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Rebirth of the Rampant Colt? The Combat Unit 9mm – Full Review.

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For more information, visit http://www.colt.com/Catalog/Pistols/Colt-Combat-Unit-Rail-Gun.

To purchase on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=colt%20combat%20unit%209mm.

Back when I was getting my passion for handguns started, and Ronald Reagan was President of these United States, Colt had been making their iconic 1911 pistols for nearly three-quarters of a century. In those days if you walked into a gun store and asked for a “1911” you would likely have received little more than funny looks, or perhaps a response of “a what?” Prior to the centennial celebration of the beloved John Moses Browning handgun, its first year of adoption by the U.S. Military was not how the gun was known to many. No, back then it was simply known as “the Colt Government model”, or often just “the Colt automatic”. Let that sink in for a moment. Colt had the level of brand recognition that made its name synonymous with a type of product.

The Colt Combat Unit is a tactically oriented new 1911 variant from Colt. The rail equipped pistol is available in 9mm (tested) and .45 ACP.

That sort of cultural icon status is the very pinnacle of success for any company. Colt hopes to regain its former glory in similar fashion – by showing the world what it can do. The Combat Unit in 9mm is part of that effort. The evaluation copy of the Combat Unit came to me chambered in 9mm. It is also offered in the traditional .45 ACP. What you get from 9mm is an extra round of capacity from a standard sized magazine, and less recoil. Much less recoil in fact, because shooting 9mm in a 40-ounce handgun almost feels like it should have an orange muzzle. Add in the inherent ergonomics of the 1911 and the brilliant extras added by Colt and it’s downright fun.

Colt started by making this a tactical variant, which essentially means that it has a section of 1913 Picatinny rail on the dustcover. This rail allows the user to mount laser sighting aids, flashlights, flux-capacitors and the like. The tactical feel of the pistol continues rearward as you find very nicely cut 25 lines per inch checkering on the front strap of the frame.

Possibly designed for Goldilocks – the author found all the controls on the Combat Unit to be “just right”.

Just aft of that is a top quality set of G10 grips made by VZ for Colt. The grips are aggressive in both tactile and visual ways, and in my opinion perfect for this pistol. The 25 lpi checkering continues on the mainspring cover, offering a secure hold for any bare or gloved hand. That mainspring cover is straight, just the way that the good Lord and John Browning agreed it should be. The integrated grip safety has a nicely shaped beavertail that sweeps up high for maximum grip depth, and a memory bump to ensure good positive engagement.

Colt uses a two-piece feed ramp design which the author feels could result in finicky performance with some ammo.

One reason for the erratic ejection pattern could be due to a bent ejector. Colt says this can happen when magazines are seated too hard.

The controls on the Combat Unit are all high quality and function nicely. The standard width safety gives nice, crisp feedback when engaging and disengaging. I like that in a safety. Magazine release has a stiff and smooth press and drops the mags clean every time. The slide stop/release is nicely recessed into the frame of the handgun, a trend I’ve noticed on tactical variants lately and one of which I heartily approve. It just seems to feel better for a thumbs-forward grip, even if it’s all in my head. The trigger guard of the Combat Unit is quite noteworthy. It is nicely undercut to help keep that grip up high, and the front of the guard has a beveled flatness where, if you learned to shoot by watching fashionable 1980s cop shows on TV, you can put your finger. The sights on the Colt Combat Unit are genuine Novak’s. The rear is a blacked out low-profile sight with the trademark Novak wedge shape and anti-snag edges. The front sight is a night sight – a fairly low standard blade with a Tritium dot surrounded by a white ring. The hammer spur is combat style and skeletonized, and the front of the slide has cocking serrations that match the rear and are nicely functional. And finally, the magazine well is slightly beveled, but neither extended nor flared.

