Top Performing & Concealable 1911 Sub-Compact 9mm Pistols

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Top Performing & Concealable 1911 Sub-Compact 9mm Pistols

John Moses Browing knew what he was doing when he designed the classic 1911 pistol. Law enforcement, the military, competition shooters, and civilian defenders alike recognize and appreciate the intricacies, features, and performance of the 1911. While originally in the .45 ACP caliber and full-size models, today there are several calibers and sizes available for the 1911. To each his own preference, but I like the 1911 in 9mm caliber and a smaller sub-compact footprint for concealed carry purposes and the related close-tactical usual encounters. There are many options in calibers, types of sights, grips, beavertails, etc. I want to share my comparisons and ratings of 8 recent best performing and easily concealable 1911 sub-compact 9mm pistols.

1911 Sub-Compact 9mms- with Various Sights, Beavertails, Grips, Finishes, Options, etc.
1911 Sub-Compact 9mms- with Various Sights, Beavertails, Grips, Finishes, Options, etc.

Why the 1911 Sub-Compact 9mm for Concealed Carry?

Ease of Concealment, Ergonomics, Recoil Management, Performance and Shot Placement are KING!

Over the past year or so, I have reviewed several 1911 sub-compact 9mms for concealed carry purposes. My in-depth reviews for each of the eight 1911 sub-compacts for this study are also available individually on this website. There are quite a few excellent companies that make fine 1911s in the 9mm caliber and several folks everyday carry them.

I like their small and lightweight profile for concealed carry, comfortable slim grip, great single-action triggers, great performance, and ergonomics of 1911s for an almost custom fit to my medium-sized hands. My wife especially likes them for her small hands and recoil control.

Without a doubt, I like the consistent short, soft, and crisp single-action 1911 9mm triggers. Their shootability right “out-of-the-box” is excellent, given their low bore axis and controllable muzzle rise and recoil. These 1911s make up for my shortcomings and help me shoot better.

For concealed carry, I transitioned from a .45 ACP 1911 to the more controllable (9mm gives less movement to help my accuracy) and more concealable 1911 sub-compact, single-stack in 9mm. Of the very many in the market, I have selected and field tested my Top 8 for Concealed Carry and wanted to share my opinions and evaluations of them with you. I have thoroughly tested and shot at least 200 rounds through all eight of them in this study. In addition to the basic 1911 characteristics, each has distinctive features, as well as pros and cons. Some have fiber optic sights and others have tritium night sights or 3-dot white ones. Some have rounded butts for help in carrying them, while others have extended ridges on top of the slide to reduce glare or a flared or beveled mag well. Some have finely checkered 25 LPI on their front and back straps to help with a solid grip, while some have G-10 grips and undercut trigger guards. I want to share my data and opinions about them to help you select your concealed carry 1911 pistol.

Over the last few years, the 1911 has been re-engineered and appropriately-designed for the 9mm caliber now, by several current manufacturers. Rarely are there feeding, ejection, or extraction problems now and improved magazines now feed the 9mm cartridge fine. Of course, there are possibilities of these problems, like with other defensive pistols. So, I thoroughly field tested the new 1911 9mm pistols in this article and omitted others from consideration where problems have existed, where probabilities of concealed carry problems might exist, where customer service or other concerns might exist, and where the MSRP price of the 1911 pistol is usually $1,700 or above. Some manufacturers offer a starting MSRP of $3,000 or more for their sub-compact 1911, so they were not included in my study. For your 1911 reviews, establish your own criteria, identify your personal desired features, have a Try-Before-You-Buy hands-on trial, and compare and rank your 1911 concealed carry pistols accordingly.

