Range Report: Custom Colt Government Model Stainless

Colt Stainless 1911 with target shot at 25 yards

Recently, I invested a considerable sum in a new Colt Government Model 1911. This pistol represents a return to basics. A time when the Goose hung high for Colt, and the pistol had to be the best—damn the cost. For over 100 years, the Colt has been the most influential, respected, and effective self-loading pistol in the world.

Colt Single Action Army, top and Colt Government model 1911 bottom
Legendary handguns deserve special attention and many of them are marked Colt.

A parallel exists between the Colt 1911 and Colt Single Action Army, with each revered by shooters for its place in history. While the Model A and the Edison Phonograph are long out of production, the contemporary 1911 pistol is not only still in use but arguably at the top of the heap. There simply isn’t another handgun that has seen as much action world wide as the 1911 pistol. Doughboys, Marines, and FBI agents have used the handgun to good effect against enemies of the Republic.

The pistol dates back from the original developments in 1898 to what became the 1900 self-loading pistol in .38 ACP. Continual refinement led to the 1911 model. While the same outline, weight, and handling are preserved in the modern Colt, there have been improvements beginning with the 1911A1 and continuing to the Series 70 and Series 80.

It is an understatement to say that most 1911 handguns today are not Colts. It is easy enough to take something great and make it more cheaply. On the other hand, there are also modern versions of the 1911 that rival the Colt for quality, and some, such as the Les Baer and Nighthawk are in a classes of their own.

Then there are the dozens of makers offering parts for the 1911. The Colt is the authentic 1911, however, there are others that are worth your time to investigate. It would be foolish for me to suggest that the modern striker-fired polymer frame handguns do not offer an individual that trains a high level of protection. However, there is something to the 1911 as the type is in steady demand and the appetite for the pistol is fed by many makers.

Colt Stainless 1911 with target shot at 25 yards
The pistols first outing showed good results in timed fire at 25 yards.

Why is the 1911 not only popular but at the top of the heap? Simple. The human engineering behind the pistol has never been bested. The straight to the rear trigger compression, a low bore axis that limits muzzle flip, and excellent hand fit make for a fast and sure handling handgun. The controls, including the slide lock, magazine release, and safety, are within reach without shifting the firing grip. The combination of a slide lock safety and grip safety make for safe handling—although true safety is between the ears. There is no handgun faster to an accurate first-shot hit than the Colt 1911 Government Model.

There is no handgun that is as useful, in so many applications, as the 1911. While many of us use the 1911 for home defense and personal defense, the pistol is also a fine trail gun. With the Hornady 230-grain XTP +P, the pistol is a fine deer and boar getter, at moderate range. I also have considerable confidence in the new Browning .45 ACP FMJ load. With a flat point bullet at 870 fps, this is a stronger load than most and would be useful for defense against all but the largest animals.

The 1911 is a fine competition pistol. Modified versions are used in bullseye competition and other types are used to win more IPSC matches than any other handgun. This is the pistol that has won more matches than any other in history. The 1911 is available in other calibers as well, including the .22 LR, .38 ACP Super, 9mm, 10mm and .460 Rowland. That is versatility.

Galco N3 holster
The Galco N3 is good enough to ride with.

When the 1911 was first adopted by the U.S. Army, accuracy specifications were stringent for the day. The pistol had to place five shots into 10 inches at 50 yards. Most were more accurate. Today, an out of the box Colt, Springfield, or Kimber, should exhibit a 2.5-inch group at 25 yards with quality ammunition such as the Hornady 200-grain XTP. Some will do much better. A good quality 1911, with a fitted match-grade barrel such as the Bar Sto, may group five shots into one inch at 25 yards. Accuracy comes from a good fit of the slide and frame as well as the barrel to the barrel bushing.

Recently, I was able to obtain a new Colt 1911 Government Model for my own use. This isn’t a test gun or loaner; it was obtained at a full retail price that impacted my lunch money for several weeks (despite a trade in of three lesser firearms). I wanted this pistol and I am not disappointed.

The pistol appears to be a classic nickel-plated Colt, but it is actually a highly-polished stainless steel pistol. This is ideal for hard use, yet the pistol has the iconic look of Colts of a day gone by. The piece is supplied with a nice set of checkered wood grips, which I replaced with stag grips. The result is a breath taking Colt in appearance.

The pistol is supplied with a long trigger and flat mainspring housing, in original 1911 style. The pistol locks up tight. When you rack the slide and the barrel lugs run into place, you know this pistol has benefited from hand fitting. The slide is marked Colt Custom on the left flat and Colt Government Model on the other.

