The world of 1911 pistols can be a fascinating place to explore, with the two most iconic variants being the Government and Commander models. These firearms hold a significant place in history and have unique characteristics that make them appealing to gun enthusiasts. It’s easy to find yourself wondering which one is right for you, and this question can quickly become as complex as the firearms themselves.

The main difference between these two models lies in their size. The Government Model 1911 has a longer barrel and a full-size frame, giving it a distinct presence. On the other hand, the Commander Model 1911 features a slightly shorter barrel, making it more compact and easier to handle for some shooters. While both variants are respected and widely used, their choice often boils down to personal preferences and intended use.

As you delve deeper into 1911 pistols, it’s essential to consider factors such as recoil management, magazine capacity, and budget. Remember that each model has pros and cons, making this an intriguing and sometimes overwhelming debate. By understanding your shooting needs and preferences, you’ll be better equipped to make an informed decision between the 1911 Government and Commander models.

1911 Government Model vs Commander Model

Understanding the Differences

The difference between the 1911 Government Model and the Commander Model is their size. The Government model has a full-size frame, providing a more stable shooting platform, making it easier to shoot accurately and control recoil. On the other hand, the Commander model is a bit smaller and has some features that make it more comfortable to carry.

Some other notable distinctions include:

  • Barrel Length: The Government model typically has a 5-inch barrel, while the Commander model has a slightly shorter 4-4.25-inch barrel.
  • Weight: The Commander model is generally lighter than the Government model, contributing to its increased comfort for concealed carry.
  • Recoil Spring: Due to the difference in barrel lengths, Commander 1911s might have different recoil spring weights than their Government counterparts.

It’s essential to remember that many 1911 frames and parts are interchangeable, especially between the Government and Commander models. This offers customization options for those who want a mix of the two models’ features.

History of the Models

The 1911 pistol, designed by John Browning, has been a popular semi-automatic firearm since its creation in the early 1900s. Initially adopted by the U.S. military, the 1911’s Government model has a long and storied history.

The Commander model, introduced in 1950, was developed in response to the U.S. military’s post-World War II request for a smaller, lighter sidearm. The shortening of the barrel and the frame made the gun easier to carry, providing the same fundamental design as its predecessor while catering to the military’s needs.

Over the years, various other models and variants have emerged, but both the Government and the Commander models remain favorites among firearms enthusiasts.

In conclusion, the main differences between the 1911 Government and Commander models are their size, weight, and barrel lengths. Each caters to specific user needs and preferences, but both ultimately share the same legendary design that John Browning began a century ago.

Size and Weight Comparisons

When comparing the 1911 Government and Commander models, it’s essential to consider the differences in size and weight, as these factors significantly affect how comfortable and easy the firearm is to carry and handle.

Barrel Length Comparison

The Government model features a 5-inch barrel, while the Commander model has a shorter barrel. The shorter barrel makes the Commander more comfortable, especially for concealed carry. The difference in length can affect factors such as recoil and accuracy, with the longer barrel of the Government model providing slightly better accuracy potential and the Commander model has a bit more recoil due to its shorter barrel.

Size and Weight Differences

  • Government Model: The Government 1911 is larger and typically heavier, with a weight of around 39 oz when empty. The larger size can make it more difficult to conceal and carry for some people. However, the increased weight can provide better stability when shooting, particularly in a .45 ACP chambering.
  • Commander Model: The Commander 1911 is a more compact and lighter option, with a weight of around 29 to 33 oz when empty. This model is easier to carry and conceal due to its smaller size and lighter weight. The Commander is available in both .45 ACP and 9mm chamberings, offering various options for shooters. Its smaller size may result in slightly increased recoil, but the difference is generally minimal.

Magazine Capacity: Both the Government and Commander models typically share the same magazine capacity based on their respective chamberings. The full-sized frame .45 ACP models carry seven to eight rounds, while the 9mm models carry nine to ten rounds. The Officer and Defender models, with their smaller Officer-sized frames, may have reduced magazine capacities.

The 1911 Government and Commander models have unique size and weight characteristics that may appeal to different shooters. Preference for barrel length, overall size, weight, and ease of carry will likely influence the choice between these classic 1911 models.

Performance and Handling

Shooting Experience

Regarding the shooting experience, the 1911 Government and Commander models offer a satisfying time at the range. The Government model, with its longer slide and steel frame, provides a solid grip and stable shooting platform. On the other hand, the Commander’s shortened slide and lightweight aluminum frame make it more agile and easier to handle.

