We all like to be competitive, which isn’t easy in fast paced shooting sports, such as IPSC or even in local IDPA matches. Custom grade 1911 handguns often cost well over $1,000, and the sky is the limit for a true top-end pistol. With standard and stock categories, and many matches catering to guns that might be carried on a day-to-day basis, there was a niche in the market for a high-quality but affordable competition-based handgun. Competition shooting has grown tremendously in the past decade, contributing its share to the ammunition shortage and making for improvements in factory grade pistols. The 1911 is among the most popular competition handguns.
The Colt Competition Model is reminiscent of the original National Match 1911 .45. The National Match began life as a well-fitted handgun with high visibility fixed sights. Later, it came with adjustable sights and reduced power springs to feed target loads. The Competition Pistol is a go-anywhere do-anything 1911, that while geared for competition, will also serve well for personal defense. The Colt Competition Pistol is priced at less than $1,000 and generally available for $899 or less. That is more than fair for a pistol with this pedigree and performance.
The Competition Pistol is a steel frame Government Model with a 5-inch National Match barrel. The trigger is an aluminum match-type trigger. Colt specifies the trigger action at 4.5 to 6.0 pounds, my example is heavier at 6.5 pounds, but with little creep and a very smooth let off. The barrel is well fitted. As you rack the slide, feel the locking lugs lock and unlock, and the link roll, you realize that someone who knew how to fit a barrel had a hand in this pistol. The barrel bushing is tight, but the pistol may be field stripped without tools. The controls are tight. The slide lock safety locks positively in its detent. The grip safety properly releases its hold on the trigger about half way into compression.
The slide lock was tight, very tight, offering some difficulty in operation for the first few range sessions. Better stiff and positive than sloppy for the slide lock and slide lock safety. The pistol uses a new type of recoil spring. The dual spring recoil system features spring within a spring technology that has been used in compact pistols to arrest slide velocity. The new two-spring system reduces felt recoil, and should result in positive operation. A rule for reliable 1911 operation is to change the recoil spring every 3,000 rounds and the firing pin spring every 5,000 rounds. This double-wound spring should last longer.
The Colt features a Novak rear sight and Novak fiber optic front. My example features a bright red, front fiber optic and spare rod in red and green. The rear sight is not an adjustable sight in the conventional sense, but more easily adjusted than most fixed sights. The sight set screw must be loosened for lateral adjustment. Elevation is handled with a screw. The sights were well regulated for lateral dispersion, but the pistol fired low as delivered. It was a simple matter to sight the pistol properly.
The pistol is fitted with a set of Colt emblazoned G10 grips. The grips feature a finger cut to shorten reach to the magazine release. Adhesion when firing is good. The cocking serrations have been redesigned from previous Colts and work well. This Colt features the XSE finger cut under the trigger guard that helps lower the bore axis. The blue finish is very nicely done.
The pistol is available in both 9mm and .45 ACP. With a few buckets of .45 ACP brass, a bullet mold, and plenty of powder on hand, the .45 ACP is my first choice. For shooting games, the 9mm is just fine and more economical. For a hard-hitting defense gun, the .45 gets the nod. My test gun is a typical all steel .45. It is 37 ounces unloaded, 5.5 inches high, 8.5 inches long, and just over 1.2 inches at its widest point. The pistol is supplied with two 8-round magazines.
I was anxious to fire the pistol and on a clear, but breezy, Monday morning. I traveled to the range with a good selection of ammunition. I loaded nine magazines before heading to the range—all with Federal American Eagle 230-grain FMJ ammunition. When testing a pistol, it is important to use proven ammunition. This ammunition is reliable, clean burning, and accurate.
I lubricated the pistol along the long bearing surfaces, the barrel hood, and the cocking block. I racked the slide and began firing at man-sized targets at 7 yards. The pistol came out of the box running, without any type of break in malfunction. The Competition Pistol was sighted low from the factory, but it was a simple matter to properly sight the pistol with a turn of the screwdriver. As for the dual spring recoil system, I cannot say for certain recoil is reduced. I have been using the 1911 for a long time and the Government Model isn’t difficult to control. Just the same, the system seemed to offer less push on a subjective basis.
I emptied the magazines firing at targets at 7, 10, and 15 yards, including small targets and the steel gongs. The results were excellent. The pistol came on target quickly and tracked well. The trigger press was good and the fiber optic front sight offered an excellent aiming point. The sole complaint might be that the slide release was heavy, but then I like a strong plunger tube spring and this spring really did its job with the Colt.
Firing off hand and finishing off 100 rounds of Federal American Eagle ammunition, I found the pistol reliable, easy to use well, and quite nice to fire. I gave the gun, and the shooter, a rest and hung up a target at a long 25 yards. Firing from the Bullshooters pistol rest, I elected to test absolute accuracy. I used three loads, the Federal 230-grain Hydra-Shok, Fiocchi 230-grain Extrema, and a handload using the Hornady 185-grain XTP over a stiff charge of WW 231 powder for 1050 fps.
Results were good to excellent. While this was my first outing with the pistol, I feel I had a good feel for the trigger and sights. Five-shot groups at 25 yards ranged from 2.0 to 3.2 inches. The single best group, at 2.0 inches, was fired with the 185-grain handload. I carried the Colt during the range drills in the Galco Combat Master holster. This is a fine all around scabbard for duty use or for concealed carry when a draping garment may be used.
The Colt Competition Pistol gets a clean bill of health. The pistol is reliable, accurate, handles well, and offers good features at a fair price. Colt has got it right once again.
Which pistol do you turn to for the ultimate in accuracy from a 1911? Share your answer in the comment section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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