My Bottom Line Essentials for My Concealed Carry 1911 Sub-Compact Pistol

In addition to proven accuracy, reliability, and its price point, I wanted to seek a sub-compact pistol that met all, or very many, of my desired features and characteristics for my quintessential ideal 1911 concealed carry pistol to include:

  • 9mm caliber 1911
  • Less than 4-inch sub-compact barrel length (3″ to 3.6″ range)
  • Less than 28-ounces or so weight (unloaded)
  • Near or less than about 5-inch height
  • Magazine capacity of at least eight rounds
  • Near or less than about 7-inches overall length
  • Roughly 1.3-inch total width
  • A tested trigger press of between 4.50 and 5.40 pounds; a short trigger reset
  • A smaller profile, more concealable thin and flat pistol
  • Excellent ergonomics, including a comfortable grip that is not too wide without overly-aggressive texturing and optimal grip angle (for my hands- less raked and about 18 degrees off square)
  • Manageable felt recoil & muzzle rise; no malfunctions or stoppages for field test and concealed carry; low bore axis

Since my defensive concealed carry pistol is meant for mostly close-up encounters, sights are not a significant concern, since I may mostly point shoot or not even use my sights at all in combat, tactical situations at a very close distance. But, sights are definitely a concern. I do prefer tritium night sights and a fiber optic green front sight versus 3-dot white sights. Cost is a consideration, but not a major factor nor deal breaker for me, since this defensive pistol is used to defend my life and the lives of my loved ones. I did the review here, however, only those 1911 sub-compact 9mm pistols with an MSRP of less than $1,700. I chose this price point because it was influenced by comments from readers about high-priced carry guns, possibly losing access to it since it could be seized as evidence and may not be returned for years pending case appeal, and reasonably-priced alternatives. If necessary, I personally will save my pennies until I can afford to get the specific self-defense pistol with the features, characteristics, and performance I want to defend my life.

My 1911 Sub-Compact Comparison Study

The eight 1911 sub-compact 9mm pistols for concealed carry I field tested and evaluated in this 2018 study are all very evenly matched across all my chosen variables. I handpicked the sub-compact 1911s for study after considerable research and opinions from experienced folks and certified fellow instructors. They are all excellent 1911s, the best of the best in my opinion for my criteria. Among all ten factors, only one or a few points were separating one from another for rating purposes, as you will see below. So these eight pistols that made my cutoff for consideration and hands-on field testing are all outstanding pistols for concealed carry and self-defense. You can’t go wrong with whichever one(s) you select, in my opinion. Just one possible solution: Buy Them All. (I wish!)

For my field testing, I used the same Concealed Drill (My CC Drill- available at these websites listed below), distances, targets, course of fire, number of rounds fired, same hollow point and full metal jacket Sig Sauer 365 ammo, shooting stance, two-handed grip, draw and reload procedure, etc. for testing all eight 1911 pistols.

Links to Download Free Concealed Carry Drill:

Col Ben’s Concealed Carry Drill – 1
Col Ben’s Concealed Carry Drill – 2

Sig Sauer 365 V-Crown JHP and Elite FMJ 9mm Ammo- Optimized for Short Barrels - 1911 Sub-Compacts
Sig Sauer 365 V-Crown JHP and Elite FMJ 9mm Ammo- Optimized for Short Barrels – 1911 Sub-Compacts

Ammo for Study and Field Tests

For this study and range field tests, I standardized my drill procedure (used Col Ben’s Concealed Carry Drill for testing all 1911s) and selected only one ammo brand (Sig 365), in both JHP and FMJ, to use in my tests of all guns. I wanted to learn how all the 1911s handled the same ammo. A big thank you to Sig Sauer for supplying their new 365 ammo for short barrels for these field tests. I fired 30 JHP and FMJ Sig Sauer 365 rounds for each of the 8 1911 pistols. For each 1911, I shot 15 rounds of the new quality Sig Sauer 365 V-Crown 9mm JHP optimized for 3.1 Inch barrel CCW ammo in 115 grains, muzzle velocity 1050 ft/sec and 282 ft-lbs muzzle energy. I also shot 15 rounds in each 1911 of the new Sig Sauer 365 Elite 9mm FMJ for 3.1 Inch barrel in 115 grains, same muzzle velocity and energy. (Do your own testing with many more rounds down range for your decision.)

