Concealable Class

Cabot S103 CompAct M1911

Most of us were familiar with Cabot even before the meteorite guns. Founded in 2011 during the centennial of the M1911, Cabot Guns makes pistols to tolerances usually only available in guns built one at a time. The difference is Cabot produces the kind of precision with complete parts interchangeability, something unheard of in the M1911 world, and uses cutting-edge technology that lets them do things like figure out how to turn a space rock into a functional, firing .45. Another unfortunate difference is their flagship pistol started over $6,000, about twice the going rate for a custom pistol, until the introduction of the “S” line in 2015.

Intended to make Cabot’s trademark styling and performance available to the high-end carry market, prices run on the spendy side of the $3,000 range, and include some changes from other Cabots, like incorporating the traditional hand fitting unnecessary on the higher end guns.

Carry Reimagined

Among the new models is the S103, a reimagined carry gun with the slide travel of a full-size Government Model but with the outward dimensions of the 3/4″ shorter Commander and comes in 9mm or .45. Cabot sent an early transitional version of the S103 that had some teething issues, but replaced it quickly with a second improved one, also in .45 ACP.

The test gun came with the businesslike matte black finish you’d expect (nitride on ours, now DLC) and walnut grips, with only the barrel and trigger adding a flash of silver. The rear sight is a genuine Novak LoMount and the front sight blade is mounted in a longitudinal dovetail closed by the barrel bushing, a design that makes it impossible for the sight to get to knocked to one side and lose its windage. Between the two sights is a machined flat with lengthwise serrations ending in an arrow pattern intended to draw the eye to the front sight. While gold bead and tritium inserts are available, ours came with a plain black rear and white dot front.

Cocking serrations, located at the rear of the slide only, are Cabot’s distinctive Trinity Stripes. Designed by architect Tom Pierce, it’s a checkered panel interrupted by three smooth recesses. The barrel is deeply crowned, giving the muzzle a funnel-like effect, and the flat wire recoil spring wraps around a one-piece full-length guide rod. The practiced eye will notice the front stirrup cut is shorter than an ordinary Commander, an artifact of the S103’s longer slide travel.

Controls are an extended, strong-side only thumb safety machined from billet and a standard slide stop, and a slightly extended, checkered magazine release and an alloy trigger with Cabot’s trademark three stars EDM’d through it.
The face of the trigger has a shallow curve and a rounded profile (similar to early M1911/M1911A1 service pistols) rather than the usual square contact area, giving it a substantially different feel. The trigger itself was a bit loose, with fore-and-aft play in its raceway, but once the slack was taken up, it broke crisply at 4 lbs., 3 oz. with zero creep and no discernible overtravel. With the sole exception of the free play, an outstanding trigger and a good reminder of one of the biggest reasons people love the M1911.

The hammer is skeletonized and carefully beveled to remove all sharp edges, and well-protected by the upswept beavertail grip safety, which is equipped with the customary “speed bump” at the bottom of its contact pad.

Both the frontstrap and flat mainspring housing are wrapped in what Cabot calls its rhombus checkering in a 24-LPI pattern consisting of barely flattened diamonds formed on the diagonal as opposed to the usual checkering layout where lines run straight up and straight across the gripping surface. While offering excellent purchase, the flattened rhombi lack the aggressiveness of the square cut checkering that has ripped the lining out so many of my jackets.

While several grip options are available (it is, after all, an M1911), ours came with walnut panels grooved with a Fibonacci spiral pattern. The magazine well is thoroughly beveled for fast reloads, and while one of the four Cabot magazines we had didn’t always drop free (and the mags themselves were a little stiff to insert at the beginning), we had no trouble finding the magwell or doing reloads once the magazines had broken in a bit.

Top:The Cabot S103 (bottom) shown with the Colt Lightweight Commander.
Bottom: The S103 has the shortened 4.25" barrel of the Commander while
maintaining a longer slide travel for reliability.

Cabot machined a narrow, angled channel down the disconnect rail, creating a ramp for the disconnector to operate smoothly.

Interior Details

Much of what makes the gun, though, isn’t immediately visible from the outside. For example, dimpling the rear of a slidestop is a pistolsmith’s way of avoiding premature slidelock. Cabot, however, also added a groove that lets you insert the slidestop more easily, avoiding the ugly rookie marks careless users leave on M1911 frames during reassembly.

