Introduced by Colt in 1985, the Officers model had a 3 1/2″ barrel and was chambered for a 45 ACP round. This model was designed to be smaller and lighter for use by military commanding officers. Hence, the “Officers” name. It combines the firepower of the 45 ACP with a size that is useful for concealment or everyday carry.
However, Colt found that the Officer’s Model required a considerable revision of the original 1911 design. In order to accommodate the sharper barrel tilt in a shorter slide pistol, the barrel no longer used a barrel bushing. On a stock Colt Officer’s ACP the recoil spring assembly, and therefore the bulk of the recoil system, is not retained inside the gun by the barrel bushing (like you find on the basic 1911 design).
The original Colt Officers models were manufactured with a steel frame, but Colt later introduced a version built on an aluminum frame that they called the “Lightweight Officer’s ACP”. The aluminum version shaved about 5 ounces off the overall weight compared to the steel version.
It didn’t take very long for owners and fans of the Officers model to figure out that the shorter 3.5″ model had a shorter cycle time, causing it to be less reliable compared to it’s larger 5″ and 4 1/4″ cousins. Although Colt, and other brands, would eventually make the shorter 3″ model (called the Defender), much more reliable. The recoil spring is part of the reliability issue on the Officers model, so it’s recommended that the recoil spring be replaced every 300-500 rounds.
Colt would later begin to offer “enhanced” models of the Officer series that featured a combat slotted hammer, a duckbill grip safety, a flattened slide top, a longer trigger pad, 3-dot sights, slanted cocking serrations, and wraparound grips. In addition Colt would also later introduce the Concealed Carry Officers model, featured a Commander size slide & barrel (4 1/4″) with the smaller frame of the Colt Officer’s Model.
Ultimately, due to on-going issues with the recoil springs and barrel bushings on the Officers model, in conjunction with the growing popularity of the 3” Colt Defender model, Colt opted to discontinue production of the Officers model in 1995.
It’s important to note that, a number of other 1911 brands offer a 3.5″ version of the Officers, but each is marketed under a different name. In light of the reliability issues mentioned above, some 1911 brands refuse to offer a 3.5″ version, but will offer a shorter 3″ version as the 3″ model shave proven to be more reliable and less prone to issues.
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