Colt Custom engraved on a 1911 pistol
The left side of the slide indicates this is a special pistol.

The slide lock safety is crisp in operation and indents tightly. The grip safety properly releases its hold on the trigger mid way into its travel. The sights are high visibility types with three white dot inserts. The piece is supplied with two Colt magazines. The Colt Series 80 firing pin block or drop safety is incorporated into the slide. The trigger breaks cleanly at 5.5 pounds.

The pistol was lubricated on the long bearing surfaces prior to firing. Initial firing was undertaken with the Federal Cartridge Company American Eagle 230-grain FMJ—an excellent training and target load with a full powder burn and good accuracy. I expected a couple of break in malfunctions from this classic Colt, but there were none. The piece simply came out of the box running.

The natural point is good and I found the pistol came on target quickly. I ate the center out of the X-ring on man-sized targets at 7 and 10 yards. Accuracy results off hand at 20 yards at a bullseye target were good. I also fired a quantity of the formidable Federal 230-grain Hydra-Shok, among the most proven defense loads ever produced. There were no failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. I have continued to fire the pistol, and on several occasions, tested it for accuracy at 25 yards. It has given excellent accuracy.

Test Results, 25 Yards From a Solid Bench Rest

Load 5-shot group
Federal American Eagle 230-grain FMJ 2.7 inches
Federal 230-grain Hydra-Shok 2.0 inches
Browning 230-grain FMJ 2.5 inches
Winchester 230-grain PDX 2.4 inches
Hornady 185-grain XTP 2.6 inches
Hornady 200-grain XTP 2.0 inches

The Colt 1911 Government Model, with polished stainless finish, is a modern classic and undeniably an effective handgun for personal defense and outdoors use. I have carried the handgun in the Galco Combat Master belt scabbard for range use. For concealed carry, the Galco N3 inside the waistband holster offers many advantages. The fit and finish are good, and the single rear loop cinches the holster in tight against the body, allowing excellent concealment.

Colt Government engraving on a 1911 pistol
The Colt bears a proud name.

The pistol remains rigid when worn with a good gun belt. The stainless Colt takes the worry out of corrosion and perspiration when worn close to the body—even during visits to Florida in sweltering heat. My son calls Florida America’s Australia, with real love for that state. The stainless Colt is ideal for this climate. The 1911 is America’s handgun, and the new Colt Custom polished stainless pistol among the finest to leave Hartford.

We all have that one favorite pistol, manufacturer, or model. What’s yours? Share your answer in the comment section.

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (16)

  1. Semper Fidelis! This Marine also carried the 1911A1 during his tour at Sea Duty on Shangra La and Coral Sea. Today, Sea Going Marines and 1911’s are passé in the Leg Corps.” Although, “special operations” units like Force Reconnaissance and Marine Raiders have adapted, innovated and overcome with their new version 1911’s.

  2. Carried a 1911 during my Marine Corp years from an E-1 through E-5 towards the end of Vietnam. Loved the large slow moving piece of lead. Began carrying one again as a law enforcement officer when joining a sheriff’s department. There were two of us that carried the 1911 firearm. Still do to this day. The younger officers stick with the plastic firearms. Mostly due to the fact they are herd followers. And do not seek to learn interesting facts about history. They just ask me, “What was it like in the stone age?” They are hung up on carrying three or four extra 15 round magazines in case someone else runs out of ammo. Screw that idea. I am not giving anyone my extra ammo. Especially if they have burnt that many rounds and not fought their way back to their long gun. Yep, I’m an old fart. But, I’m also and always will be a Marine. I therefore trust that old design which John browning gave us. Semper Fi. OUT!!!!!

  3. I agree, I have a ‘surplus’ Government that I’ll never let go off…that is until my daughter makes Senior Chief Petty Officer, then I think she’s earned it.

  4. Yesterday I picked up a RIA M1911 A1CS FDE in College Station Tx. Haven’t got to shoot yet , but will soon. Of 1911’s the Combat Commander is my favorite.

  5. Years ago I bought a original colt with a manufacturing date of 1917. It had all original parts including the original barrel and I still shoot it today. I also have a commander in 9mm and 38 super along with four other 1911 including a couple of double stacks. I hand load and have never had a problem with any of the guns as long as I do my part when reloading.

