I’ve long been a fan of the 1911 pistol, but carrying a steel-framed, Government-sized gun on a daily basis can be a bit of a chore. Any time you can reduce the size of a weapons platform without sacrificing power, accuracy or controllability significantly you have my attention.

Kahr Arms got my attention at a recent trade show where I saw a new offering in the Magnum Research lineup. Dubbed the DE1911U (U for undercover), the new .45 ACP pistol has a 3-inch barrel, a lightweight aluminum frame and a host of refinements to make it an attractive choice for everyday carry.

A few years back Kahr Arms purchased Magnum Research Inc, (MRI). Known primarily for its iconic Desert Eagle, few people realize MRI also produces a line of centerfire rifles, large-bore single-action (SA) revolvers, the Baby Desert Eagle line of steel and polymer frame pistols, as well as rimfire semi-auto rifles. MRI is also an importer of 1911-style pistols from Bul in Israel. The DE1911U is the latest in these 1911-style imports.

What Makes It Soar

With its shorter dimensions, the 1911U utilizes a dual recoil spring assembly that reliably cycles the slide shot after shot.
With its shorter dimensions, the 1911U utilizes a dual recoil spring assembly that reliably cycles the slide shot after shot.

When I received my test and evaluation sample, I was impressed with its fit and finish. Both the frame and slide are finished in a flat matte black finish with an aluminum trigger and stainless beavertail grip safety for contrast. Bul machines the DE1911U’s from a block of T6 aluminum and machine cuts the frontstrap with 30 lines-per-inch (LPI) checkering. “Double diamond” wood grips with stainless steel hex-head screws give the DE1911U a distinctly custom look!

The subcompact pistol is outfitted with an extended thumb safety. It snicks on and off crisply and is long enough for shooters, like me, who like to shoot with a “thumb high” grip. Thankfully, the pistol does not have an ambi thumb safety. Over the years I’ve had several compact-style 1911s with ambi safeties and on several occasions have found the manual safety accidentally swiped off, leaving me with a cocked and unlocked .45! For this reason my preference for carry is for a strong-side-only manual thumb safety. The frame is of “Series 70” style and does not incorporate a firing pin safety of any sort.

Bul uses a checkered slide lock on the DE1911U. Its wedge shape offers a little more purchase than a standard part. The magazine release is also checkered and slightly extended to make its activation from a shooting grip easier. One nice feature of the frame is that it is undercut where the triggerguard meets the frontstrap. This feature allows the shooter to get the knuckle of their third finger as high as possible for a very secure grip.

Bul outfits the pistol with a high-sweep beavertail grip safety that blends nicely to the frame. In conjunction with the extended thumb safety, checkered frontstrap and undercut frame, this provides the shooter with a comfortable firing grip.

The 1911U’s rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation.
The 1911U’s rear sight is adjustable for windage
and elevation.

Because of the gun’s small size, Bul has to equip the DE1911U with a fully adjustable rear sight for the gun to earn enough points to be importable. I’ll be clear—an adjustable rear sight would not be my choice on a concealable defense gun. I’d much prefer a rugged fixed sight. But the Bul rear sight is of hardy design and presented no weaknesses.

The front sight is dovetailed into the carbon slide, and that’s a great feature that will allow shooters to retrofit their guns with a tritium front sight if desired. I found the front sight to be on the stumpy side—short and thick enough to almost completely fill the notch on the rear sight. In fact, if this were my personal gun, I’d take a file and open up the rear sight’s notch to allow a touch more light on both sides of the front sight.

The slide features a lowered and flared ejection port; it is large enough that live rounds can be ejected through the port. A bushing-less barrel design is used on the DE1911U. The stubby 3-inch tube is of bull dimensions. The barrel is not supported or ramped, and it sports an 11-degree crown. Its barrel mouth is throated from 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock and well polished, as is the frame’s feedramp for smooth feeding with all bullet types.

There is such precious little room under the barrel that a single recoil spring would not work with this gun. Bul uses a dual-spring system. There is a small-diameter recoil spring guide around which a small spring is wound. A cap with a flange slides over the spring and guide rod so there is no spring-to-spring contact, and a larger diameter spring is captured by the cap’s flange. This recoil assembly system gives the gun all the spring mass it needs to function properly, yet cycling the slide by hand to chamber a round is an easy matter.

Feeding & Firing

The 1911U delivered sub-2-inch groups at 15 yards with every load tested.
The 1911U delivered sub-2-inch groups at 15 yards with every load tested.

Ammo selection for any short-barreled semi-auto is critical. If the load is too hot and gives the abbreviated and lighter slide too much velocity, the magazine spring may not be strong enough to push the next round up in time to be picked up by the slide. CorBon is one manufacturer who realizes this and has developed a special line of rounds designed expressly for compact guns. I used their 160-grain DPX load. It churns up almost 400 foot-pounds of energy from the short 3-inch barrel yet recoil is very manageable with the lightweight bullet. CorBon loads the round with powders designed to suppress muzzle flash, and slide velocity was ideal as this is not a +P round. My suggestion would be to use these rounds in any aluminum-framed gun if you’re going to shoot it a lot.

I did all of my accuracy testing of the DE1911U with my targets set up at 15 yards. From a seated rest and using a Millett Benchmaster for support, I fired five rounds to a group. My first group was 1 inch low and 2 inches left of point of aim (POA). I made the necessary adjustment on the rear sight and my next group obliterated the 2-inch Shoot-N-C target. In a short amount of time I discovered the DE1911U to be one of the most accurate 3-inch .45 1911s I’ve ever tested.

CorBon’s 230-grain full metal jacket (FMJ) hardball round posted the best group—well under 1 inch! All rounds produced acceptable accuracy and all ran flawlessly through the DE1911U. Even the Powder River 200-grain semi-wadcutters ran without a bobble!

Last Blasts

On the range, the author found the 1911U to be one of the most accurate 3-inch-barreled .45s he’s ever tested.
On the range, the author found the 1911U to be one of the most accurate 3-inch-barreled .45s he’s ever tested.

The DE1911U possesses one of the best triggers of any 1911 I’ve tested. It breaks right at 3.5 pounds with very little creep and no overtravel. The trigger itself tracks straight back and forth without any binding or play. It has a very positive reset, and that made rapid shooting very easy. Firing controlled pairs at steel targets set up at 15 yards, I managed splits, or time between shots, of 28 hundredths of a second—nearly as fast as I can do with a steel-framed, full-size gun!

For a lightweight carry gun like this I also wanted a lightweight, minimalist-style holster, and Galco’s TacSlide is the perfect fit. The TacSlide features a steer hide platform with two belt slots to which a Kydex holster pocket is affixed. I like the holster’s neutral cant—straight up and down—and it provides a quick and unimpeded presentation. There are no thumb breaks or retention straps to deal with; it is strictly a friction-fit design. Because of the rigid nature of Kydex, re-holstering the gun is a simple matter. It is fast and secure and doesn’t add a lot of weight or bulk to my hip.

MRI offers shooters and concealed carriers a very nice pistol at a reasonable price. The DE1911U is priced at $946, and if you consider all of the value-added features like its checkered frame, extended safety and beavertail, it is a good buy. My test sample exhibited a superior degree of fit and finish. It is accurate and reliable and ready for carry straight out of the box.

For more information, call 508-635-4273 or visit

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