Barra 1911 Part 2

Barra 1911 Part 2

A 1911 by any other name

By Dennis Adler

The Colt Model 1911 is timeless. A fair enough statement considering that aside from the Colt Peacemaker, it is the longest continuous production handgun in history, to be specific, 110 years for the 1911 and 148 years for the Single Action Army, though you could deduct 15 years when manufacturing was suspended at Colt’s between 1941 and 1956, but that still leaves 133 years by the original manufacturer.

In the looks department, if you like 1911 Rail Guns, the Barra delivers on design to match its current Colt 1911 centerfire counterpart. Rail Guns by the nature of their design are less elegant looking than the classic 1911, but the Barra pulls off a pretty good look for fit and finish.

As a company, Colt’s has gone through bankruptcies and reorganizations quite a few times, as have many American manufacturers, including Colt’s biggest competitor Smith & Wesson. It is not unusual in American industry. Some great American companies, companies we once called American institutions, have failed to survive such events in their original form or name (though some do survive). Colt’s is on that footing once again, and soon may become part of CZ (just as Dan Wesson did some years ago). Will Colts manufactured by Colt, even if owned by a foreign company, still be Colts? It’s a reasonable question. Will a Colt’s Manufacturing Co. owned by CZ still build 1911s and Peacemakers? Most likely, but will it still have the same prestige?

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An historic answer

As an automotive historian long before I ever considered writing about firearms or the American West, I recognized that global manufacturing and foreign ownerships, partnerships, mergers and such, were part of the business. Case in point, I wrote a book in 1999 to celebrate Chrysler’s forthcoming 75th anniversary in the year 2000. By the time the book was ready to publish, the Chrysler Corporation no longer existed. There was to be no 75th anniversary; the book came out in 2000 just titled Chrysler. The company had become part of Daimler-Benz, and been renamed Daimler-Chrysler (which also ended up failing and Chrysler was sold to Fiat in 2014), but my point is that you still have Chryslers and Chrysler dealerships, so most major companies go on in one form or another (though don’t go looking for an F.W. Woolworth’s in the U.S.), and Colts will still be Colts even if the money comes from CZ. It is no different than a Chrysler; we are talking about brand heritage, not necessarily who is paying the bills. And this will be particularly true of Colt’s if manufacturing remains in the U.S.

To continue on the automotive theme for a moment longer, foreign automotive manufacturers are so firmly entrenched in America today that they have essentially become American companies. It is no different for gunmakers. Consider Sig Sauer, Browning (Winchester), and lest we forget Umarex, firmly established in historic Ft. Smith, Arkansas, though still a German company that has most of its airguns manufactured in Taiwan. Glock, yes American based for years (even manufacturing) but still an Austrian company, and I could go on with other examples we now take for granted, but the bottom line is that names are what’s being traded and if the name is worth enough, even a company that has fallen on its knees as many times as Colt will stand again, because the name is worth it!

The polished chrome finish smoothbore steel barrel sets off nicely against the gun’s Cerakote-like matte black finish. This view also shows off the deep, angled front and rear slide serrations copied from the current 1911 model Combat Unit Rail Gun.

If you’re still with me here, we come full circle back to the Model 1911, a gun that is made by dozens of companies today that are not Colt. A gun that is made as a CO2 pistol by companies that are not Colt, or even licensed by Colt, and thus bear no Colt name, only the familiar, timeless shape. What was it Shakespeare wrote in Romeo & Juliet? “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” A 1911 by any other name will still be a 1911, and that brings us (finally) to the Barra 1911. This is a gun (as an air pistol) that also makes the point. You can count all the manufacturers that build a Colt Peacemaker, or a gun that looks like a Peacemaker, on one hand and still have a couple of fingers left over. You need a directory to list all the companies here and abroad that make a 1911 besides Colt.

Here again, fit and finish are on the high end for the flat mainspring housing, raised palmswell grip safety and beavertail. The hammer is well made and while the slide to frame fit is solid, it has some wobble, a little more than the Sig or Colt Commander.

