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Colt’s New Lightweight Commander Part 1

The   of Colt light weight Commander  has been  around for a long time.    It was the first major variant of the M1911 that colt brought out to the market and while a lot of the big names associated with handgun use and training and gun writers  at the time considered  close to perfect for carry, it did not take off in popularity at the time.

The original Commander with the ally frame  lead to  the Combat Commander with the steel frame.  The all steel frame commander is  a fine gun. It handles superbly and  some people, lie my brother, find they can shoot the combat commander better than a full size 1911.   I have owned both and love both but I have come to prefer the original commander over the CC. The reason for that is that if I am going to be carrying a smaller gun, I may as well have a smaller and lighter gun.  For all of my adult life I always preferred the full size M1911 for carry and I still do. But with the  Commander ( I will refer to the alloy frame as what it originally was , the commander and the steel frame later model as the CC , for Combat Commander )I get a M1911 a little shorter and considerable weight savings.  While the Colt Defender is a sub compact, it  doesn’t give the sight radius or full grip of the commander.  The subcompacts also require careful accounting of how often you replace springs.  Of course that isnt’t a deal breaker or a negative, it’s just the trade off for having such a compact gun.  Just like rotating tires and changing oil.

With all that in mind, when Colt brought a Commander back out in specs that are much like my beloved XSE models, I bought one as quickly as I could.

Like all Colt handguns it came with two Colt factory mags in the same finish as the gun.  They are of course full sized mags because the commander has a full sized grip.  Both mags are the 8 round type sure to give an upset tummy to the 7 round mag purists I have no doubt.

 

A very nice touch on this new model is the grips.  This is a big upgrade Colt has been adding to its current pistol line up because they are the  very tough VZ grips.  As you can see the grips are made with the Colt logo made into the checkering and it is very attractive to my eyes.  I like checkered wood grips on CCW guns and these look and feel the same as wood checkering and are a lot tougher.  Unlike wood checkering these won’t wear down and smooth out like wood, keeping the gripping texture the same.

The commander comes with the an  extended combat safety.  I am not 100 percent but I am pretty sure it is a wilson combat model.  I still prefer the STI safeties that came on the XSE series, but I have no complaints with this one and I doubt I will ever change it out.  The temptation to go ambi is strong though. I have a hard time understanding why anyone for not want a safety they could deactivate with either hand when it comes to a gun they think some day they may have to fight with.   That said, it is not a must and I will leave this one as is.

You can see the current commander comes with the hammer type that was introduced when the original commanders came to market.  A lot of people really like the look of this “rowel ” style hammer and will add one to their guns.  For a long time I was indifferent about this but in recent years it has grown on me.  It is however slightly heavier than the rounded hammer that is more common, so it does have an advantage beyond classic good looks.

You can also of course see the now standard S&A grip safety.  I am pleased to say this is something colt has started doing since 09 and it was long awaited by me.  There are a lot of grip safeties out there but this one is the one I always opt for when I have a choice.

The commander also comes with the standard sights for Colt’s combat and carry pistols.  Those of course are the Novaks. I know there is a move towards rear sights that can be used for cycling the gun by hand if wounded in one arm but I find that there are plenty of other edges on a 1911 that  can be used for this.  The front sights, the edges on the ejection port are a couple of examples.   I love the look and lines of the novak sights. I also like the non snag lower profile.  It’s been around forever and more than 2 million have been sold.  There is a reason for that.

Another very welcome touch is the front strap.  Like the Colt Gold Cup target pistols, the commander has the front strap cut for gripping grooves. With the VZ grips, and the matching MSH, this makes for  a very solid and sure grip.

And of course the scalloping cut where the trigger guard meets the front strap is there.  This little bit of detail makes a big difference for me.  The way I grip the guns benefits a lot from that little bit of metal being removed.  I know it makes no difference for some people’s grip, but it does for me and its a very nice touch that used to be a custom gun only detail.

Like every pistol Colt has made for carry use since 2009, the commander has the edges dulled for carry and comfort.   The front sight can be seen and its the Novak front.

The commander also uses the standard, original recoil spring guide and plug.  No full length guide rod. I can remember a time when the standard  JMB system was good enough, then it wasn’t and we all had to have guide rods, and now we are back to the USGI original parts being the preferred and wise choice.  I agree for what it’s worth but it’s funny how things go back and forth.   Of course the commander uses its own parts for this as its shorter than the government model.

