experienced and appreciate their small profile concealability, accuracy, reliability, ergonomics and thin grips, and performance factors. You may not make this same personal decision, focus on different criteria, and may not have actually used a small 1911 9mm for self-defense and that is fine.
Of course, not ALL 1911 short-barreled 9mms have proven this to me. They vary, like all guns, in accuracy, reliability, ergonomics, etc. So, we all must carefully decide on our criteria, preferences, and use the one(s) we want and objectively evaluate these potential life-saving tools for ourselves. Be certain to first objectively examine the several key factors that support your decision, rather than emotionally jump to an unsubstantiated conclusion based on old static data and ancient historical experiences. The gun and ammo industries are dynamic, constantly changing, and improving industries. There are technical and/or mechanical advancements in several gun components, ammo, etc., so be open-minded, set your criteria and goals, research, and decide these carry and self-defense decisions for yourself.
Over the past four years, I have reviewed, carried, shot, and evaluated several 1911 sub-compacts and compacts for concealed carry and performance. Some 1911s are better than others for a variety of reasons. Some justifications are based on personal preferences, emotions, and desired features, while others are because of lesser quality. Whatever your foundation criteria, be open to recent experiences and supportive data, then make your decision one way or the other. I don’t want you to accept what I say blindly, but rather than subjectively making a unilateral pre-conceived decision, gather and analyze recent, updated information to make a rational decision about the sub-compact 9mm 1911. Put your hands on one of the good ones and try it. Last year on this website, I evaluated Sig Sauer’s high-quality 1911 C3 commander in .45ACP. But I wanted to review a similar, high-quality sub-compact 9mm with a 3.3-inch barrel for concealed carry. I knew that Sig Sauer had a recent 3.3-inch barrel version, so I asked them to send me their Sig Sauer 1911 Ultra Compact 9mm, so I could see if it fit in MY TOP 8 SUB-COMPACT 1911 9MMS FOR CARRY. I appreciate them sending it to me, so I could test and evaluate it and offer my opinions to help you and myself. I have reviewed several sub-compacts and 1911s in depth on this website and others. At the request of some readers, in the next two weeks or so and after this hands-on review, I will analyze several and post on this website “My Top 8 Sub-Compact 1911 9mms for Carry.” Stay tuned my friends. Some are included in my Top 21 concealed carry guns in the second printing of my book “Concealed Carry & Handgun Essentials.” Now with this recent Sig Sauer 1911 Ultra Compact (sub-compact), I want to analyze, compare, and rank it among my top 1911 sub-compacts for a recommendation or not and rank it with them.
The Review Plan for the Sig Sauer 1911 Ultra Compact 3.3″ 9mm
I want to start this review by giving the Specifications and Features of the Sig Sauer Ultra Compact 1911 9mm. Then, I will 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. Below, I’ll suggest a quality, custom leather holster I like for this 1911 sub-compact 9mm.
I was very anxious to shoot the Ultra Compact and to compare it factor by factor to my other quality sub-compact 1911 9mms, to see if it ranked in my top concealed carry pistols and in my top sub-compact 9mm 1911s. Know that I am not on the Sig Sauer payroll, have not been paid or compensated by them in any form for this review, and not given any gratuities nor influenced to say certain things about the gun. I want to be honest and straight-forward with my opinions and ideas the way I see the pistol to help folks sincerely. Based on my range test of the gun and my analysis, I want to honestly give you my opinions with pros and cons and issues and/or concerns that would prevent me from carrying this gun or allow me to carry it. Is this a gun I would recommend for concealed carry? Would it make it to my TOP EIGHT list of 1911 Sub-Compact 9mm handguns for concealed carry? Would it even rank in my top 5?
