Someone said there are two types of artists, the revolutionary and the plagiarist. While this is a little harsh, there is some truth in the statement. The revolutionary is the one who ushers in a major change in the field. There are artists and inventors who stand head and shoulder above the rest. Samuel Colt built on very little that came before him. This solidly set his legacy as a pathfinder.
Ebenezer Starr had unique ideas, but they did not prosper. Smith and Wesson set the pace by shrewd business decisions. In a parallel fashion, mechanics and gun design walked hand in hand as one had to wait for incremental improvements in the other. There have been contributions along the way by dedicated and original workers in steel.
Only occasionally has a designer’s insight and ability led to a revision in the whole concept of the art. One such instance was the introduction of the Colt 1911 pistol. This handgun was a marvel of human engineering when it was introduced. Compare it to the odd looking pistols of the day. Browning enclosed the barrel and operating mechanism in the slide and frame. A straight to the rear trigger compression, fast reloading, slide lock safety and grip safety are among the features of the Colt that made it the finest combat handgun of the day. Arguably, it is still at the top of the heap.
During the time immediately following World War II, considerable effort went into making the Colt 1911 a more accurate handgun. Original military standards called for a five-inch group at 25 yards and a 10-inch group at 50 yards. By the standards of the day, this was an effective handgun. Most Colt 1911 handguns were more accurate than this.
Army Gunsmiths began to weld up the locking logs, tighten the barrel bushing, and fabricate improved sights for the 1911. These handguns were used at the National Matches. It wasn’t unusual for an Army pistolsmith to spend months on a single handgun. Civilians had to spend a considerable amount to own a similar handgun.
Colt designed and offered a factory version for target use. In most regards, the pistol was simply a tightened 1911A1. The high profile sights were fixed in the first versions. Colt eventually offered handguns with Stevens and Eliason sights and finally rugged Bomar types. There have been Colts along the way that were not as desirable as others. At one time, the roll pin holding the rear sight was prone to taking flight. Replacing it with a solid pin cured this problem.
A run in the late 1950s to the beginning of the Series 70 type featured a slide two ounces lighter than standard. The balance was not the same as earlier guns. Therefore, this National Match pistol was not popular.
Today, the Colt Gold Cup is recognized as an accurate and reliable handgun that is well suited to pistol matches and personal defense. As long as the recoil spring isn’t cut for light loads (The Gold Cup features the same recoil spring as the Government Model, but it is supplied with a lighter spring for target loads. The hammer spring is actually lighter.) the Gold Cup will last for many years and thousands of rounds of ammunition. The latest sights are rugged and offer good adjustment. The front sight is well designed for precision fire. Fit and finish are excellent with the modern rendition of Colt Blue arresting in its depth and finish.
The pistol is a Colt and handles like a Colt. The safety ident is crisp and sharp. The grip safety functions properly, releasing its hold on the trigger about half way into compression. The trigger is crisp and breaks at a controllable 4.0 pounds. As the slide is racked, the fit of the locking lugs is apparent.
Someone who knows what they are about had worked with this handgun. The only addition I have made was a Wilson Combat barrel bushing with compensator. While I know my way around the pistol, the fit was tight—very tight—and presented some difficulty in fitting. The result was worth the effort. The pistol’s accuracy was increased, and the compensator makes for increased recoil control and decreased muzzle flip.
I have used the pistol primarily with handloads. The sweet spot seems to be a hard cast 200-grain SWC at 820 fps. Accuracy was excellent, with a 5-shot group of 1.2 inches attainable. Among factory loads, the Federal 230-grain MATCH load enjoys an unassailable reputation. These jacketed loads are almost as accurate as my carefully crafted handloads, but it takes careful marksmanship to demonstrate the advantage of one load over the other.
The Colt Gold Cup is a legendary handgun—even an icon—and well worth its price. If set up for defense loads, it is as capable as any 1911 and more so than most. If you are looking for one of the most accurate handguns in the world, and a pistol steeped in history, this is the one.
At a current street price of $1,100, the National Match .45 is a great handgun that is reasonably price for the feature and out of the box performance. Do you have a Gold Cup National Match? What is your favorite target pistol? 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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