Colt’s Rail Gun — How Good is it?

Colt Rail Gun

Many of us agree the Colt Government Model 1911 .45 is the finest fighting handgun ever made. The Colt Government Model was designed with one goal—give a soldier the best chance of surviving a short-range battle. Straight to the rear trigger compression, low bore axis that limits recoil, and grip that fits most hands well are a few of the 1911’s advantages. Cocked-and-locked carry allowing a brilliantly fast and accurate first shot is important. The hard-hitting .45 ACP cartridge is an advantage. Today, Colt makes firearms and history. It was only natural Colt would introduce a version of the Government Model as a rail gun. The ability to mount white light or a laser is important to many of us and the Colt Rail gun delivers.

Specifications and Features

The pistol is based upon the XSE Colt and features forward cocking serrations, scalloped ejection port, Novak Lo Mount sights, ambidextrous safety, custom-grade beavertail grip safety, and nicely checkered rosewood grip panels. The trigger is lightweight aluminum. Trigger compression is smooth and crisp, breaking at six pounds. The beavertail grip safety functions properly, releasing its grip on the trigger about halfway into the beavertail’s travel.

The Rail Gun features the standard Colt barrel bushing and barrel lockup. When the pistol is in battery and pressure applied to the barrel hood you know someone knew what they were doing when fitting the barrel. Internally, the Colt feed ramp shows the proper 1/32-inch gap between the two halves of the feed ramp. The frame section of the ramp is nicely polished. The barrel feed ramp features Colt’s dimpled style ramp feeding any type of bullet style in my experience.

The indent of the slide lock safety is positive. The plunger spring maintains its hold on the safety properly. The other end of the plunger tube spring properly maintains its indent in the slide lock. The slightly beveled magazine well aids in rapid insertion of the magazine. The magazine release is tight and positive in operation.

The pistol does not use a full-length guide rod, but retains the original recoil spring and bushing arrangement for easy fieldstripping and maintenance. One additional feature worth noting is the recoil spring plug with tiny dimple keeping it attached to the recoil spring during normal maintenance. The Colt also features a positive firing pin block or drop safety.

Colt is renowned for fitting the barrel with the proper three-point pedestal lockup, and the Rail Gun is no exception. The fit of the barrel bushing is tight, but not so tight the pistol may not be field stripped without tools. The Novak sights are a great addition to the pistol. The rosewood grips are nicely checkered to the original pattern. The extractor is properly in position and holds a cartridge in place with the slide stripped from the frame and barrel.

Firing the Colt Rail Gun

Prior to firing, the Colt Rail Gun was lubricated on the long bearing surfaces, cocking block, barrel hood and then reassembled. A handgun must function reliably with “well put together” lead-bullet handloads or it isn’t going to be economical to use. If a 1911 doesn’t function with 230-grain FMJ loads, it isn’t reliable at all, so these loads were included. Next, a cross section of modern jacketed hollow point loads were loaded in the magazines. Finally, a sparing amount of +P loads.

Some 1911 handguns need a break-in period to seat the link or remove burrs. The Colt came out of the box shooting with the Winchester USA 230-grain FMJ load. I fired the Colt at man-sized targets, working the piece through several drills. The pistol is heavy enough that the front sight simply hung on the target during all firing drills.

The pistol traversed quickly between targets. In close range drills, there seems to be no disadvantage to the rail; it did not snag on the draw or impede movement. The slight extra weight may enhance control, but this is difficult to qualify. Switching to handloads the pistol gave good results with the hard cast SWC. After firing at man-sized targets from seven to 15 yards the handling and combat accuracy of the pistol was qualified.

Next, I fired a magazine each of four JHP loads, all with different bullet weights. First up was the Federal 165-grain Guard Dog. Next, was the Winchester 185-grain Silvertip, followed by Hornady’s Custom 200-grain XTP, and finally, HPR Ammunition’s 230-grain JHP. All functioned normally. As might be expected, the lighter bullets struck slightly below the point of aim. The Colt’s sights are well regulated for 230-grain loads.

