I am not a fan of subcompact guns for CCW or duty use. A lot of people will tell you how much they love their tiny ittty bitty whatever model and how well it works and how small and comfortable it is to carry. They will tell you all of this in all sincerity. What most of them are really saying, if you read between the lines, is how much they love it because it is small and light and they don’t notice they are carrying it. Not many of them have shot any of the subcompacts enough to really know how it will perform. Or course an argument could be made that you do not need it to fire hundreds of rounds in a self defense situation and so on, but the truth is that it you keep it long enough, it will be eventually fired to the point where it starts to malfunction. They are based on full-sized guns that work well. Just like when you shoehorn a piston into the AR15 platform, when you make the same gun a lot smaller, it doesn’t always pan out.
Now with that out of the way I do like them for certain uses. My main use of the subcompact is for a backup gun to my main full-sized EDC piece. Now, for a subcompact, I mean anything smaller then a commander sized gun. I know there are a lot of different ideas about what is a subcompact, but for now, I mean smaller than a commander. I consider an Officers model and a Defender to both be a subcompacts.
I had a Defender for a few years and only sold it when I saw another full size 1911 I HAD TO HAVE. I do not regret that one bit, but I do miss it. I served me well and I had a little over 1,000 rounds through it. I trusted it, but not like I trust a Gov model. I carried it on my ankle and sometimes on my alternate killing hand side, depending on the weather and what I would be doing for most of the time I had it on.
The Defender came with the always nice Novak sights and a Hogue rubber grip. I detest the Hogue grip , so I replaced it with a set of wooden grips. I also added an STI extended thumb safety. The frame was alloy and light and was hard to notice when you had the gun with you. The pistol came with two 7-round stainless steel Colt mags as standard. The magazines are the interesting and most important part to me and the reason I am writing about it.
Since I carried the Defender as a backup, I always had two guns chambered in the .45 ACP round. I love having two side arms that chamber and fire the same ammo, and I adore having two guns, of two sizes, that will use the same mags.
The defender does use as standard, a shorter mag than the full sized gov model or the Commander, but it will accept and work perfectly with the full-size mags. I could carry the full-sized 1911 with two spare mags of 8 rounds each, plus the Defender with its standard magazine around my ankle just to keep it as small as I could.
My thoughts were that if my full sized gun was hit, dropped , became to jammed up or rendered inoperable in some way, the Defender would still work with my spare mags. Anyone can see the appeal to this. Being able to use any 1911 mag in the Defender was handy indeed.
In the picture above, the Defender has a Wilson Combat 8 round mag in it. Of course the mag sticks out the bottom of the well a little, but it harms nothing. In fact, it even aids in control of reloading in some ways.
At the time, I did not have the Wilson 10 round mags , but if I did, I would use them the same as I do now and have the 10 rounders ready as reloads, just the same as I do now,only I would use them in my back up defender. They work perfectly, just like the other mags.
The mags fall out nice and clean and always lock back when empty. I guess some would say you can over insert them, but I see that as a training issue. I have never seen it happen anyway, so it is not much of a concern to me.
For a small pistol chambered in the .45 ACP, it handles and shoots well. It does have a little more bit to it, but nothing uncomfortable. The shorter sight radius requires perfect alignment and trigger control with little room for forgiveness. But that’s something you need to be paying attention to anyway. For most uses they will claim these types of guns are for close range and not for anything much else. My friend and I have fired them out to typical hand gun ranges with the same success as the full-size pistols. I found myself having to slow down when doing hammered pairs, double taps and and rapid fire strings, not because of the small sized gun causing me grip problems, but because of the more noticeable recoil. After a little practice you get used to it and can go to the same speeds you usually work with comfortably.
The Defender is just as accurate as a full-sized gun. People who tell you that shorter barrels are less accurate should not be allowed to give you advice on fire arms. A gun’s barrel length has nothing to do with its accuracy. It only affects velocity and sight radius. A longer sight radius is easier to shoot. A gun that is easier to shoot appears to be more accurate. People have related this with barrel length having a physical effect on the accuracy. In reality, it’s simply the lessened precision from aiming with a shorter sight radius.
Hits 100 yards on a man-sized target were achieved with the defender with careful trigger control and sight alignment. You know, the basics.
I don’t recommend to anyone to buy and use a subcompact anything as a standard every day carry CCW handgun. It’s just not a good idea. For the new buyer and CCW card holder, they seem great. They are light and handy and easy to hide. But the dark side is, they kick harder because they are lighter, and the shorter sight radius can frustrate new shooters. They are not always 100% percent reliable, and the muzzle blast can be off-putting for some. Of course at night the problem is intensified. The idiotic porting on the early Springfield Armory subcompacts can really make for a fireworks show. That is, when you could get them to actually fire. When they hit a peak in popularity in the late 90s, a local shop ordered 5 of them. Out of the five, not a single one could make it through 1 magazine without a double feed or worse. The early Defenders had issues too, but not as severe and Colt worked them out pretty fast. I have to say the Defender is oddly way more reliable then the older Mustangs and Ponies or any of the so-called pocket pistols and Officer’s models. The worst I have seen are the Kimbers with the external extracts. I am being extra hard on the subs because I really feel you’re just asking for trouble if you carry them and expect them to take the abuse of a full-sized gun. The absolute worst are always in the nearly worthless rounds like .380, .32, and .25. I guess they might have a place in the world somewhere, but I just don’t see it. Someone will chine in and tell me they have a Sig or some HK and it always works 100%, but if you hear that, take it with a grain of salt until you can test or see fired a model a few hundred times, get it hot and dirty and run it hard with hollow point ammo and make damn sure it will work. Remember that smaller guns take more abuse and parts wear out at a faster rate.
If you have to have one, or want a compact that is a damn good back up to a main gun, I do recommend the Defender. You can now get the Defender in 9mm. Colt and other makers of the 1911 make guns chambered in 9mm, so you can still have the two guns work with the same mags allowing use of the spare mags for a gun made in effective for whatever reason. I would like to see a .38 Super combo like this, but I doubt it will happen. The Defender as it is offers high quality and is the only subcompact 1911 that I would trust my life to. With all things though, test out the subcompacts out for your self. Don’t buy them just because you think it would be easier to carry. That is absolutely the wrong reason to buy a gun to defend your life with. A little extra weight all day beats a hole in your liver made by some cheap .25 ACP Lorcin pistol imply because your subcompact double-fed after the first round.