Let’s face it—the original 1911 .45 ACP pistol that John Browning designed was never meant to be carried concealed. It was made to be carried outside the waistband by combat troops, who usually employed a flap-covered leather holster to secure the pistol.
The 1911 is still regarded as one of the finest personal defense sidearms ever made, but trying to conceal it for everyday carry can be a very challenging exercise. I personally admire those who manage to pull it off on a daily basis, and wish I had the physique and temerity to carry a full-size 1911.
The smaller, Commander-sized versions of the 1911 represent a reliable compromise between the original, time-honored design and the somewhat problematic micro .45’s available on the market today.
I’d always dreamed about owning a Commander-size 1911, so I went after one of the finest iterations I could find.
Try not to sneer at the fact that this handgun is made in the People’s Republic of China. Norinco advertises the pistol as an “improved version” of the original, but make no mistake about it—aside from a full-length recoil spring guide rod, it’s as faithful to the Commander design as any manufacturer can get. (I didn’t make that call—my shooting buddies who collect 1911’s delivered the verdict.)
The only modification I made to this gun was to replace the factory grips with a pair that incorporated a flared magazine well, to make reloading faster and easier.
The two-tone rendition and squared-off trigger guard are original. So is the extended beaver tail, and the extended slide release and ambidextrous safety levers.
There are serrations in front of the trigger guard, and deep checkering on the back strap of the grip. The slide has well-cut serrations at the front and at the back, just like a custom piece.
The hammer and trigger are appropriately (and might I add, tastefully) skeletonized. All of which make for one pretty Commander.
But there’s more to it than meets the eye.
The metal that Norinco uses to build its handguns appears to be extra hard. I haven’t been able to confirm or debunk it, but rumor has it that their steel components are reputedly milled from recycled railroad tracks. If you ask a gunsmith to work on your Norc, he will likely ask you to supply (or pay for) special machine bits, because ordinary tool bits wear out quickly against a Norinco’s hard steel.
So, does it shoot?
From what I’ve seen, it shoots just about as well as you can hold it. Most modern handguns will shoot better than a shooter can hold them, and the NP27 is no exception. To be quite honest, I haven’t exploited the gun’s potential to the fullest, yet.
My particular example of the NP27 doesn’t jam or malfunction. It has no issues digesting hollow-point ammunition. It fires both hardball and lead projectiles. It shoots to point-of-aim with the factory-regulated sights. And it appears to be meticulously hand-fitted, right down to the magazines that came with the gun (!)
(I don’t mind admitting that this had me worried for a while, so I purchased a pair of 8-round 1911 magazines, just to make sure that the gun worked properly with other, aftermarket magazines. The aftermarket magazines fitted nicely, and the NP27 functioned faultlessly with them, as well.)
To Carry or Not to Carry
Would I actually carry the Norinco NP27 for personal defense?
Certainly, although it wouldn’t be my first choice.
As a rule, I dislike carrying nickel-plated or even two-toned sidearms for personal protection. Shiny and light-colored surfaces catch and reflect light when you draw the gun from concealment, and I’d rather not advertise the fact that I’m about to do business. Considering that it will happen in a life-or-death situation, I prefer to keep the percentages in my favor. I believe that making your draw obvious simply gives away too much.
(The exception to this rule, right now, is my Taurus Millennium Pro PT145, which has a brushed stainless steel slide. I intend to get it refinished in very matte black in due time, together with any other shiny parts, like the barrel).
The NP27 is also relatively heavy for the number of shots (8+1 with aftermarket mags) that it brings to a fight. I would rather rely on my Taurus PT145 (10+1 shots) or even my Glock 21 (13+1 rounds) for daily carry. The Glock 21 is at least 6 ounces lighter (empty) than the NP27, and the empty Taurus PT145 weighs a full 13 ounces less.
Still, I think you will agree that there is a certain kind of magic in Commander-type pistols.
Its slim, full-size grip and heft make it very easy to control, even under full recoil from +P .45ACP rounds. The shortened slide clears the holster a fraction of a second faster than a full-size 1911, and marginally increases the speed of presentation.
Plus, the gun’s all-metal construction takes you back to a more elegant era, before The Age of Polymer began.