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45 vs 1911

Should I Get An M&P Shield 45 or an Officer 1911?

If a person is set on carrying a compact big-bore, two very popular choices are the M&P Shield 45 and an Officer 1911, as both are easily concealed and chamber the .45 ACP round. Both are known as strong choices.

Both also have their pluses and minuses. Which is right for you? Well, that kind of depends…

M&P Shield 45 Specs


First: M&P Shield 45 specs. The Shield 45 is one of the most compact big bore pistols on the market and while not as popular as its 9mm counterpart it has garnered a reputation as one of the better big-bore compacts on the market.

The barrel of this pint-size poly pistol is 3.3 inches and overall length is 6.45 inches. It stands 4.88 inches tall and is .99 inches wide at the slide, and weighs 20.5 ounces unloaded. It carries 6+1 rounds of ACP in either magazine (one fits flush, one is slightly extended but not enough to fit an extra round) which is about standard for a compact .45.

However, you also get Novak-style sights front and rear. The base model has white dots, but you can get tritium night sights if desired. Trigger pull is 6.5 pounds and it has S&W's hinged striker trigger. You can opt for a manual safety if you want, as well as performance center versions and MA and CA compliant versions too.

MSRP is $479, but you can find them much cheaper online.

Officer 1911 Specifications: Depends On Who Made It

1911 pistol specs

Plenty of companies make an Officer 1911, but not all Officer 1911s are the same.

Barrel length depends on manufacturer, but it's usually between 3 inches and 3.625 inches, with overall length ranging from 6.75 inches to 7.25 inches.

Most Officer frames stand around 5 to 5.125 inches tall, though some are cut down to 4.5 inches, depending again on who makes it. Capacity is usually 6+1 or 7+1, but the odd Officer frame is made with a Goverment frame grip, giving up to 8+1 capacity depending on the magazine. In any case, it's a metal frame so expect anywhere from 24 to 32 ounces in weight. Make sure you get a good holster and a good gun belt.

Width of a 1911, though, is almost always about 0.9 inches at the slide and 1.2 inches at the grips, which is a touch wider than the Shield 45 but still very manageable for a carry pistol. Nearly all Officer frames feature extended beavertail grip safeties for ergonomic purposes.

Sights depend on what model you buy. Dovetailed white dots are common, some brands give you night sights. Some have fixed iron sights, some have dovetailed Novak sights; it all depends, again, on whom you get it from.

MSRP...again, depends. Budget imports can be had for around $400 all the way up to custom 1911s costing ten times that amount. Smith and Wesson's SW1911 Officer frame goes for just over $1200.

Shield 45 Recoil vs Officer Frame Recoil

shield 45 and officer 1911 recoil

Shield 45 recoil, like that of the regular Shield, is renowned as it belies the compact size of the pistol. Many reviewers have praised the Shield 45 for being almost as easy to shoot as full-size .45 pistols. Granted, shooters that are intensely sensitive to recoil may not find it to their satisfaction, as .45 certainly produces recoil...though not nearly as sharp as other large calibers such as 10mm.

Officer frame recoil varies, but is generally a bit stouter than that of a government frame, though don't let that necessarily put you off. Thing about shooting .45 ACP is that it feels like a "push" rather than a shock. There's muzzle rise, but also not as bad as you might think. It's actually the easiest big-bore caliber to shoot. The "push" you get from a compact is a bit more pronounced, but it isn't sharp or painful.

That said, the heft of the metal frame of the Officer 1911 soaks up a good amount, so they are actually pretty easy to shoot...but a good strong grip is advised.

Why Choose The Officer 1911 Over The Shield 45 Or Vice Versa?

best 1911 and shield pistol

Which is better between the Officer 1911 and the Shield 45? The latter is a bit cheaper, lighter and certainly more modern. It also isn't prone to some of the typical 1911 hiccups (bad magazines for instance) and doesn't need quite as much in terms of maintenance (1911 pistols need regular cleaning and lubrication to function best) as the elder pistol design.

Thing about the 1911 is that it has a certain old-school appeal. They're beautiful pistols. Though the Shield and the rest of the M&P line is known for great ergonomics, 1911 pistols fit the hand naturally like few other pistols do.

That said, not everyone likes the 1911 manual of arms. The Shield can be carried with the safety on or off or be had without one. The 1911 can be as well, but most people who carry one do so cocked and locked, meaning hammer back and safety on. Some people grouse about having to disengage the safety before deploying, but a bit of regular training makes doing so easy. The same goes for having a Shield with a manual safety.

Also, the manual safety plus grip safety puts an extra safety mechanism in the equation, and some people like having that extra safety measure.

Neither is as common in stores as the Shield 45's counterpart in 9mm, nor is the Officer frame as common compared to Government frames, so special ordering may be required.

Ultimately, both are brilliant in their own right. If your friends drool over late model BMWs but you love muscle cars, an Officer frame is likely more up your alley. If you like the latest and greatest, the Shield 45 is more your style.

S&W M&P Shield .45 Cloak Tuck 3.0 IWB Holster

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Cloak Tuck 3.0 IWB Holster for 1911 3 inch officer frame

Take advantage of our 30-day Test Drive

When you do head to the range, you're going to need a target...but why pay for paper targets if you don't have to? We'll give you as many as you want - you just need to download Alien Gear's printable 8.5” x 11” shooting target. Make as many copies as you like!

We will continuously be adding new target options to our lineup. Check out our complete free printable shooting targets page to see the full selection as they start rolling in.

Sam Hoober

About The Author

Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.