Accuracy and Recoil

Factors like barrel length and sight radius influence the accuracy of a handgun. The Government model has a slightly longer barrel length and a larger sight radius, which can lead to improved accuracy. However, the Commander’s shorter length doesn’t sacrifice much. Both models deliver commendable accuracy, especially in the hands of an experienced shooter. As for recoil, the government model’s steel frame helps absorb more of it, making it easier to manage for some shooters.

Concealment and Comfort

If you’re looking for a handgun that is comfortable to carry and easier to conceal, the Commander model’s smaller size becomes an advantage. Its lighter weight also increases comfort during extended periods of carrying. The Government model, while larger and heavier, maybe less ideal for concealed carry but is still a viable option for those who can handle its size.

Marksman’s Preference

Ultimately, the choice between the 1911 Government and Commander models comes down to the individual marksman’s preferences. Factors like grip, comfort, and personal shooting style come into play when making the decision. Both models have their fans and detractors, but it’s crucial to assess your own needs and capabilities before making the final call.

By covering these bases and considering factors like overall performance and handling, you can make an informed choice between the 1911 Government and Commander models.

Popular 1911 Models

Manufacturer Overview

Many renowned firearm manufacturers are known for their exceptional 1911 models, catering to a wide range of customers. Notable names include Colt, Springfield Armory, Ruger, Kimber, Sig Sauer, Smith & Wesson, and Wilson Combat.


Colt’s classic 1911 government models, along with offerings like the Commander, have been popular for over a century. In fact, Colt pioneered the Commander model 1911, setting the standard for others to follow.

Springfield, Ruger, Kimber

Springfield Armory, Ruger, and Kimber also provide excellent 1911 models with various features for different user preferences.

Sig Sauer and Smith & Wesson

Sig Sauer shines in the industry with their 1911 adaptations, while Smith & Wesson’s modern take on the 1911 caters to users who favor an updated design.

Wilson Combat

Wilson Combat is known for its semi-custom 1911 ACP as it offers a mix of high-quality craftsmanship and accessible pricing.

Notable Models and Features

The 1911 models come in various sizes and configurations. Some popular models are:

  • Government Model 1911: The classic full-size model earning its name for being the original military sidearm.
  • Colt Commander: A slightly smaller, more compact version of the Government Model, available in the original Combat Commander and Lightweight Commander.
  • Officer’s Model: A 1911 variation with a smaller frame and shorter barrel, designed for easy concealment and ideal for self-defense.
  • Colt Defender: Known for its ultra-compact design, the Colt Defender features a shortened grip frame and barrel for easy carrying.

Common features across these models include:

  • Ergonomics: Comfortable grip design and improvements based on personal preference.
  • Caliber options: Often chambered in .45 ACP or 9mm for various shooting applications.
  • Customizability: Many 1911s offer upgraded sights, grips, and trigger customization options.

Choosing the Right Model

Selecting the ideal 1911 model depends on the individual’s preferences and intended use. Factors like size, weight, barrel length, and caliber should be considered. Full-size Government Models are great for target shooting and home defense, while compact versions like the Commander and Officer’s Model are suitable for concealed carry. In the end, personal comfort and performance are essential in making the final choice among these iconic firearms.

Caliber Options

When choosing between a 1911 Government and Commander pistol, it’s essential to consider the caliber options available for each model. In this section, we’ll explore the popular .45 ACP and 9mm calibers, as well as some of the other available options.

.45 ACP vs 9mm

The .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) is the classic choice for 1911 pistols, including the Government and Commander models. This caliber offers:

  • Stopping power: With its larger diameter and heavier bullets, the .45 ACP packs a substantial punch.
  • A proven track record: The .45 ACP has been a staple in military and law enforcement use for over a century, earning it a solid reputation.

In contrast, the 9mm is another popular option for 1911 pistols, offering certain advantages over the .45 ACP:

  • Higher capacity: Thanks to its smaller size, 9mm ammunitions allow for higher round capacity in standard magazines.
  • Less recoil: 9mm rounds generally produce less, making it easier for users with smaller hands or less shooting experience.

Other Calibers

Aside from the popular .45 ACP and 9mm calibers, there are other caliber options to consider when choosing a 1911 pistol, such as the .38 Super. This caliber offers:

  • Increased velocity: With higher pressure loading than the .45 ACP, the .38 Super offers greater velocity and a flatter trajectory.
  • Versatility: The .38 Super is a suitable option for competition shooting events as well as self-defense scenarios.