Sig Sauer 1911 Ultra Compact Nickel 9mm Pistol Specifications:
|Model Number||#1911UT-9-NI-Nickel; Sub-Compact|
|Barrel Length / Finish||3.30"; Stainless Steel; Match-Grade; Bull; Bushingless|
|Sights / Radius||SIGLITE Night Sights; 4.80" Sight Radius|
|Weight||28 oz (empty magazine)|
|Frame: Finish / Material||Nickel PVD Finish-Frame; Alloy Material|
|Slide: Finish / Material||Nickel PVD Finish; Stainless Steel|
|Trigger - Action||Single Action Only|
|Trigger Press||5.0 (factory specs); To Be Reviewed|
|Magazines / Capacity / Material||2 Steel Magazines - 8 Rounds; Single Stack|
|Safeties||Enhanced Beavertail Grip Safety; External Manual Thumb Safety (Left Side)|
|Grips||Custom Brown Vector G-10; Slim|
|Other||Lifetime Limited Warranty; Nice Grip Angle|
Sig Sauer 1911 Ultra Compact 9mm Key Features:
- Excellent Fit and Finish
- Skeletonized Trigger and Hammer
- Fine Checkering on Front and Back Straps – Mainspring Housing
- Extended Beavertail Grip Safety has Bump to Enhance Grip
- Very Nice Ergonomics
- Thin and Lightweight for Comfortable, All-Day Carry
- External Pivot Extractor
Holster for the Sig Sauer 1911 Ultra Compact 3.3″ 9mm
Kramer Handgun Leather (KHL) makes a high-quality horsehide leather Paddle holster which is custom-fit for this gun. It is a high-riding FBI forward-tilt holster for wear as an easy-on and easy-off Paddle holster on the strong side hip. Their beautiful, quality leather holster is made to fit this Sig Sauer 1911 Ultra Compact sub-compact 9mm perfectly. It contours to the gun like a fine glove and looks great. This holster is the current issue for the plainclothes officers of the Michigan State Police. KHL says it is reinforced with plastic which acts as a spring and helps keep the grip of the gun snuggled in tight to the side, a feature lacking in some paddle holsters. A removable, snap closure belt loop serves as a backup to ensure it does not come out of the pants along with the gun during the draw. I like this feature.
This easy-on and easy-off Paddle holster is well suited for general concealment, undercover, range use, and concealed carry. I have this well-made custom horsehide holster for other handguns, and it is top notch, very durable, and very comfortable. It is also available in cowhide, and both models are available for a variety of handguns.
Criteria And Considerations for the Sig Sauer 1911 Ultra Compact 3.3″ 9mm Review
Here are just 10 of my criteria and factors I use for evaluating any handgun, so I will use them for the Sig Sauer 1911 Ultra Compact. 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.
You can add your own preferred factor to this last Miscellaneous criterion, e.g., Price if you want. I must admit that ALL gun-choice decisions involve tradeoffs, but I really want ALL of my criteria to be met. To defend my life and the lives of my loved ones, Price is not a factor for me. So once all my criteria are met, I save my dollars for, perhaps, a later purchase. I assigned a total possible point score of 10 points for each of my ten 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.
My General Impressions: Sig Sauer 1911 Ultra Compact Sub-Compact 9mm
The Sig Ultra Compact 9mm sub-compact is a quality very-well-built 1911 gun with excellent Finish and tight Fit, outstanding accuracy and reliability, very nice ergonomics, ideal lightweight and concealability, and reasonable price for what you get. Sig Sauer says that it “is a great option for those who prefer the mechanics of a 1911 in a small, concealable form and is perfect for concealed carry.”
The beautiful Nickel Finish on the slide and frame is beautiful and excellent in both construction and durable material. The custom Brown G-10 Vector Grips are very comfortable and attractive, not abrasive, not real thin with an overall width of about 1.4 inches, and felt good in my medium-sized hands. I had no pinky finger dangle when I gripped it. The lightweight aluminum alloy frame and its 28-ounce unloaded weight was just right for all day carry. This gun looks very good and the finely-checkered front and back straps and beveled mainspring housing, enlarged external pivoting extractor (for consistent tension), and full-length steel, flat recoil-spring guide rod, were especially helpful additions. It uses a heavier recoil spring to maintain proper slide velocities. I could easily reach all the controls. The quality checkering on both straps is aggressive enough for a positive purchase, but not so rough that it hurts your hand. It was easy to takedown this 1911 9mm, and there was no barrel bushing. It has a nice two-hole, curved trigger with over-travel stop. And there is a skeletonized hammer and trigger and a single-side thumb safety. The slide was easy for me to rack and the felt recoil and muzzle rise was very manageable partially due to the 28 ounces with unloaded mag weight. My wife could easily rack the slide with her dainty hands.
