Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Colt Concealed Carry Officer's Model .45 ACP

John M. Browning designed the Model 1911 pistol, our nation's service pistol for many years. Some thought it could be improved by making it lighter, hence the Commander with aluminum alloy frame and 3/4" shorter barrel and then shorter yet as the Officer's Model with 3-1/2" barrel. However, many noticed that the angles necessary to function the smaller Officer's Model resulted in decreased reliability. Also, while the shorter butt contributed to greater concealability, the shorter barrel was more a hindrance to accuracy than it was benefit in any other way. The idea of installing a Commander length slide assembly to an Officers' model frame was executed and the lords of the gun rags called it good. So Colt made some in 1998. Apparently, it was not a model that inspired enough buyers to lay out the cash. There is still a demand though and it is being met by the Gunsite model at $1395 (last I checked) plus tax plus shipping plus transfer fees or about $1460-1500 out the door and by the custom gunsmiths.

One of those smiths is Jim Garthwaite. I have read articles about him and/or his guns, indeed I've read all the articles shown on his website. He was the Pistolsmith of the Year in 2004. Mr. Garthwaite does work on 1911 and Browning High Power pistols. He also has been doing classes in which the participants build their own guns.

My friend, Rob Leahy of Simply Rugged Holsters, told me about a Garthwaite CCO at Bucky O'Neill's Guns in Prescott, AZ. Although rob said he'd get photos the work load at his shop was too great but he assured me that I'd like the gun. Knowing Rob, I took the leap of faith and called Dave at Bucky's to order the gun sight unseen. I am all into the gun for less than the price of the Gunsite CCO, which is simply a production gun. Further, the few of his guns I have seen for sale have been asking $2500 or more.

Well, it took a bit longer than expected. While they received my money, and FFL, in a timely manner, shipment was somehow delayed a bit and I didn't receive the gun until this week. Today was the first day I had time to shoot and photograph it.

As you can tell from the photo this gun is literally a Colt Commander slide (1991A1) on a Colt Officers' Lightweight frame. The front sight is dovetailed and a Heinie rear sight has been installed. The top of the slide was stippled and the rear of the slide was checkered. Also checkered was the steel (stainless I presume) main spring housing and the front strap. I'm personally pleased that the front of the trigger guard was not checkered. The trigger is like that on my Officers' Lightweight ACP but the feel is different. The gun has a National Match bushing. I haven't had it apart yet so I haven't looked at who made what component.

When you look at the first target you can see that I lost a couple of rounds due to the trigger. That should go away with practice. I really like the sights. Even with my currently compromised vision (cataracts) and bifocals I could see the sights well enough to be effective.

You'll note the vertical stringing and "lost" rounds outside the "group". That trigger is pretty light and crisp which I'm obviously not accustomed to! Then the stringing I think is due to the slight difficulty I had in shooting the gun quickly. Recoil seems to be snappier in this than in the Officers' Lightweight, I think because the gun is just about as light but the bullets are getting more velocity out of the longer barrel. That's just my perception. Recoil is not at all physically bothersome in that it is not at all painful. In comparison I think that a S&W M13 shooting full on 125 gr. .357 Magnum loads with the factory stocks can be painful.

The ammunition used was a mix of ball (Winchester white box) and Federal Hydrashocks. Nary a slip twixt mag and chamber or chamber and ground with any of it or any magazine (Wilson, Chip McCormick and Colt factory). I'll check 230 gr. Golden Sabers next.

- Massad Ayoob: The Colt Concealed Carry Officers and its niche-mates
- How About the CCOs by Wiley Clapp

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