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The Detonics Combat Master: initial thoughts and observations

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by Dragonfly, Sep 4, 2021.

  1. Dragonfly

    Dragonfly Member

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    LHRfOhC.jpg

    A couple of months ago I posted a Miami Vice-themed thread about my new S&W Bodyguard and a poster mentioned that I should pick up a Combat Master to fill out the collection. I was intrigued, posted a WTB ad and picked this one up this week. I do like classic pistols of the 1970s and 1980s and this is a cool little example. I believe mine is a Mark VI model (that’s what it’s registered as) although research I’ve done online suggests that model has polished stainless slide, whereas mine is brushed.

    The history of the pistol dates from the early 1970s when a gentleman named Pat Yates was experimenting with 1911s to see if it was possible to build a compact but reliable model that would offer more power than the comparably-sized .380s and .32s that were more common back then. After developing a prototype he sold the rights to Detonics (an originally an explosive company whose name comes from combining the words Detonate+Physics) in the mid-1970s. I believe that the pistols were made from 1975 to 1987, when the original Detonics was sold and became The New Detonics but only lasted until 1992. It was resurrected in the mid-2000s but I believe it is no longer in business.

    Now—onto the details.

    WCivTMk.jpg

    Mine has Pachmayr grips—quite fitting for the vintage (and I must say I do like the feel). This picture shows the enlarged ejection port, too. It's a chunky little beast weighing in at 34 ounces.

    PtSubcC.jpg

    The trigger is narrow and deeply grooved.

    127LkQS.jpg

    The front sight is plain stainless.

    V9Jtayw.jpg

    While the rear sight is a plain, generously-wide black notch. This picture shows probably the most visually distinctive element of the Combat Master’s design—the placement of the rear sight well-forward of its usual position, with the slide top gradually sloping down to the hammer. This was done to facilitate easy access to the hammer to allow for manual cocking if the pistol was carried hammer down on a live round. In fact, one of the early pre-Detonics prototypes had no manual safety at all. This shortens the sight radius some, but this pistol was not intended as a bullseye match shooter! The hammer spur is also a little more vertical than usual, to help eliminate hammer bite.

    TDhs1cm.jpg

    And here’s why you can see that hammer bit might be a problem for some—there’s no grip safety or beavertail. The grip safety is fairly small, too.

    lj6tY64.jpg

    xcD0T8Q.jpg

    The pistol has a 3.5” bull barrel, with no barrel bushing. On mine the serial number is electro-penciled on an unusual flat area on the bottom of the barrel

    gE9a8gV.jpg

    The captive recoil spring assembly is unique to the pistol—this one has three separate springs while some earlier models had two.

    WKHTh7g.jpg

    The pistol has a unique six-round magazine, although full-size ones can be used in a pinch.

    RdbtUea.jpg

    Initial impressions are very favorable—this looks to be a well-made pistol. I'm looking forward to getting it out to the range.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2021
  2. NIGHTLORD40K

    NIGHTLORD40K Member

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    Always thought they were nifty, nice score!
     
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  3. ontarget

    ontarget Member

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    Sweet, we do expect a range report.
     
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  4. WestKentucky

    WestKentucky Member

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    That’s a pretty gun for sure. Detonics did it right, minimal changes aside from the purposeful changes…meaning that they didn’t turn them into billboards or a mess of rails and other bits, just shrunk it down in sensible ways. It’s a beauty.
     
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  5. bannockburn

    bannockburn Member

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    Dragonfly

    Congrats on a great acquisition! And another excellent photo shoot of your vintage Detonics Combat Master. Never could afford one but I did buy one of their dual recoil spring assemblies and have used it with decent results in several 1911s over the years.
    kdFbHlT.jpg
     
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  6. Lo-Profile

    Lo-Profile Member

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    I had a old "agency" gun years ago. Was blue steel, No markings other than serial number and Manufacturer rollmarks. Should have kept it but I sold it when I bought my Sig Sauer C3 1911 close to 15 years ago.
    Mine was a great shooter with a very light trigger. Only thing I didn't like was it was what I perceived to be extremely heavy for a gun it's size.
     
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  7. FL-NC

    FL-NC Member

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    Such a cool handgun. I don't have one only because I think they are too nice and pricey for a carry pistol that will get beat up.
     
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  8. Mainsail

    Mainsail Member

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    Great find!

    The bumper on the magazine is not factory as far as I know. To determine whether your magazine is a factory one or a Triple-K aftermarket one you'd need to look under the bumper and see whether it says Detonics .45 a.c.p. (factory) or Detonics .45 Auto (Triple-K). Almost all the ones I see pop up on ebay from time to time are Triple-K.

    They had an issue with material breaking off above the extractor at the aft end, due to there being less metal there. (First photo from an old sale ad). Mine has a repair to that area as show in the 2nd photo.

    Mine was from a police auction and looked very neglected, but for $400 it was a steal. I've gotten it cleand up and mostly reliable, but it's still a work in progress.

    EDIT TO AD: The last photo shows mine all cleaned up and the wood grips installed. I'll be going back to that Pachs though as I like them better. Anyway, in that photo notice the way the magazine doesn't sit perfectly flush with the mag-well? That's the Triple-K mag. My Detonics magazine fits flush.

    OtherCM.png TS8.jpg Det1a.jpg Detonics14.jpg
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2021
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  9. lee n. field

    lee n. field Member

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    Our office manager and her husband have two. I've shot the one. Works pretty well.

    These days, though, there's other .45s in that same size range.
     