The 25 lpi checkering on the front strap, along with the G10 grips provides all the traction you’ll need wet or dry. There’s even a flat spot on the trigger guard for those who shoot wrong. 😉

SHOOTING THE COMBAT UNIT

Even among 1911 pistols there are differences. Sometimes the differences are large, and sometimes small, but to the pistol shooter it is easy to feel those differences, however subtle. Some pistols just feel better in the hand, whether it be the grips, the checkering, the weight, or some combination thereof. The Colt Combat Unit nestled into my right hand like an old friend and felt at once comfortable, stable, and ready to shoot. Leveling the sights on target for the first time was a clear and focused picture, due to the highly visible front “dot” inside the blackout rear notch. It’s a very nice sight picture and good for both fast acquisition and careful aim. The undercut trigger guard and uplifted beavertail put my hand high up into the gun. The trigger pull has about 1/32” prep or “take-up” before you meet the wall of resistance. From there the break is crisp and clean at just under 5 lbs. with no over-travel. The muzzle lift is minimal, due to a number of factors including 9mm ammo, high grip, substantial weight, and dual recoil springs. That’s right – there’s a term you don’t hear often when discussing a 1911, but a key element of the gun’s design includes two nested recoil springs over a mil-spec short guide rod. This provides additional dampening of the recoil impulse, and Colt tells us that it will also increase spring life.

American Gunner by Hornady not only functioned well in the pistol, but provided the best group by a considerable margin.

The Combat Unit is as fun to shoot as I expected it to be. The combination of the crisp trigger with short reset and the slight muzzle lift make this a fun double and triple-tap gun. It is also nicely accurate and produced good groups with casual off-hand shooting at 10 yards. I stretched the shots out to 25 yards for more serious evaluation and used five different popular loads while resting my grip on a bag.

The Colt Combat Unit didn’t like everything I fed it. Hollow point bullets gave it some trouble, most notably the SIG Sauer Elite Performance V-Crown 124 grain. Nearly every round would catch on the seam between frame and barrel ramp, due to the very large “mouth” of the bullet design. Speer Gold Dot also had similar problems to a lesser extent. Determined to learn the go/no-go tolerance of the pistol, I went ammo shopping and came back to the range with Hornady American Gunner ammo. It is a jacketed hollow point that has a much smaller mouth than many, and to my pleasure fired every round without any malfunctions. I shared these results with Colt, along with my layman’s diagnosis that the lack of a full feed ramp on the barrel was causing some ammunition to catch at the seam and bind. Colt disagreed with my assessment, but also agreed that some pistols just don’t like some ammo. On that point we are in sync. I also found that ammunition such as Hornady Critical Defense performs perfectly in the Combat Unit (it has a polymer filler in the hollow point cavity to prevent plugging in pre-target material – but also provides a semi-round nose property).

The only other anomaly encountered was the intermittent, but frequent, ejected case to the forehead. This seemed to occur across a variety of ammunition brands and loads, but was more prevalent with lower pressure rounds. While cleaning the pistol between range sessions, I inspected the ejector and noticed that it has a distinct curve toward the ejection port. Now, that could very well be how it is designed – or it could be bent. Colt indicates that the extractor should be checked after about 5,000 rounds and possibly adjusted. Regarding the ejector, Colt mentioned that this has been observed in their 9mm guns before and can depend on the magazine being used, and if they are really slammed up into place with the slide locked back. As my test sample had been used before, this might have been the case.

Sight picture is excellent. The blackout rear keeps the focus where it belongs – on the front sight.

The firing pin safety block indicates a Series 80 design.

My personal conclusion is that if you obtain the Combat Unit with the plan to use it as your defense gun, buy several brands and types of ammo and find the ones that are 100% reliable in the gun. This is not profound advice, nor is it limited to this pistol – I would recommend that for any firearm that you plan to depend on, because ultimately I agree with Colt – some guns just don’t like some ammo.

One of the subtle advantages of a rail equipped 1911 is that the extra squared-off dust cover that accommodates the accessory rail also “packs out” the side of the frame just in front of the slide stop/release pin. While it might be a small detail, I find that it makes for a much more comfortable “thumbs forward” grip. This allows me to get my shooting grip locked in a few milliseconds faster, because I’m not searching for a spot for my thumb as I often do when shooting conventional 1911s.

Field strip is easy without tools. Note that Colt went with a short rail system for the slide/frame fit.

