Colt Model 01991
This is a brand new, still-in-the-factory-grease Colt Model 01991. Serial number is in the 28138XX range, and in late 2005 it was purchased new by a friend who graciously agreed to let me ‘test-drive’ it and write it up for our 1911 section. The owner is an attorney, and former commissioned officer with an Army Reserve Unit; his MOS was Field Artillery- a “cannon cocker” if you will. Tom got his first taste of ‘Old Slabsides’ in ROTC Summer Camp. As with so many of us, the big Colt left a lasting impression on him, and his purchase of this pistol was the manifestation of those indelible memories.
The 01991 is Colt’s most recent iteration of the “1991A1″ series, and it is the standard 5” Government Model in blue finish, with nice wooden grips and high visibility three-dot sights of the traditional pattern. It uses a standard GM-style hammer, grip safety and thumb safety. The gun uses Colt’s well-proven firing pin safety introduced with the “Series 80” guns, and in the author’s opinion this is the only one of its type worth having. Unlike the Swartz, it does not inhibit easy reassembly or reliability of operation. The 1991A1’s are the lowest priced Colts in the line, and this is in evidence with the use of plastic for the long trigger and flat mainspring housing. While these things do not warm the heart of traditionalists, they do make the gun lighter and they are easily replaced if you are so inclined. There is no shortage of quality (spelled “Ed Brown”) aftermarket parts for the 1911. Otherwise, recent Colts use forged or barstock parts where the competition often uses MIM; so this lessens the number of internal parts which are typically candidates for replacement anyhow.
These pistols are made to be used, and not fawned over. Yet Colt has made using them hard just a little harder, with recent cosmetic changes that made them much prettier. Gone are the huge rollmarks, black plastic grips and thick, matte blue. This newest version has a respectable finish, nice wooden grips and the famous “Prancing Pony” is back on the slide. There are, thank goodness, no ‘beavertails’, ski-ramp sights or front serrations present. For once, Tacticality got told to “Go fly a kite!” I for one couldn’t be happier.
I field-stripped the gun before firing it, and gave it a good inspection in it’s “as shipped” state. It is exceptional in almost every regard. The flats of the gun are polished just enough for a little shine, and the blue is flawless. The underside of the slide is finished better than the slide flats of many competing models. The feed ramp was slick as a whistle, and the extractor tension was right on the money. The rosewood diamond-pattern grips are dark, glossy and beautiful. The trigger was surprisingly light, and almost creep-free.
There were only two things which were different than I would have liked them. The slide stop’s crosspin provides the index point for the barrel’s lower lugs, and this consequently affects accuracy. The furnished part’s crosspin miked at .197 inches; I have had best accuracy from those at the full blueprint dimension of .200 inches. Full-dimension replacements are easily available and reasonably priced. My only other complaint with the gun is entirely subjective. It has huge, bright white dots on the sights, and I do not shoot my best with these, as they tend to distract the eye from focusing on the outline of the front sight. This condition is exacerbated by bright sunlight, and the fact that the white paint over-runs the sights receptacles just a tad. Still, they are excellent for low light shooting up close, where defensive action with the handgun typically occurs. By logical extension, ‘Up Close’ is also where a lot of defensive handgun practice takes place as well. These sights are no hindrance for CQB work with the Colt.
The barrel is the heart of these workhorses, and as such it is worthy of independent examination. The 01991’s barrel uses the later, narrow hood found on the “Enhanced” Colts. The exterior finish is perfect, as are its outer dimensions. It mikes precisely .580″ at muzzle, and for .375″ behind. Barrel diameter then reduces to .573″ for the remainder of the tube. This barrel profile allows ample operational clearance for reliable function with a ‘match bushing’ should owner choose to install one. The bore itself is flawless, with sharp, uniform rifling and a mirror finish. This barrel features the new ‘dimple’ feedramp, which reportedly enhances function with hollow-point ammunition.
Standard “Wadcutter” throat on the left; new Colt “dimple” throat on right
I have had perfect results with the conventional throat, so I personally saw no need for this modification- but I know savvy ‘1911 men’ who swear the new version is reliable.
The barrel bushing furnished with the gun cams easily into the slide and since the GI recoil spring guide is used, disassembly is easily accomplished without special tools. Its ID mikes on the high side of .583″. In light of the barrel’s .580″ muzzle, this is significant. Years of building and rebuilding these guns have taught me that .003″ barrel/bushing clearance is an ideal compromise for both excellent accuracy, and reliable function.
This superior finish and attention to “details that matter” is the essence of Colt, as opposed to the “Crank ’em out & spray paint ’em!” makers. In addition to getting a prettier gun, there’s a difference you can feel and in my experience, they run better and shoot as well as anything out there. The pride of ownership matters, too.
Of course “pretty” ain’t worth a hill of beans if they won’t run reliably and shoot well, and it was time to find out. I loaded a couple of mags with Winchester USA 230 FMJ, and took the new 91A1 for a test drive. Since this was to be a test of the guns’ fit, function and accuracy I started at 25 yards. One of the most important aspects of any handgun’s ‘shootability’–and one that gets almost no attention from today’s buyer–Is the gun zeroed from the factory? I stapled a Champion “25 Yard Pistol Slowfire” target up at that distance, rested one elbow and fired 5 rounds using six o’clock hold on the red dot.
I fired a few more rounds using a Weaver stance. As long as I applied the basics of marksmanship, it was almost difficult to shoot outside the 5 ½” black bull. Not only was this gun a “shooter”, but it was also easy to shoot well. The combination of good sights, a decent trigger, grips of just the right texture, and Colt’s inherent smoothness all blended together to produce excellent results on target.
The gun had shown fine potential at 25 yards so I fired again at 50 yards, using the rangebag as an improvised rest. The gun shot a little high, but it immediately planted five rounds of WW/USA hardball into a 3 7/8″ group. If I hadn’t tossed one to the left, the group would have been 3 1/4″.
Can you imagine how well this gun would shoot with a .200 crosspin, a .001-over barrel bushing fitted precisely to the slide, and a decent set of sights? I’d guess the groups would halve, say 2″ with match ammo? Add a trigger with an over-travel stop, and you would have a gun capable of worrying the daylights out of full-blown match guns. The Colt shot as good as it looked, but this came as no surprise to this old 1911 crank. In my experience, recent-production Colt barrels always shoot this well. I have had top-name aftermarket barrels that wouldn’t shoot a bit better than this stock Colt barrel did, given a .003 clearance bushing. I had a bone-stock 1991A1 Commander that would plant five, 230 grain Federal HydraShoks inside 3 1/2 ” at 50 yards. It also ran for 3500 rounds without a single malfunction. There were no malfunctions with this gun, either. Hell, I’ll just go ahead and say it- replacing the barrel in a recent Colt auto is probably a waste of money which would be better spent on a case of ammo.
Do I sound impressed? I am. Colt’s entry-level 1991A1’s have been this well-built for at least 12 years that I know of, and this newest version only reinforces my high opinion of them. I have carried them in harm’s way almost twice that long, and have done so with complete confidence. The fact that Colt still produces them with such precision, speaks well of the outfit that has supplied this marvelous weapon for over 100 years.