Back in the first decade of the 20th century, a man named John Moses Browning invented a semi-automatic pistol that later became legendary. While countless other guns have since been invented, become popular and then passed into obscurity, the 1911 is still being produced in great numbers by numerous manufacturers.

Browning’s design, chambered in .45 ACP, was adopted by the U.S. government as the Model of 1911— hence the M1911 moniker. The company that secured the first contract to build M1911s was Colt’s Manufacturing Company, and despite the design being over a century old, demand is still strong.

For many years, Colt was focused on fulfilling its contract with the U.S. government to produce the M16 rifle and its many variants, but the contract recently ran out, so Colt found itself with resources available to once again manufacture more guns for the general public. And with the demand for small handguns rising due to the number of states adopting “shall issue” concealed-weapon permit laws in recent years, Colt recognized an opportunity and rose to the challenge. It now offers three small, easily carried guns based on the 1911 design.

The Defender

Retaining the same profile as the classic 1911 with some minor but important modifications, the Colt Defender appears to be a slightly shrunken version of Browning’s original. It’s small enough to be easily hidden underneath a jacket or shirt, or even carried in a pocket. What is particularly nice about 1911-style handguns is their slim profile, which reduces the chance of printing through clothing and letting bad guys know you’re carrying a gun.

The Defender is available in traditional .45 ACP as well as in 9mm, which is an advantageous cartridge for a smaller gun because of its reduced recoil. And since the stopping power of 9mm ammunition has been so greatly improved over the last decade, the smaller caliber has become a much more acceptable option for many.

Even though the gun is compact, the Defender is equipped with the three-dot Novak Low Mount sights like those found on a full-sized gun—and that’s a big plus, since with the smaller sight radius, sights become especially crucial to hitting the target. Since the gun is small and meant for discreet carry, you won’t find an extended thumb safety, but instead a safety like the one on the old 1911. But it still works. The beavertail grip safety features not only an upswept tang, designed to prevent the web of the shooter’s hand from being cut or abraded by the reciprocating slide, but also a palm swell to assure the grip safety is disengaged when the shooter grips the gun.

The single-action trigger has three lightening holes and a Hogue rubber wrap-around grip, with finger grooves and stippling, providing a slip-resistant surface for wet hands. The barrel is only 3 inches long, but the magazine still holds seven rounds of .45 or eight rounds of 9mm. To keep the weight down, the frame is made of Cerakote-covered aluminum while the slide is brushed stainless steel for strength and resistance to corrosion. To enhance safety, the gun is equipped with a Series 80-style system that features a firing pin block designed to prevent the gun from firing if dropped. The Defender weighs 24 ounces and is 6.75 inches long.

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