Not long ago, at my favorite shop, the conversation turned to Colt 1911 handguns—as it often does. One of the guys commented that his Colt 1991 was a ‘pretty accurate’ piece. He wondered what the pistol would shoot like with a .200 crosspin and a barrel bushing with only .001 clearance rather than .003. Another fellow said, ‘Y’all are talking about the 1991A? That’s the entry level Colt, correct?’ It is, and the latest Colt 1991A1 is a capable, reliable, and accurate handgun.
A couple of decades ago, Colt needed a price beater. Colt was losing market share to Springfield’s GI and Mil Spec pistols, not to mention the imports. Initially, the 1991A1 featured cheap plastic grips and a matte finish. However, the grips did not support the plunger tube and were soon replaced by superior rubber stocks. Today’s 1991A1 pistols feature a blue finish and nice wooden stocks. There is also a stainless steel version. The 1991A1 pistol features the Colt Series 80 firing pin block.
The pistol illustrated is my personal day-to-day Colt. I carry it more than any other pistol. While I have older Colts and even a highly polished Colt stainless steel custom shop pistol, I have none that are more reliable or more accurate in a practical sense. As a teenager, I was immersed in the writings of Jeff Cooper, much as CB Colby had led the way to the world of firearms to an interested elementary school student. I obtained my first 1911 .45 when still a teen. Of course it was a Colt. The only other choice would have been Spanish ironmongery or a parts gun.
While hard won, the $134.95 paid for this brand new Colt was well spent. Today, a new Colt 1991A1 is less than $1,000 and also money well spent. There are other, more expensive Colts. The 1991A1 could easily be a pistol that lasts an individual a lifetime or until he realizes he needs a more advanced firearm. For personal defense, a properly maintained Colt 1991A1 is all you will need and may be counted on to do go many thousands of rounds without a problem.
My pistol features a nice blue finish. The receiver has been Cerakoted in a flat dark earth tone. The pistol’s grips have been changed to a custom set from Cherokee hills. The sights are a high visibility three-dot type. The pistol features a standard Government Model five-inch barrel.
The hammer, grip safety, slide lock, and thumb safety are standard Colt Government Model. The Series 80 firing pin block keeps the firing pin securely locked in place, until the trigger is pressed completely to the rear, releasing the firing pin block allowing the firing pin to move forward when struck by the hammer. This is a pistol to be fired, trained with, and to save your life, not something to live in a safe. The pistol has the Colt pony on the slide. The 1991A1 doesn’t use a beavertail grip safety. The rear sight might be used to rack the slide if hooked on a belt. The tactical is more important than the technical and this pistol is long on tactical.
When I first obtained the pistol I gave it a good going over for tool marks and general fit and finish. Frankly, I could not be more satisfied with the Colt 1991A1. The flat of the slide are well polished and there are no tool marks to be found. The slide and frame fit well together. The feed ramp is smooth and extraction tension and ejector height correct. The 1/32-inch gap between the two sections of the feed ramp—that are necessary for good feeding—are spot on.
The barrel design is the same as the late model, Enhanced-type Colt 1911. The barrel measures out at .580 at the muzzle and .573 for the rest of the barrel. The barrel bushing has .003-inch clearance. A tighter bushing may produce greater accuracy for the shooter who recognizes the need.
The pistol uses a standard recoil spring plug, recoil spring, and guide without a full-length recoil spring guide complicating matters. The pistol was supplied with two Colt magazines. I have backed these up with Mec Gar magazines. Mec Gar offers high quality and the function is excellent. Mec Gar supplies factory magazines for many European pistols and also offers good quality 1911 magazines.
The pistol has been fired with a wide variety of ammunition in bullet weights from 165 to 250 grains and has proven reliable and accurate. Like all quality handguns, the Colt 1991A1 prefers one load to the other, but the Colt is accurate enough for service use with practically any load tested.
A good practice load at a fair price is the American Eagle 230-grain FMJ loading. Running at about 830 fps in the Colt’s 5-inch barrel, the American Eagle burns cleans and exhibits good accuracy. Firing from a solid bench rest firing position at a long 25 yards, I have fired several 5-shot; 4-inch groups with this load, and some smaller.
A load that has been proven in service use for some time is the Federal 230-grain Hydra-Shok. This loading offers a good balance of expansion and penetration. Feed reliability is good. Firing from a solid bench rest firing position, the Colt fired a singular 3-inch five-shot group at 25 yards. Some were larger, but clearly this combination has good potential.
Most of the practice loads were expended in rapid presentation from concealed carry, quickly bringing the pistol to bear on man-sized targets. While long-range accuracy is comforting, fast, reactive fire that centers the X ring is more important.
This Colt 1991A1 in its present rendition is far more than a stripped-down Government Model. This is a credible choice for anyone needing a service pistol, personal defense, home defense, or outdoors handgun. The Colt is fine as issued. If preferred, the sky’s the limit for upgrades.
Have you fired the Colt 1991A1? How did it compare to other 1911 platforms? Share your answers 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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