Similarly, take a look at the disconnect rail on the underside of the slide, that both trips the disconnector to reset the trigger and picks up the next cartridge in the magazine. Beveling the square front of the rail makes the action reset smoother, but also reduces the surface area available to pick up a cartridge and reload the gun. Cabot’s solution is to machine a narrow, angled channel down the disconnect rail to create a ramp for the disconnector while keeping a square profile to ensure the rail has adequate surface area to pick up the next cartridge. Very clever.

The face of the trigger has a shallow curve and a rounded profile giving
it a different feel than a square-faced trigger.

Reliability Features

Shortening the slide of a M1911 generally comes at the risk of reducing reliability. Shorter slide travel means the action has less time in which to feed the next cartridge before the slide moves forward, making the gun much less tolerant of magazine springs that may have weakened. Cabot’s answer was to shorten the barrel and slide but maintain the full-length slide rails and travel of the Government Model.

And it works. I spent quite a bit of time with the S103, running over a thousand rounds through it, and never cleaned it. I did, however, oil it once when we disassembled the gun to restake in the plunger tube, which, while laser welded in place, I nonetheless managed to dislodge.

The S103 consumed over a thousand rounds of jacketed hollow points, handloads
using Hunters Supply 225-grain flat points and D&L’s 200-grain new defensive bullet.

A Diverse Ammo Diet

The S103 consumed a wide-ranging diet of jacketed hollow points (JHP), Inceptor ammo with lightweight 130-grain copper-polymer projectiles and handloads assembled on a Dillon 550 using 225-grain cast lead bullets from Hunters Supply and a newly designed 200-grain bullet from Dave Lauck of D&L Sports.

Current defensive bullet design focuses on the outside of the bullet rather than the inside, a tacit acknowledgement hollow point bullets often don’t expand. The D&L bullet combines the cutting shoulder of the Keith/SWC design with a rounded nose in the 200-grain weight that John Moses Browning originally chose for the M1911. Available in profiles designed for both revolver and semi-auto, I fired several hundred rounds of it through the S103 with zero problems and superb accuracy.

I experienced one premature slidelock with the blunt nose of a round-nose Inceptor bullet, and the gun got a little sluggish after we passed the 1,000 mark. Other than this, there were no failures to feed. There is still no discernible play in the slide-to-frame fit, fore or aft, nor in the barrel lockup.

Anything I’d change? I prefer a wide notch rear sight, which helps compensate for the shorter sight radius, and I’d replace the magazine release with one of standard length. Extended mag releases tend to drop the magazine when you don’t intend (which did not happen) and if you press them in too far, can keep the magazine from falling free (which did).

Although I didn’t do a formal accuracy test, I managed to put five bullets through a single caliber-sized hole at seven yards and cut down a 2" post from 25 yards with the S103, in both cases shooting from a modified Weaver. I can’t give you an average group size, but it’s better than I am and better than I need to defend myself.

The frontstrap has Cabot’s 24-LPI rhombus checkering with barely flattened diamonds. The grips are smooth walnut grooved with a Fibonacci spiral pattern.

The barrel is deeply crowned, giving the muzzle a funnel-like effect. The practiced
eye will notice the front stirrup cut is shorter than an ordinary Commander, an
artifact of the S103’s longer slide travel.

The front sight blade is mounted in a longitudinal dovetail covered by the barrel bushing,
a design that makes it impossible for the sight to get knocked to one side and lose its windage.

Carry Options

I paired the S103 with two different holsters from Galco, one for dress and one for deeper concealment. Since special guns deserve special leather, the first is a Concealable model in black Stingray. Stingray has a very distinctive, glossy finish and the craftsmanship on the holster is truly impressive: The edge work, for example, is almost wet in its shine and very well done. For those who carry their guns under a suit, a Stingray Concealable with a matching belt and mag case makes an elegant presentation.

The second is Galco’s KingTuk Air, a tuckable hybrid design using a leather backing plate to which a Kydex holster is attached, and a pair of steel clips that attach to your belt. The leather conforms to the body and is more comfortable than Kydex, while Kydex is thinner and generally offers better retention than leather. The Air version shown here is ventilated with many small holes to reduce the uncomfortable warmth of wearing leather directly against the skin.

The S103 proves precision doesn’t have to be unreliable or priced out of reach. It is a well-thought out carry pistol with all of Cabot’s trademark styling cues and attention to detail, at a price point likely to bring it into the holsters of many who can’t otherwise afford Cabot’s pricier offerings.

Expect to see them in gun shop display cases near you.

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