JUST MY OPINION

The Colt Combat Unit is a very well designed and nicely made 1911 pistol. Chambered in 9mm, it offers the shooter a less expensive, less recoiling handgun that has all the bells and whistles of the modern tactical sidearm. Fit and finish is high quality, from the custom G10 grips to the black finish. Colt doesn’t specify the exact type of finish used, but in addition to a beautiful aesthetic, it also appears to be very durable. I like to see an extended mag-well on a gun that considers itself “tactical”, but that is a personal preference. In every other way, Colt has nailed it when it comes to the components and controls selected. The dual recoil spring assembly is a nice touch, and does seem to offer a noticeable benefit. The pistol field strips simply and easily, thanks to the short GI guide rod and a barrel bushing that can be turned by hand. The two problems encountered with the pistol were the feeding and ejecting issues. The ejection, I am convinced, is due to a damaged part. The feeding problems with hollow point ammunition is a bigger consideration. I was able to find ammo that it seems to like, but if one were to employ this pistol for defense of self and home, I would urge – strongly – that exhaustive testing be done with ammunition until you know you have a reliable combination. It’s a very nice pistol – but make sure it works reliably with the ammo you have.

For more information, visit http://www.colt.com/Catalog/Pistols/Colt-Combat-Unit-Rail-Gun.

To purchase on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=colt%20combat%20unit%209mm.

{ 33 comments… add one }
  • srodz1776 March 14, 2017, 11:37 am

    When is Colt going to manufacture any 1911 with more than a 9 round magazine, (double-stack), (in 46 ACP…etc.)?

  • Bob Bray March 13, 2017, 4:53 pm

    Ejectors are too soft and not hardened.
    Colts’ excuse doesn’t hold water.
    Norinco 9mm tokarevs put a bump under the slide to kick top round in mag down avoiding ejecting brass heads from striking
    case mouth in mag which will eject cases in your face or down your collar.
    Brownings’ 24 year later HiPower model of 1935 is a much improved service pistol notably having a “ramped” barrel and hi cap mags.
    Todays’ auto pistols need ramped barrels to feed flat and hollow point bullets.
    Finally , I’m baffled The A1 version of 1911, a clear improvement, is ignored by current manufacturers.

  • Wild Bill March 13, 2017, 4:44 pm

    Wow, it’s even checkered on the inside, nope, never mind, it just machine marks like it was hand made in Pakistan.

  • loupgarous March 13, 2017, 2:52 pm

    Sorry, but it’s not worth the freight. And looking over the other comments, I’m sure I’m not the only one here who not can’t, but won’t peel off $1,500 for a 1911-series pistol which does things less well than the Springfield XD series I know and love. I’m sure that there are 1911 enthusiasts for whom this is worth the money, and more power to them. Just not for me.

  • Ted March 13, 2017, 12:36 pm

    I was looking to purchase a new 1911, my first. I wanted something nobody in Commifornia had. Since I’m exempt to purchase off roster Colts, I was interested in this New Model. However I think I’ll spend my 1500.00 plus Dros on a SPRINGFIELD.

    • SteveO March 13, 2017, 2:47 pm

      Better choice! I own 2 1911 Springfield 9mm and love them. Only one problem, if you reload be careful of the bullet that you use.
      Gun is very fussy on reloads. The rifling is so tight and close to the chamber that the gun will not lock up properly.

    • BILLYMAC March 14, 2017, 6:27 pm

      ITS NOT THE BULLET IT IS THE OAL THAT NEEDS TO BE TINKERED WITH. I SHOOT SWC AND LOAD ABOUT 0.025 SHORTER THAN FACTORY OAL AND DO NOT HAVE A PROBLEM. TRY IT. IF YOU ARE BUYING FACTORY AMMO CHECK THEM THEY WILL VARY. A LITTLE TAP ON A HARD SURFACE SHOULD FIX AN OVER LENGTH.

  • Zupglick March 13, 2017, 12:29 pm

    Colt. Acting like Rolls Royce when all they can make are Chevy’s.

  • Dr. Duck March 13, 2017, 12:27 pm

    Colt ! .. what are you thinking ? ,… feeding and ejecting issues ? … shell castings in your face ?? .. you guys have a huge rep to maintain … a single stack 9mm ?? .. $1500.00 US$ ?? … if your performance does not improve immediately … the beatings will begin at the top of the hour !

