Colt WWI repro range report


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Billy Shears
February 16, 2009, 11:18 PM
I just picked up a nice new Colt M1911 reproduction. It's a gorgeous replica of the WWI vintage 1911s carried by the doughboys "over there." My guess is that Colt chose this, rather than an earlier M1911, when deciding to make a WWI reproduction for two reasons. First, the earliest M1911s had "ball cuts" at the front of the slide, which would have required additional tooling, driving up the cost of what is already a $1000 pistol. Second, duplicating an earlier production M1911 would, in order to maintain authenticity, have required a much finer polish, driving up the cost of what is already a $1000 pistol. Choosing to replicate a 1918 production pistol, made when the war was well underway, allowed Colt to duplicate the rougher wartime finish. And since 1918 was the only year of WWI which saw any really significant action by US troops, it probably felt right from a nostalgia standpoint.

First off, my hat's off to Colt for the level of authenticity they achieved in this pistol. Unlike Smith & Wesson, which was content to slap an old-fashioned pair of service stocks on a modern 5 inch-barreled N frame and proclaim it a replica of the M1917 revolver, while leaving numerous details completely wrong (e.g. the ejector rod, lack of pinned barrel, front sight, etc.), and even left that abominable internal lock on the gun; Colt reproduced the original M1911 as accurately as possible, even taking the trouble to replicate even such fine details as the original roll marks on the slide, and having a specialty shop reproduce the old-style, charcoal heat/chemical bluing (often erroneously referred to as carbonia bluing, which was a proprietary S&W process). Then to top it off, the gun comes packaged in an original style cardboard box, and a reproduction WWI vintage army M1911 manual. You have to give Colt top marks for the level of accuracy they achieved with this pistol.

As for how it performed at the range... it was a blast (no pun intended). The gun is surprisingly accurate. For slow, precision, bullseye shooting, even the tiny, vintage-style sights work quite well. For rapid fire, of course, the sights are almost useless, being so tiny they are almost impossible to pick up quickly. This is the nature of the beast, since the gun is an accurate replica of the WWI original. But forming a crude "sight" picture by simply looking down the slide while firing at silhouette targets at ranges of five yards or less works well enough to put a full magazine into the center mass of the target while shooting as fast as one can press the trigger, and I suspect this is how shooters of the period did it when shooting at actual enemies, the modern technique not having been invented yet.

Incidentally, I also found that shooting this gun one handed, as period shooters did, works best. When I take a proper, two hand grip, with my thumbs pointed forward along the left side of the frame, the web of my hand is so high up on the tang of the grip safety that I get a nasty bite from the hammer. (The A1 modifications, specifically the lengthening of the grip safety tang, and the shortening of the hammer spur, were intended to address this, but having fired plenty of A1 configurations Colts, I can tell you they didn't fix it in the slightest; it takes a beavertail grip safety for that when you take a high grip on the gun.) However, shooting one handed, and lowering the thumb of the shooting hand to make contact with the middle finger, instead of keeping it high up near the safety lever, allows me to shoot the gun without getting bitten. Others with fleshier mitts might not be able to rid themselves of the problem so easily.

The trigger is surprisingly good for a military grade pistol, and the gun rattles significantly less than authentic military .45s I've handled. I don't know whether or not that's because this gun is tighter than what the military got, or because none the military .45s were made later than 1945, and have all had tens of thousands rounds through them and been rebuilt multiple times. Functioning was flawless, but this gun, being a replica of an early M1911, has a feed ramp configured only for hardball. There might well be a brand or two of hollowpoint that would feed through it, but I haven't tried. This isn't a gun one buys for self-defense purposes anyway (though of course, loaded with FMJ, once certainly could use it for that in a pinch). The only issue I have with function is again, probably just an inevitable consequence of the gun's accurate reproduction of original features: the ejection pattern. Out of a hundred rounds, I got three or four cases thrown right at my forehead. This is not an issue with any of my other 1911s, but then again, all my others have lowered and flared ejection ports, and throw the empty cases out more to the side.

All in all, I'm well pleased with this gun. For accuracy of period detail, the gun is absolutely outstanding. Ditto for reliability of function and accuracy. The hammer bite, tiny sights, and ejection pattern are simply inseparable from the gun's vintage features. Purists must consider this all part of the weapon's charm. For those wishing to own an original style M1911 pistol in good, shooting condition, this gun is a great buy. Original M1911s of this vintage command high prices these days, and their value is only rising. Moreover, for all their quality, the originals were made with softer steels and inferior heat treatment processes to those of today, and decades of wear and tear have taken their toll on some of them. With this gun, one can shoot to one's heart's content, and never worry about breaking a part, for even in the unlikely event that there is a breakage, this is a new gun, covered by a warranty. With this gun, you get the best of both worlds: old school craftsmanship, and modern metallurgy.

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Pilot
February 17, 2009, 07:38 AM
Great report. I have decided to get one of these. Now I just have to find one.

Brian Dale
March 1, 2009, 11:22 PM
Excellent report, Billy. Thanks for posting it!

I came across a tidbit of new information while I was looking for info on this pistol: if carbonia bluing was a proprietary S&W process, then the name's been swiped for a modern process that's being done on the Colt WW I Repro.

Link:

We are pleased to announce that Colt's Mfg. Inc. has chosen us to be the supplier of our Carbonia finish on their new, current production 1911 WWI Repro...{continues} (http://www.ronsgunshop.com/coltwwrepro.html)

They must be great artists; remember what Picasso said. ;)

Again, thanks for a clear, insightful range report.

gbelleh
March 1, 2009, 11:35 PM
Nice report. I almost bought one of these, but went with a series 70 repro instead.

Got any pics??

Big Daddy Grim
March 1, 2009, 11:37 PM
Nice I have got to get one of those.

