Before you ask…the Swiss Arms 1911 TRS vs. the Umarex 1911 Colt Commander
By Dennis Adler
I know what you’re thinking; the Umarex Colt Commander is the best blowback action CO2 semi-auto air pistol there is. It has proven more accurate and easier to handle than any other 1911A1-style airgun on the market and has been the undisputed leader in blowback action models since it was introduced in 2014, but it is not alone. The Umarex Colt 1911 Commander has a twin, sort of, the Remington 1911 RAC and at the time of their introduction in 2014 they ranked as the most exact in detail and operation to an actual .45 ACP model. As I have noted in earlier reviews, Remington made some odd choices in the graphics for their 1911 CO2 version, while Colt and Umarex tried to stay as close to factory markings as possible, and provide all of the requisite safety warnings. One of the most important features of these two (and so many later blowback action models) was the use of a self-contained CO2 BB magazine correctly sized to that of a 1911 cartridge magazine. I first saw and tested this model as a pre-production version back in 2013 during a visit to the Umarex factory in Arnsberg, Germany. The gun was introduced three months later at the 2014 Shot Show. The Umarex Colt Commander set the standard in 2014. But standards are meant to be exceeded.
What makes the Umarex Colt a popular choice?
You have to begin with a simple statement. The Colt Model 1911 is the most iconic semiautomatic handgun in American history, period. Building a CO2 version of the 1911 has been tried for decades and the “basic” 1911 shape has been the foundation for numerous CO2 airguns since I was kid and had my first Marksman MPR in the 1960s. But the Umarex Colt Commander achieved something almost unprecedented, it wasn’t a CO2 model that was similar to a Colt 1911, it was an almost 1:1 copy of a 1911A1 model (1911A1 being the second version pistol with the arched checkered mainspring housing c.1925.) The Umarex licensed version was a first, combining later 1911 design changes and more contemporary features like white dot combat sights, a Delta-style serrated hammer and skeletonized alloy target trigger, but using the smaller original single thumb safety.
From the left side, the Umarex is a very clean looking understudy to the .45 ACP models featuring the Colt name and Rampant Colt emblem on the slide, and Colt licensing trademark. On the negative side is a white S-arrow-F imprinted on the thumb safety for those who can’t figure out how it works. The black plastic grips, while being the Colt checkered diamond pattern design, do not look as good as those with a wood finish. On the flip side, Umarex follows suit with the mandatory safety warning on the right flat of the slide along with an excellent Colt logo and caliber marking. The frames also have individual serial numbers. So, what really begins to separate the gold standard Umarex Colt 1911 Commander CO2 model from the more modern Swiss Arms version?
The needs of the military and competitive shooters
One of the requirements for modern military sidearms is that the pistol can be handled by either right or left-handed individuals. Roughly 13 percent of Americans are left handed, that means 13 percent of military and law enforcement on average as well. Manufacturing military and law enforcement arms for universal handling requires an ambidextrous safety (and magazine release). At least for Colt 1911s, the ambidextrous safety is an easy option.
More complicated are the upgrades to the frame that have been developed in recent years, including the addition of the dustcover accessory rail, a feature that was well established before Colt introduced its first Rail Guns. Why the Umarex Colt Commander with its more modern skeletonized hammer, trigger, and white dot combat sights eschewed the addition of an accessory rail like the CQBP is simply that Umarex wanted to appeal to the greater number of 1911 owners who prefer a more traditional model. Think of it this way, Colt didn’t discontinue the standard Government Model design when the Rail Gun was introduced, it simply became another version. Swiss Arms had a different objective with the SA 1911 MRP and TRS, the MRP in particular, which was built to emulate the Colt CQBP. The TRS is the icing on that CO2 cake with a remarkable frame and slide finish that makes it more authentic looking than any other 1911 air pistol on the market. It is the perfect counterpoint to the Umarex Colt Commander.
In Thursday’s conclusion to this series on the Swiss Arms models, the TRS and Umarex Colt Commander go head-to-head on the shooting range.
A Word About Safety
Blowback action models provide the look, feel and operation of their cartridge-firing counterparts. All arguns, in general, look like guns, but those based on real cartridge-firing models even more so. It is important to remember that the vast majority of people can’t tell an airgun from a cartridge gun. Never brandish an airgun in public. Always, and I can never stress this enough, always treat an airgun as you would a cartridge gun. The same manual of operation and safety should always apply.