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1911s Handguns

Bob-Tail 1911s: Passing Fad or Functional Innovation

by Dan Johnson   |  June 23rd, 2011 41

Ed Brown Kobra Carry bob-tail 1911.A few years ago, Ed Brown introduced an eye-catching Commander-size 1911 called the Kobra Carry. The most distinctive feature was a bob-tail grip frame designed to reduce printing when worn under clothing. The idea seems to be catching on but the jury is still out as to whether it will be a widely popular modification to John Browning’s design or simply a passing fad.

Manufacturers of 1911 handguns are always on the lookout for new modifications to the classic design to catch the customers’ attention. It is most often the smaller custom builders and independent pistolsmiths who lead the way in regards to innovation while the larger manufacturers pick and choose which custom features they believe would appeal to consumers.

Dan Wesson was quick to copy the bob-tail 1911 design and Kimber has some bob-tailed beauties in its lineup, but the idea is not yet widespread among major manufacturers. I suspect it soon will be, but I have been wrong before. If you follow the discussions on the various Internet gun forums there does seem to be growing interest.

Gunsmiths across the country have seen a surge in customers requesting the bob-tail treatment for existing 1911s. Ed Brown offers the bob-tail mainspring housing as an aftermarket part in both blued and stainless finish and with a choice of smooth, checkered or snakeskin treatment–another Ed Brown innovation that is being copied by other manufacturers. Brownells sells a jig for easy and precise installation of the bob-tail housing and it is a fairly easy installation for a competent gunsmith.

Back when Ed Brown first introduced the Kobra Carry I received one on loan for evaluation. My first reaction was it looked cool and certainly set the gun apart from other models, but I was concerned it would be detrimental to the handling characteristics of the 1911. My concerns were quickly dismissed with a trip to the range. Even with my large hands the grip was comfortable and I felt in complete control of the firearm. Some people with smallish hands report the grip is actually improved with the bob-tail treatment.

As always, I seek your council. Please use the comment section below to share your opinions on bob-tail 1911s. Is it a passing fad or a functional innovation that is here to stay?

  • gquaglia

    I like it. I have one of the new S&W E series with the bobtail and it makes a big difference with carry.

    • Tommy Humphrey

      My hands are XXL. The regular 1911 is for people with small hands. The point wore my hand out after a few shots. My Ed Brown KC melts into my hand. Very comfortable to shoot! There are purists everywhere you look. I know a guy that plays golf with hickory shafts in his clubs. This is pistol is custom made for my hand. 5 stars!

  • Ryan

    I don't own any 1911s, but I've held and shot a few. The bobtail really fits my small hands well, and on guns like the Dan Wesson VBOB, I can actually work the slide stop and magazine release without loosening my grip. The VBOB will probably end up being my first 1911, unless Ruger decides to make a bobtailed commander frame 1911.

  • breamfisher

    So, Dan… does it actually reduce the risk of printing? I won't argue the benefits of control and other issues: haven't shot one, but I have talked with folks who have and read evaluations where they say it feels good. I just wonder if the modification does what it's advertised to do?

  • Dan Johnson


    That depends on how you carry. With strong-side tilted forward carry it definitely helps reduce the print, IMO. Of course, there are plenty of good holsters that pull the butt tight against your body, so again, it depends how it is carried.

  • breamfisher


    I carry strong-side IWB with a forward cant. From what I've seen in my own carrying situation, it seems like the forward edge of the grip/mag lip and the rear sight show more often.

    I just ask because most often folks who review bobtails discuss how great they feel in the hand, but gloss over the concealment aspect. Considering it's usually easier (and cheaper) to find a regular Commander, I'd just like to know if it's worth the time and money spent getting the bobtail.

    But I admit I'm odd. The way I carry, there doesn't seem to be a benefit in going with a Commander over a Government model.

    • BPSniper

      Don't worry Bream. You're not odd. You just haven't fully evolved as of yet. Couple more thousands of years and you'll catch up.

      • breamfisher

        "Not evolved" or just better able to harness my inner ape?

  • BPSniper

    Haven't tried one yet. I'll get around to it at some point, but it doesn't rate high on my list.

  • Shawn1172

    Dan, sorry this off topic but- is the forum back up yet? I try to find it and just get a login window that doesn't accept my username and password. Thanks,


  • Dan Johnson


    It's not up yet but soon.