  • Lee Blackman March 13, 2017, 10:56 am

    So Colt is going to throw out a single stack 9mm WITHOUT a ramped barrel….. yea thats smart…. seriously I see ANOTHER Colt market flop coming. When are they going to hire some new talent. I mean really….

  • Mike Mullen March 13, 2017, 9:54 am

    $1,500.00 for a gun “that just doesn’t like some ammo”!????!

    Really?

    Try again, Colt. I can get a bulletproof reliable 1911 built up for less that will feed any HP round known to man.

    • Taylor March 13, 2017, 1:35 pm

      My thoughts exactly, I have a Ruger SR1911 Commander in .45 that has none of these issues, and was half the cost. Granted it doesn’t have tritium sights or a couple of the other nice to have features, but I could add them if I’d like and it wouldn’t cost $750.

  • Arturo Ruiz Jr March 13, 2017, 8:46 am

    When is Colt coming out with a sub compact 1911 9mm? What’s all this full size pony for a 9mm?!

  • William March 13, 2017, 8:42 am

    Junk for $1400.00, Not worthy of the Colt name! Current Colt ownership needs to go broke!

    • Cam March 13, 2017, 11:19 am

      I’m pretty sure they are broke, the question is when will the creditors stop giving them more credit and say time to pay up?

  • Arley Bindschadler March 13, 2017, 8:39 am

    Putting flat black on a gun in this price range is an attempt to cover poor finish work Plus what others have stated makes this a poor investment .

  • Mike March 13, 2017, 8:07 am

    I bought 45ca colt defender in January. I fired 20 rounds and the shells ejected in my face plus the casings were deformed. Sent it back to colt and after two months not repaired yet! Hope I get it back before they go bankrupt 😁

  • srsquidizen March 13, 2017, 7:47 am

    1911’s are the V-twin cruisers of the handgun world. Overweight, outdated, cumbersome, under-performing and expensive especially if you want a certain legendary brands. You can get more bang for the buck with other big highway bikes, say a sport touring job made in Europe or Japan. It will do almost everything better. But porky V-twin cruisers are comfortable, beg to be customized, and you just can’t beat the look and the cool factor that’s just part of its charisma. Like a 1911.

    A 1911 that doesn’t shoot 45’s is kinda like a cruiser that has some 4-banger out of a crotch rocket instead of a V-twin. Yeah there might be advantages but hell it doesn’t even sound right. What’s the point?

    • Mike Mullen March 13, 2017, 9:59 am

      Uhhhhhh….. You don’t get around much do you?
      Especially around the competition circles. 1911s do get a bad rap, mainly because idiots that call themselves gunsmiths modify them improperly and don’t know what they are doing, but get one that was put together right, and you have a pistol with a trigger that has no equal, world class combat accuracy and is as fast (often faster) than any other gun in the fight……….

      • srsquidizen March 13, 2017, 11:40 am

        Lemme guess….you also ride a Harley you spent $25,000 souping up to be “fast” (like your 1911 relic) but alas you get blown away at stoplights by pimple-faced kids on ratbike 90’s rice rockets that cost less than your chrome cup holder…

    • Lee Blackman March 13, 2017, 1:04 pm

      Yea I mean really… but why run an 45acp, why not step up to .50GI…. Same frame and slide, same low capacity, same 1911 issues, just bigger bore. I don’t see the point in the 45acp when there is a 50cal you can fit in the same frame. Sure the ammo is more expensive, but so is 45acp compared to 9mm. If your going to carry big, might as well go all the way right?

      Of course me. I’m more of a Honda guy than a HD guy. So of course I’d opt for a 10mm version… bwahahahahaha (evil grin)

  • JH March 13, 2017, 7:29 am

    Springfield Range Officer, MSRP $945.00. Nuff said.

  • Greyrider51 March 13, 2017, 7:21 am

    If you want an all metal “combat” 9mm, go with the Browning HP. Higher quality, capacity, lower price, proven performance.
    I own 3 Colt pistols, I would rate them an 8, to my Browning’s 10.

