Range Report: Colt’s Competition Pistol 1911

Colt Competition 1911 pistol with assorted loaded magazines

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.

Colt Competition 1911 pistol with assorted loaded magazines
The Colt was reliable with a wide range of ammunition and magazines.

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.

Colt Competition Pistol 1911 in a Galco leather holster
For IDPA use the GALCO Combat Master is a fine holster.

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.

Colt Competition 1911 pistol rear view
The rear sight offers a good sight picture.

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.

Bob Campbell shooting the Colt Competition 1911 pistol
Firing off hand the Colt is a joy to use.

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.


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 (18)

  1. Excellent pistol for your choice of shooting. You could leave as it came from factory or modify to your heart content.

  2. This gun is like the Emperor’s clothes – everybody seems afraid to say the truth about it. I bought this gun new and when I got it NOTHING worked. The safety needed super human strength to operate and didn’t block hammer fall. The grip safety didn’t block trigger pull. The mag wouldn’t drop free. It was like sandpaper racking the slide as the rails were very coarsely machined. The roll marks seemed stamped on cold as they had rolled edges. The barrel needed fitting as lock up was inconsistent. The slide stop needed to be hammered out. The rear sight was not adjustable. The extractor grabbed the casings high and wouldn’t extract 5 times out of 7. The “Blue” finish is but a light and cheap form of black oxide that simply during the repairs easily wore off on the sharp spots giving the impression that the gun had been used extensively before a single round had been fired. Jesus H !!. I replaced almost all of the parts and spent hours and money fixing everything. The slide to frame fit is by far the worst of any gun I own still. To hell with Colt. I got hosed.

  3. I agree with your review. I like this gun a lot especially if you pick one up LNIB for around $700.00 and in a 70 series configuration. This 70 series gun seems very similar to the early Kimbers 1911s in it’s frame to slide fit and overall quality. I really like the sights on these Colt’s and the VZ grips are awesome improvements.

    I have both, a 9mm Government blue model, and a two-tone 45 ACP Government model. Great guns!

  4. This is my very first colt pistol i have owned and I must say I am very disappointed. Everything mentioned in this review I do agree however ,since purchasing this firearm right out of the box on the last round the slide does not stay open. I have sent it back twice with the last time being in Oct 2017, and out of 40 clips the slide has stayed open 14 times after the last round discharged. I feel I purchased a lemon. Any suggestions? Does anyone else have this problem? I am not a wealthy person by no means so the price I paid $ 971 is no chump change . At that price there should not be any flaws. My Glock at half that price is more stellar then that of my colt. Obviously this defect can not be fixed. Now to send it back a third time? Ridiculous !!!!!

  5. I have the 9mm and use it for carry/home defense with Speer gold dot. The trigger is nice n crisp and averages around 5lbs. I switched out the mag release with a larger one as the original was small/tight and difficult to activate. Haven’t had any trouble with stove pipes or FtF’s. in over 500 rounds. I don’t like the red fiber optic front site and plan to replace it with the green or yellow that came with it. This is a favorite go to gun now.

  6. Yes, it is nothing like the old Colt Company of 80’s and 90’s. They also make it in 38 Super today. I doubt you will ever see it chambered in 357 Sig, so you have to settle on a custom gun, or something from Sig Sauer like the Emperor Scorpion Carry which is a very nice gun for the money, but it has the internal safety firing system. The quality of the new Colt’s surpasses Kimber in my opinion. The tolerances are very tight on these guns without sacrificing reliability. The fact you can get one in the 70 series makes it my first choice over Kimber and Sig. I think the next step up from Colt Competition is a Dan Wesson Valor.

  7. i hope the new colt is a better run co than the old colt. this appears to be a step in the right direction. i like that it is available in series 70 instead of forcing the series 80 down your throat.if it comes out in 38 super or 357sig i might give it a try. if a person doesnt like the dual spring set up can it be easily converted to a regular spring with long guide rod setup? i really want to get one apart and see what the machine work looks like on the inside.

    1. The dual spring set up is easily removed and replaced, but once you use it you would not wish to.

      The machine work is good, there are no excess tool marks, no tool marks of any type and the finish is good

  8. Note the name and designed application of the pistol.
    Note that the review contains absolutely no information on that subject.
    Maybe it is because the reviewer’s listed credentials contain absolutely no qualification to review it—no state, no national competitive placements.
    Would be nice to know, from an accomplished competitior, if it okay for club or public range weekenders or has aspirations for more dedicated competitors.

    1. I suppose you have read a different article than the one I wrote as the first paragraph clearly covers the competition angle and the pistols suitability for this type of competition. It is a gun for a certain budget and it works well.
      The pistol may be improved by a different trigger action when the shooter feels it is needed. Of course this isnt the gun for more advanced users, a competitive gun at IPSC is much more expensive by several thousand dollars. This is a gun to get folks shooting in club shoots such as IDPA .

  9. I really like this gun. I have the 9mm and 45. Just need 38 super now 🙂 Yes,Colt got it right, but it is still shy of awesome. What could have been better – 25 LPI checkering on the front grip of the frame. I would easily pay an extra $100- 150 for this as a factory feature. The undercut trigger guard, the Novak sites and match grade barrel really make this gun a winner in my opinion. It comes in 80 series and 70 series which makes me consider this gun over a Kimber or Sig 1911.

  10. These are fantastic 1911’s for the price point… Colt is back! Some of the best handguns they’ve made in 30 years. There are tons of options out there now, but you won’t find a better forged, US steel, US made 1911 for he money period! And you never lose money on a Colt.

  11. I bought one of these on an on-line auction last fall, paid substantially less than retail even including shipping and the FFL transfer fee. It’s very close to the custom 1911 I used to qualify expert 6 years in a row back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. The only thing I wish Colt had added was some mild texturing on the front strap, but overall this has become my second favorite gun next to an Old Browning Hi-Power.

  12. Sounds great. Colt has always been a name I believe in. I think my dads old super .38 was a Colt. Nice piece. And who doesn’t like adjustable sights. The price however, puts it out of range for me. Although I’m sure its worth it.

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