Gimme The Roots, The Radicals

Colt CompetitionGimme the roots, you know I’m a radical.

I’ve wanted a 1911 for a long time, and so I reached out to Colt for one of their Colt Competition 1911’s in .45ACP. I’m writing a story for the NRA about trying to get back to the roots of IPSC/USPSA, so that means shooting a 1911, because that’s where it all began. It was also important to me to get a *Colt* 1911, because while “Colt 45” might be associated with Billy Dee Williams, the name Colt has also been associated with the 1911 since, well, 1911.

In conjunction with this, I’m also going to try a 2000 Round Challenge with this pistol. The late Todd Green showed us that yes, a 1911 can be REALLY reliable, but the gun he used in his test was a higher-end 1911 in 9mm. I want to see how reliable a plain-Jane, entry-level 1911 is actually is, so it’s 2000 rounds or bust for this gun.

Let’s see what happens.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Ooooh, the Acolytes of the High Priests of Cooper, he of the New Technique of the 1911, will shortly be demanding you genuflect in his direction. The proper sign of your acceptance of his Holiness is the mandated firing grip with thumb on top of the thumb safety. To do otherwise is to blaspheme His Holy Visage.
    I jest. Just a smidgen.
    Frankly, this demand is about the only mistake I can find him making. It’s not a small one, unfortunately.
    The basis is that it was brought about as a result of one of his buddies losing a world shoot due to missing or forgetting to release the safety. Historically, it was also used to cheat in some competitions. Drag that thumb on the slide to cause a malf, and get a do-over.
    The problem is that he didn’t seem to understand ergonomics at all. None of his associates did, either. That, or no one wanted to point out the emperor had no clothes.

    The basic problem introduced by putting your thumb on top of the safety while shooting is that it pulls your palm away from the backstrap (which contains the grip safety), due to the contortion of the hand needed to stretch the thumb up and back to accomplish this. Guess what happens when you put a beavertail grip safety on a 1911? It gets WORSE! This is because the frame has been cut back and up to move the grip safety so the gun will sit lower in your hand. This requires you to lift your thumb backward even MORE. If putting your thumb up there on a stock gun didn’t cause problems with getting that grip safety depressed sufficiently to allow the trigger to be pulled, you are pretty much guaranteed to have problems with the mods needed to mount the beavertail version.

    So, what do people do? They get the grip safety deactivated in some fashion. A common “fix” is to pin it in. This is what Cooper did to his own guns. Look at his photos. He has beefy hands, and even he couldn’t get the grip safety to work.

    One of the attempts to address this problem was the addition of the “Memory Bump” to the bottom of the grip safety. Does it work? Sort of, for some people. Just look at that bump, though. Does that look comfortable for recoil? No, but then, it’s probably barely touching your hand, if at all.

    One of the side effects of this situation was lots and lots of custom gunsmithing to 1911s in the way of crosshatching of nearly any surface that could be touched by the shooter. That, and the fingerhook at the front of the triggerguard, or at least squaring it off.
    Why, you ask? Because the gun is NOT STABLE when shot with this hold. The backstrap is not touching your hand, except for two points of contact. The top of the web between your thumb and trigger finger, and the very base of your palm. If you look, you will see daylight along most of the backstrap, the part of the gun that will be transferring most of the recoil to your hand! The gun moves around when fired, and you end up re-gripping it frequently. The claim is that the high thumb grip helps keep the gun steady. That’s bull. If all the gun shoots is .22short, maybe. Otherwise, NFW.

    I’m not sure if Cooper started it, but there began the denigration of the grip safety, with the complaint that the Army saddled the gun with it, to everyone’s sorrow. Problem is, this is historically backward. JMB put a grip safety on quite a few of his gun designs. The ~200 Army Test guns have a grip safety, but NO thumb safety. The Army requested that it be added after they decided to accept the gun. It’s not clear how much input JMB had on that design, since the work was done at Colt after the Trials.

    (Trivia: JMB appears to be left-handed, as casual photos of him shooting show it with left hand, but official posed photos show him holding guns right-handed. A grip safety is automatically an AMBIDEXTROUS safety. I’ve yet to find any documentation on the subject.)

  2. I should mention that the thumb safety issue is probably the only area that I disagree with Col Cooper on. I think I’ve read nearly everything the man published. I wish that I had figured out the workaround in CA for his required background check, to be able to take classes with him.

    What you might want to check on that Colt is clearance of hood to breechface, and locking lug engagement depth. (Besides the normal safety function checking.) I would hope that current day Colt is doing things correctly, but they have a lot of history of doing it wrong when it comes to handguns. Their labor force in the 80’s-90’s had workmanship that would be indistinguishable from the slave labor of Germany in the 40’s.
    I bought my last one about ’99, and Colt told me they couldn’t fix it, yet they sold it in that condition. When it comes to Colt handguns, “trust but verify”, and be prepared to eat the cost.

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