Ready right out of the box for competition or personal defense, the new Colt Competition pistol is a high-quality performer.
With all the 1911s it has manufactured over the years, Colt has developed great expertise and know-how in building the Browning-designed handgun. But the company has focused its efforts elsewhere than the consumer market, where that knowledge has been in high demand—until now.
Revealed to the gun press in November of 2015, the 1911 Competition Government was well received, and although it is also available in .45ACP, the 9mm version is reviewed here. It is pure Colt with all the familiar features, plus some enhancements that make it ready for action on the competition range or when a criminal threatens one’s life.
THE 9MM LUGER
For years, many in the gun community worried that Colt had forever abandoned the commercial market in favor of concentrating on fulfilling government contracts. Colt has consistently produced the 1911 in various models, but the most popular chambering was .45ACP, the traditional cartridge for the 1911. And that made sense, because the 1911 is a gun designed for personal protection in war and at home, and the .45ACP has a very good reputation as a self defense round. However, that was based on old bullet technology.
Bullet design has evolved since 1911, and the full metal jacket round which was the standard at the time has given way to hollow point designs that offer controlled expansion and better delivery of power to stop an attacker. In fact, the technology has advanced to the point that some old adherents to the .45ACP, who have relied on it in law enforcement, are changing to guns chambered in 9mm.
There are a few reasons for that. First, the gap between the fight-stopping ability of the 9mm compared to the .45ACP has narrowed to the point that some feel it is irrelevant. Guns built around the 9mm can carry more ammunition without being significantly larger because the 9mm is smaller in diameter. That’s important because more ammunition is a good thing to have in a lethal force encounter. And the 9mm delivers less recoil than a .45ACP, which means less muzzle rise and a quicker return to target for follow up shots.
Since the 9mm is becoming so popular, not only among those who carry a gun for a living, but also in competition circles, it made sense to chamber the new Competition in 9mm. Besides, most everyone who has fired a 1911 in .45ACP and in 9mm remarks about how pleasurable the 9mm is to shoot.
When viewed for the first time, there is no doubt the gun is a Colt. Not only are the grip panels Colt blue with black contrast, the word Colt is displayed on them. The G10 checkered grips are made for Colt of a fiberglass composite by VZ Grips and feature a scallop or groove on the left side just behind the magazine release to make it a bit easier to activate with the thumb of the firing hand for right handed shooters. And the grips are checkered to encourage a sure grip.
A serrated mainspring housing further enhances grip. To keep costs down, the frontstrap is not checkered, but that is not necessarily bad for a gun that will be drawn and fired a lot. Checkering is sharp and can cut and scrape hands badly—sometimes drawing blood—in hard use over a couple of days of training, practice or competition. Besides, the checkering on the grip panels is fairly aggressive.
The Colt Competition comes standard with a beavertail grip safety and large palm bump to help assure positive activation when the gun is gripped, even with the thumb held high on top of the thumb safety, which is extended and easy to engage and disengage. Forward of the thumb safety is the slide stop that is also easy to manipulate, and during assembly was not difficult to insert, as so many are.
The magazine release is checkered, and the three-holed aluminum trigger on the test gun broke cleanly at about four pounds with just a little take-up, and absolutely no discernible creep or overtravel. Although the concept of reset is overrated, the reset was distinct and short. This is a good trigger right out of the box and is set at a weight that most would find acceptable for both competition and personal defense.
Except for the sights, the slide is pure Colt Government in appearance, and the rear cocking serrations are deep enough to afford a good grip when cycling the gun by hand. On the left side of the slide is the legend Government Model Colt Automatic 9mm Luger with the so-called rampant colt at the rear. The right side of the slide is marked Competition Series, and the finish is an evenly applied blue that matches the blued frame. Atop the slide is a blue front fiber optic sight and at the rear is something new—an elevation-adjustable sight made by Novak that looks surprisingly like the traditional and highly desired Novak sight everyone is used to seeing. It is also drift adjustable for windage.
The adjustable rear sight is an impressive piece of engineering and execution. True to traditional Novak lines, the sight is snag resistant and won’t cut the shooter’s hand when racking the slide in an emergency. Fortunately, Colt supplies the gun with a green and red fiber optic insert to easily replace the blue insert, which does a poor job of drawing the eye. It just doesn’t provide enough contrast or glow as brightly as do red or green.
Inside the slide is a stainless steel national match barrel with six grooves and a 1:16-inch left hand twist. It’s a good barrel, and the one on the test gun delivered small groups with a variety of ammunition.
The recoil spring guide rod is short like Browning designed it, but the recoil spring has been replaced with dual springs, one that surrounds the other. Also found on the Combat Unit Pistol and the Marine Corps M45A1 pistol, dual recoil springs last longer than the single spring—a lot longer, with reports of 10,000 rounds or more before needing replacement. The duals also make recoil feel smoother and softer, making for less muzzle rise and faster return to target for follow up shots.
During testing, the sample gun ran without incident. Substituting Crimson Trace Green Laser Grips to aid the aiming ability of aging eyes, the gun delivered consistent, small groups ranging from just over one inch to about 2.75 inches from the rest. The average was less than two inches for two of the three loads tested.
Although it has the word Competition in its name, this is not just a competition gun. Change the front sight insert to one that is easier to see and perhaps add Crimson Trace Laser Grips, and the gun is also ready to defend life.
By the way, it won’t cost a king’s ransom, either. The MSRP on the Colt Competition 1911 is only $899, so it is apparent that Colt is working hard to provide products the consumer wants and can afford. For more information, contact Colt’s Manufacturing Company, 800-962-2658, Colt.com.
Colt Competition Government 1911
Caliber: 9mm (reviewed) or .45 ACP
Barrel Length: 5 in., 1:16 twist
Overall Length: 8.5 in.
Weight: 36 oz. (unloaded)
Grips: Blue G10 Checkered with Scallop
Sights: Novak Front Fiber Optic, Novak Adjustable Rear
Action: Single Action, Semi-Auto
Black Hills 124-gr. JHP
Velocity (fps): 1,131
Average Group (in.): 1.58
Best Group (in.): 1.26
Hornady 115-gr. Critical Defense FTX
Velocity (fps): 1,126
Average Group (in.): 2.30
Best Group (in.) 2.07
Winchester PDX1 147-gr. JHP
Velocity (fps): 999
Average Group (in.) 1.95
Best Group (in.) 1.71
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