The Sig Ultra Compact 1911’s frame is made of Aluminum Alloy, so it is very lightweight for carry. Both the Beavertail and checkered Mag Release are large and extended to help with a solid high grip and easy operation. The beavertail’s large memory bump is naturally easy to use and ensures the hand will disengage it when properly gripped. I had no problem at all with it. The Ultra Compact has a hand-polished integral feed ramp.
The Ultra Compact 1911 has a Drop-Safe feature, so you can carry it in a proper holster with a round chambered and the external thumb safety applied. The drop safety is a spring-loaded plunger that keeps the firing pin away from the primer until the trigger is pressed. So it is designed to stop the firing pin from moving forward to contact the primer if the gun is dropped on the muzzle.
For me, the Ultra Compact points well, handles recoil easily, and has about .13 inches of take-up with minimal creep. I like the single action only trigger a lot. And the 1911 9mm mags with 10 and nine rounds I already own from Springfield, Smith-Wesson, Wilson Combat, Tripp Research, etc. ALL WORK in this Sig Ultra Compact 1911 9mm pistol.
Below I will get into more specifics and my opinions for each of my criteria, after my range testing.
Sig Sauer 1911 Ultra Compact 3.3″ 9mm: Range Test & Results
I shot high-quality and high-velocity Sig Sauer Elite V-Crown JHP ammo in 115 and 124 grain weights and some in 115 grain FMJ to determine how well the gun cycled and handled different loads. 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. Would this sub-compact 1911 handle the premium hollow point rounds without any malfunctions or stoppages? I had the information I needed after shooting it. Below are my evaluations for each of my ten criteria for my concealed carry purpose. I wanted to put the gun through its paces with my Concealed Carry Drill and check it thoroughly for malfunctions, stoppages, and performance with premium, quality JHP ammo, and FMJ rounds. I want to thank Sig Sauer for providing various Elite Performance fine ammo to test and evaluate the Sig Ultra Compact 1911 in 9mm.
Col Ben’s Concealed Carry Drill
I used my concealed carry drill to test and evaluate this Sig 1911 sub-compact. After initially cleaning the gun and then shooting it at the range for the first time using my standard Concealed Carry Drill, I was able to quickly land all 15 rounds (with a mag change) in the five various-sized circles at 5 yards. I fired rapid fire with the Sig V-Crown 124 grain JHP at 5 yards. All hit in their five circle targets and within the 20 seconds time limit… actually in almost exactly 20 seconds with the mag change. See above photo. Read below for a magwell insertion concern.
You can also download and print “Col Ben’s Concealed Carry Drill” and targets by going to my website and clicking on the Download Col Ben’s Concealed Carry Drill link.
For me, the Sig 124-grain JHP proved to be a very good self-defense round in this 1911. BUT, shoot it for yourself to make your own decisions, based on your abilities, goals, and proficiency. Use my Drill at various distances, e.g., 3, 5, 10, 15, and 20 yards to challenge yourself. At first, do not time yourself but safely practice, until you feel comfortable and safe with the Drill. I hope my Drill helps you.
The included Sig extended magwell was difficult for me to get used to and at first, I didn’t do well inserting the mag into it. It was unlike other extended magwells I use. I used my usual protocol and my support hand’s index finger with a strong, rapid shoving upward motion to aid insertion of the mag. But, several times (at first and throughout the range visit), just a small 1/4 inch portion of the mag did not solidly seat in the magwell, and I had to tap it with the heel of my support hand a second time, for the mag to fully seat to fire the gun. This could be very costly in a self-defense scenario, and I did not feel comfortable doing that at first. I had another certified instructor at the range try it, and the same concern occurred. Without considerable more practice by me and getting accustomed to this proper mag insertion into this extended magwell, I would not use this (excellent) gun for concealed carry AT THIS TIME. So, perhaps, my operator “error” and lack of practice with this magwell is a lot of the concern, but with another experiencing this, practice is very necessary. One possible solution is to remove the extended magwell, which should be easy to do. Then the flat-base mags should solidly and easily fit into the flat magwell… and it would be a smaller profile and better for concealed carry. But, the other longer 9 and 10 round mags that I already own fit quickly and fine in the magwell when you rapidly shove up the bottoms to insert them. They do fine, and the extra round or two comes in handy. So, this is a minor concern for concealed carry that is easily FIXABLE. But, I felt a responsibility to mention everything I experienced to you readers. Remember, ALL my longer 9 and 10 round 1911 9mm mags DID solidly fit and seat into the mag well the first time I tried any of them. But, the extra length was there and is not generally optimal for my concealed carry.
