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Colt Combat Elite Commander: Elite Looks, Elite Performance

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BBQ-gun good looks with a fighter’s heart, the rebooted Colt Combat Elite Commander is the complete package.

How The Combat Elite Commander Stands Out From Other 1911s:

Right up there with hen’s teeth and leprechaun skivvies in rarity are guns that look as good as they shoot.

Yeah, I know, I know … your polymer-framed, striker-fired is beautiful. I’ve got unfortunate news for you: It’s not. It’s effective. It’s reliable. It’s accurate. It’s a lot of things, but “beauty queen” isn’t among them.

No, the sad truth of the matter is that few guns are knock-down, drag-out good-looking. Those that are, in many cases, don’t cut the mustard compared to generally more economical, less attractive options.

Colt’s Elite Combat Commander is a flawless execution of the iconic design.

But does it really matter? Not in particular. Plug-ugly that gets the job done is ultimately better than eye-catching and ineffective. That said, it’d be nice to have the best of both worlds.

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Luckily, Colt might have struck these elusive nails on their heads with a reboot of its top-shelf 1911 line. With the good looks of a BBQ gun and the heart of a fighter, the Combat Elite Commander proves you don’t have to compromise form or function.

All in the Family

The Combat Elite Series is actually a complete line of 1911 pistols—not unprecedented. Nevertheless, it doesn’t always happen that a company dumps out a Government, Commander and Defender model in one fell swoop.

Ion-bonded blackening on the rounds and polished stainless steel on the flats give the pistol a unique, two-tone finish. And don’t forget about those jet-black G10 grips.

Yet, I believe it not only proves Colt’s confidence in its pistols, it also serves the consumer well. Right off the bat, you have your choice of what will serve you best for your particular application, be it practical pistol matches, self-defense or something else entirely. The choice is yours.

I personally opted for the Commander Model, given that the 4.25-inch-barreled iteration has always struck me as the most versatile. It’s hefty (around 33 ounces), so there’s no argument that this choice would take some consideration for concealed carry. By no means is a gun of this bulk out of the question. At the same tick, it’s sized right for serious target shooting, if that’s your thing. However, going for the Commander versus the other two models was somewhat academic.

All three pistols are configured identically, so the only notable difference between them is barrel length. Granted, there’s a lot of difference in that one feature.

As you’d expect, the pistol comes in a top-notch, blue Colt hard case.

Otherwise, all three models have genuine Novak night sights, ambidextrous extended thumb safeties, ring hammers, dual recoil springs and scalloped, jet-black G10 grips.

Furthermore, the pistols all boast National Match barrels. Historically, this has been worth the price of admission.

The Combat Elites are available in both .45 and 9mm. Unfortunately, the vastly underrated .38 Super is no longer an option as it was in previous iterations. This will disappoint a few consumers … but likely only a few.

They also have excellent checkering on the front strap and mainspring housing. It’s 25 lpi across the board, which made the Commander stick like glue in my hand. I’ll assume it does the same for the other two. (A side note for those interested in the Defender: It, too, has front and rear checkering—the only Defender presently made that can make that boast.)

Oversized cocking serrations and a thumb safety make this Commander easy to manipulate.

Colt retained the line’s Series 80 firing system—certain to be a controversial point among some. This is a trigger-activated firing pin block safety that many complain adds unnecessary weight to the trigger pull. Given that the gunmaker has gone back to the more traditional Series 70 (without the safety) in the present catalog, there are probably many who hoped to see the same happen with the Combat Elite. I advise these shooters not to lose faith in the line. It might be an 80 system, but it’s damned responsive—roughly a 5-pound break—and certainly not a drag to pull the trigger on.

Back in Black

Aside from the accouterments, the guns also share a stark beauty that’s a trademark of stainless steel. However, in essence, the gun is two-tone, done in a sparing and unique way. It’s a two-step process: Colt ion-blackens the frame and slide and then goes back and flat-belts the sides. The results are striking: day and night, all in one stunning package.

The rounds (front strap, mainspring housing, trigger guard, top of the slide, etc.) all boast the deep matte of the ion bond, as do the rollmarks and cocking serrations. These latter points set off the satin finish of the stainless steel, giving the pistol a real yin-yang look.

A National Match barrel and dual recoil spring make the pistol an accurate and tame shooter.

As far as protection goes, ion bond is a bit of overkill. The corrosion-resistant metal, if properly cared for, should prove stout enough to endure even everyday carry. However, the black still has an important function: On the top of the slide, it definitely cuts down on glare that might have been an issue with raw stainless steel.

Combat Elite Commander At The Range

The Combat Elite Commander I received came in a lockable, blue, plastic hard case. Along with it were included all the accouterments you’d expect: lock, user manual and one eight-round magazine.

The slide-to-frame fit of the pistol was good, and the barrel lockup was tight. As far as any play between the muzzle, bushing or breach face, there was zero. The pistol was devoid of any machining marks; one would expect that of a pistol that wears an elite moniker.

Maintaining its link to the past, Colt kept the original “Combat Elite” rollmark, complete with the stars.

To say I was anxious to get more intimate with the Commander is an understatement. And when I did, the pistol didn’t disappoint in accuracy or reliability.

After a basic cleaning and oiling, I ran more than 200 rounds of different ammunition through the pistol with zero malfunctions. For any pistol this is heartening, but with a 1911, even more so. Some specimens are outright finicky when it comes to ammo, but the Commander ate everything served to it, including wide-mouthed hollow points. While this was not a torture test by any stretch, the pistol gave the impression it wouldn’t come up short in a dire situation.

As to accuracy, I found it bordered on tack-driver. I found the best success with Sig Sauer’s 185-grain V-Crown, which printed a 1.5-inch pattern off a rest at 15 yards.

I also shot rapid fire at this distance: 10 shots in 10 seconds, discounting reload time, on a 12-inch Birchwood Casey Stick-a-Bull target (similar in ring dimensions to an NRA B-5) and then scored. Here, American Eagle 230-grain Syntech and Federal Premium 210-grain Hydra-Shok Deep tied for best groupings, each producing scores of 92. To be fair, no ammo scored below 88 … and that low number was more likely the result of the shooter’s middling skill than the tool at hand.

Parting Shot

BBQ-gun handsome, the Combat Elite Commander is dapper enough to show off in a hand-tooled holster. Nevertheless, don’t let its good looks fool you: This pistol is most certainly a fighter—one that, by all appearances, will always have your back.

In essence, it’s danged near the perfect blend of form and function—not the easiest feat to pull off.



For more information on the Colt Combat Elite Series, please visit

The article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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