June 23, 2016
By Paul Scarlata
To the vast majority of handgun shooters the words "Colt" and "1911" are more or less synonymous. They go together like "bacon and eggs" and are as American as "Mom and apple pie."
The Colt 1911 saw its first service during the waning days of the Moro Insurrection in the Philippines and then went on to earn a reputation for reliability in the muddy trenches of WWI. The 1911 became a favorite of combat soldiers, law enforcement agencies, criminals and the target shooting fraternity. In the 1920s, a few minor changes were made, resulting in the Model 1911A1 that would see service in WWII, the Korean War and Vietnam. Despite being "officially" replaced by the Beretta M9, the 1911 is still used today by elite military units and law enforcement.
While long the choice of serious bullseye competitors, the development of Action Pistol sports opened a whole new venue for the 1911. Gunsmiths began modifying them to improve sights, triggers, ergonomics, recoil control and accuracy. Today, the 1911 dominates IPSC/USPSA, IDPA, Bianchi Cup, steel matches and bowling pin shooting. How many centenarians can make such claims?
Over the years, Colt has offered a number of specialized variations of the 1911: the Colt Ace; the Gold Cup; Commander; Officers Model; Delta Elite; Rail Gun; and M45A1 with steel and alloy frames; stainless steel construction; and in calibers ranging from .22 LR to .455 Webley Auto.
The civilian market for 1911 pistols has never been stronger, and it came as no surprise to me when Colt announced the introduction of several new models of this classic design. Considering that Action Pistol shooting is my favorite pastime, the one that immediately attracted my attention was the Colt Competition Pistol.
At first glance you might assume the Colt Competition Pistol is just a standard 1911 Government Model. Well, upon closer examination, you will begin to notice features that make it anything but "standard."
Let's examine the external features first. The first thing I noticed were the grips. They are of the G10 variety and scalloped to provide a firm purchase even with sweaty or oily hands while a thumb clearance cut behind magazine release button allows positive access for fast reloading. And did I mention they were blue? While that may sound a bit odd, I have to admit the color is not only unique but contrasts nicely with slide and frame's matte blue finish.
The slide has dovetail cuts on the front and rear for mounting a Novak adjustable rear sight and a square blade front sight with a blue fiber optic rod insert.
While most of us are used to red, orange or green fiber optics, the blue one proved very visible allowing fast sight acquisition and alignment. And it matches the grips very nicely, which my wife Becky assured me was "very stylish."
The grasping grooves at the rear of the slide are a new, wider style allowing positive retraction of the slide to chamber or round or clear - a hopefully rare - malfunction. As is de rigueur on 1911s used in competition today, the ejection port has been lowered and flared to ensure positive ejection of spent cases.
The frame has been modified by relieving metal under the trigger guard, permitting the shooter to get a higher grip on the pistol for enhanced recoil control. In keeping further with the de rigueurness of today's competition 1911s, the Colt Competition Pistol is fitted with an extended thumb safety, a beavertail grip safety with a palm swell for positive operation and an elongated, skeletonized hammer.
As we examine the internals of the Colt Competition Pistol, we find a 5-inch National Match barrel with a 1:16 LH twist. The internals have been fitted and polished for a crisp trigger let off. While some claim that Colt's Series 80 firing system has a detrimental effect on the trigger pull, according to my trigger pull scale on the pistol I received, five pounds of pressure on the trigger tripped the sear crisply.
As with several of the company's new pistols for 2016, the Colt Competition Pistol uses the Colt Dual Spring Recoil System which was originally developed for the Marine Corps' new M45A1 pistol.
The outermost spring is the same diameter as a standard recoil spring, with the inner spring fitting closely inside. The innermost spring is slightly longer than the outer spring. The system will work with a standard GI recoil spring plug. However, it must be used with the supplied recoil spring guide rod due to the smaller diameter inner spring. The supplied guide rod shaft is smaller than a GI guide rod, however the other dimensions are the same as a standard guide rod.
This system reduces felt recoil for faster follow-up shots and extends recoil spring life, translating into longer effective use for the pistol itself.
Lastly, the Colt Competition Pistol is available in either .45 ACP or 9mm. The former comes with an eight round magazine while the latter's holds nine of Georg Luger's famous cartridge. At the risk of starting another 9mm vs. .45 debate, I will proudly admit that the 9mm is my favorite pistol cartridge, so I was a bit disappointed when the Colt Competition Pistol I received for T&E was a .45. But after 20+ years in this game, I have learned how to labor under such vicissitudes.
We tested the Colt Competition Pistol for accuracy from an MTM K-Zone rest on our club's 25-yard range, firing three different types of factory .45s and two of my favorite handloads. All of which showed they were capable of producing groups measuring two inches or less. Colt says the pistol is fitted with National Match barrel...and the company ain't kidding.
Instead of running the Colt Competition Pistol through a series of offhand drills on combat-type targets, I moved over to the next berm where my club had recently held a steel match. Starting with nine rounds in the pistol, I drew it and engaged three steel squares and five, ten inch steel plates with one round each from a distance of fifteen yards.
I am happy to relate that of the ten runs I performed on the steel, only four of them required the expenditure of all nine rounds in the Colt Competition Pistol.
I did not experience a single failure to feed, fire or eject during testing, not even with the Federal FMJSWC "softball" loads, which will cause functioning problems many out-of-the-box 1911s. I also test fired it with Wilson Combat extended 10-round magazines and, once again, it ran 100 percent.
Out of curiosity, I fired the Colt Competition Pistol alongside a 1911 with a standard recoil system and must admit that the felt recoil pulse with the gun's dual spring recoil system was noticeably softer.
As is my SOP, I want to mention two changes that would make the Colt Competition Pistol even more practical. First of all, checkering the front strap of the frame would provide a more secure grip which would further improve recoil control. Second, beveling the magazine well - or better yet, installing a modest magazine well funnel - would help smooth out reloads. I don't believe either of these modifications would increase the pistol's price enough to dissuade potential buyers.
Despite its "Competition" moniker, the Colt Competition Pistol is capable of multitasking. First of all, it would be an excellent choice for USPSA's Single Stack or - with 10-round magazines - Limited Ten Divisions or IDPA's Enhanced Service Pistol or Custom Defensive Pistol classes.
Is a 1911 your idea of the perfect personal/home defense pistol? Then the Colt has you covered. Does you agency allow their officers the option of carrying a 1911? You need look no further than the Colt. Are you a fan, like yours truly, of 9mm 1911 pistols? Then the Colt Competition Pistol is going to suit you to a "T."