After WWII, Colt continued making its 1911 model as both a military sidearm and for the civilian market. Some time later, a new model was introduced with a barrel reduced from 5” to 4.25”. This new model had an aluminum frame, and was christened the ‘Commander’ model. Soon it was offered with a steel frame and became the ‘Combat Commander’. Other than the reduced length, it’s all but interchangeable with a full sized Government model 1911.
This Combat Commander shown here has been in my hands for some time now, and is likely to be willed to one of my sons when I am gone. It was purchased more than a decade ago, from a gun shop display case. Hiding amongst the police trade-ins and ever present Glocks, this colt was a battered and bruised victim. Originally blue, the finish was worn from indifferent storage. Its factory Colt walnut stocks had deep scratches and were missing an emblem.
More serious… a former owner had played at being a gunsmith. The grip safety had been disabled by destruction of its flat spring. The trigger’s release point was variable and sometimes the hammer followed the slide forward. The recoil spring felt weak, and appeared to have been clipped a few coils. Taken together, the flaws resulted in a pistol that rattled and inspired no confidence at all.
Yet… there was a diamond in the dregs… waiting to be recognized. Negotiations with the shop owner took several days, and resulted in the Colt following me home after writing a check for $350. The deal was sealed shortly after I pointed out the pistol was likely unsafe to be fired, and reminded him of a recent lawsuit he had faced from a customer over recoil injuries. I almost felt bad using such a tactic, but it was Colt .45 and it needed rescue.
After detail stripping and cataloging the issues at hand, parts were ordered. A complete spring kit, new barrel bushing, adjustable target trigger, spring guide rod, and spring buffers were placed on order from Brownells. New stocks were acquired from Tucson Grip (now out of business). The stripped pistol components then soaked in a solvent bath for several days to loosen years of ignored sludge and residue.
Reassembled with new springs, some hours were spent hand lapping the new barrel bushing into place, and polishing the fit of the new trigger. The slide to frame fit was tightened up by means of gently peening the slide rails, then lapping and polishing the fit to the frame.
Add in new Wilson magazines, and the old Colt Commander was now range ready. Its first foray proved it a willing shooter, with excellent accuracy and natural pointing attributes. The heavy recoil spring chosen worked well with moderate to heavy carry loads, and no malfunctions were had.
Not carried regularly due to its freakish ability to rust easily, it saw service as a pin shooting gun. Knocking bowling pins from a table might seem easy to those who have never tried it, but such matches can be humbling. A pin laid down endwise by a misplaced shot can be a misery to clear off the table while shooting under a time clock. This Colt Combat Commander held its place as a pin gun very nicely, lacking only decent target sights.
About one year into ownership, a deal was truck with a local full service gunsmith. In exchange for a Marlin .444 lever action rifle, the smith would mill the colt and install new Bo-Mar target sights, a new beavertail grip safety, and refinish the pistol in satin nickel.
Completed, the old Colt became a thing of beauty, never failing to attract attention at the range or in a match. Handed to friends for examination, the most frequent response was a muttering about having to give it back.
The Colt has done time in a CCW carry holster, usually a Galco Miami vice shoulder holster with offside magazine carrier. Carried on the belt, its target sights tend to dig in, causing pain. Lugged in a Maxpedition shoulder bag, it’s heavy but reassuring. Since its pin shooting days have past, some Novak low mount carry sights may be in it’s future, and a return to full time carry duty.
Crankin' It Up With Our Old Buddy Brat
I didn't get to the phonograph this week, so Brat had a little break, and we are recycling one we did last year with our old kitty. We talk a bit about the G...