  • Blasted Cap March 13, 2017, 7:13 am

    The 2 problems with the gun were feeding and ejection. Perfect, a $1500 bludgeon. Wouldn’t a rock be just as good.

  • Doc Barta March 13, 2017, 7:01 am

    I like Colt but I just do not seem to have these problems with my Springfield EMP4. Like to see them run side by side. Springfield actually took the time to design the gun for the 9mm, which I think was a smart idea, not just cram a 9mm into a gun made for a .45. Probably why Mr. Browning made the High Power. Psalm 144.

  • John Smith March 13, 2017, 6:50 am

    It is too bad that Colt can’t make the 1911s they produce better. When it comes in at this price point and has problems I would look at a different manufacturer. Its too bad they cant figure this out.

  • Martin B March 12, 2017, 6:21 pm

    Poor accuracy, abysmal reliability, large and heavy and outdated design. For half of that $1,500, you could buy any number of high quality, reliable pistols which are much lighter and have a much higher round count, and which will shoot where you aim them. There is not a single aspect of this product that is worth any praise, save perhaps for the ergonomics (which is highly personal), and much to be condemned. For you to not denounce this piss poor product as a mechanical abortion, makes you in collusion with the fraud that Colt are perpetrating on their customers. This example of gun making ineptitude is a prime reason that Colt should be placed into receivership and driven out of the market. Nobody needs guns this bad.

  • Couch March 12, 2017, 1:33 am

    I can’t possibly understand why Colt would come out with a single stack 9mm 1911… IMO an affordable, reliable doublestack “2011” would be a lot more profitable.

  • Will Drider March 10, 2017, 10:54 am

    Brass in the face is unacceptable as is the poor feed ramp issue. On a new gun with new factory mags: should not allow the top round to hit and damage the ejector. Insertion of a mag, regardless of how hard; the mag release/lock stops over travel by the mag catch ledge. The 9mm Gov needs the extended ejector but sloppy tolerances in a new gun/mags is crap. Colts “excuse” would apply to a well worn 1911 with considerable wear on the mag release, the aligning mag lock hole and feed lips. The bent ejector can also drag and bind on the slide causing additional failures. Colt sent this as a Review gun, putting their best foot forward and tripped. Same old lack of quality control with or without the Rampant Colt. Its Manufacture design flaws like this that give the 1911 platform a bad name for
    reliability. Colt has been building 1911s for a long time and knows how to make them right but chose not to at the lower end price point. The sooner Colt understands that their name doesn’t carry the clout it use to and they work to improve quality and their reputation: they may avoid further financial woe.

    • Ron Rogers March 13, 2017, 4:43 am

      I agree with all of Will’s points. The apparent tool marks revealed by the article’s excellent macro photos are not to be found on any Colt Government model in .45 cal. that I have owned. The combination feed ramp looks rough and needs a polish and perhaps an angle adjustment. Although I’ve had stovepipe ejections, they were my fault for having a loose grip or allowing my wrist to break. After my guns had their feed ramps polished, I cannot recall any failures to feed with HP or Ball. My Glocks definitely don’t like a very few brands of .40 cal. HP. The Glocks could have a polishing in their future. Even with its good feature set, this Colt does not appear to be worth its price.

  • Brian March 10, 2017, 9:08 am

    On the bent ejector – I dont buy Colt’s response. This is marketed as a “combat unit”, but they want you to “baby” mag changes?? Really? Nuff said!

  • Gun Dealer March 10, 2017, 7:53 am

    Colt is on the way to yet another bankruptcy. Too bad as they do make some good guns but have missed what was,key word was,the best times for gun manufactures ever. Why ? “Colt Stocking Dealers Only “, We,dealers can buy any other manufacture’s guns at out distributors except Colt ! Has to be the worst idea ever made by a gun maker.

    • Cam March 13, 2017, 11:27 am

      That idea is so they can make more money. The have a high price they want to make per gun If they add a distributor, this gun would have another layer and colt would either have to drop their price per gun that they don’t want to do or raise the msrp to get the meat off the bone they want.

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