By Bill Boyer
My Colt Defender was one of the first to come into my favorite gun store. From the moment I first saw it I was taken with it. I knew I should not pick the thing up and play with it because I knew that if I did I would want to own it. But I did play with it, and I bought it on the sport even though I could not afford it. The result, other then my being broke for the next two months, was a really great carry gun in my safe.
The Defender is an officer-sized aluminum framed gun with a 3 inch bull barrel. With the bull barrel there is no bushing used in the slide so the problem of bushing breakup that some Colt officer-sized guns have experienced is now a thing of the past. This style of barrel also puts a bit more weight forward in the gun. The trigger pull was fairly clean for a stock gun with a little take up and a weight of around 5 pounds and almost no grit to it. The trigger reach is about the same as most “long” triggers such as those from Videki or . The front sight is dovetailed into the slide which is a big step in making for long term reliability and is the only way to make sure that the sight will stay where it should. The rear sight is a copy of the famous Novak Low-Mount. Both sights have white dots in them and they were well adjusted and the sight picture is very good even for my poor eyes. The over all fit and finish on my gun was one of the best I have ever seen from Colt and is a marked improvement over what they were putting out just four or five years ago. One thing on the gun really impressed me, the grip safety. My hand is not all that large so with most grip safeties, I sometimes don’t get full activation when getting my firing grip. I’ve tried a bunch of different grip safeties over the years and this is the first one that has worked every time. I liked this safety so much that I am converting all my 1911s it. By the way, this “speed bump safety” is available from Caspian for a lot less the Colt wants for it.
Right from the box the Defender ran great with only two failures to feed in the first box of ammo. After that, it ran 100% of the time with any and all ammo I tried in it. 165, 185, 200, and 230 grain hollow points, ball, 200 SWC, it just did not matter. It ran it all, and it did it flawlessly. For the 3500 rounds that I owned this gun, it never failed to feed or failed to extract after the first 50 rounds. There was only one real problem with the gun, it would not run at all with one of the two supplied magazines. It worked great with every other magazine I tried in it, just not that one. Speaking of magazines, my normal backup mags when carrying this gun were the eight round Shooting Star. To use them with the shorter officers sized frame I would slip a Round Edge officers adapter over any full sized mag. These little plastic spacers are needed to keep the longer full sized mag from going to deep into the gun when reloading from slide stop. I already had a large stock of full sized mags and with these adapters I did not have to buy a bunch of extra mags just for this gun.
In the year and a half that I owned this gun, I only made two changes to it. The first was to replace the stock main spring housing with a curved one. I shoot much better with a curved housing, and all my full sized guns use the curved housing, so this was a no-brainier for me, if for no other reason than the fact that the basic feel of the Defender would be the same as what I am used to. The second change was to replace the wrap-around grips with smooth wood panels from Hogue. The stock grips made the gun feel too fat in my hand to shoot well with, and besides, the Hogue grips just looked so much better.
At this point the reader must be asking why I sold the gun. It worked as it should, has the best grip safety I have ever tried and the trigger and sights were good, so why sell the gun? That is a good question, and not an easy one to answer, but there were several points that came to light for me that put sold on that gun. Simply put, it all boiled down to a question of weight balance. I like a gun with a lot of weight towards the front. A gun with a good bit of weight forward helps me point it better and also brings it back to point of aim faster from recoil, and this gun is any thing but muzzle heavy. A gun that is about an inch longer and also has a bull barrel is a better choice for me in a compact 1911. Weight balance was also a problem for me when carrying the Defender. With every holster I tried the gun felt like it was trying to flop out at the top, even with a good inside the pants holster. I have found that muzzle heavy guns are better in this respect and longer barrels are also better, to the point that I found little improvement in over all carry when compared to a full sized 1911 with a good holster. Where the Defender shined was when carried in a fanny pack or shoulder holster, but I don’t use these forms of carry very often, and a Smith & Wesson J-frame Airweight is even better for these carry modes. So, I sold the Defender to a friend who is madly in love with it and who carries it in a shoulder rig.
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