Colt’s Best Days
For all the issues in the past, the last several years have been some of Colt’s finest. Ken Hackathorn told me that the current production 1911s are some of the best to ever come out of Hartford. In addition, Colt has revived their revolver lineup with the Cobra, King Cobra, Python, and most recently the Anaconda!
The Colt Custom Shop has also been busy and, while not having a high profile, is producing some outstanding guns. One of the latest is the Combat Commander Custom Carry. While the name sounds rather benign, this Custom Carry is one of the most well thought out, and feature-rich, 1911s on the market today. I spoke with Colt’s Mark Redl about the new pistol. He stated that Colt reached out, on social media, and asked fans what they would want in a dream gun. They took those comments and have now produced that pistol. He also stated that the vast number of responses wanted the pistol to be built in .45 ACP. With the popularity of 1911s chambered in 9mm, this was a surprise.
More Than Just Another Colt
Colt went well outside the box on the new Custom Carry by selecting some of the best parts on the market. To be even more specific, the only Colt manufactured parts are the frame, slide, barrel, and the pins and springs.
Starting with the slide, the Custom Carry is a true Commander configuration with a Colt National Match 4.25” barrel, an abbreviated bushing, and features a dual recoil spring. The extractor, barrel bushing, and recoil spring plug are from Evolution Gun Works, better known as EGW. The top of the slide is serrated and the ejection port has been flared and lowered. The rear sight is Stan Chen’s new Full Custom Rear Sight. Stan has designed a rear sight that is contoured to “flow” into the slide giving it a low profile that is void of sharp edges. At the same time, it provides a crisp sight picture and has a leading edge that can be used for one-handed manipulation.
As normal for a Combat Commander, the frame is stainless and has been relieved at the base of the trigger guard. The slide stop, sear, and disconnector are also from EGW while the solid, medium-length trigger, is from John Harrison of Harrison Design and Consulting. The thumb safety and beavertail grip safety are also from Chen and are designed to follow the contours of the frame. The thumb safety paddle is arched and contoured to allow the thumb to lay parallel to the slide. The combination of the beavertail and the undercut trigger guard allows for a very high purchase on the pistol. The unique looking hammer is actually a Colt hammer that has had the hole enlarged.
Where the Custom Carry really stands out is the use of Stan Chen’s Gen 2 magazine well. Stan worked for several years on the Gen 2 and has five specific patent awards for the design. Installation of the Gen 2 requires the butt of the frame and the mainspring housing pin hole to be relocated. The result is a large Magwell that does not add any length to the pistol. The aperture of the funnel is a full 360 degrees. Two side impact tabs ride on the outside of the frame to provide lateral reinforcement. The stocks are VZ G-10 Operators that are made specifically for the Gen 2 Magwell.
Colt has finished the stainless slide and frame in a smoke ION Bond finish. This finish is a matte black that seems to absorb the light. It is extremely durable and corrosion-resistant. The entire pistol has been given a soft carry bevel and is totally void of any offending edges, something Colt fans will appreciate. To complete the package, the Custom Carry comes with two Wilson Combat Elite Tactical magazines that have a low profile steel base pad and are finished in a black Flouropolymer finish.
We received our test pistol shortly after the announcement. Opening the now familiar Colt blue plastic box, my first impression was that the pistol could have come from a number of custom gunsmiths. The lines on the frame are straight, there are no sharp edges, and the fit and finish are exceptional. The matte ION Bond finish gives the pistol a business like appearance.
The pistol felt good in the hand and the trigger broke cleanly at 5 lbs. 5 oz. While heavier than some of my other 1911s, it was not noticeable when shooting. I should note that the Custom Carry has a Series 80 fire control system. I especially appreciated the solid Harrison trigger. Prior to the range I did a significant amount of dry fire practice and really fell in love with the Chen Gen 2 Magwell.
The one thing that gave me pause was the design of the barrel feed ramp. As shown in the photo, it has a deep center relief with shallow relief cuts on both sides. It is not the same symmetrical National Match throat that I am accustomed to seeing. I contacted Redl who stated that Colt went to this design several years ago and, while unconventional in appearance, is very reliable.
We hit the range with a mixture of ammunition from legacy Federal’s 230 grain Hydra Shok to current production Super Vel’s +P loads. The Commander digested every load with the exception of the Super Vel 165 grain +P Solid Copper Hollow Point. The shorter bullet design, combined with the sharp leading edge, was not a good match for the Colt feed ramp. I settled down for formal testing with five of the most popular personal defense/duty loads on the market today. All ran flawlessly in the Custom Commander and grouped well. As the chart reflects, the velocities ran from an average of 850 fps for the standard Federal 230 grain HST to 1,025 fps for Speer’s 200 grain +P Gold Dot. I will admit that, even from an all-steel Commander, this Gold Dot was a stout load.
|Colt Custom Carry Range Data|
|Federal||HST 230 gr.||831 fps||2.5”|
|Federal||HST 230 gr. +P||841 fps||3.25”|
|Hornady||Critical Defense 185 gr. FTX||949 fps||2.25”|
|Hornady||Critical Duty 200 gr. +P FlexLock||971 fps||3”|
|Speer||Gold Dot 220 gr. +P||1,005 fps||3.75|
As is my custom, I ran a modified 10-10-10 drill with the Colt. For high capacity pistols, the drill is 10 rounds, fired at 10 yards, in 10 seconds. The target is a B8 bullseye target. Normally, the starting position is a low ready. With a 1911, Ken Hackathorn modifies the drill to eight rounds in 10 seconds, but the drill starts from the holster. My results were a little less than stellar as I was not on my game with recoil control. I busted the 10 second par time by 1.3 seconds but managed a respectable score of 73 which equates to a 92%.
For over 30 years, my normal off-duty carry pistol was either a Commander or a full-size Government Model. My Springfield Professional has the highest round count of any pistol in my safe with an estimated 25,000 rounds or so. The result is that I am blessed to have a number of carry options for Commander size pistols. In jeans, and while on the range, I carried the Custom Carry in my Milt Sparks 5BN. The 5BN has a wonderful history that started with Bruce Nelson, hence the “BN” in the model number. For dress wear, I used a very special holster made for me by my friend, the late Lou Alessi. Lou made a version of the Bruce Nelson #1 that he called the DOJ. The name came from his customers that worked at the Department of Justice. He made a modified version of the DOJ for renowned Pistolsmith, Dick Henie. The Heinie DOJ featured a cut-down leading edge with a reinforced mouth. This design allowed the muzzle to clear the holster faster than a full top design like the 55BN. I also carried the Colt in an older Sparks Summer Special IWB rig.
Carrying the new Colt reminded me of just how much I like the 1911 platform. The phrase, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is definitely applicable to the Custom Carry. If you were to order a comparable pistol from any number of custom gunsmiths, the cost could run more than double the cost of the Colt. To say that Colt has impressed me with this pistol is an understatement. As a writer, I have the opportunity to evaluate and shoot dozens of new pistols every year. As the old writer saying goes, “you can’t keep them all!” Well, this is one that I do intend to keep and it will not be a safe queen.
While this evaluation was ongoing, Colt announced that the Custom Carry would also be offered in 9mm. That is a very welcome addition and I predict that they will not only be very popular but also hard to find.
The entire Custom Carry package represents the best in class features, all directly from Colt. For additional information visit Colt.com.
|Colt Custom Carry Commander|
|Fire Control System||Series 80|
|Barrel||4.25” National Match|
|Weight *45 ACP||39 oz.|
|Sights||Chen Custom Rear/Novak Front|
|Magazines||Wilson Combat Elite Tactical|
|Finish||Smoke ION Bond|