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The Gun Safe

Colt Defender .45 ACP: A Modernized Baby (Subcompact) M1911

Colt Defender Image Credit - Creative Commons/You Tube Screenshot.

Many a successful full-sized semiautomatic pistol has in turn spawned a compact and/or subcompact edition. The Glock 17 begat the compact G19 and “baby Glock” G26, the full-sized Beretta 92F begat the Beretta 92 Compact, the CZ-75 begat the CZ P07 Duty, and so forth.  

So then, it only stands to reason that the most enduringly popular large-bore single-action (SA) autopistol of all-time, the M1911 .45 ACP, would have its own compact and subcompact spin-offs as well. Say hello to the Colt Defender. 

Colt Defender Specs 

The Colt Defender made its debut in 2000, followed by an “improved” version in May 2016, with the latter being unveiled during the NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Louisville, Kentucky. 

The Defender is in turn descended from the Colt Officer’s ACP AKA Officer’s Model, which debuted in 1985. Now, seeing produced the original full-sized M1911 Government Model as well as the first compact version – the Commander in 1949 – you’d logically think that the Officer’s ACP was the first subcompact, right? Well, in this case, as Mr. Spock of the Star Trek franchise might say, “That would not be logical, Captain;” the now defunct Detonics was actually the first to make a “baby” 1911, that being the Combat Master back in 1976, a gun and manufacturer whose demise is still mourned by many old-school gun buffs. 

In any event, the manufacturer’s official info page describes the Defender thusly: “The Colt Defender offers power and performance every time. This is an excellent choice for concealed carry. With Novak sights and a Colt Upswept Beavertail Grip Safety, this pistol will provide an exceptional grip and quick target acquisition. The Colt Defender is an accurate and reliable workhorse able to withstand the rigors of everyday carry and numerous trips to the range.” 

Specifications include a barrel length of 3.00 inches, an overall length of 6.75 inches, a width of 1.25 inches, a height of 5.125 inches, and an empty weight of 24.00 ounces. Standard magazine capacity is 7+1 rounds.(By contrast, the Officer’s ACP was a mere 6+1 shooter.) That magazine is somewhat deceptively designed though; once you’ve loaded it to full capacity, the round-counter holes on the sides of the magazines falsely indicate room for one more bullet.  

Personal Shooting Impressions 

“Patience is a virtue,” as the proverb goes, and a similar nugget of wisdom tells us that “Good things come to those who wait.” Well, my own experience with getting to test-fire the Colt Defender certainly lends credence to those truisms. 

Y’see, I was originally supposed to write this article over a month ago, using one of the rental gun options at the impressive new XCAL indoor shooting range facility in Ashburn, Virginia. (That’s right, folks; Silver Eagle Group [SEG] now has some intracity competition for the wallets of the shooting sports community living in or near Northern Virginia.) Alas, for whatever reason, the Defender wasn’t available that day, so I ended up evaluating the range’s full-size post-Series 80 Colt Government Model rental gun instead. 

Fast-forward to this past weekend, and XCAL’s Defender was finally available again, so I merrily made my way to the firing line to make up for lost time, along with 50 rounds of PMC Bronze 230-grain full metal jacket (FMJ) “hardball” and a GunFun Targets Inc. Thug 2 paper target; the Thug 2 is basically the same as the ICE-QT target, only without the B-27-style bullseye scoring rings and instead using a green circle and rectangle for the optimal centers of the (paper) bad guy’s head and chest, the secondary strike areas of the head and torso colored in orange, and the least desirable periphery of the target in white.

I divvied the accuracy test into 25 rounds of head shots at 7 yards followed by 25 yards of torso shots at 25 yards. I initially fired from my preferred Classic Weaver Stance (shooting arm elbow slightly bent, support arm elbow bent) but switched to the Chapman-modified Weaver (support arms still bent, but shooting arm fully extended with elbow locked) after the gun kept on rather rudely slinging the empty brass into my face; switching stances reduced the malady somewhat but didn’t completely eliminate it.

Pretty decent shooter. Trigger was pleasantly crisp, ergonomics were comfy, and all of the controls were easy enough to manipulate. At 7 yards, it printed slightly low-center with three rounds straying into the “orange” zone of the Thug 2’s upper lip. It shot *way* low-center at 25 yards, with my first five rounds at that distance grouping in the “orange” zone of the waistline. Ergo I took the appropriate “Kentucky windage” at each distance once I saw where my rounds were landing relative to point of aim…but two of my rounds somehow ended up landing way off to the right in the target’s arm.  My usual tendency with handguns is to pull slightly high-left (as my friend Lou Chiodo – President of Gunfighters Ltd. combat school – points out, that’s common for blokes like me who are right-handed/cross-eye dominant). Reliability-wise, there was one premature slidelock during my second magazine, at or about round count #10 or 11; this was easy enough to remedy via a simple manual slide rack, and there were no stovepipe or double-feed jams. Recoil and muzzle flip were stout but not prohibitive, roughly akin to a Glock 38 .45 GAP.

Want Your Own?

The manufacturer states an MSRP of $999.99 for the Colt Defender, matte black and matte stainless finish options alike. True Gun Value states, “A COLT DEFENDER pistol is currently worth an average price of $857.46 new and $730.27 used. The 12 month [sic] average price is $797.04 new and $608.39 used.” GunsAmerica.Com currently has two listed, one at $949.00 and the other at $1049.99. Meanwhile, Guns International has a total of nine listings at present, at a price range of $1,050.99 all the way up to $3,999.99; the specimen at the ceiling of that price scale is a so-called “Red Talo” version.”

About the Author

Christian D. Orr is a Senior Defense Editor for 19FortyFive. He has 34 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011. 

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Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon).