T

he Taurus 1911 Commander, introduced this year by the Brazilian gun maker, is sized just right for concealed carry and self defense while leaving plenty of grip frame to hold onto. It's price is also attractive, but Taurus didn't skimp on features, including everything you'd expect from a modern 1911-platform pistol, along with a bevy of safety features. Keep reading to see how the new Taurus stacks up against its predecessors and how it faired at the range. First, Some History One might think that Colt had a compact and subcompact model in the works after introducing the full size, 5-inch barrel 1911 at the beginning of the 20th century, but back in the day, there was less clamor for multiple sizes of the same pistol and the U.S. military was also set up for one sidearm and one sidearm only. But after the end of World War II, the brass began changing their minds about that, and Colt was ready to answer.

remington commander
Remington recently introduced the 1911 R1 UltraLight Commander built on an aluminum alloy frame.Remington

The Commander-sized 1911 originated when the U.S. military put out a call for a lighter replacement for the M1911A1 to be issued to officers only. This was about 1949, and the requirements specified a pistol chambered in 9mm that was seven inches long and weighed 25 ounces. The idea was for officers who were now occupying duty stations in peace time to have something smaller and lighter than the all-steel, full-sized 1911 on their belts.

Colt produced test pistols based on a shortened M1911 design. It was novel, since it used an aluminum frame and was Colt’s first pistol chambered in 9mm. Other candidates included Browning Hi-Power variants produced by Canada's Inglis and Belgium's Fabrique Nationale, and the Smith & Wesson Model 39.

The military ultimately scrapped the idea of a separate officers’ sidearm, so Colt brought the shortened 1911 to the civilian market and called it the Commander, making it the first large-frame handgun with an aluminum frame in major production. The Colt Commander was released chambered in 9mm, .38 Super, and .45 ACP.

It was also the first American pistol chambered in 9mm, having beat the Smith & Wesson Model 39 to market—though the S&W Model 39 was the first DA/SA 9mm pistol. The Browning Hi Power was only produced in Belgium and Canada at the time.

One of the distinguishing feature of the Commander, other than the abbreviated slide and barrel, was a rounded hammer, similar to the hammer on old Hi-Power pistols, which had a snag free profile compared to the spur hammer on full-sized 1911s.

After the introduction of the Commander, people began referring to full-sized 1911s as Government sized.

colt commanders
Here's a pair of early Colt Commanders chambered in .38 Super (top) and .45 ACP (bottom).Courtesy Rock Island Auctions.

When the Colt Commander hit the commercial market in 1951, unsurprisingly the .45 ACP variant was the most popular.

The new 1911 was well received and in the following decades, most companies that made 1911s began producing a Commander-sized model. In 1975, Rock Island Arsenal developed a compact 1911 and called it the "General Officer's Model Pistol" for issue to general officers of the Army and Air Force, but it wasn't made for commercial sale. The next year, Pat Yates of Detonics introduced the compact "Combat Master" 1911 with a 3.5-inch barrel and shortened grip frame.

Afterward a number of companies began producing compact-sized 1911s. In 1985, Colt released the Colt Officer's ACP, and then a lighter version the following year with an aluminum frame.

The three main size categories of 1911 pistols were now in place: the Government, Commander, and Officer.

detonics combat master
The Detonics Combat Master was introduced in the 1970s and was the forerunner of the subcompact 1911s manufactured today.Courtesy Rock Island Auctions.

The difference between Commander- and Officer-sized 1911s is that the Commander uses a full-sized grip frame with a shortened slide and barrel, whereas the Officer models also has a smaller frame and grip in addition to a shortened barrel and slide.

If I were to define a Commander-size 1911, it would be "a 1911-platform pistol that utilizes a full-size receiver or frame and a 4.25-inch barrel."

taurus 1911 commander magazine
The Taurus Commander 1911 comes with an 8-round magazines for an 8+1 capacity. The factory mags include a rubber baseplate.Robert A. Sadowski

While it might sound like an easy task to just chop down a full-sized 1911, the smaller variants like the Commander and Officer need to deal with physics. Reducing the length of the barrel and slide means both components become lighter, and the velocity of the slide is increased when a shot is fired. A faster moving slide means the magazine might not be able to push the next round up in time. A different recoil spring helps mitigate this issue so the Commander can use regular 1911 mags.

Also, in Commander- and Officer-sized pistols with 4.25-inch and 3.5-inch barrels, respectively, the barrel bushing is shorter than the bushing of a Government 1911.

taurus 1911 commander barrel
There is just enough room on the slide at the muzzle for some forward slide serrations. The Commander uses a single-piece guide rod.Robert A. Sadowski

Personally, I like the Commander format—full size grip and shortened slide—it is easy to hang onto when firing .45 ACP and it isomer comfortable to conceal carry due to the shorter barrel though the grip can print under clothing. Bobtail 1911s like the one from Smith & Wesson help alleviate this. The new Taurus has all the features a modern 1911 shooter expects in a concealable package.

