If we are completely honest with ourselves we have to admit that it is impossible to know everything there is to know about guns. If we are a little extra honest with ourselves we have to admit that we never like to be the one to admit the other guy knows a little more than us. So if you’ve heard the terms “officer”, “commander” or “government” thrown around in context with the 1911 and had to smile your way through the conversation so as to not admit that you have no idea what they mean then you have come to the right place. Gun knowledge isn’t magically gifted to anyone and there is truly no shame in admitting what you don’t know. Want to know the difference between the officer, commander and government 1911? The answer is so simple it just might surprise you.
Long story short, the nuanced difference between all three models is really just size. It would be great if the names meant a lot more and somehow manifested itself accordingly. I supposed the Commander model might come with eyepatch and sword while the government model would likely just come with redundant paperwork and excessive taxes. However, you can best see the difference when you look at the raw frames as with these 80% 1911 frames below.
When all the fuss is stripped away you can see that the chief if not only difference is really the length of the gun. The officer version comes in generally at 3.5 inches of barrel length. It is considered a compact 1911 and it holds a shorter magazine as well. The commander version extends out to 4.25 inches for a midsized gun. Then, the government version is a full-sized gun at 5 inches. Pretty simple, right? So if you are looking to start your first 1911 build then you are going to want to identify the size desired before you get to work. But let’s talk quickly about the 1911 frame.
Why Do I Want an Incomplete Gun?
A 1911 80% frame is a 1911 pistol that is 80% complete. Again, so simple it can make your head hurt. The beauty of having an 80% frame is that until you actually complete the machining process to mill out the trigger control group that ATF basically considers this thing a big hunk of metal as opposed to a firearm. No FFL is required and depending on which state you live in and the laws at the time there are no registration requirements once you complete it. However, laws change and we are not lawyers so research your unique situation at the time. Below is a pretty good guide to get you started.
From there, it is just a matter of acquiring the right tools and parts to make your custom built 1911 do a little pew pew pew. At 1911 Frame we only use quality American made products built with the American shooter in mind. No one starts a 1911 build only to piece it together with bubble gum and we wouldn’t recommend you do so either. As our motto states, we are American-owned, American operated and damn proud of it!