Oro
March 2, 2009, 12:47 AM
the gun rattles significantly less than authentic military .45s I've handled.

Your second guess is correct. The low round-count and all-original 1911's and 1911a1's I've handled have all been uniformly tight and about as well built as (or better than) modern production guns.

Thank your for a detailed and THOUGHTFUL write-up. This is my next 1911 to get. I have set up a Series 70 to satisfy that itch right now (1911 trigger and looped MSH, and original sights). I love it and know that I need a true or repro 1911 in the near future. Thanks again for the report.

rondog
March 2, 2009, 01:54 AM
Dang, I thought I was wordy! Congrats on the new Colt! I have an 01911 model in Carbonia Blue, and I love it! Damn nice pistol, IMO, and very accurate.

http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b150/rinselman/guns/DSCN1139.jpg

wrc376
March 2, 2009, 02:14 AM
yeah, i gotta get one now too

krs
March 2, 2009, 11:05 AM
Oh, yeah I like it.

The small sights make me concentrate harder on what I'm doing, I think, so I shoot this one almost as well as my old bullseye gun. Taught me that I'd become lazy about my shooting. Nice gun, and I 'dehorned' it enough to take off the little gotchas the gun came with.
http://i130.photobucket.com/albums/p263/twagger/guns/1911_redux1.jpg

Dienekes
March 2, 2009, 11:52 PM
Neat old guns. I have a 1913 shooter grade that is essentially correct other than a replacement barrel; invisible knife edge front/shallow U notch rear sights and all. The trigger pull is about 9 pounds, and some hold-off is necessary, but I do ok with it.

Some years ago I was trying to adapt to a Glock 17 with no success. I pulled this old buster out and easily outdid my performance with the Glock. Now I know Glocks [I]will[I] shoot, but not for me. The old Colt is still with me. The Glock is gone, and no regrets...

I would still take that 1913 gun into harm's way without hesitation.

XavierBreath
March 3, 2009, 12:21 AM
http://i201.photobucket.com/albums/aa89/xavier-pics/ReproandBLACKARMY797432.jpg

My Colt M1911 reproduction alongside an original 1918 M1911 "Black Army." Note the difference in the location of the prancing pony in the rollmark. The United States Property mark is above the serial number on the 1918 gun.


http://i201.photobucket.com/albums/aa89/xavier-pics/LeandXavM1911.jpg

My Colt M1911 reproduction alongside an original 1917 Colt M1911. Note the same location of the prancing pony on the real deal, but now the slide has ball cuts. Note, too, the differences in the checkering of the grips.

The Colt M1911 is a nice pistol, and a decent attempt at a reproduction, but collectors will not be fooled. There are other, small items, such as the direction of the buffing wheels during polishing, the raised rollmark edges on the reproduction, and other items inside the pistol that are different.

Because WWI ended in the Fall of 1918, many of the 1918 and subsequent pistols did not see combat until WWII. At the beginning of WWII, many believe the M1911 was more common in the war theater than the M1911A1.

I have not shot my Colt M1911 reproduction yet, but I suppose I should. Can you relate how much wear your's received on the barrel hood and such from a few boxes of ammo?

Billy Shears
March 3, 2009, 12:36 AM
The Colt M1911 is a nice pistol, and a decent attempt at a reproduction, but collectors will not be fooled. There are other, small items, such as the direction of the buffing wheels during polishing, the raised rollmark edges on the reproduction, and other items inside the pistol that are different.
These items may have been done that way deliberately, in order to prevent someone buying one of these, "distressing" it to make it look older, and passing it off to the unwary as an original. It's also possible that Colt just didn't research it well enough. And it's possible also that there are original guns out there without the ball cuts, but with the prancing pony in the same location as the repro's; different features may have been altered at different points in the gun's production. But there are, as you say, differences that a knowledgeable collector will spot, and that's a good thing, actually, in order to minimize the possibility of fraud.

I have not shot my Colt M1911 reproduction yet, but I suppose I should. Can you relate how much wear your's received on the barrel hood and such from a few boxes of ammo?
There is only the faintest of wear on the barrel hood after a couple of boxes of ammo. I'm sure there will be more as I shoot it some more. This doesn't bother me. I'm not interested in owning safe queens. I have a classic car too, which is quite fun to drive. I don't know what pleasure people get from the top-level show winners that have to be trailered everywhere. Things can be well maintained, and yet still enjoyed for their intended purpose.

XavierBreath
March 3, 2009, 06:35 AM
Any collector could tell the reproduction from a real M1911 by the serial number, something that is unique and a federal crime to alter.

I tend to think that Colt unknowingly made the errors because they did not market these pistols to serious collectors. Colt couldn't. Serious collectors are not interested in reproductions. These pistols were marketed to those who would like a M1911 without the investment of time spent searching or the money spent obtaining one.

There will be Colt M1911 reproductions sold to casual collectors as authentic originals, just as M1911 mix masters and rearsenaled guns are. It's inevitable. Some dealers are unscrupulous, and some buyers are gulible. Put them together, and a pistol sells for too much almost every time. How to protect yourself? Knowledge. Handle a lot of the real pistols, and talk to serious collectors about the differences. Heck, even knowledgeable collectors get suckered occasionally in this market!

That does not mean the Colt M1911 reproduction is not a nice pistol, most are. Some have offset recoil tunnels and a few other machining problems, but overall, they are a fair attempt at duplicating the actual pistol. Colt did not do nearly so well with the WWII reproduction. Both are machined of modern hardened steel, a good thing, whereas the original had more primitive heat treatment. The new guns will shoot long and well.

Colt stopped the Carbonia blue at serial 4000, and went with a different finish to continue a popular seller that they had intended to be limited to 4000.

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