This Sig 365 ammo is the ideal type to use for these sub-compact 1911 short-barreled pistols. It comes in defensive (JHP) and training (FMJ) rounds and they are light recoiling. Since both rounds have the same velocity and energy, shooters can switch between both and have very similar recoil, muzzle rise, and point of aim. All but one (an anomaly) of the eight 1911s handled this ammo very well. I used my usual standing Modified Isosceles Position, with a two-handed grip at 7 yards, drawing from concealed carry, with my “Col Ben’s Concealed Carry Drill.” Note I started my drill at 7 yards, rather than the usual 3 yards, for more of a challenge. Understand that this brief, field test is just a partial indicator of the accuracy, reliability, handling, and performance of these fine 1911 sub-compact pistols, so again do your own range test with more ammo and drills.

Probably best to break-in a new handgun with FMJ or ball ammo for the first 300 to 500 rounds but you also need to see how your potential concealed carry gun handles JHP defensive rounds.

The 1911 Sub-Compact 9mm Concealed Carry Pistols Evaluated

My comparison study involved these eight excellent hand-picked 9mm sub-compact 1911s:

My 10 1911 Sub-Compact Pistol Evaluation Factors for Concealed Carry

  1. Barrel Length – Measured in inches
  2. Weight – Measured in ounces unloaded
  3. Height – Measured in inches
  4. Capacity – Max rounds in a flat-based magazine
  5. Overall Length – Measured in inches
  6. Width – Measured in inches
  7. Trigger & Trigger Press – Measured in pounds; Overall; Reset; Crisp; Consistent
  8. Ergonomics – Grip Fit; Comfort; Texturing; Reachable Controls; Small Concealable Profile; Angle
  9. Field Test Performance – Accuracy, Reliability, Manageable Felt Recoil, Malfunctions & Stoppages
  10. Miscellaneous – Overall finish, fit, & quality workmanship; bore axis; sights; competitive market price; excellent customer service with friendly & helpful representatives; mag release location & operation; ambidextrous controls; accessory rail as required; warranty length & extent; etc.

I used the above 10 Evaluation Factors to assess each of the eight 1911 pistols and to give my subjective rating (on a 3 Point Scale) here for each, strictly for the concealed carry purpose. Earlier I thoroughly analyzed each of them individually and wrote my opinions about each gun on this website. Since all of the 1911s chosen for the study are excellent, some share the same rating here. Below after all my individual factor ratings, I will give a total points score for all ten factors for the sub-compact pistols. Remember, these are my opinions.

Kimber 1911 Aegis Elite Ultra Sub-Compact 9mm
Kimber 1911 Aegis Elite Ultra Sub-Compact 9mm

Evaluation Factor #1: Barrel Length (inches) and Rating (points)

 LengthRating
Kimber Aegis Elite Ultra3"1
Springfield Armory EMP 33"1
Sig Sauer Ultra Compact3.3"1
Smith-Wesson Pro Series31
Colt Defender31
Ruger SR 19113.62
CZ Dan Wesson ECO3.52
Rock Island Armory TAC Ultra CS3.52
CZ Dan Wesson ECO
CZ Dan Wesson ECO

Evaluation Factor #2: Weight (unloaded) and Rating (points)

 WeightRating
CZ Dan Wesson ECO25 oz.1
Kimber Aegis Elite Ultra25 oz.1
Colt Defender24 oz.1
Smith-Wesson Pro Series26.2 oz2
Springfield Armory EMP 327 oz.2
Ruger SR 191127.2 oz2
Sig Sauer Ultra Compact28 oz.3
Rock Island Armory TAC Ultra CS36 oz.3

Evaluation Factor #3: Height (unloaded) and Rating (points)

 HeightRating
Kimber Aegis Elite Ultra4.75"1
Sig Sauer Ultra Compact4.80"1
CZ Dan Wesson ECO5.00"2
Smith-Wesson Pro Series5.00"2
Springfield Armory EMP 35.00"2
Ruger SR 19115.00"2
Colt Defender5.13"3
Rock Island Armory TAC Ultra CS5.13"3
Sig 1911 Ultra Compact 9mm
Sig 1911 Ultra Compact 9mm