  • BPSniper

    For practical purposes, it probably has merit. Visually, it just looks like something is missing. Wait, something IS missing! A whole corner!

    I don't know, it's hard to make an Ed Brown handgun look wrong but I think this adaptation does.

    But hey, the proof is in the pudding. Anybody wanna let me borrow their Bob-Tail to try out?

  • wddodge

    I'll make you a deal BP, you lend me the bucks and I'll let you borrow it. I just want it back after a couple thousand rounds..

  • NN

    I don't know, I'm old fashioned.

  • BPSniper

    You're defeating my purpose. ;-)

  • mkk41

    Don't like the flat 'chopped off' look. Looks like someone did it on their belt sander in the garage. I think Kimber does one with a more rounder profile , and contoured like the back of the mag housing. Gives it a Sig P-210 look.

  • TheBIG_Lebowski

    I have been wanting to bob my 1911 for a while. Hopefully ill be doing the modification soon. My friend has a jig that he will let me borrow and soon the classic design will be updated. :)

  • Bigslug

    As one who considers the OUTWARDLY-arched curve of the 1911-A1's arched mainspring housing to be almost mandatory, the notion of chopping it INWARD with the bobtail treatment leaves me totally cold. The 1911 is already one of the most small-hand friendly, and easily-concealed weapons that can be had in a socially significant caliber, so I'm not really sure what the fuss is about. If you want your 1911's grip to print less, just get one of the six-round variants based on the Officer's Model platform.

  • mike

    I own a Dan Wesson Bob-tail Commander(c-bob) in 10mm. Awesome gun. The Ed Brown touch sure makes it easy to grip and fire. You might not notice the subtle difference at first but, if you shoot and carry it awhile.. you will. Sure wish CZ hadn't discontinued the the version I have as I wanted another one. They have in fact, I believe, discontinued all of the 10mm versions.

  • Matt "Shotgunsh

    I like the idea a lot, though I am yet to shoot one. I'd go gaga over a 4.25" offering with the bobtail treatment for my pack/camping gun.

  • Gregg

    I do not own but have handled/fired a friend's Kobra Carry – and love it…aesthetically and functionally…and he says it does help in (not) printing. I do hope Ruger introduces a commander (period)–with the "bob" treatment, to bring the cost down to us mere mortals! That said/failing that, should I be able to, a VBOB or Special Forces Carry (bob) is in my future.

  • Scott

    I think the bobtail is the way to go for CCW. I find that not only does it reduces printing but it is much more comfortable for IWB carry with a forward cant. I used to have a problem with the butt of the grip poking me in the ribs when I sat down (my Kimber was the worst/sharpest) but that is not an issue with a bobtail. I have noticed zero control issues as compared to a standard grip.

  • George Dodge

    I'm a large guy with big hands and having carried, handled and fired a Kimber with the bobtail I like the idea. With most mid size 1911's the heel of the grip bites into the palm of my hand when I fire and after a while it begins to smart a bit. The bobtail does away with that digging into my hand and the pistol handles very well. A Colt, Kimber or S&W 1911, great pistols.

  • Subsonic

    Having several of the bobtailed 1911s shows you I love them. The makers of 1911s who looked at JM Browing's patent drawings should have noticed his version of a mild bobtail! I wished Ruger would have come out with this "revolutionary" design.

  • Los

    You are referring to the "Beaver-tail" yes? I have not heard the term Bobtail before this article. The Beavertail treatment is a real improvement as the recoil tends to remove skin on the top of the hand between the index finger and thumb — I am checked out to break down the 1911 into its 8 main components but shy from installing a beaver tail on my own — or a lanyard hook for that matter I would suggest that all who use the 1911 install this feature – it will relly improve your use of the handgun

    • Weaselfish

      You are talking about the wrong area of the gun. The bobtail is referring the bottom back corner of the grip frame being trimmed down. The beaver tail is the upper section of the grip safety.

  • Joe Hutton

    I have a Wilson Combat Bill Wilson Carry Model which is an Officer's sized frame with what they refer to as a "round-butt." I like this option because short framed 1911s put the angled mainspring housing right at the heel of my hand which is uncomfortable for me. This version's rounded off grip is much more pleasant to grip. It's also not quite as obvious a modification and looks nicer.

  • The Virginian

    I own a Dan Wesson CCO 1911, and I love the bob tail design.

