Recently, I invested a considerable sum in a new Colt Government Model 1911. This pistol represents a return to basics. A time when the Goose hung high for Colt, and the pistol had to be the best—damn the cost. For over 100 years, the Colt has been the most influential, respected, and effective self-loading pistol in the world.
A parallel exists between the Colt 1911 and Colt Single Action Army, with each revered by shooters for its place in history. While the Model A and the Edison Phonograph are long out of production, the contemporary 1911 pistol is not only still in use but arguably at the top of the heap. There simply isn’t another handgun that has seen as much action world wide as the 1911 pistol. Doughboys, Marines, and FBI agents have used the handgun to good effect against enemies of the Republic.
The pistol dates back from the original developments in 1898 to what became the 1900 self-loading pistol in .38 ACP. Continual refinement led to the 1911 model. While the same outline, weight, and handling are preserved in the modern Colt, there have been improvements beginning with the 1911A1 and continuing to the Series 70 and Series 80.
It is an understatement to say that most 1911 handguns today are not Colts. It is easy enough to take something great and make it more cheaply. On the other hand, there are also modern versions of the 1911 that rival the Colt for quality, and some, such as the Les Baer and Nighthawk are in a classes of their own.
Then there are the dozens of makers offering parts for the 1911. The Colt is the authentic 1911, however, there are others that are worth your time to investigate. It would be foolish for me to suggest that the modern striker-fired polymer frame handguns do not offer an individual that trains a high level of protection. However, there is something to the 1911 as the type is in steady demand and the appetite for the pistol is fed by many makers.
Why is the 1911 not only popular but at the top of the heap? Simple. The human engineering behind the pistol has never been bested. The straight to the rear trigger compression, a low bore axis that limits muzzle flip, and excellent hand fit make for a fast and sure handling handgun. The controls, including the slide lock, magazine release, and safety, are within reach without shifting the firing grip. The combination of a slide lock safety and grip safety make for safe handling—although true safety is between the ears. There is no handgun faster to an accurate first-shot hit than the Colt 1911 Government Model.
There is no handgun that is as useful, in so many applications, as the 1911. While many of us use the 1911 for home defense and personal defense, the pistol is also a fine trail gun. With the Hornady 230-grain XTP +P, the pistol is a fine deer and boar getter, at moderate range. I also have considerable confidence in the new Browning .45 ACP FMJ load. With a flat point bullet at 870 fps, this is a stronger load than most and would be useful for defense against all but the largest animals.
The 1911 is a fine competition pistol. Modified versions are used in bullseye competition and other types are used to win more IPSC matches than any other handgun. This is the pistol that has won more matches than any other in history. The 1911 is available in other calibers as well, including the .22 LR, .38 ACP Super, 9mm, 10mm and .460 Rowland. That is versatility.
When the 1911 was first adopted by the U.S. Army, accuracy specifications were stringent for the day. The pistol had to place five shots into 10 inches at 50 yards. Most were more accurate. Today, an out of the box Colt, Springfield, or Kimber, should exhibit a 2.5-inch group at 25 yards with quality ammunition such as the Hornady 200-grain XTP. Some will do much better. A good quality 1911, with a fitted match-grade barrel such as the Bar Sto, may group five shots into one inch at 25 yards. Accuracy comes from a good fit of the slide and frame as well as the barrel to the barrel bushing.
Recently, I was able to obtain a new Colt 1911 Government Model for my own use. This isn’t a test gun or loaner; it was obtained at a full retail price that impacted my lunch money for several weeks (despite a trade in of three lesser firearms). I wanted this pistol and I am not disappointed.
The pistol appears to be a classic nickel-plated Colt, but it is actually a highly-polished stainless steel pistol. This is ideal for hard use, yet the pistol has the iconic look of Colts of a day gone by. The piece is supplied with a nice set of checkered wood grips, which I replaced with stag grips. The result is a breath taking Colt in appearance.
The pistol is supplied with a long trigger and flat mainspring housing, in original 1911 style. The pistol locks up tight. When you rack the slide and the barrel lugs run into place, you know this pistol has benefited from hand fitting. The slide is marked Colt Custom on the left flat and Colt Government Model on the other.
The slide lock safety is crisp in operation and indents tightly. The grip safety properly releases its hold on the trigger mid way into its travel. The sights are high visibility types with three white dot inserts. The piece is supplied with two Colt magazines. The Colt Series 80 firing pin block or drop safety is incorporated into the slide. The trigger breaks cleanly at 5.5 pounds.
The pistol was lubricated on the long bearing surfaces prior to firing. Initial firing was undertaken with the Federal Cartridge Company American Eagle 230-grain FMJ—an excellent training and target load with a full powder burn and good accuracy. I expected a couple of break in malfunctions from this classic Colt, but there were none. The piece simply came out of the box running.
The natural point is good and I found the pistol came on target quickly. I ate the center out of the X-ring on man-sized targets at 7 and 10 yards. Accuracy results off hand at 20 yards at a bullseye target were good. I also fired a quantity of the formidable Federal 230-grain Hydra-Shok, among the most proven defense loads ever produced. There were no failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. I have continued to fire the pistol, and on several occasions, tested it for accuracy at 25 yards. It has given excellent accuracy.
Test Results, 25 Yards From a Solid Bench Rest
|Federal American Eagle 230-grain FMJ||2.7 inches|
|Federal 230-grain Hydra-Shok||2.0 inches|
|Browning 230-grain FMJ||2.5 inches|
|Winchester 230-grain PDX||2.4 inches|
|Hornady 185-grain XTP||2.6 inches|
|Hornady 200-grain XTP||2.0 inches|
The Colt 1911 Government Model, with polished stainless finish, is a modern classic and undeniably an effective handgun for personal defense and outdoors use. I have carried the handgun in the Galco Combat Master belt scabbard for range use. For concealed carry, the Galco N3 inside the waistband holster offers many advantages. The fit and finish are good, and the single rear loop cinches the holster in tight against the body, allowing excellent concealment.
The pistol remains rigid when worn with a good gun belt. The stainless Colt takes the worry out of corrosion and perspiration when worn close to the body—even during visits to Florida in sweltering heat. My son calls Florida America’s Australia, with real love for that state. The stainless Colt is ideal for this climate. The 1911 is America’s handgun, and the new Colt Custom polished stainless pistol among the finest to leave Hartford.
We all have that one favorite pistol, manufacturer, or model. What’s yours? Share your answer in the comment section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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