The Colt 1911 semi-automatic pistol was created by the legendary gun maker John Browning and the gun was adopted by the U.S. Army as the standard firearm. Over a century has gone by and the same gun is still being used by the U.S. Military and has gone on to become a firm favorite with law and security enforcement officers and citizens. The Colt 1911 is one of the most iconic pistols of all times and the timeless design of 1911 is likely to live on.
The original Colt 1911 handgun was built using the .45 ACP cartridge; however, later the design was adapted so that the gun could accommodate different types of rounds like the .40 Smith & Wesson, 9mm, 10mm, .38 Super and the .357 Magnum. Today, although there are several models, manufacturers, and sizes of the 1911, the Colt remains the gold standard.
Pluses of the 1911 Platform
So, the question is, what really makes the 1911 a firm favorite of shooters? In reality, there are several factors that make the 1911 a great weapon.
The fixed barrel design, long sight radius, light trigger, and soft recoil make the 1911 quite an accurate gun. The moderate recoil and the natural aim make the Colt 1911 fairly accurate in the right hands.
The 1911 is mostly a single-action pistol with some exceptions. The trigger of the Colt 1911 makes it a dream to shoot with. The trigger offers a light pull, a clean break and a fairly short reset. However, the trigger pull being so light makes it rather unsafe to carry the 1911 pistol chambered without the safety. Nevertheless, the light trigger makes the 1911 excellent for competitions, tactical training and target practice.
Slim Design and Ergonomics
The 1911 is a slim and sleek gun with excellent ergonomics. This makes it easier for shooters with smaller hands to grip and handle comfortably. The slim design also makes the pistol ideal for conceal carry, especially for purpose of self-defense.
You may feel a bit of the recoil, although it is not very harsh and the Colt 1911 manages the recoil quite well due to its heavy weight. And, if you use a smaller round such as a 9mm, then the recoil is even lesser.
Ease of Concealment
The 1911 is quite heavy and big in size. However, due to its single-stack magazine, the handgun is quite slim, which makes it ideal for conceal carry and if you opt for a short barrel version like the Defender, Commander, etc., then it makes conceal carry much easier.
Most 1911 models are chambered to use .45 ACP caliber ammunition, which is fairly powerful. The Colt 1911 is also available in 9mm and .22 LR calibers.
Disassembly and Reloading
Reloading the 1911 is quite simple. All you need to do is, press the button of the magazine release and the empty magazine will be dropped and you can slide a loaded magazine in place.
The disassembly of the 1911 may, however, be a challenge for a beginner, as it is not very intuitive. However, with repeated practice, it will become much easier. You may want to keep the manual of the pistol handy for the first few times that you disassemble the gun and there are also several YouTube videos that can help you to disassemble the 1911.
Reliability and Durability
While the reliability of the 1911 may be a bit lacking and it is also sensitive to various kinds of ammunition, the newer models are much more reliable compared to the older versions. The 1911 is a great pistol for self-defense and the reliability of the handgun can be enhanced by a bit of customization.
The 1911 is among the most customizable guns and you can customize it as much as you require to. You can find accessories, add-ons, parts and spare magazines for your Colt 1911 quite easily as compared to other guns.
While the 1911 has many pluses, it has its limitations too. The disassembly process is quite complicated than other pistols. It is fairly heavy and can hold only 7 to 8 rounds and requires at least 200-300 rounds before a 1911 starts functioning properly and is reliable. Nevertheless, the 1911 is the most popular pistol designs and is an excellent option for professional shooting competitions, as a range gun, as an SHTF sidearm and as a gun for home defense.
Factors to Consider before Choosing the Right 1911
If you have decided that you’re going to buy a Colt 1911, here are a few factors you should consider before you actually go out and buy one.
There are essentially 3 basic sizes in which the 1911 is available i.e. Full Size, which is also known as Government, the Officer Size and the Commander Size.
- Full Size or Government Size: This is the original size and the most popular one. The pistol has a full-size frame and grip and the barrel is 5 inches. This offers excellent recoil control and balance and the 5-inch barrel offers enhanced accuracy.
- Commander Size: This is smaller than the Full-Size pistol. The pistol has a full-size frame but a 4-inch barrel and a shorter slide. This is a comfortable pistol which is easy to handle and is suitable for all types of applications.
- Officer Size: This is the smallest size with a small frame and grip and a 3” or 3.5” barrel. The small and compact size makes it ideal for concealed carry; however, it may not offer as much accuracy as the larger models.
The caliber of the pistol is a very important factor to consider. You need to decide whether you need a .45 Auto which is tried and tested or if you need a caliber for higher velocity or you need something that offers a big kick suited for hunting.
All models have a manual slide safety lock and a grip safety to ensure that the gun is safe until it is fired. The Series 80 guns have extra protection in case the gun is dropped or the other safeties do not work. The Colt 1911 has 2 types of manual safety – standard and ambidextrous. The grip safety comprises a beavertail that helps to protect your hand from being hurt by the hammer spur and allows you to shoot comfortably.
The original version of the 1911 had a simple GI style sight without dots or any other aids for aiming. However, the sights have improved significantly over time and there are many types available. The 3-Dot sights are very common offering clarity and accuracy. Night sights usually contain glowing material in glass vials, also in the 3-Dot arrangement, which is best for home defense and concealed carry weapons. Some models also have rear sights which can be adjusted and are ideal for competition and target shooting.
The standard 1911 pistol does not feature a light rail, but it is available in some of the full-size and some Commander models. If you’re using your 1911 for home defense or law enforcement, then you should buy a pistol with a high-quality light and a light rail.
