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Officer vs Commander vs Government

Have you been wondering what the difference is between the Officer, Commander and Government model 1911? Well wonder no more. This week I’ll dive into the big differences across the board, a small snipit of history, and give you some of the big manufacturers.


Officers 1911The officer model 1911 is generally 3.5″ (I say generally because any manufacturer can call their 3.5″ something else as well as call another length “officer”). This is considered a compact 1911. Most items on an officer’s model 1911 cannot be swapped with commander or government item. The frame size is different than the commander and government. Not only is the length shorter 3.5″, but the magazine capacity is shorter. You can use longer mags in a compact officer’s 1911 but it doesn’t go the other way around. Compact mags cannot be used in a full size 1911.


Commander 1911The commander model 1911 is generally 4.25″. The length, 4.25″ refers to the barrel length. Some guns may be marketed as commander length with a 4″ bushingless barrel. They really aren’t considered a true commander gun, more so the “mid-size”. For the purpose of grips and magazines, this is still considered a full size gun.


Full Size 1911The government model 1911 is generally 5″ and considered full size. Other than the uppers (barrel, recoil springs, slide, guide rod…), parts for a government are usually interchangeable with a commander model 1911. The frames of government and commander versions are the same.

Other Variants

We already pointed out that a 4″ bushingless barrel gun is considered a mid-size more than a true Commander. Well, there are other variants of the 1911 and I’ll only briefly mention them here.

  • Longslide – usually a 6″ barrel on a government frame
  • CCO (Combat Carry Officer) – commander (4.25″) or mid-size (4″) barrel on officer’s frame
  • Commanding Officer – officer’s (3.5″) barrel on a government frame.

Also, different manufactures like to spiffy up their guns by giving them fancy names. Kimber is one of these manufacturers. While I love Kimber guns and how lightweight they can be for carry, the did go and name their guns all different just to be spiffy (16 different families of guns and many variations of each on their website as of this writing). For the full story visit Kimber’s website. For now, the Kimber guns are generally explained like this:

  • Government – Custom
  • Commander – Pro
  • Officers – Ultra
  • Kimber also has the compact which has a shorter grip then their Ultra.


The history of the 1911 begins with John Browning’s amazing design for the world’s most well known handgun. The US Army formally adopted the .45 model March 29, 1911 and that’s when it became known simply as the 1911. It was the standard issue for the US armed forces from 1911 to 1985. While it is no longer the standard issue, that doesn’t mean that military members are not still loyal to their old time favorite.

While the standard 1911 comes in .45 ACP, they are also offered in other calibers like .38 super, 9 mm, and 10 mm.

For a more in depth history of the 1911, check out this tribute to John Browning on Browning’s website or the simple Wikipedia article.


There are to many manufacturers to list them all and the firearm’s industry is always changing but here are a few to give you a taste. I’ve included links to the manufactureres where possible.

If there is something you’ve been dying to know about the 1911, drop us a line and we’ll share our answer with everyone.

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