John Milewski reviews a CO2-powered version of the now legendary Colt 1911 pistol
John Milewski delves into the history of the Colt 1911
The legendary Colt 1911 was originally designed by John Browning, an inventor who probably lodged more successful gun-related patents than any other. Browning did not just specialise in pistols, he also designed shotguns and machine guns, but the Colt 1911 is probably his most popular design. The basic shape and function remain with us today and other than a few refinements and changes from steel to polymer, the basic principles of modern semi-automatic pistols do not differ vastly from Browning’s original designs.
There are numerous 1911 CO2 blow-backs marketed under a plethora of different names, but underneath, they are the same, whether marked as a KWC, Tangfolio, Remington or Swiss Arms. When I was first introduced to one of these 1911 clones, I was incredibly impressed with the realism of the design because it functioned just like the original. However, I never bought one due to the non-authentic white lettering adorning each side of the pistol’s slide. I felt such a fine ‘replica’ ought to look realistic externally too.
I recently came across a Tangfolio Witness 1911, which had been distressed externally by George Hayes, its original owner. The finish, including the horrible white markings, had been removed and the pistol refinished using BC Aluminium Black and Perma Blue. George then rubbed the finish down several times using various grades of wire wool, and kept repeating over many hours. The result was a very authentic worn look, which gave the impression of near bare metal.
When I first handled this pistol, it struck me that all the controls worked in the same manner as the original. The 1911 is fitted with two safeties. Firstly, the slide safety located at the left rear of the pistol grip locks the slide in place when flicked upwards, and prevents the pistol from being fired. An additional grip safety at the upper rear of the pistol grip
requires the pistol to be held conventionally in order to be disengaged. If the pistol is not gripped correctly, it will not fire.
The magazine release catch at the rear left side of the trigger guard drops the magazine, which is a full-sized unit and not just a simple stick. It contains a standard CO2 cartridge and a spring-loaded magazine for steel BBs – or as I prefer, 4.4 mm copper-coated lead ball.
With the magazine in place, the safety off, and the grip safety held in, the slide may be racked back to cock the hammer. It will stay locked back unless there are balls in the magazine, in which case, the slide will spring forward under the power of its return spring. With the slide safety applied, the pistol is now in ‘Condition 1’ and just needs the safety to be disengaged in order to fire.
Shooting the 1911 is a novel experience because the pistol recoils with every shot, as the slide springs back in order to cock the hammer and load a ball into the breech. It will continue to do so with each press of the trigger, as long as there is enough ammunition in the magazine. When the last ball has been fired, the slide locks back, instantly telling you that a reload is required. The slide release catch above the left side of the trigger guard releases the slide when pressed down. I managed to fire over 80 shots before the CO2 cartridge ran dry and there was no longer enough energy left for the action to blowback and re-cock the hammer.
A modern pistol, such as the Bersa BP9CC that I tested in the October 2017 issue, is not that different to the 1911 and works on a similar principle. Modern ergonomic design results in a more comfortable hold because the grip is more slab-sided on the Colt, compared to a modern polymer-framed pistol.
HARD TO SEE
The foresight on the 1911 is renowned for being of very small profile. Initially, I had trouble locating it when aiming, and dabbed some red nail varnish on the sight to help with sight acquisition. This makes the sight easier to see, but looks out of place and I may well replace this with matt black in future. The trigger pull is creepy, but relatively predictable, and access to the trigger can be a little cramped because the first finger joint tends to find its way to the trigger blade rather than the pad.
My shots downrange hit below my point of aim and at six yards, my overall group was several inches across after some 70 – 80 shots. However, I dropped the bars of a fairground plinking target, placed six yards away, with almost every shot. The 4.4 mm copper-coated lead ball flattened with a satisfying crack whenever the target was struck and there were no rebounds. Outdoors, I cut a soft-drink can in half at a range of 8 yards. This is no match pistol, but is great fun at ‘tin-can ranges’ of 6-8 yards and therefore has a well-deserved place in a collection as a working replica.
Now turn to page 47 for a basic field strip of the 1911, which is identical to field stripping an original.
An original 1911 among a host of original accessories. It’s hard to tell the difference between this and the ‘distressed’ Colt.
Below: The slide locks back when there is no ammunition left in the mag’ or when the slide release catch is engaged.
Below: A pistol as realistic as this does not need white writing spoiling the external appearance! Top Right: The Tangfolio Witness 1911 with ‘distressed’ finish looks incredibly realistic.
Above: That pad below the grip tang is the grip safety. The crosshatched section below it helps to keep the pistol firmly in the hand.
The grip safety is naturally pressed in when the pistol is gripped conventionally.
The Allen key is used to pierce the CO2 cartridge prior to use.
I like to place a drop of Pellgun oil on the neck of each CO2 cartridge before use.