On March 29, 1911, Lt. Col. John T. Thompson of the U.S. Ordnance Department sent a letter to Colt’s in Hartford, Connecticut. The purpose was to inform them that the military testing held at Springfield Armory just two weeks prior had concluded and John Moses Browning’s 1911 design produced by Colt had come out on top.
Just like that, a legend was born. The M1911 served as the standard sidearm for American soldiers for the next 74 years.
In the decades following the gun’s rise to fame, dozens of companies have put their own spin on the platform, but there’s an allure that still surrounds the pistols made by Colt.
The gun up for review is a newly-manufactured Colt 1911 Government Model. Plenty of reviews are done for 1911s from all kinds of manufacturers, but we don’t seem to see as many honest-to-goodness Colts put through their paces.
Many a keystroke has been dedicated to the differences between the Colt Series 70 and Series 80 pistols. I’ve shot both and like them both. While Colt has reintroduced the Series 70, the gun reviewed here is a Series 80 model, which has an MSRP that is $100 less than the Series 70.
The Colt Series 80 is an eye-catcher, right out of the box. No, it doesn’t boast a luxurious, polished blue sheen, but it does have a clean, almost black finish to it. The entire gun, all the way down to the grip screw heads, has the same uniform finish. It’s a good-looking gun, classic to be sure with cues taken from the original including the spur hammer, solid trigger and non-flared ejection port.
The fit between the slide and the frame is excellent. Unlike the stories you hear of pistols that literally rattled in the hands of GIs in WWII, this gun makes no such sound.
Each pistol ships with two, seven-round flush magazines, both bearing the company name and the Rampant Colt on the floorplate.
At the Range
The 1911 is a fundamentally uncomplicated gun. Insert a mag, release the slide, and hammer away until the single-stack magazine is empty. It’s that simple. The 1911 was designed to go bang when you need it to, and it does that extremely well.
Based as it is on the original military design, this new Colt 1911 is very much a no-frills gun. The almost-black bluing I mentioned previously has a bit of a shine to it on the sides of the slide and frame. The top of the slide, however, has a matte finish. This cuts down on glare when you’re aiming the gun in bright sunlight, which is certainly appreciated.
The sights are simple, too; just your standard three white dots. Two on the rear sight and one on the front. It’s an arrangement that’s worked for decades and continue to do so.
I had LASIK last year, so it’s easy for me to pick up the sights and get them lined up on the target. If you’ve got older or less sharp eyes, you may find yourself wanting something a little bigger or brighter.
The traditional single action trigger isn’t anything fancy. It’s got a very noticeable take-up before you hit the wall – and hit it you do. Once that wall is reached, though, there’s no stacking or creep to be felt. Steady trigger pressure results in a very crisp break.
Some people say the trigger-actuated firing pin block on these guns makes for a trigger pull that’s anything but smooth and crisp. I disagree. My particular gun felt no different to my trigger finger than when I’m shooting a Series 70. YMMV.
This is a 1911, after all. That means the gun is heavy, weighing in at more than two pounds empty. It fires the .45 ACP cartridge as God and JMB intended. The .45 ACP, regardless of what anyone will tell you, is a harder-hitting round than the 9mm and that difference can certainly be felt when shooting a 1911.
That said, it’s far from an inaccurate gun. If you’re used to shooting 9mm, it might take a little getting used to when you start shooting .45 ACP. Once you get the hang of it, putting shots on target is just as easy.
Since the 1911 semi-automatic pistol was designed to be used in combat, it’s the quintessential self-defense handgun, so that’s the distance at which I chose to do most of my testing.
At 21 feet, I was getting groups that averaged 1.5” overall. Some better, some worse, but a 1.5” grouping is shown here inside a 3” circle. Definitely good enough for government (model) work.
The gun ran flawlessly on a diet of various bullet weights and compositions. As long as you don’t have a limp wrist, the 1911 will go bang each and every time you pull the trigger.
You will find fancier 1911s and you will find less expensive 1911s. But there’s something to be said for having an affordably priced (about $750 retail) original Colt Government model that’s not much different from the one your grandfather had on his hip when he was in the army.
Specifications: Colt 1911 Government Model
Action: Single Action Hammer Fired Semi-Auto
Caliber: .45 ACP
Barrel Length: 5 inches
Safety: Thumb Safety, Grip Safety, Firing Pin Safety
Grips: Double Diamond Rosewood
Weight: 35 oz
Frame Finish: Blued
Features: Service Hammer/ Long Trigger
Ratings (out of five stars):
Reliability * * * * *
There’s a reason the 1911 holds the record for the longest-serving sidearm of the American military. The design just works. Simple as that.
Ergonomics * * * *
A 1911 is a whole lot of gun in terms of weight. It’s well-balanced and points easily, but the size and weight can be a bit much for some shooters.
Customize This * * * * *
The platform wasn’t designed with customization in mind. There are thousands of ways to change this gun if that’s what you want. You can invest time and money and make this into a BBQ gun, but why would you do that to a standard government model like this? If you’re looking for a gun that lets you change out so many aspects of it that the final product is hard to tell exactly what you started with, buy a GLOCK.
Aesthetics * * * *
Most people say the M1911 is an elegant gun, due to its flowing lines and overall clean appearance from the mainspring housing to the barrel bushing. For a gun that was designed to win wars and save lives, the focus wasn’t on making a pretty pistol, but Browning succeeded in doing just that whether he intended to or not.
Overall * * * * *
It’s a Colt 1911. Sure, it doesn’t have the fit and finish of one made by Cabot or Wilson Combat, but that’s not the point of this model. This is a Colt 1911, and that says everything that needs to be said.
Logan Metesh is a firearms historian and consultant who runs High Caliber History LLC. Click here for a free 3-page download with tips about caring for your antique and collectible firearms.