Swiss Arms 1911 TRS and Umarex 1911 Colt Commander shoot it out
By Dennis Adler
It goes without saying that there can be no loser is this competition; both the Umarex Colt 1911 Commander and the Swiss Arms SA 1911 TRS are guns at the top of their game for blowback action CO2 semi-autos. If you have the budget, both should be in your airgun collection. And while they are very much alike in many ways, the subtle and not so subtle differences are what separate a late 20th century rendition of the Colt Model 1911A1 from a 21st century tactical version of the same gun.
What is the same, what is notably different?
To begin with, the white dot combat sights are the same on both models. The skeletonized target triggers, self-contained CO2 BB magazines, internal mechanisms and recoil systems are identical. Both the Umarex and Swiss Arms utilize a dual recoil spring design. Where these two 1911 models begin to go their separate ways is in aesthetics, beginning with Swiss Arms use of the now far more popular original 1911-style checkered flat mainspring housing which is seen on the majority of modern 1911 models. In addition, present-day military and competition 1911s generally have a raised palmswell and beavertail grip safety; the Swiss Arms models deliver both, the Umarex offers neither. The TRS (and MRP) also have a more accurate skeletonized hammer shape similar to those seen on custom models from Kimber, Wilson Combat and STI, which are easier to thumb cock and handle if manually lowering the hammer. And, of course, there is the elephant in the corner of the gunroom; the full length dustcover accessory rail which, when fitted with a laser sight, would give the Swiss Arms a decided advantage in accuracy over the Umarex Colt Commander.
The biggest trade off with a Rail Gun is that almost every existing old style 1911 holster will not fit. Interestingly, steel spring fast draw shoulder holsters, like the old Bianchi X-2100 (pictured), and current Safariland Bianchi X15 version, will accommodate the added rail width due to their clamshell design. And there are a number of 1911 Rail Gun holsters available like the Galco Fletch belt holster shown in Part 2.
Preferences and Performance
What it comes down to is a choice between a traditional 1911 style with a few undesirable pieces of verbiage on the right side of the slide, but an otherwise proven and reliable design, versus a 21st century 1911 Rail Gun with all of the features that have kept the 1911 in the game with U.S. military Spec Ops and law enforcement special response teams since 2012, not to mention 1911 tactical models built by other established American manufacturers. But between these two very specific 1911 airguns the bottom line is established by features, handling, and accuracy.
For this comparison I’m throwing out all of the older test results and starting over with average trigger pull, ease of slide operation, CO2-generated slide recoil, average velocity, and fixed open sight accuracy with a head-to-head 10-round comparison on a B-27 silhouette target set out at 21 feet.
Trigger pull on the Swiss Arms SA 1911 TRS averaged 4 pounds, 13.4 ounces (very close to the previous test), with 0.187 inches of take up, very light stacking, a crisp break and short reset. The Umarex Colt Commander has an average trigger pull of only 2 pounds, 9.1 ounces, almost half that of the Swiss Arms model. Travel is an identical 0.187 inches, but with zero stacking, a crisp break and short reset. In actuality, the Colt airgun’s trigger is much lighter than a centerfire model’s; even my custom tuned .45 ACP 1911 has a trigger pull of 5 pounds, 4 ounces. But that lighter trigger on the .177 caliber Umarex Colt Commander could be the gun’s edge in accuracy.
Both airguns have the same 5-inch smoothbore barrel design, same magazines and loading systems. Grip safety engagement is more positive on the Swiss Arms model with its palmswell and upswept beavertail design, and the dustcover rail gives it just a little better balance in the hand than the Umarex Colt Commander. Slide resistance is almost indistinguishable between the two guns, as is the slide release lever operation, and their white dot combat sights are identical. The only external operating feature not shared by both guns is the TRS ambidextrous thumb safety.
Time to lock and load
The chronograph clocked the Colt Commander with Umarex .177 caliber steel BBs at an average velocity of 292 fps and the Swiss Arms TRS at 295 fps average, both about 22 fps slower than factory specs, and 5 fps average off the previous test of the TRS. On average, 1911 blowback action models shoot at around 300 fps with standard grain weight steel BBs.
The TRS again delivered excellent accuracy at 21 feet punching all 10 rounds inside the circumference of the X with a total spread of 0.75 inches. The steel BBs completely pierced the target and backstop (landing inside the baffle box) so they almost cut a perfect hole around the X making it difficult to get a best 5-shot group, but considering the top of the X was almost completely cut it would be safe to say that the best 5 shots made an arc over the X measuring 0.43 inches, not quite as good as the 0.25 inches from Part 2 but I’d take the rap for that discrepancy more than the gun.
The Umarex Colt Commander’s feathery 2 pound, 9.1 ounce trigger pull and instantaneous reset punched 10 rounds into the X as well, but with a spread of 0.75 inches and a best 5-rounds almost dead center in the X measuring 0.375 inches. The measurements are pretty close with the Colt Commander’s tighter X ring group just edging out (literally) the Swiss Arms TRS by 0.055 inches. In the end, everything came down to trigger pull. But, if you take the 0.25 inch best group from the TRS test in Part 2, the win technically goes to the Swiss Arms Rail Gun. For their respective costs, the Swiss Arms models are more authentic in design, more up to date in features, and have a better fit and finish. The gauntlet has been thrown down. Will Umarex and Colt pick it up?