The Perfect 1911 Lightweight .45 Carry Gun


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

October 16th, 2008

UPDATED December 8, 2008





About a month and a half ago, I thought that I had put together what was, for me, the perfect carry gun. However, one thing kept bugging me. All of my carry handguns wear Crimson Trace Lasergrips, and none were available to fit the Bobtail Colt. Modifying a set of CT Lasergrips for a standard 1911 would leave a hollow spot at the bottom of each panel, so I decided to forego the Lasergrip on this Bobtail Commander. Well, that would not do, as I have come to learn that the Lasergrip offers a decided advantage in a low-light situation, and to be the perfect carry gun, this Bobtail Colt had to have the Lasergrip. I proceeded to very carefully remove material from the bottom rear of the Lasergrip so that it would follow the contour of the Bobtail grip, and feel good in the hand. There was a hollow space on each side, as I knew there would be, and to keep dirt, grit and gunk out of there, I had to find a suitable filler. Trimming away the material did not affect the internal workings of the Lasergrip, so that was not a consideration. A couple of weeks ago, a reader emailed to me that he had used automotive Bondo as a filler for his bobtailed Lasergrip. I had none available here, but found some black RTV gasket material, and used that instead. It looks just awful, and I hated to do this to such a beautiful pistol, but I had decided that I would not carry a handgun for serious social purposes without a Lasergrip, so the compromise was made. The Lasergrip makes the Colt a much more effective fighting gun, and hopefully someday, Crimson Trace will build a Lasergrip specifically for the Bobtail Colt. Until then, mine will lack in aesthetics, but is a more perfect fighting gun, and properly concealed, no one will see it anyway.

The “properly concealed” brought me to another slight problem….the holster. I have several very good holsters for a 1911 auto, but most are for carry outside the pants, and for the best concealment, a good inside the pants holster was needed. There are several on the market, and I own a few myself, but most are lacking in that they do not stay open after drawing the gun. Some have no reinforcement at the top, and snap shut like a plastic sandwich bag when the gun is removed, taking three hands to reholster the weapon. Others have a double layer of leather at the top, and stay slightly open after the gun is drawn, but not open enough for a smooth reholstering of the sidearm. The only ones that I have ever found that works well for me are the ones with a steel-reinforced top. For the holster, I called Bob Mernickle. He makes exactly what I wanted; a steel top leather holster with a strong spring clip to hold the holster on the belt. The steel clip on the Mernickle holster also works well without a belt, but I always wear a belt, and the Mernickle belt shown here has served me everyday for the past several years. The steel clip allows the holster to be removed without loosening the belt, offering the convenience of a paddle holster with the concealability of an inside the pants rig. The Mernickle holster is also offered with leather belt loops, but for convenience, I wanted the clip. The Mernickle holster carries the Bobtail Colt perfectly, tightly against my body, hiding easily under a light jacket or shirt, and best of all, drawing and reholstering the weapon does not require the skills of Houdini or dropping my pants. The gun slides in one-handed just as easily as it is drawn, but holds the weapon securely until needed. Perfect.

Check out the Lasergrips to fit just about any popular handgun online at

To order a Mernickle holster, go to

Crimson Trace Lasergrip.



Mernickle holster.


Almost three months ago, I did a review of the Colt Lightweight Commander .45 ACP auto pistol. If you recall, I really liked it. Fact is, I really like most guns, and have been accused of that on several occasions. Seems that some readers want me to search for a gun that I hate, so that I can write about it. That is not why I am here. First of all, I will not waste the time of my readers, nor myself, writing about substandard firearms. There are more good guns on the market than I have the time to review, so it seems counterproductive to expend the effort and ammunition reviewing junk. If I test a gun and it has a problem, I always report it, but if it feeds, fires, and ejects properly, and displays good accuracy, chances are that I like it. Still, however, there are some guns that I like more than others, and I really became attached to that Colt Lightweight Commander, so I bought it. As much as I liked the pistol, there is always room for improvement, so I set out to make that Colt into the perfect carry gun.

The Lightweight Commander XSE has pretty much everything needed to serve as a dandy carry gun as is. It has the power of the .45 ACP cartridge, relatively light weight, a “flat” profile that hides well, and the full-length grip of the Government Model 1911, which allows good control of the weapon. Some of you may recall that back in 2006, I reviewed the Dan Wesson Commander Bobtail, which I also liked really well. That Bobtail treatment of the weapon makes a world of difference in the feel, control, and handling of the 1911, and makes the pistol easier to conceal as well. Trouble is, it was not a perfect pistol either, as it has an all-steel frame, which is about eight ounces heavier than a lightweight Commander. The only other maker of a Bobtail frame, and the inventor of the modification, Ed Brown, also does not offer a Lightweight Bobtail, but only steel-framed versions. While the Dan Wesson and Ed Brown pistols are fine weapons, I wanted a Lightweight Commander Bobtail, so I had to do it myself. That was a problem that was easily solved by a call to Brownell’s. Brownell’s is the “go to” place for gunsmithing project parts and tools, and as I expected, the parts were in stock. I ordered the Bobtail mainspring housing in stainless with the snakeskin design, along with the jig to drill the hole for the mainspring housing pin in the proper place. After the hole was drilled, a few minutes on the grinder and a few strokes of the file, I had a Lightweight Colt Bobtail Commander.