After shooting 200 rounds (a total of 450 rounds fired) and more range practice inserting the flat-base mag into the extended magwell of this Sig 1911 Ultra Compact 9mm, I had NO PROBLEMS whatsoever with the mag not seating well and the gun did NOT fail to fire. As I expected, more practice and familiarity with the gun by myself was important to resolving my minor concern. This supports my recommendation to always shoot about 500 rounds through any gun you are considering for self-defense since it usually takes that for guns and their internals to get “broken in” and for you the shooter to get familiar and practice with it. I bought this gun and will not hesitate to carry it. Success!
Evaluation For Each Criterion
Here are my opinions, supporting information, and Evaluation for each criterion.
1. Accuracy and Reliability – Score: 10
The accuracy of the Ultra Compact 9mm was excellent and effortless for me at close and medium distances of 3, 5, 7, 10, and15 yards. Despite my less than average eyesight and average marksmanship, this senior guy was able to shoot decent groups. But, while my hits at 20 yards with this sub-compact were on target, they were larger 3-3.5″ groups, and I wanted smaller ones. But, no problem out to 15 yards, with the gun doing a lot of the work. All of my groups for my Drills of 15 shots each at the various distances were about 3 inches or so, drawing from my Kramer Leather holster. I used my Modified-Isosceles Stance, a two-handed grip, and shot various 115 grain FMJ and JHP, 124 grain FMJ and JHP, and a few quality reloads. I had NO problems shooting hollow points. I had no feeding, ejection, or extraction problems at all with any of the ammo and the gun functioned perfectly. Certainly not great marksmanship by me, but it was really enjoyable and fun to shoot the 1911 Ultra. The press was short, soft, and crisp, and the recoil was very minimal for this average shooter. Given my past experiences and my knowledge of 1911 9mms and extraction and feeding problems due to short cartridges, I was certainly impressed with the 1911’s Reliability. Again, I experienced no malfunctions, stoppages, feeding problems, extraction nor ejection issues, with various ammo brands, bullet weights, and magazines. I used the 2 included flat base mags (when well-seated), Metalform mags, Wilson Combat 10-round mags, and my 2 Tripp Research Cobra 10-round mags without any problems. This 1911 Ultra 9 mm was not at all finicky and digested every round, and even a few reloads smoothly. This gun was accurate and reliable.
2. Trigger Press – Score: 9
The trigger press out of the box averaged about 5.0, with ten readings with my Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge. All of the readings were close to or below my desired maximum press range of about 5 pounds for this 1911 single-action trigger. But, I wanted it to average closer to 4.5 pounds, and after more range visits, I’m sure it will.
3. Trigger – Score: 10
The 1911 single-action trigger was crisp, smooth and excellent, with no creep, minimal takeup, no stacking, with a short travel distance and short reset so that I could get off quick follow-up shots easily. The reset was very definite and identifiable. This single-action trigger was excellent and consistent with pretty much the same press each time. I really enjoyed shooting it and pressing its soft trigger.
4. Barrel Length – Score: 9
The 3.3-inch BULL barrel was just a little longer and thicker than some other recent sub-compact 1911s, and it helped to reduce recoil some and contributed to accuracy. The Bull barrel is very rigid and thicker so it can absorb a lot of heat energy during firing. And it heats up slower than a standard barrel, contributing to accuracy. Interestingly, all eight of my top sub-compact 1911s in 9mm have a Bull barrel and are bushingless. I expected the felt recoil to be very noticeable, but it was not at all, and I had no problems managing the recoil. The barrel and slide are made from steel.
