The 21st Century Colt 1911 Rail Gun Part 4

The 21st Century Colt 1911 Rail Gun Part 4 Part 3 Part 2 Part 1

Swiss Arms 1911 TRS and Umarex 1911 Colt Commander shoot it out

By Dennis Adler

The top guns in 1911 CO2 models, the Swiss Arms SA 1911 TRS with front and rear slide serrations, dustcover accessory rail, combat sights, flat mainspring housing, raised palmswell and extended beavertail grip safety, and the Colt 1911A1 by Umarex with A1-style arched mainspring housing, updated white dot combat sights and skeletonized hammer and trigger.

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.

Rail Guns require special holsters to fit the wider frame, however, some very significant old 1911 holsters, like this vintage Bianchi X-2100 can fit a Rail Gun because they use a steel clamshell open front design. Invented by John Bianchi in 1960 as the X-15, the later X-2100 was designed for large frame revolvers but also fit the Model 1911, while the X-15 (original Vietnam Era and present models sold by Safariland) were dedicated for the 1911 and Browning Hi-Power.

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.

With the Umarex Colt Commander in the Bianchi X-2100 shoulder holster, the author draws the Swiss Arms model from the Galco belt holster (on the right hip at the 4 o’clock position and out of camera view) and chambers the first round.

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.

With the TRS re-holstered the Colt Commander is drawn from the shoulder rig.

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.

Nothing is more intimidating than a pair of 1911s aimed in your direction. Firing with both hands is another practiced skill that airguns can help with. Back in the 1930s, Colt’s legendary field rep, shootist J. Henry FitzGerald, traveled around the country demonstrating Colt’s firearms to law enforcement agencies, and also instructing in the art of concealed carry and firing two guns at once.

The legendary J. Henry FitzGerald in the 1930s instructing detectives in firing two guns at once on two different targets! This was one of his special skills that he taught lawmen to use in the 1920s and 1930s. (Photo from Colt 175 Years by Dennis Adler/Metro Books 2012)

Just for fun I shot two handed at 21 feet with 10 rounds in each gun and ended up with this scattered double group, but at least all 20 shots were in the center body mass of the Shoot-N-C silhouette target.

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 Swiss Arms TRS put 10 rounds inside the X with a total spread of 0.75 inches.

The Umarex Colt Commander punched 10 rounds into the X as well, and with the same 0.75 inch total spread, but had more shots dead center on the X than the Swiss Arms TRS.

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?

13 thoughts on “The 21st Century Colt 1911 Rail Gun Part 4

  1. Excellent accuracy. Every shooter should own one of those Bianchi holsters. Great utility holsters. Have a 4-5 inch one like yours and another that fits about every 6 inch da revolver I own. Colt ,and now Umarex is somewhat slow on the draw and stubborn like Colt. My first series 70 1911 has a Swenson ambisafety ,because at the time it was the only ambi safety around 1979-80. My later ones are fitted with the smaller Colt style ,that doesn’t need grip modification to clear the rt sided lever. The Commander model needs at least , an optional ambi safety, and other models should at least be on the drawing board. Otherwise other companies like Swiss Arms will continue to beat them at products they had a lock on . The way Kimber and Sig do with the 1911 and 380 pistolsin the firearms world


  2. Like the Last Man Standing Bruce Willis look. What would make either of these pistols a real winner, would be the addition of the rear Bomar type adjustable rear sight from the Tanfoglio pistol


    • Not exactly Die Hard, but you’ve got to root for a guy who carries two 1911s in double shoulder holsters. The rear sights on both guns are actually dovetailed in and locked down with a screw, so it might be possible to fit the guns with aftermarket Bomar-style sights. The Tanfoglio’s are not compatible though.



        • I actually have three double shoulder rigs for western guns, and you can draw with both hands pretty fast, as for accuracy, unless you shoot a lot with the off side hand it’s pretty awkward. I’ve done it with blanks for photo shoots (drawing and firing) but never with live ammo. I’ve drawn and shot two guns at once with live ammo from belt holsters, a pair of 9mm CZ-75s in matching right and left handed Galco SOB rigs, and Colt Single Actions, but not drawing from a double shoulder rig with live ammo. It’s a lot easier in movies!


  3. For the person who already has a nice collection of 1911 BB blow back pistols, this would be a valuable addition to their collection. For the person who doesn’t have any 1911A’s this would be a great start, if for nothing else, it’s looks alone.
    nice shooting Dennis
    Harvey


    • Thanks Harvey. Great guns make it a lot easier to hit the X ring. I think the Swiss Arms models should be right at the top of the list for anyone who has or wants a 1911 blowback action CO2 model. Along with the Umarex Colt Commander you really can’t go wrong here. Airguns have come a long way in the past few years, and I never cease to be impressed with improvements and new models, especially for the price.


  4. Just came across a video review from Europe. Probably due to the fact that their governments like peasants without guns ,they thrive on airguns. One advantage of that is the market for replica airguns is booming there. The reviewer had a Colt rail gun version the Colt Commander that looked basically like a black finish version of the Swiss Arms pistol,and had a flared mag well. To rub salt in the wound , it came in a nice Colt fitted box.


    • I’ve seen it. I want one. We will likley get more and better models as time goes by and demand here increases.

      One other tihing I have been meaning to add to this review is an ammendment to my comment about the Umrex Colt Commander’s trigger being lighter than a cartridge model’s. In most cases that is a true statement, but there are some Race Guns with 2.5 pound triggers, so in that respect the Colt Commander CO2 model has a serious competition trigger pull compared to the Swiss Arms 1911s.


      • Pyramid should use some muscle and get at least limited numbers as exclusives as well as getting parts like the ambi safety and flared mag well . Nice to also see less offensive warning markings as theColt in video and Swiss Arms pistol here


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