So there’s a new song running through my head and it goes like this: “What the world needs now is a 1911 in 9mm.” Now 1911 stalwarts get all grumpy about this because, well, 1911s are .45s, dad gum it. On the other hand, as consumers move towards the 9mm manufacturers are producing 1911s in 9mm caliber to remain valid and have something that will sell. I understand outfits like Wilson Combat are selling a lot more 1911s chambered in 9mm these days than .45ACP. The same story is happening at Colt and their 9mm Competition Pistol is one example of the guns they’ve made in both calibers. Across the board, Colt 1911s in 9mm outsell those in .45ACP by a substantial margin.
Why this shift? I think it got started several years ago during the great ammo shortage. As availability declined and prices skyrocketed shooters gravitated towards calibers that were less expensive to shoot. We saw this shift at Gunsite, as more and more students came to school with a 9. Going through a thousand or more rounds in a week and saving several hundred dollars in ammunition costs prompted this. Too, 9s are easier to shoot and beat you up less, especially during a weeklong class. Even now, with good availability, 9mm ammunition is substantially cheaper than .45ACP, especially when purchased in volume, and 9mm pistols of all kinds outsell the .45 by a big margin.
The Competition Pistol I have been working with is a full size, 5 inch barreled, stainless steel pistol. It’s a Series 70 design, meaning it has no firing pin safety, although, oddly enough, the pistol came with a Series 80 manual. There is no rail on the dust cover and the slide is lacking forward cocking serrations – Bravo, Colt! I suppose what makes this a competition pistol is the inclusion of a red fiber optic front sight and an elevation adjustable rear sight, both excellent products from the folks at Novak’s. The rear sight is not mechanically adjustable for windage but the setscrew locking it in the dovetail can be loosened and the sight can be moved in the direction you want to shift the group. The sights reside in Novak dovetails so there are innumerable sight options available should you wish to switch the sights. I found the sights on my sample to be correctly adjusted and saw no need to make any changes during testing.
Other features of the Competition Pistol include a standard length, 3-hole trigger, a match barrel, a high cut beavertail grip safety and an undercut frame to set the pistol lower in the hand. The Colt blue stocks are made of G10, checkered in a traditional diamond pattern and include the Colt scripted logo. Blue? Yes, untraditional in the extreme, but attractive nonetheless. The pistol uses Colt’s new double recoil spring, said to promote frame life and lessen recoil. Recoil? There’s hardly any to begin with in a 40-ounce (loaded) pistol shooting 9mm ammunition, and although I couldn’t measure it, I suppose the dual spring system helps out a little. On the other hand, retracting the slide to load, or locking it to the rear is very easy with these springs.
Two 9 round stainless steel magazines with flat baseplates are supplied with the pistol. Measuring the trigger with my electronic trigger gizmo, I found it breaks at a little under four-and-a-half pounds. There’s a bit of creep, but no over-travel, so it’s a good, useable trigger. My sole gripe with the pistol concerns the single-side thumb safety. While it works, sort of, it isn’t fitted correctly and is stiff, scratchy and difficult to snap on and off. As a consumer this is the kind of thing that drives me bananas, because there is simply no reason this should have made it from the factory. Not to worry, as I plan on throwing the factory thumb safety away. More on that later.
At the range I started off shooting full metal jacket “training” ammunition through the pistol using both the Colt magazines and several others from various manufacturers. Next I switched to every brand and bullet weight of defensive ammunition I had and fired at least a box of each kind, all without a single malfunction. The Colt simply chugs along and spits them out. Shooting the pistol well is easy because it has good sights, a good trigger, fits my hand and exhibits very little recoil, even with the hottest defensive ammunition. This is a pistol I could shoot all day, or you could shoot comfortably through a week of Gunsite training after getting the thumb safety fixed.
A lady friend/student wants this pistol so my plan is to make it a bit more lady friendly. I’m going to turn it over to the resident Gunsite gunsmith, Mike Moore, owner of Tac Drivers, and have him make a few modifications. First to go will be the thumb safety, to be replaced bya Gunsite Low Thumb. Properly fitted, this safety will “snap” on and off and has several benefits. It makes the pistol feel smaller in the hand, allows small hands to positively grip and disengage the grip safety and is designed for shooting with the thumb atop the thumb safety – where it belongs – by the way. (If you shoot 1911s and don’t know that, come to school and we’ll get you squared away.) Next we’re going to replace those pretty blue stocks with a set of thin ones sporting the Gunsite Raven logo and as the last means of slimming the pistol we’ll install a short trigger. Mike won’t be able to help himself when he replaces the trigger and is sure to improve it from a pretty good feeling trigger to a perfect one. When finished this will be an outstanding ladies’ pistol, suitable for training, practice and defending the fort.
The suggested retail for the Colt Competition pistol in stainless steel is $999 but I’m seeing online prices hovering around $850. That’s a pretty good price for a genuine Colt that’s mostly “good to go” out of the box or can be used as a basis for creating your own version of a custom 1911 pistol.
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About the Author:
Ed Head is a regular on Shooting Gallery, Gun Stories and Down Range TV. He has worked for almost 30 years in law enforcement, first in the United States Air Force and then with the United States Border Patrol, retiring as a Field Operations Supervisor. During his Border Patrol career, Ed worked in a variety of patrol, investigative and training capacities. Ed has an extensive background as a firearms instructor, having trained thousands, ranging from beginners to police, military and special operations personnel. Having taught at Gunsite for 20 years, Ed first trained there under the world famous shooting school’s founder, Jeff Cooper, then later ran the school as the operations manager for more than five years. Ed lives in Chino Valley, Arizona, where he continues to teach and write.