  6. I never served active duty but I can tell you that I find nothing more inspiring than the men who served in combat throughout the years and the many stories of their heroics armed only with a 1911.

    I own a Nighthawk 1911 in .45acp and it is a pleasure to bring to the range. The gun itself raises my ability to a whole new level.

  7. Great write up Bob. I carried a Combat Commander working the streets of Detroit, and it saved my life twice. Also had a Glock 21 Gen 1, compared to Colt it is blocky, the trigger pull is a long arc and it is heavy. The Colt is elegant, slim, perfectly balanced.

    1. I agree with your assessment of the Colt. It truly is “elegant, slim, perfectly balanced” as any street cop or vet who has carried and used one knows (I’ve been both). I also agree with your assessment of the Glock 21: “blocky.” We called the Glock a “brick” while we admired the Colt. Pretty hard to beat a good Colt .45 when the chips are down.

  8. I have carried the same colt officers polished stainless version 80’s series for almost 25 yrs now .I had the pistol completely custom rebuilt at SSK IND. here in Ohio with ED BROWN parts and full length guide rod .The trigger block of the 80’s series has been redone and the trigger polished to a nice pull of about single action at about 5 lbs.DA half that it has been a very good carry pistol even right out of the box and even better now with the rebuild .To me a PD gun should always begin with the number 4 in the caliber i know you 9mil lovers will argue but a 9 mil is my back up carry gun .I think the .45 acp is the best combat designed handgun ever and that is why it is still being copied and sold today over 100 yrs later.

  9. Nothing more to be said!
    I’ve collected perhaps more than my share of 1911’s over the years, tried my hand at building a few. Carried a Bill Wilson Combat for years, an on this date March 30, 1975 was aboard ship in the fleet off Vietnam after being choppered out late the evening before. Alice pac, M3, ammo and the 1911 I was supplied in Loas several years before.
    I have that 1911 still, as well as my fathers that he carried in North Africa, Siscly thru D-Day and Europe. Timeless , near to as perfect a pistol as might be achieved. Mr. Browning wasn’t a on shot wonder either! Let’s not forget the Browning HiPower, M2 and it’s smaller .30 caliber brother.
    Thanks, Bob! Great artcial!

  10. I carried a 1911A1 as a Corporal in the Marines. Despite her age, she was still fairly tight with a bore that had clean and fairly sharp rifling. I managed to qualify sharpshooter with her. That handgun never let me down and I trusted her with my life. To this day, I still love “Old Slabsides.” John Browning was a wizard, and I consider his design the high water mark of his efforts. Looking at all the 1911s sold and still in the holsters of shooters I’m exposed to, apparently I’m not alone in my admiration.

  11. I carried on-duty a customized Colt 1911 .45 ACP Series 70 pistol for many years. It is an extremely accurate and reliable pistol, with all the custom work done by my gunsmith friend who specialized in making custom combat pistols that were used by several IPSC champions. My Colt .45 has seen a lot of use in the line of duty. I liked the platform so much that I also had gotten a stainless Colt Delta Elite in 10mm Auto, which is also a great shooter. Now retired, I carry a custom stainless Colt Officer’s ACP .45 with 8-round stainless Chip McCormack magazines, with my back-up piece being a Sig P938 9mm (alternating with my Kimber K6s .357 magnum). All very accurate and reliable. What more could you ask for.

    1. I guess I didn’t fully realize just how much I like the Colt .45 1911 platform. When I thought more about it, I remembered a few others I have picked up along the way: IAI stainless Skipper 4″ .40 S&W, Colt Government Mobel Mark IV Series 80 3″ .380, Iver Johnson Pony .380 (patterned after the Colt Pony), even a little Colt Junior 2″ .25. But my first love will always be my Browning Hi-Power. (Correct spelling on the great stainless magazines I use is Chip McCormick – the best magazines ever!)

  12. Well, by now anyone who reads this is probably bored with me saying the Canik TP9SA. I’ve shot the gamut. From the 1911 in the army, to various pistols and revolvers as a civilian. My dads super .38 named Max, was a favorite. Until I happened across the Canik TP9SA. I researched for hours and hours. Reading reviews and watching videos. Most decent pistols in the same price range were .22’s so naturally the larger caliber won. Plus the torture test videos are ridiculous. I wont bother describing them just give them a view. I will say this though. I’ve NEVER squeezed a better trigger. It eats everything. Never a single malfunction in well over 2000 rounds now. Seriously, find one to shoot. You’ll wind up with one following you home.

    As always
    Carry on

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