Evaluation Factor #4: Capacity (mag rounds) and Rating (points)

 RoundsRating
Sig Sauer Ultra Compact81
Kimber Aegis Elite Ultra81
Springfield Armory EMP 381
CZ Dan Wesson ECO81
Springfield Armory EMP 381
Ruger SR 191181
Rock Island Armory TAC Ultra CS81
Colt Defender81
Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 9mm
Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 9mm

Evaluation Factor #5: Overall Length and Rating (points)

 Overall LengthRating
Springfield Armory EMP 36.60"1
Kimber Aegis Elite Ultra6.80"2
Sig Sauer Ultra Compact6.80"2
Colt Defender6.75"2
Smith-Wesson Pro Series6.90"2
CZ Dan Wesson ECO7.25"3
Ruger SR 19117.25"3
Rock Island Armory TAC Ultra CS7.13"3
Smith-Wesson 1911 Pro Series 3"
Smith-Wesson 1911 Pro Series 3″

Evaluation Factor #6: Width and Rating (points)

 WidthRating
Smith-Wesson Pro Series1.05"1
Springfield Armory EMP 31.06"1
Kimber Aegis Elite Ultra1.28"2
Colt Defender1.25"2
Rock Island Armory TAC Ultra CS1.31"3
Ruger SR 19111.34"3
Sig Sauer Ultra Compact1.40"3
CZ Dan Wesson ECO1.45"3

Evaluation Factor #7: Trigger and Press Rating (points)

 Trigger PressRating
CZ Dan Wesson ECO4.95 lbs.1
Kimber Aegis Elite Ultra4.95 lbs.1
Sig Sauer Ultra Compact5.00 lbs.2
Ruger SR 19115.00 lbs.2
Springfield Armory EMP 35.20 lbs.3
Smith-Wesson Pro Series5.40 lbs.3
Colt Defender6.20 lbs.3
Rock Island Armory TAC Ultra CS6.10 lbs.3
Ruger SR1911 Officer's Style
Ruger SR1911 Officer’s Style

Evaluation Factor #8: Ergonomics and Rating (points)

 Ergonomics Rating
Ruger SR 19111
Kimber Aegis Elite Ultra1
CZ Dan Wesson ECO1
Springfield Armory EMP 31
Sig Sauer Ultra Compact1
Smith-Wesson Pro Series1
Colt Defender2
Rock Island Armory TAC Ultra CS2
Rock Island Armory Tac Ultra CS
Rock Island Armory Tac Ultra CS

Evaluation Factor #9: Field Test Performance and Rating (points)

 Performance Rating
CZ Dan Wesson ECO1
Kimber Aegis Elite Ultra1
Springfield Armory EMP 31
Sig Sauer Ultra Compact1
Ruger SR 19111
Smith-Wesson Pro Series2
Rock Island Armory TAC Ultra CS2
Colt Defender3
Colt Defender
Colt Defender

Evaluation Factor #10: Miscellaneous: Overall, Extras, MSRP, and Rating (points)

 Misc. Overall RatingMSRP
Kimber Aegis Elite Ultra1$1,041
CZ Dan Wesson ECO1$1,623
Springfield Armory EMP 31$1,249
Sig Sauer Ultra Compact1$1,221
Smith-Wesson Pro Series2$1,330
Ruger SR 19112$979
Colt Defender2$949
Rock Island Armory TAC Ultra CS2$786

Total Points Of Individual Ratings for Each 1911 Sub-Compact 9mm Pistol

 Total Points - This StudyTotal Points from Previous Review
Kimber Aegis Elite Ultra1296
Springfield Armory EMP 31496
CZ Dan Wesson ECO1596
Sig Sauer Ultra Compact1695
Smith-Wesson Pro Series1794
Ruger SR 191119*94
Colt Defender1992
Rock Island Armory TAC Ultra CS2493

* For Total Points Rating, Tie Breaker was Field Test Performance and/or Miscellaneous Categories Ratings. The Lower the Total Points for this Study, the more individual Higher Ratings were received. The Higher the Total Points for each individual Previous Study, the Higher Overall Rating was received. The Individual Ratings for this comparison study were very comparable to previous Individual Reviews.