5. Sights – Score: 9
The SIGLITE factory steel Night Sights were fine. The dots, however, were smaller than my old eyes wanted. I do like larger dots and a fiber optic or tritium front sight. For CC, I consider night sights almost a MANDATORY accessory and my eyes need a bright, easy-to-pickup front sight.
6. Proper Gun Weight – Score: 9
The stainless steel Ultra Weighed 28 ounces and was a nice weight solid gun for concealed carry. There was much less felt recoil and more stability than I expected from this sub-compact and the weight helped.
7. Caliber – Score: 10
The Sig Ultra Compact in 9mm caliber was a joy to shoot, and I managed the recoil well for this sub-compact. Of course, shooting 9mm ammo is much less expensive, and modern ammo with improved ballistics gets the job done. I prefer the controllability and muzzle flip control of the 9mm, even in this sub-compact.
8. Capacity – Score: 9
I liked the 8+1 Capacity of the Sig sub-compact 9mm. Two 8-round stainless steel mags were included, although I prefer three mags always to be included. My 9mm Metalform 10-round, Tripp Research, Wilson Combat, and included mags all worked well.
9. Ergonomics – Score: 10
The ergonomics of the Sig Sauer 1911 Ultra Compact sub-compact 9 mm were excellent. The pistol felt great in my medium-sized hands and was comfortable. The G-10 grips were not too abrasive and helped me grasp and control the 1911 fine. I was easily able to reach all controls like the thumb safety, slide lock lever, and magazine release. I had no slide nor hammer bites, and it felt very good to hold the thin profile sub-compact. The grip safety with its extended beavertail and memory bump was natural, comfortable to use, and helpful. The slide-to-frame fit was tight without rattles and very solid. It was very easy for me to rack the slide.
10. Miscellaneous – Score: 10
I easily disassembled and re-assembled it before I shot it. The guide rod is “full length,” and no tools are required for takedown. SAFETY FIRST! Check and re-check that the pistol is unloaded, before disassembly. To field strip this 1911 sub-compact, first merely remove the magazine (then check the chamber to ensure it is unloaded) and pull the slide back until the takedown notch is above the slide stop lever. Next, remove the slide stop. Now the slide, recoil spring, guide rod, and barrel will easily slide right off. The recoil spring and guide rod lift right out and no tools are required. The nice hard plastic case included two flat-based mags, a lock, bore flag, Owner’s Manual, and the 1911. The nickel PVD finish looks excellent and is very durable. PVD stands for “Physical Vapor Deposition” and is a process used to make a very durable, highly polished, corrosion and tarnish-resistant finish. This is a high-quality, accurate, and reliable sub-compact handgun and I probably will add it to my concealed carry arsenal, but I must remember to practice with the included magwell before I carry it.
Total Points = 95 out of 100 Possible.
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this Sig Sauer 1911 Ultra Compact 9mm sub-compact pistol, for concealed carry, home defense, fun plinking, and even competitive shooting. Certainly, this 1911 9mm is ranked in MY TOP 8 SUB-COMPACT 1911 9MMS FOR CARRY and will probably be in my top five. Aside from it being “easy on the eyes,” I was very impressed with its accuracy and its very controllable recoil for a sub-compact 9mm. I could rely on this pistol, and I had no malfunctions or stoppages at all. It consistently locked back after the last round was fired. My aging eyes wanted bigger dots and brighter sights (e.g., Fiber Optic front), but it came standard with SIGLITE night sights. Be sure and practice insertion of a mag into the extended magwell that is included, to see if you have a concern. Without any doubt, its many great features and especially the Accuracy and Reliability are there.
As always, these are just my opinions, and you should try it for yourself. I hope this review of the Sig 1911 sub-compact 9 mm has helped you gain some information for YOUR decision. Consider that this is just my point of view with limited live-range fire and using only 250 rounds of mostly premium ammo. 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’s important to you ahead of your range live-fire time. Then critically evaluate the gun YOURSELF per your criteria and purpose, with various ammo types and brands, different magazines, over an extended break-in period of about 500 rounds.
Newington, NH 03801
Kramer Handgun Leather
Tacoma, WA 98411
Sig Sauer for Elite V-Crown 9mm JHP-FMJ ammo
Newington, NH 03801
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.
© 2018 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 ColBFF@gmail.com.