    I also own a Colt 45 ACP 1911, which I have had for over 25 years. The bobtail gives me better concealment when I want to carry the best design handgun in the world. Happy one hundred birthday to the 1911.

  • Derek Odom

    I've never shot one, but I hear great things about them and I think it's a wonderful idea. I may even check one out in the future.

  • Ron Reiling

    I am 74 yr's old have carried a 1911 at least 50 years,

    almost allways carry right side in my belt Bob really

    help printing, find no falts with it except price!

  • Tom Frey

    I own a DW Bobtail that is my favorite carry 1911- I also shoot IDPA with it occasionally. The grip and feel of a bobtail really works for me ( I also like arched mainspring housings). My hands are not small, but I personally love the grip.

  • white owl

    Ive only recently this year, purchased my first 1911 style pistol. I chose a kimber super carry pro due to affordability and feel. I must confess the concealability was supurb in part from the bobtail and will someday soon share with my wife what was under my shirt the day we passed in the hall.

  • Croge

    the bob tail is great for my grip and as a daily carry gun… Kimber version. The Ed brown would be great but is just to costly, would love to see it become more mainstream so there is more choice and better price points.

  • Tanaka

    My DW Commander Bob-Tail is a great fit for me. The bottom of my palm tucks right under the BT for a good fit.

    It's my favorite 1911.

  • Shawn

    I own an Ed Brown Kobra Carry identical to the one in the picture. When I was looking at high end 1911's in the gun shop I handled the Kobra, a Wilson and a Nighthawk. When I picked up the Ed Brown, it just melted into my hand. For a minute or two I didn't even realize it felt so nice because of the bobtail. It may not fit for everyone, but it's great for me.

  • Noodles

    While in the Air Force, I used to carry a 1911, back in the '50s, and frequently qualified with it. I own a Dan Wesson Classic Commander Bobtail, and I don't think there is much of a comparison. If you can't place your full confidence in a .380, the bobtail is the perfect concealed pistol. My Dan Wesson is tighter than a bull's butt in fly time, and its accuracy exceeds my ability as a shooter.

  • Bruce

    My favorite carry weapon is a Kimber Ultra Carry, I too used a 1911 full size in the service and became very comfortable with it's use, so the Ultra Carry just seemed a perfect transition. This pistol shoots great, handles well and conceals easily.

  • OldBill

    Ed Brown, Kimber Custom Super Carry/Pro/Ultra/HD variants, Dan Wesson CCO & Guardian models (45ACP & 9mm), S&W 1911 E-Series (.45 ACP & 9mm), Wilson Combat Bill Wilson Carry Pistol, and Sig Sauer 1911 Carry Nightmare are a few of the bobtail 1911's currently on the market. I own the DW Guardian after carrying a M1911A1 as my personal weapon over 20 years for Uncle Sam. I personally like the bobtail configuration and suspect that JMB would approve, too. It appears as if the buying public does, as all these models seem to be back ordered everywhere.

  • Guest

    I bought a bobtail Commander from Kimber (the Carry Pro) for its overall compact configuration adn lighter weight and found to my surprise that absolutely love to shoot it! The shorter barrel (compared to my other 1911s) is as accurate as any gun at targets 50 yards or less away (and why shoot a pistol at a target more than that. Although I'm a bigger than average guy with very big hands, the Bobtail is actually easier to shoot accurately because in nestles right in to my big paw than the original and moderates both gun twist and felt recoil. I don't know if it's appreciably less obvious to carry, but it is more fun to shoot and feels like it was born to be in my hand.

  • Bill

    I have had several 1911's over the years and for me the commander length is the most easily concealable. I purchased a Dan Wesson Valor with the Bobtail about a year ago and I can say the Bobtail definitely makes a difference in concealment.By the way the Dan Wesson is the most accurate 1911 I have ever owned and is made top quality parts.not quite a Wilson or Les Baer, but the price either.

  • Johnny

    I think or would like to anyways, that the bobtail frame design isn’t
    Going to disappear anytime soon.

    By rounding out the mainspring housing, it offers a more comfortable carry structure.
    That aside the bobtail’d mainspring housing also offers a more natural contour to the shooters palm heel.

    Just my take on it and some logic behind the design alteration.

    And personally I think they look dead friggin sexy, but that’s just me

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