Another feature that was not exactly as I liked on the Commander XSE, as I noted in the review, was the shape of the beavertail grip safety. I much prefer the upswept version which allows the pistol to sit lower in my hand, so again I turned to Brownell’s for the Ed Brown beavertail grip safety, also in stainless steel. This grip safety feels much better in my hand, and makes the pistol more controllable for me. I also ordered the jig that allows the rear portion of the frame to easily be perfectly radiused to match the grip safety.

While the Lightweight Colt XSE came with an ambidextrous thumb safety, I prefer the size and shape of the Ed Brown unit, and had one in my parts bin, so I fitted it to the Colt. Now, grinding away on a perfectly new Colt Commander frame had me a bit anxious at first, but once you start, there ain’t no turning back! The reshaping of the frame for the Bobtail and grip safety was pretty easy, and the final polishing was performed with a smooth rubberized polishing wheel on my Dremel tool. I also beveled the magazine well for easier insertion of a magazine while under stress or in the dark.

The Colt XSE comes with a good set of three-dot sights, but any gun that I carry for serious purposes will have some type of night sights; either tritium inserts or a Lasergrip. I looked carefully at a Crimson Trace Lasergrip to see if it could be bobtailed, and it can, but the hollow back design will leave a hollow section at the bottom on each side. Maybe someday CT will offer a bobtailed Lasergrip, if the demand is there enough to justify it. Anyway, I replaced the Colt sights with a set from MMC, which has a dovetailed front and a fully adjustable rear, both with tritium inserts. While easily adjustable, the rear sight is well-protected, and has no sharp protrusions to cut the flesh or clothing.

Now, with all of the parts installed, I could have left the gun as is, but the finish had been removed from parts of the frame, and the bare aluminum would soon tarnish, so a refinish of the frame was in order. I could have had a satin nickel finish applied at a chrome shop in Nashville, but after researching the various finishes available, I sent the Colt off to Robbie Barrkman at Robar for a complete refinish. After all, I was making this Colt into the perfect carry gun, and a hard, durable finish would protect the pistol, and at the same time enhance reliability. The NP3 and Roguard finishes applied by Robar offer a hard, durable finish that is slicker than bare steel or aluminum, and can be applied to either. Roguard is a black polymer finish that contains molybdenum-disulfide, and is considered by many to be the premier black finish in the gun industry. It is also a very good-looking finish, which was expertly applied to the Colt’s slide. I had pondered a two-tone finish, and Robbie suggested that look as well. I told him to do whatever he thought was best, as he is the expert on such things, so he applied his NP3 finish to the frame and all the internal parts. NP3 is a surface coating that combines PTFE (Teflon) with an electroless nickel to create a hard coating that is also self-lubricating. Both the NP3 and the Roguard are impervious to salt spray tests, and the coatings are guaranteed against flaking and corrosion. After the treatment, the gun is noticeably “slicker”, for lack of a better word. Also, the internal parts were coated, which prevents any galling of the mating parts, and resulted in a crisper, lighter trigger pull, which now measures just a hair under three pounds, down from four and one-quarter before the parts were coated with NP3. One other thing that Robar did before coating the frame was to stipple the front strap of the grip area, making for a much more positive hold, and greatly enhanced looks as well.

After the coating process by Robar, the Colt is a bit tighter as well, but still slicker operating, and it runs like a dream. It is, at least for now, the perfect concealed-carry gun for fighting. Weighing in at 27.6 ounces unloaded, even adding the weight of nine good combat hollowpoints, the Colt rides un-noticed in a good belt holster. It is relatively thin, and the Bobtailed frame makes it easy to hide and so very comfortable to shoot. The sights are easy to see, even at night when most gunfights take place. The frame stippling, checkered wood grips, and snakeskin finish on the mainspring housing makes the Colt easy to hold securely in any weather, and the Robar NP3 and Roguard surface finishes make the gun impervious to rain and sweat. In a good belt holster, the Colt will hide better than most of the plastic pistols on the market, yet when needed, provides .45 ACP power in what is considered by many to be the best fighting pistol ever invented. This pistol is, to me, the perfect carry gun.

For a closer look at the high-tech gun finishes by Robar, go online to I highly recommend the services of Robbie Barrkman and his crew. Robar will finish your weapon, customize it, or build you a complete weapon from the ground up.

To order any of the Ed Brown parts shown here, go to

For a look at the extensive line of concealment, field, and competition leather, go to

To order the MMC sights, go to

Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.


The perfect 1911 lightweight .45 carry gun.



Parts from Brownell's.



Bobtail frame compared to stock 1911.



Bobtail mainspring housing (left) compared to standard Colt part (right).



Bobtail mainspring housing installation & frame modification.



Author ground down the grip panels to match frame bobtail, and finished with a drop of tung oil.



Ed Brown grip safety underneath the standard Colt part.



Grip safety jig and installation.



Ed Brown ambidextrous thumb safety.



Beveling the magazine well.



Robar's NP3 and Roguard finish.



Robar applied a bordered stippling to the front of the frame.



MMC adjustable Tritium night sights.



Mernickle holster holds pistol high and tight for maximum concealment.