In conclusion, the choice between a Government or Commander 1911 ultimately depends on your preference in size, weight, and caliber. By comparing the features of each model and assessing your specific needs, you can make an informed decision on the right pistol for you.

Pros and Cons for Concealed Carry


When comparing the Government 1911 with the Classic Commander 1911, the major difference for concealed carry purposes is size. The Commander is a smaller firearm, making it:

  • Easier to conceal
  • More comfortable for all-day carry

On the other hand, the Government model is larger, which can make concealment and comfort more challenging.


Both the Government and Commander models typically have similar capacities. However, newer compact models may have slightly lower capacities due to reduced dimensions.


Performance is an essential aspect to consider for self-defense. The larger Government model has the following benefits:

  • More manageable recoil
  • Greater control during shooting

However, with practice, the Commander model can still provide adequate control and performance for personal defense situations. Additionally, shorter Officer’s-style 1911s are becoming increasingly popular, often chambered in 9mm Luger for reduced recoil.

The choice between a Government 1911 and a Commander 1911 for concealed carry will depend on your personal preferences for concealability, capacity, and performance. Both have merits and limitations, so it’s essential to try them out and find what works best for your self-defense needs.

Maintenance and Upgrades

There are several aspects to consider when it comes to maintaining and upgrading 1911 pistols, whether it’s a Government or Commander model. This section will explore common upgrades and some cleaning and maintenance tips to keep your firearm in top shape.

Common Upgrades

A few popular upgrades for both Government and Commander 1911s include:

  • Bushing: Replacing the barrel bushing with a high-quality, tight-fitting aftermarket option can improve accuracy and enhance the function of your firearm.
  • Holster: Selecting a comfortable, secure holster ensures easy carrying and accessibility when needed.
  • Beavertail: Upgrading to an extended beavertail grip safety provides better control, improved grip, and reduced risk of hand bite.
  • Spring guide: A full-length spring guide can improve the cycling of the slide, reduce recoil, and prolong the life of the recoil spring.
  • Frame rails: Polishing and lubricating the frame rails can enhance the smoothness of the slide operation, leading to more consistent shooting.

Cleaning and Maintenance Tips

To ensure your 1911 pistol remains reliable and functions properly, follow these cleaning and maintenance tips:

  1. Regularly disassemble your firearm and clean all parts, including the slide, barrel, bushing, recoil spring, and spring guide.
  2. Use a quality cleaning solution to help dissolve fouling, carbon, and lead deposits, then brush and swab the bore to remove debris.
  3. Lubricate key areas such as frame rails, slide rails, and the barrel hood to reduce friction and wear.
  4. Inspect the recoil spring and replace it periodically, as worn-out springs can reduce the reliability of your firearm.
  5. Routinely check for any metal shavings, burrs, or cracks in the components, and address any issues promptly to avoid malfunction or damage.

By following these steps and remembering to keep your 1911 well-maintained, you’ll enjoy a reliable, accurate, and efficient firearm, regardless of whether it’s a Government or Commander model.

Price and Recommendations

Price Comparison

Regarding the price of 1911 Government and Commander models, a wide range is available depending on the manufacturer and features. The 1911 Government models can start from around $500, while the Commander versions tend to be a bit more expensive. For instance, you can find a Taurus 1911 Commander for $459, a Metro Arms MAC 1911 Bobcut for $746, and an American Classic Commander for $568. Keep in mind that higher-end models may cost even more.

Determining your budget is worth considering what features and performance you require. For instance, custom 1911 options like the Stealth Arms Platypus come at a pricier tag of $1,904.

Which Model to Choose

When deciding between the Government and Commander 1911 models, factors such as intended use, personal preferences, and budget play a crucial role. Both models have their own benefits and drawbacks. The Government Model tends to have a higher magazine capacity, making it suitable for competition shooting or home defense. However, the Commander Model is more compact and easier to carry concealed, which may be relevant if you use it for everyday carry.

Also, consider the following aspects before making a decision:

  • Grip: The grip can impact how the gun prints under clothing when carried concealed, with the Commander model potentially making it less noticeable (source).
  • Barrel length: Government models usually feature longer barrels than Commander models, which can influence accuracy and ease of handling.
  • Caliber options: Both models are available in various calibers, such as .45 ACP, 9mm, and .38 Super, which can impact recoil, ammunition cost, and personal preferences.

Ultimately, your choice between the Government and Commander 1911 models will depend on your needs, preferences, and budget. Take the time to research, handle, and test different options before making a decision.