Review: Colt 1991A1 — The Modern Colt

Colt 1991A1 pistol left profile with Celtic cross grip

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.

Colt 1991A1 pistol left profile with Celtic cross grip
The 1991A1 is a formidable 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.

sight on the Colt 1991A1 pistol
The front post is good for most types of shooting

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.

box of Federal Cartridge Law Enforcement cartridges
Federal Cartridge Company offers hard hitting reliable loads.

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.

Colt 1991A1 pistol's rear sight with hammer cocked
The rear sight is good for fast shooting.

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.


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 (14)

  1. Not sure why Bill that posted in September had difficulty with his bushing,recoil spring and plug. It’s an extremely simple and effortless process to disassemble. Using a wrench is not necessary, and I can’t imagine getting sore fingers. The gun is designed to field strip and even disassemble with great ease. It’s so easy that the rim of a cartridge can be used for disassembly as well.

  2. After disassembling my 1991A1 for the first time in who knows how long I thought I’d pass on the “trick” I learned through about 45 minutes of sweaty frustration trying to get the barrel bushing back on this pistol and chasing the spring cap across the room about a dozen times. A bushing wrench is almost a necessity and saves a lot of sore fingers. The bushing must be inserted first and turned all the way to the left as you look at the muzzle so it is at a 90 degree angle to the vertical line of the gun. Then it’s possible to press the spring and its cover down into the hole and use the bushing and its wrench to hold in place as you twist the bushing to its proper holding position over the spring cap.

    I’m used to my old WWII issue 1911 where I simply pressed the spring and cap into place and twisted the bushing from the right to its place on top of the spring cap thus engaging the bushing grooves. Hope I remember this the next time I take it apart but … I doubt it.

  3. I have purchased a new 1991 and like the new scroll on the slide instead of the large 1991, my only issue I had was the magazines it came with, the plate In the mag would jump over the slide stop causing problems. Switched mags and the pistol functions perfect!

  4. Bought a pair of the flat stainless in the early 90’s. I was no expert and wouldn’t have known the difference between a tight .001 bushing from a .003. Nor would I have had a clue about the difference of a beaver tail safety feature or a short or long recoil guide(lol). Firing pin block?Your guess would have been as good as mine(lmao).All I knew is they worked reliably and I taught myself to shoot tight groups at 25 yards offhand with both guns. Since then, I have taught myself to fully tear down the guns and reassemble them. And now I know the difference and have good knowledge of all the aforementioned. The only important thing that matters is that each has at least 2000 rounds through them and still shoot reliably and accurately.

  5. I have series 70s and 80s colt 1911s and I myself don’t feel the difference between the two for me, I have a 70 series 9mm and the new stainless 45acp competition and then an older 80 series 38 super, 2 1991 government model 45s and a stainless 9mm. One of my 5″ government models is a goof rollmark one that says commander instead of government

  6. Drug the Army 1911 around for several years and thought I wanted one of my own. After lots of objective research I was happy to find the FNX 45. Oh, My! It comes with three 15 round mags, is fully ambidextrous, is a great shooter, and very reliable. It smacks of modern firepower just like the SAWs and other military hardware from this company. The 1911 is everything stated above, a trusted tool, but I think I found a great upgrade.

  7. The 1st 1911 I ever held and fired was at 10 years old, when my Dad took me shooting. The Colt was one he brought home after WW2. I was in my late 20s before I could buy one for myself; a SS Govt Model, which I still own. I’ve owned many Colts, with a few Kimbers and a Remington, in the 1911 platform.

    Today, the Kimbers and the Remington are long gone. But I still have 4 Colts, 3 in .45ACP and a LW Commander in .38Super. One of these .45s is a LW Cmdr. I’ve alternated the LWs for my carry guns.I plan on passing these down to my Son.

  8. It took me a long time to decide which 1911 I will buy. After a thorough research with more emphasis on safety, quality, brand, and price, I picked the Colt Series 80. It was flawless and accurate on the range which reveals the legendary Colt quality. I am a proud owner of a Colt series 80 and my first-hand opinion is very subjective.

  9. I’ve owned my for over twenty years now and I love shooting it. I haven’t customized mine like the one shown in the article, but he is correct in saying it is a great every day carry pistol. The accuracy of it is amazing. I shoot tight groups all day long with it. When I let friends shoot it they always complement how well it shoots. I named mine “Pat”. because it goes pat pat pat when you shoot it.

  10. I bought a 1991 many years ago. It is a Commanders model.. I had a gunsmith friend dot drill the front site and some white marker into it..then had the dovetail rear removed and adjustable sights put on. It is a great piece and shoots as good as a 70 YO allows. I dressed it up with POW-MIA Hand grips as well…being a Vietvet.. Had 1911s in the service but they more or less just rattled in your hand..this one is tight… add to that, I reload so I can feed it when I want.

  11. 3 dot sights? The pictures show black front and rear sights.
    Why is everyone still hung up on 230 grain projectiles in .45? I use 200 grain at a lot higher velocity, and get much better accuracy, less recoil, and what seems to be a lot harder hitting round, IMHO.
    Like people using 115 grain 9mm, why? 124 and 147 grain work much better in all of my 9’s

    1. Yep. I goofed and hit the publish button by accident. Everything is there now. ~Dave Dolbee

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