The Modern 1911 after 101 Years of Service.
In 1911, the Colt Model O pistol was adopted by the U.S. military. Technology has come so far during the past century it is hard to think of a 100-year-old design still in use today. However, the genius of John M. Browning's .45-caliber pistol design is still with us, virtually unchanged for generations.
Amazingly, the single action semi-automatic is even more popular today than ever before. In fact, the Model 1911 is so much in demand that dozens of firearms manufacturers produce their own variation of the weapon. However, the original workhorse continues to this very day - the Colt 1911. Nearly every 1911 pistol produced by Colt during calendar year 2011 had the right side of its slide roll marked with the legend, "100 Years of Service."
As the needs of law enforcement officers have progressed, so has Colt's classic 1911 handgun. The newest version from Colt is called the Rail Gun. Its namesake comes from the incorporation of a Picatinny rail on the underside of the frame that allows for the mounting of tactical lights and lasers. In addition, there are more unique features on this modern pistol than just the rail.
The Rail Gun
The 45 ACP Rail Gun exudes purposefulness. The flat black Ceracote finish is tough and mar resistant. The thin, baked-on finish resists scratches, chips and solvents. This particular Rail Gun does not have the "100 Years of Service" legend because the Ceracote would have filled in the light roll mark. Two other versions of the Rail Gun are also available - one in matte silver stainless steel and the other as a two tone offering with silver over black.
Matched to this dark Model 1911 is a pair of black stained rosewood stocks with the traditional double-diamond checkering pattern. The silver Rail Gun comes with handsome, brown rosewood handles.
The Picatinny rail sports four slots to accommodate virtually any tactical light or laser. An entirely new style of frame incorporates the integral rail. It should be noted that the majority of form fitted holsters for a standard 1911 pistol will not fit the wider dust cover area where the Rail Gun's slots are machined. Nevertheless, several styles of duty holsters are available to fit 1911 pistols with Picatinny rails.
Excellent three-dot, snag-free Novak front and rear sights are dovetailed into the slide. They are factory calibrated to point of aim - point of impact at 15 yards. The rear sight is further secured with a small Allen screw to prevent any side to side movement. Tritium night sights are an available option.
Front serrations accompany the slanted rear grasping grooves on the slide and the ejection port is lowered and flared for consistent ejection of spent cases. Additional custom features that are standard equipment on the Rail Gun are an ambidextrous extended manual thumb safety, beavertail grip safety, flat mainspring housing and elongated round hammer.
The lightweight aluminum trigger has an adjustable over-travel stop screw. The trigger is factory tuned to a perfect 4.5 pound squeeze. The Rail Gun incorporates the Series 80 internal safety, which blocks forward movement of the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled. This mechanism makes the pistol impossible to fire if dropped accidentally.
A quality trigger pull goes a long way to ensure that a gun's inherent accuracy is not disturbed during its interaction with the human finger actually touching the trigger. This Colt's serrated trigger is tuned exactly how you want it for a police combat duty pistol.
The 5-inch National Match barrel is tightly fitted to the standard-style barrel bushing, but not so tight as to get in the way of easy field stripping without tools. The standard mainspring guide rod also aids with simple disassembly.
The frame, slide, slide stop, and stainless steel barrel are all forged for strength instead of cast. The superiority of forging process does not come cheap and the further machining of the pistol's parts and their fit and finish is outstanding. The tag line, "Quality makes it a Colt" proves to be true.
In my large hands, a standard 1911 is ergonomically correct, but the bottom rear corner of the grip pokes my palm under recoil. The "bobtail" mainspring housing from Ed Brown Custom eliminates the sharp corner and I had a gunsmith install one on my Colt Combat Elite.
When firing the Rail Gun, I noticed the pain in my palm was missing. This Colt's trigger guard is undercut to radius the metal just under the button magazine release. The extra step in machining for the cutout allows a higher hand grip on the pistol. This modification places the bottom grip corner lower in my hand to prevent the painful pointed contact. The higher hand hold provided by the undercut also reduces felt recoil by placing the pistol lower in your shooting hand.
Exceptional Shooting Performance
The Colt weighed in at a sturdy 36.5 ounces due to its all steel construction. Its heft assists in taming the recoil from powerful 45 ACP loads like 230-grain hollowpoints. I fired ammo from six different boxes of 45 ACP cartridges, including four types of hollowpoints and two types of hardball. The Colt Rail gun performed flawlessly. The first-rate sights and phenomenal factory trigger pull combined with the match barrel to provide tight groups. The beavertail grip safety spread recoil out over the web of my shooting hand for a pleasurable shooting session.
The controls were exceptional with solid disengagement of the manual safety, positive magazine ejection via the button magazine release, and the slide always locked to the rear when the magazines were empty. The big Colt does not use a magazine safety to prevent firing with the magazine removed.
Each pistol is supplied with two magazines that hold eight rounds of ammo. Loading all eight cartridges by hand was not difficult. The Rail Gun fired without a problem with a round in the chamber and eight rounds packed in the magazine, for a total of nine.
Today's Colt Rail Gun comes with all the options today's police officers want in a modern 1911 pistol. Superior ergonomics are provided by the pistol's undercut trigger guard, flat mainspring housing, beavertail grip safety, and extended manual ambidextrous safety. The three dot sights are first-rate and the match barrel and match trigger provide for an inherently accurate handgun. The optional Ceracote finish provides a tough, non-reflective finish for decades of duty carry.
Attaching a tactical light under a duty pistol's barrel has become a common option for contemporary law enforcement pistols. The Rail Gun is the culmination of a century's worth of tradition melded together with advanced technology. This latest Colt proves that you can teach an old horse new tricks and the Colt Rail Gun 1911 is a modern thoroughbred.
There are many makers from which to choose a 1911 pistol. Some are entry-level pistols priced on the low end of the spectrum. Others are custom, hand finished, high-end guns that cost well over $2,000. The Colt Rail Gun retails for $1,087 and the Cerakote finish costs an extra $101. This places the pistol firmly in the middle of the 1911 pack with regard to price. However, the Colt's forged stainless steel parts, fine fit and finish, and included extra accoutrements make it an outstanding value. Colt Firearms is one of the United State's most storied and revered manufacturers and many would consider the Colt name cache a value in itself.
Steve Tracy is a 22-year police veteran with 20 years of experience as a firearms instructor. He is also an instructor for tactical rifles, use of force, less-than-lethal force and scenario-based training. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org