On the topic of recoil springs, the commander uses the now standard dual recoil spring system.   The original 10mm delta elite came with a dual recoil spring system and it was brought back when that gun was resurrected.   The next gun to get that treatment was the  M45A1 made for MARSOC.  This  dampened recoil and wear and tear on parts so much it was made standard on a lot of the new models.   It does help,  I noticed the recoil of the new delta to be tamed greatly and it makes a big difference with this light alloy framed commander.    I have no doubt it will eventually be the recoil spring set up in every colt gun in the near future.  It adds not complication in taking the gun apart nor does it hurt function.  It does soften recoil.   I am considering changing over to  dual springs on my guns that are already comfortable to shoot like my full size government models in 45 ACP.

The crowning on the barrel of this gun is interesting.  The picture doesn’t show it well  but It has a very nice crowning job.  I don’t mean it’s just a competent job done on an assembly line, I mean it looks to me like it was given special care.  I have carefully compared it to my other Colt’s of this years vintage and it has a crowing job you would expect from a gunsmith.  I have not confirmed this is a new standard Colt has started to phase in, but I hope so, I will update this post when I learn the answer to this.

The barrel is the stainless steel Colt barrel seen on all modern guns save for the models that come with the Colt national match barrel. Of course it is shorter than the full size gov model.   The standard slide release is seen on the right side as well as the three hole competition trigger.  Unlike the XSE models or Gold cup this 3 hole trigger is  not adjustable for over travel.  This isn’t a problem because the truth is, the new triggers from Colt are excellent.  They are crisp and break clean.   That is not to imply they are 2 pounds or lighter, but they are  greatly improved from the triggers from pre 09.   I have purchased five Colt M1911s since 2014 and the triggers on these guns are all I could ask.   I have never bought into the complaints about the series 80 triggers anyway, but the factory has really upped their game on putting out fine fire control parts on their pistols.  I can only  imagine how good the new series 70 competition series 1911s  are.

The roll mark on the slide is the now standard style that is a throwback to the commercial vintage models.  It has always been my favorite version.   I’m glad to see they are sticking with this marking system for  the time being,   The right side roll marks are of course the lines that denote  the specifics of the model as always.  In this case the light weight commander.

Right side also shows  larger flared ejection port.  Another now standard feature on all models not meant to be retro.  The new style cocking serrations can be seen.  These first showed up on the MARSOC M45A1  USMC gun and it looks like they are here to stay on every gun that is made to modern styling.  A few models have the legacy serration pattern or something else but every gun that is meant for tactical/CCW use now has this pattern.   If I could change only one thing..       Not to say I hate it or have to avert my eyes, but I simply like the older style  or the serration found on the older XSE models not extinct but for the Combat Elite.    Some will rejoice that there is not forward slide serrations.   Looks-wise,  I don’t really care.  Do some models look better without them ? Yes.  Do some look fine with them ? Yes.    If I am going to have them I would rather have the older style if I had a say in the matter.  But having them, not having them or style  would not make me buy or not buy.    For the record I do think front cocking serrations are a nice thing to have on a gun that may be used for the most serious of environments and having options in emergencies are always good.   I like them on my XSEs, I like not having them on some other models.   I just like 1911s .

Just for comparison,  pictured below is classic serrations and XSE style.  I use XSE  as a expedient term not only for angle of the serrations but spacing of each cut  as well as  forward serrations. This angle of the serrations of course existed before the XSE line, but  the amount of serrated cuts and size  varied.

This is the more classic retro original style.

And below are the XSE type seen on a Combat Elite.  All styles are fine with me.   But, as I said before if it was up to me, I would have stuck with the XSE style.   I’m sure the change over came because it was easier to make some using the new system that was came about for the specs of the M45A1.   It would have been a waste to have a set up just for one model pistol that came about because of the wants of the most flaky and fickle of customers, the US Gov.

 

 

 

Not pictured because I forgot, is the standard Colt slightly beveled magazine well.   A little better than no bevel but not really enough to reach the same benefits of an extended beveled well.   I have not felt any real pressing need for an extended beveled well added since I stop competition.    For carry or fighting guns I like being able to quickly load mags that don’t have a bumper pad,   My thinking is, you never know what mag you may have to use in an emergency and I want it to lock in immediately without worrying because it doesn’t have a pad and I didn’t eve think about it because I am used to my personal mags having the extended bumper.   Without the extended well It’s not an issue for me .

As usual, part 2 will be accuracy testing.  I have been carrying this gun for about 3 months in a variety of holsters and carrying options.  The gun already has 1500 rounds through it with no problems.  Accuracy has already show to be excellent with my carry ammo so I expect it to do well with other types and brands.    Formal accuracy testing beyond what I carry has not started as of this writing but it will be coming with a few weeks,    Please come back by for Part 2.