Conclusions

I recommend all eight of these 1911 sub-compact 9mm pistols studied and Field Tested, based on this comparison study and on my previous individual Reviews (with 2018 Update) of each of the eight 1911 sub-compact 9mms. For more details, you can reference my individual Reviews of these 8 pistols on this website. Remember, ALL 8 of these are EXCELLENT pistols! I handpicked them for inclusion in this study to compare their similarities, differences, key features, and performances. They are the Best of the Best at this time in my opinion. Certainly, you must decide on the features you want and your personal preferences and Criteria.

THERE ARE NO RIGHT OR WRONG PISTOL CHOICES FOR EVERYONE OR BEST OR WORST GUNS. IT IS TOTALLY YOUR CALL.

For me, they are representative of the current quality market and best match all my Criteria. I am proud to own most of these outstanding and very superior 1911 sub-compact 9mms. I shot them all and voted with my purchases. The sole purpose of this comparison study and Field Tests of these exceptional 1911 sub-compact 9mm pistols was to sincerely help you select the best pistol for yourself and solely for the concealed carry purpose, by providing you data to save you some research time. What may be “right” for me may NOT be “right” for you. It depends! So, TRY BEFORE YOU BUY!

I tried to be as objective, orderly, rational, and fair as humanly possible. But, all of us influence our conclusions, results and ratings through our biased opinions, assumptions, analysis, and interpretations of data and results. Sadly, there is no one common agreement or single explanation of what the “best” or “top” pistol or anything really is. Any study, evaluation, rating, ranking, and score is very subjective, open to interpretation, and biased by personal opinion and judgment. So while I really want to help you with my comparisons, opinions, and ratings, they are just that… MINE. You should do your own comparisons and study with your Criteria.

Be certain to establish your own Criteria up front before getting into comparison factors. Identify your personal desired features, narrow down your own list to a handful of worthwhile alternatives, and compare and rank your concealed carry pistols according to your factors, priorities, and preferences. Have a plan and do the necessary research and work before laying your “Benjamins” on the counter. Research and identify the several characteristics, features, pros and cons, and match them to your Criteria and purpose. You will probably have to make your own tradeoffs according to your goal, desired features, preferences for certain factors, etc. Again, I certainly suggest that you TRY BEFORE YOU BUY any concealed carry handgun. This is especially true for 1911 sub-compact 9mms because of the very diverse quality, features, accuracy, and reliability variables. The 8 I compared here in my study are ALL top-notch 1911 sub-compact 9mms. Also, don’t forget to certainly consider CUSTOMER SERVICE in dealing with the manufacturer after your purchase. Their reputation, honesty, time attention, and efforts in placing you the customer foremost are important. Success in selecting this very critical tool for yourself.

As the Grail Knight said in the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade movie–

“CHOOSE WISELY, AS THE TRUE GRAIL WILL BRING YOU LIFE
AND THE FALSE GRAIL WILL TAKE IT FROM YOU.”

I hope this article has helped you gain some information you did not previously have about these eight stellar concealed carry sub-compact 1911 9mms.

Remember, Safety First Always!

Contacts

Kimber Manufacturing
1-888-243-4522
Yonkers, NY 10710

Dan Wesson Firearms
1-607-336-2622
Norwich, NY 13815

Springfield-Armory
1-800-680-6866
Geneseo, IL 61254

Sig Sauer
1-603-610-3000
Newington, NH 03801

Smith & Wesson
1-800-331-0852
Springfield, MA 01104

Ruger
1-336-949-5200
1-888-220-1173
Prescott, AZ 86301

Colt’s Manufacturing Co.
1-800-962-2658
West Hartford, CT 06110

Armscor-Rock Island Armory & Ammo
1-775-537-1444
Pahrump, NV, 89060

Sig Sauer for 365 and Elite V-Crown 9mm JHP-FMJ Ammo
1-603-610-3000
Newington, NH 03801

Photos by Author and Manufacturers.

* 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 [email protected].