Recently, Gun World took you inside Colt’s world headquarters for an in-depth look at the USMC’s next-generation 1911. Now, to reassure readers that Colt has plenty of innovation left over for the civilian market, we asked author Jerry Catania—who profiled the Colt New Agent for us back in 2008—to file a test on the recently-upgraded Colt Defender, a direct descendent in a long line of top performers. Since the modern trend for everything from computers to automobiles seems to say “smaller is better,” perhaps the Colt Defender is the shape of things to come. Check out this exclusive three-part segment:
The Browning-designed 1911 pistol in .45 ACP is a marvel of engineering, and arguably one of the best combat handguns ever made. However, since it was designed for full metal jacketed ammunition, it does not always feed and function reliably with modern Hollow point rounds. Tougher still is trying to get the sub-compact versions to feed reliably with the best defensive hollow point ammo on the market. Most makers fail with at least one or two types of high performance ammunition. However, where many others have failed, Colt has succeeded. The Colt Defender™ is the most reliable sub-compact 1911 that I have ever evaluated: feeding, firing, and ejecting everything I put in it with 100% reliability.
While the Colt Defender is available in both .45 ACP (7+1) and 9mm Parabellum (8+1), the .45 version is the subject of this review. The Colt Defender features an upswept beavertail grip safety with bump for reliably disengaging the grip safety, even when a high thumb hold is used; and it worked perfectly. This is a most welcome addition for those—like me—who suffer from hammer bite when using the standard style grip safety.
While other makers offer this type of grip safety, Colt is the only maker I am aware of that manufactures their sub-compact 1911 with an undercut trigger guard. This allows a slightly higher hold and subsequently better grip on the shortened frame as well as lowering the bore axis into the shooting hand even further than the norm. The shooter gains better control and less muzzle flip.
The Defender has a flared and lowered ejection port, ensuring the positive ejection of fired cases. When combined with Colt’s tuned extractor and ejector, empty cases fly to the right-rear, instead of into the shooter’s eyes, head, or hat. The lightweight Hogue wrap-around rubber grips provide a comfortable and positive hold, aiding control when firing either one or two-handed.
I applaud Colt’s decision to stay with the standard thumb safety, as extended safeties always put my thumb in an uncomfortable position. The standard safety worked smoothly and easily, yet the “clicks” to engage and dis-engage were positively felt by the shooter. The standard safety allows a fully-functional high thumb hold when using two hands, with no loss of speed; for me, at least. Additionally, when shooting one-handed and the thumb is brought down to touch the middle finger (for control), the thumb safety now stays out of the way. The standard Colt thumb safety allows the best of both techniques.
The sights on the Defender are the Novak Lo-Mount® with three white dots. This is the standard for combat sights on any type of semi-auto pistol these days. In my hands, the Defender shot a little low at twenty yards; on the order of about two inches or so below point-of-aim, using a six o’clock hold. This is not enough to cause major problems for me, and my shooting was not really affected.
Strangely, it only seemed to hit low when firing two-handed. One handed point-type shooting (albeit at half that range) was dead on. A major plus was that all loads from the 165-grain Corbon to the 230-grain heavyweights hit to nearly the same point of aim. In addition, the Defender did not exhibit the tendency of some autoloaders to throw the first hand-cycled shot out of the group.
The Defender weighs in at a very trim 24 ounces, and the flat-sided 1911 design makes for comfortable and discreet carry…perfect for home defense. The trigger broke at a very usable 5.5 pounds with a bit of take-up but no over-travel. Both of the magazines loaded easily and function perfectly; as well as locking the slide open after the last shot every time. Full-sized 1911 magazines worked in the Defender as well.
Stay tuned for our ammunition choices for the Colt Defender as well as what we learned from field testing!
Story and Photos by Jerry Catania