Colt 1911 Models
For a very long time, Colt was one of the very few manufacturers of the 1911 and so, there was not much competition. However now, the scenario has changed and almost every gun manufacturer has a 1911 model. Today, Colt offers several variants of the 1911. Let us look at the various Colt 1911 models.
Developed in the year 1991, the Colt 1991 resembles the original M1911 closely, which was used in the WWI. The 1991 enables the shooters to own a traditional 1911 pistol that has been upgraded with some modern-day features. The Colt 1991 makes use of the Series 80 firing mechanism, beavertail grip, spur hammer and a solid trigger.
The handgun features a flattened mainspring and a long trigger. On the left side, it has a regular GI style thumb safety and a grip safety that has been shortened. The 1991 features GI style fixed sights with white dots for accurate shooting. The pistol is available in a polished blue or a stainless-steel finish.
Colt Combat Commander
The latest model of the esteemed Colt Combat Commander is equipped with G10 grips, the beavertail grip safety and a spring recoil mechanism that is very durable, which reduces the recoil significantly. The 4.25-inch long barrel of the gun makes it ideal for conceal carry compared to the full-size gun. The Commander features a blued frame and slide, while the barrel is made of stainless steel. The gun has a classic Commander-style hammer and the pistol is available both in 9mm, as well as, .45 ACP calibers.
Colt Combat Unit Rail Gun
The combat rail gun model of the Colt 1911 has been designed for combat and tactical purposes. The Combat Unit Rail is equipped with a rail. The gun also sports the dual spring recoil mechanism like the Colt Combat Commander. It also has a beavertail safety grip, Novak night sights and a trigger guard which is undercut.
The Combat Unit Rail is equipped with a 1913 Picatinny rail which allows you to attach lasers or lights to the pistol, making it perfect for the purpose of home defense. The front strap of the gun has a checkering that offers enhanced grip in slippery conditions. The gun has extended controls, national match barrel, low glare finish and slide serrations on the front and also the rear. The Combat Unit Rail is available in 9mm and .45 Auto calibers.
The Gold Cup model was introduced by Colt, way back in the 50s as a premium target pistol and was considered as the gold standard 1911 for use in competitions. The Colt Competition 1911 was unveiled recently by Colt. The Colt Competition is available in various calibers, .38 Super, .45 ACP and 9mm and the pistol comes in 2 finishes – matte bluing and stainless steel.
The pistol features the Series 70 firing system that makes the trigger pull very light. The blue-colored G10 grips, dual recoil spring mechanism, beavertail safety grip, Novak fiber optics sights and all the features of the Colt Competition make it an excellent pistol.
If you are on the lookout for a 1911 pistol which is of a smaller size compared to the Colt Commander, then the Defender can be an ideal choice. With a 3-inch barrel, the Colt Defender has a shorter grip that can accommodate a magazine with a capacity of 6+1 rounds, although it can also accommodate larger 1911 magazines which will extend from the bottom of the pistol.
The Colt Defender has a beavertail safety grip and Novak sights and comes in both stainless steel, as well as blued finishes. The pistol is available in 9mm and .45 ACP calibers.
Colt Delta Elite
This is a classic 10mm gun belonging to the 1911 series and the pistol is also available in a version with a rail that enables you to attach accessories. They equip both the Colt Delta Elite versions with Novak sights with white dots, an improved hammer, slide serrations offering enhanced grip, extended thumb safety, a flared and lowered ejection port which enables smooth cycling and an extended beavertail grip safety. Both the models have a 5-inch barrel and they made them from stainless-steel. They blackened the grips of the pistol and sport the Delta medallion.
Colt Gold Cup Trophy
As we already know, the Colt Gold Cup was produced way back in 1950 and was regarded as the smoothest and finest competition pistols ever manufactured. The Gold Cup Trophy is the latest version of the original pistol.
In addition, the Gold Cup Trophy features a magazine well that is extended, a fiber optic front sight and a rear sight which is completely adjustable. The Gold Cup Trophy has a National Match barrel, an adjustable trigger and front and back straps with 25 LPI checkering. The pistol is available in 9mm and .45 Auto calibers and is an extremely high-quality pistol perfect for competitions.
Colt M45A1 CQBP
The Colt M45A1 CQBP was first used by the Marine Corps in 2012. It is essentially a Rail Gun but has a tan coating which makes it resistant to corrosion. They equip the Colt M45A1 CQBP with a 1913 Picatinny rail, G10 grips, Novak tritium night sights and dual recoil spring mechanism.
Colt Series 70
Also known as the Mark IV Series 70, the Colt Series 70 pistol makes use of the Series 70 firing mechanism. The exterior of the gun resembles the design of the M1911A1. The used the classic gun in the war right from the WWII to Vietnam.
The Colt Series 70 has a much shorter trigger, a standard thumb safety and grip, basic sights and an arched housing for the mainspring. They discontinued the stainless-steel version of the Series 70 gun very recently; however, they are still producing the bled version.
They consider the 1911 as a classic and used by the U.S. Military for several decades. The pistol has excellent ergonomics and it is available in many different calibers. However, to make it more reliable and useful for the purpose of self-defense, you may have to make some enhancements to the existing model, which may drive its price higher than it is. Nevertheless, the 1911 is a good gun to own.
Colt has been manufacturing the 1911 much longer than any other firearm producer and has introduced several variants you can choose from. With the numerous choices available in the market, deciding on the one that is best for you may be quite a difficult task. We hope that our review has helped you understand the different Colt 1911 models available and help you in choosing your perfect gun.