  10. Dragonfly

    Dragonfly Member

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    I realized that the pictures of the Combat Master really don't give a good impression of how small it is—here it is next to the diminutive J-Framed Bodyguard. It's certainly a bit chunkier but also packs seven rounds of .45ACP instead of five rounds of .38 Special :)

    qShjYYT.jpg
     
  11. herrwalther

    herrwalther Member

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    I have always liked the look of a Detonics CM. Have never seen or even held one in a store or show. Hope to remedy that someday.
     
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  12. earplug

    earplug Member

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    I have serial #2045. Owned it since the late 70's. Have owned two of them with mixed results. Note the two piece barrel on yours. I had the silver solder joint fail. Then after getting several problems fixed at the factory I had my pistol Armaloyed plated (sp) Then the slide cracked! . Factory replaced it with a stainless pistol which I traded off. I think I see a chip on the authors slide, on the edge of the extractor and firing pin stop.
    I swore off Detonics until I found #2045 at a gun show and wanted it for a collection reason.
    Years ago before the kydex holster options I found the pistol hard to carry and its weight was more then I wished. I moved to the model 38 S&W.
    Its a interesting pistol made prior to the many pocket pistols we have now,
     
  13. JFrame

    JFrame Member

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    OP... I'm hardly a Detonics expert, but I suspect your model is a Mark V (perhaps mis-logged? ). The Mark VI was referred to by Detonics as the Combat Professional, and was indeed distinguished by a polished slide. The rear sight was also adjustable for windage... Plus it came with an additional taller sight to tweak elevation.

    In any case, you acquired a handsome piece! :thumbup:
     
  14. Rexster

    Rexster Member

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    A Detonics Combat Master was actually my first handgun, in late 1982 or early 1983. It was superbly accurate, and I did not get any hammer bite. Interestingly, it was reliable with JHPs, but not with FMJ. When I was hired by a police department, in late 1983, I had to learn DA six-gunning, and then carry only revolvers, for a while. Then, during subsequent lean times, in the mid-Eighties, with a baby being born, I only kept one duty revolver, one back-up J-Frame, and one duty shotgun. I could not justify keeping a finicky 1911, that I did not carry.

    I later bought a pre-owned Detonics Mark VII, the sight-less one. It was not reliable, either, so I did not carry it. It was probably traded for the next cool thing, as I frequently did, in the early Nineties, when I was working plenty of OT details. That Mark VII would have been a nifty ankle-holster gun, Sonny Crockett-style, to complement my full-sized 1911 duty pistols.

    One thing about these miniaturized Detonics pistols is the need to frequently replace recoil springs. IIRC, the recommended replacement intervals are quite frequent, and, these springs can be difficult to source. When I got nostalgic, for a Detonics pistol, a couple of years ago, I bought a 5” model that uses standard 1911 springs, the 9-11-01 commemorative. (IIRC, it is based upon the “Street Master.”) I have yet to fire it, but I want to be able to fire it, without worrying about being unable to find replacement springs. (I will have to be VERY careful not to lose the proprietary recoil spring retainer cap.)
     
  15. Dragonfly

    Dragonfly Member

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    I had a chance to take the Combat Master to the range earlier this week and what blast—literally and figuratively! It was great fun to shoot—the recoil is a pleasant sort of punch that let's you know it's a .45 but not the least bit objectionable. I had a few failures to lock back on one of the aftermarket magazines but the factory mags worked 100%. Since the sun was almost directly behind me the a good sight picture was a little tough to get—especially with the stainless front sight—but it was enough to know the pistol shoots pretty good. I'm very pleased with it!
     
  16. bannockburn

    bannockburn Member

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    Dragonfly

    Seeing your video reminded me of when I use to shoot my Colt Officer's Model ACP. I had the all steel one and it was quite a hefty gun to carry round for any length of time. seemed to prefer 185 gr. and 200 gr. ammo to the more typical 230 gr. FMJ load. I didn't feel that the recoil and muzzle flip were all that bad for such a short barrel and slide. Kind of made me think of it as having more "Bark than Bite"!
    33GkmS3.jpg
     
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  17. Dragonfly

    Dragonfly Member

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    That’s it exactly. Between the weight and the Pachmayr grips it was very manageable. I had my S&W Bodyguard out as well and between its lighter weight and hard VZ boot grips its recoil was more noticeable.
     
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  18. Plan2Live

    Plan2Live Member

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    I'll make the next suggestion for your Miami Vice collection, skip the sawed off shotgun Tubbs carried and go for either a vintage Cigarette with twin 454s or a Ferrari Daytona. Don't forget to post pics!
     
  19. Riomouse911

    Riomouse911 Member

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    Now I see where Kimber got a lot of the inspiration for the Ultra Carry II that I picked up last month. Obviously the rear of the slide and rear sight placement aren’t even close, but the bushingless heavy barrel with the step cut into it, an abbreviated grip safety, short magazine, multiple recoil springs, chunky slide, etc. sure look inspired by the Detonics design. (Mines a 9mm not a .45 though.)

    60B0BA02-3C96-4A47-BD56-42CEBB0F0741.jpeg F5F4BE3C-6EED-4789-B0CF-F3CDDA5A7D76.jpeg C6CAD6C1-88D1-4E8D-B49E-A0FAE9D47859.jpeg 28437993-07AC-4F9A-8C9D-CAA802B71DF7.jpeg F7FBBB8E-6836-4E07-ABBF-D41B5B0F87D3.jpeg

    I must say for a 45 year old gun, that Detonics you have is one good looking pistol :thumbup:.

    Stay safe.
     
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