Building or modifying your 1911? This guide explains the three variants of this legendary handgun in relation to frame size: The full-size Government, the compact Commander, and the subcompact Officer. This is part of our master guide: How to Build Your Own 1911 At Home. We recommend reading through this first, so you can decide which platform you want to build. Let's compare!
The Original 1911: Government (5") Model
The aptly-named Government 1911 profile is the original, full-size, steel-framed design submitted by Colt to the U.S. Army in the year of its name. Today, the standard “A1” configuration – the same design used in WWII – weighs about 2.4 pounds empty and sports a 5” barrel. Total length is 8.25”. Its full-size grip conceals a standard magazine carrying seven rounds. The 1911 Government was originally chambered in .45 ACP, though other configurations have been made available in everything from 9mm, .50 GI, to .22 LR.
The 1911 Commander: 4.25" Model
The 1911 Commander is just a compact version of the 1911 Government, sporting a shorter barrel and slide, introduced in 1950. It shares the same frame, trigger assembly, and magazine with the Government. Like the Government, the Commander was originally chambered in .45 ACP. It is now made available in 9mm, .38 Super, .22 LR, and other niche cartridges.
The Commander sports a 4.25” barrel with a total length of 7.75”. Total weight (with a steel frame) when empty is approximately 2.25 pounds, though a Lightweight Commander variant, produced after 1970, weighs just 1.68 pounds. This reduction in weight paired with heavy-hitting cartridges makes the 1911 Commander a popular daily-carry piece. Because it shares the Government’s frame, the .45 ACP-chambered Commander also carries 7 rounds in its standard magazine.
The 1911 Officer: 3.5" Model
The Colt Officer’s ACP is more commonly known as the 1911 Officer. The Officer ditches the frame shared by the Government and Commander for a smaller version. Introduced in 1975 to the general officers of the US Army and Air Force, the pistol was unavailable for sale until 1985. The 1911 Officer is still chambered in .45 ACP, making it a popular carry piece that packs a punch. Its frame allows for 6 rounds in its magazine, though extended magazines are readily available that tick the tally up to 7 or more. The original 1911 Officer graces the scales at 2.1 pounds, though lightweight versions have been made available weighing just 24 ounces (1.5 pounds).
The 1911 Officer’s .45 ACP variant has been both praised and hated as a carry piece. Some say its small 3.5” barrel causes noticeable amounts of loss in power and accuracy. Others say it performs admirably with a slightly longer barrel, and many say its performance with 9mm is exceptional.
80% Frame Options
The Government and Commander 1911 profiles remain the most popular versions sold on gun store shelves. The platforms' shared frame is the only 80% frame currently available. No Officer 80% frame is produced at this time. Frame options (shown above) include a black anodized or raw (bead-blasted) finish. An optional Picatinny accessory rail is installed in front of the trigger guard.