The final test with +P loads. Often, reliable handguns will malfunction with +P loads as the slide velocity outstrips the ability of the magazine to feed. The Colt is supplied with a standard 16-pound recoil spring and 23-pound hammer spring. I fired the Colt with the screaming-fast Cor Bon 165-grain JHP.

At over 1250 fps, this bullet offers rapid fragmentation and may be well suited to home defense when low penetration is valued. The Cor Bon 230-grain JHP +P offers a balance of expansion and penetration I find ideal. Function was good with each. Recoil with the 230-grain Cor Bon load was stiff but controllable with this 920 fps loading. As the test program neared 300 trouble-free rounds, I stopped firing, rubbed my wrists, field stripped and cleaned the Colt.

I feel that we learn more firing offhand at small targets at known and unknown distances. However, firing for absolute accuracy is interesting. The results reflect the author’s trigger control on the particular day, but the results are valid. With average groups of two to three inches with the Winchester 230-grain JHP W1911 and the Hornady 200-grain XTP, the Colt is clearly accurate enough for any defensive chore. There were no malfunctions of any type during the firing test.

The Colt 1911 .45 has been my first choice for avoiding the silent harvest of the Grim Reaper for over three decades. The Colt has ridden with me through hardship and has given me good service all along the way. The Colt Rail Gun is arguably the best Colt yet for personal defense and service use.

Colt 1911 Rail Gun
Action Locked Breech Single-Action Semi-Auto
Barrel Steel, 1:16-Twist
Barrel Length 5.0 inches
Caliber caliber
Overall Height 5.4 inches
Overall Length 8.5 inches
Overall Width 1.5 inches
Weight Unloaded 40 ounces
Sights Novak
Stock or Grip Checkered Rosewood
Trigger Pull Weight Single Action 5.75 pounds
Safety Slide Lock Safety, Grip Safety
Capacity round capacity
Magazine 8-round, Detachable Box
Frame/Slide Stainless Steel

How important is a rail for the 1911? Share your thoughts 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 (10)

  1. I have had a Rail Gun for about 3 years and use it as a Police Officer and a SWAT Officer. Last week I noted a large crack in the barrel at the bottom lugs. There is about 6000 or so rounds through it so this was surprising. I call Colt and they didn’t seem to care. Only said they could put it in for a paid repair with a 6 month wait. This is not happening since this is my duty weapon. So I buy a Nowlin “pre fit” barrel and have it fitted only to find out that everything about this gun is not in “mil spec.” Nothing fits that isn’t Colt. I will never own another Colt. Hello Springfield Armory!

  2. Was shocked to hear colt was filing chapter 11 , there firearms are some of the best made have several and will not sell or trade any of them. Good luck in the future, know you will get back on your feet Soon .

    Bill Vickers

  3. The 1911 A-1 is the absolute best in all around hand gun. Adding this rail is ‘gilding the lily’ (adding something unnecessary). Though, I’m sure some will find this a helpful addition.

  4. The joy of a bullseye shot at 50 yards must be similar to a hole-in-one golf shot.Bullseye shooting with a 1911 and a reduced powder load is an incredible amount of fun. I highly recommend itBrownings genius will become evident the more time you spend with the gun-a true American treasure.

  5. I’m not as big a 1911 fan as a lot of you out there, but I certainly can’t argue about this gun. I do have a Rock Island 1911 that I do like, but one of these days I’m gonna spring for one of these.

  6. Bob, excellent review. You had me for a loop for a second with the title “Colt’s New Rail Gun” because I know there’s a lot of research and testing of portable rifle or handgun electromagnetic rail guns going on in the industry and I thought Colt had delivered a new engineering breakthrough!

    Even though it’s a traditional ammunition weapon, there’s enough innovation and leading edge design and quality manufacturing on this gun for many to consider it for purchase.


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