The recent success of the Glock 19X, which pairs a full-sized Glock 17 frame with the shorter Glock 19 slide and barrel, proves I'm not the only one who likes this setup.

A New Commander

Available in the classic .45 ACP chambering, the Taurus Commander uses an 8+1 capacity magazine and comes with Novak low-profile sights, and extended beaver tail grip safety, and a rounded hammer, just like the first Commanders.

This affordable pistol wears a matte black finish that is well executed and gives the new Taurus an all-business look. The receiver is alloy steel, making the gun a bit hefty with an unloaded weight of 38 ounces. While the exterior of this 21st century Commander is understated, Taurus gave some modern thought to other features.

The beavertail grip safety, pretty much a requirement for modern 1911s, makes sure you stay clear of hammer bite. Original Colt Commanders had a small grip safety tang that almost guaranteed hammer bite for a large-handed shooter. I experienced none of that with the Taurus and found the grip safety disengaged easily, as it features a large speed bump. Even when I drew the pistol from a holster with a sloppy grip, I could disengage the safety.

taurus 1911 commander safety decocker
The large beavertail grip safety ensures you don't get a case of hammer bite.Robert A. Sadowski

The next new feature I like on the Taurus are the included Novak sights. Both the front and rear are dovetailed to the slide and the rear sight is adjustable for windage. The front ramp is large and offers easy sight acquisition. Other features include a long, three hole trigger with adjustable trigger stop and a flat mainspring housing.

The skeletonized trigger face is grooved so your trigger finger can get a good secure press. The trigger pull on the test gun I received averaged 8.5 pounds, which is ok for a defensive carry piece, though I would prefer a lighter trigger pull. It would make shooting the Commander easier and increase accuracy.

There is also just enough slide space for some coarse serrations to be included at the muzzle for press checks.

The manual thumb safety is oversized and it worked as it should. Grips are checkered polymer with a subdued Taurus logo molded in the center. A nice feature is the front grip strap, which is finely checkered for a sure grip.

The magazine well is chamfered to make inserting the magazine easier when reloading. My sample came with one magazine fitted with a rubber bumper that helped when slamming a fresh magazine home and when the magazine falls free to a concrete deck. The factory mag also has witness holes so you can see if the mag is fully loaded or not.

taurus 1911 commander right side
The manual thumb safety is set up for righties only and inside, the pistol features a 1911 series 80 mechanism.Robert A. Sadowski

The slide to frame fit is tight and precise—exactly what I'd expect from any 1911 made today. The Taurus uses a traditional barrel and muzzle bushing set up with a one-piece recoil guide rod. When I cracked the Taurus Commander open, I found it uses a Series 80 mechanism.

The Taurus also includes a firing pin disconnect safety to prevent accidental discharge when dropped. A firing pin block lever pushes the firing pin block out of the way as the trigger is pulled.

Range Test

With a mix of FMJ, JHP, and orphan rounds—those loose rounds I always seem to have left over after range work—I broke the Taurus in at 10 yards. The trigger was a bit heavy but I worked at it. At 10 yards, I had a lot of fun shooting the Commander—plus loading eight rounds into the single-stack magazine is easy on the thumbs.

I fired for speed while trying to keep all rounds on paper—an ersatz Bill Drill. The Commander was easy to control during these drills and quick reloads were simple. The accuracy was solid, recoil was manageable, sights were excellent, and I learned to manage the heavy trigger.

taurus 1911 commander left side
The author found the 8.5 lbs. trigger to be a bit too heavy.Robert A. Sadowski

At 25 yards I benched the Taurus off my shooting bags and concentrated on my trigger pull and the front sight. To be truthful, I expected 4-inch groups at 25 yards.

To my surprise, I was able to shoot 3-inch groups, but had to work at managing the trigger pull.

Performance Results: Taurus 1911 Commander

.45 ACP Average Velocity (fps) Muzzle Energy (ft-lbs) Best Group* (in.) Average Group* (in.)
Winchester White Box 230-gr. FMJ 834 355 2.3 3.5
Winchester Defend 230-gr. JHP 825 348 3.6 3.8
HPR HyperClean 185—gr. JHP 949 370 3.3 3.95

Takeaway

This first Commander sized 1911 from Taurus turned in a solid performance. Even with hotter loads, the pistol was a pleasure to shoot. As a concealed carry option, this thin and flat Taurus Commander is a naturally good choice.

Specifications: Taurus 1911 Commander

Caliber: .45 ACP
Barrel: 4.2 inches
OA Length: 7.9 inches
OA Height: 5.8 inches
OA Width: 1.25 inches
Weight: 38 ounces (empty magazine)  
Stock/Grips: checkered polymer
Sights: Novak 3-dot, drift adjustable front/rear
Trigger: single action
Finish: matte black
Capacity: 8 + 1
MSRP: $609