The heritage of the design, even the c.2012 Rail Gun configuration, is what’s behind every 1911 blowback action CO2 model with a CO2 BB magazine (and others that have the 1911 profile but are not blowback action or use another loading method). How well the Barra lives up to its contemporaries is what will determine its worth, because we know, even if the parts are the same, even if they come out of the same factory, every 1911 blowback action model is not the same, not built to the same standard because there are different standards, which are based on the quality the retailer demands, be it Swiss Arms, the Colt-licensed Umarex Commander model, Sig Sauer’s 1911 We The People version, Air Venturi’s John Wayne commemorative, Springfield Armory’s 1911, etc. Each stands on its own merits. The highest standard at present is still the Sig Sauer WTP, then the Umarex Colt Commander, Swiss Arms TRS, and it goes down the line from there.

Different 1911 designs but all with one thing in common, they use the same magazines and that’s a good thing because some mags are better made (or perform better), particularly the mags that come with Umarex, Sig Sauer, and Swiss Arms models.

We begin by knowing Barra has built a good looking 1911 Rail Gun that appears true in design to the current .45 ACP Colt counterpart. We know that the CO2 BB magazines for every one of the aforementioned 1911 CO2 models are interchangeable between guns, so the differences are how well the guns are built, their fit, finish, and performance. We begin with velocity, and initial accuracy at 21 feet shooting through the chronograph.

This turns out to be a very important shared feature among 1911 blowback action pistols, magazine interchangeability. Pictured with the Barra are an Umarex Colt Commander magazine and the great 27-round Swiss Arms/Tanfoglio extended capacity magazine. As it turned out in initial velocity tests, the Barra 1911 shot 10 fps to 15 fps faster with the Umarex Colt Commander magazine in place of the factory magazine.

Today’s results  

Model 1911 blowback action pistols with self-contained CO2 BB magazines average between 300 fps and 314 fps, with the Sig Sauer We The People 1911 holding the record at an average of 329 fps for 10 consecutive rounds, with a high of 338 fps. So, what goes into building the 1911 for Sig makes it a better gun in more ways than looks, and it is not the highest priced 1911 model! 

The polished chromed barrel presents itself nicely in the ejection port and adds a little class to the otherwise non-reflective black matte finish. The rear sight looks like it is dovetailed and has a locking screw, but it is all very permanently affixed to the slide and the setscrew is a molded in. Same for the front; it is all very nice casting work for a more realistic look.

The Barra, to my mild disappointment, is a solid 300 fps gun with most rounds clocking 298 fps fired at 15 second intervals. The blowback is hefty and the gun is medium loud, all good characteristics, but just on the acceptable line for velocity. As for initial accuracy at 21 feet I had 10 shots close to POA measuring 2.0 inches with a best five at 1.0 inches.

Thus far the Barra scores high for design, fit, and finish, and dead solid average for performance. New, out of the box, first CO2 and first magazine the Barra is in the ballpark with most blowback action 1911 models using self-contained CO2 BB mags. Not in the same league with the Sig Sauer, but working its way up through the minors. Now, if you are wondering “Maybe it’s the magazine?” you are on the right track. I swapped out the Barra mag for the Colt Commander mag and velocity increased to 308 fps average with a high of 312 fps! So, this is one case where a different magazine makes a difference in performance!

Ah yes, there is some bad news, the new Barra plunders its nice Cerakote-like finish with the white letter warnings. I’d have preferred to see it in smaller type on the frame, like the Sig, rather than on the side of the slide, but that’s where it is on the majority of 1911 CO2 models.

In Part 3 more tests; trigger pull, different magazines, and fine tuning accuracy.

4 thoughts on “Barra 1911 Part 2”

  1. To me , there is a noticeable difference in performance once you cross the 325 – 340 fps barrier. Sub 300 fps just doesn’t cut it. I was wondering if the mags made a difference, and voila, you shots out the answer. The next logical step for 1911 airguns is a high powered mag , giving less shots but higher velocity , to say 360 plus. Who dares, wins.

  2. Darn. Too bad they put the legalese on the slide. I was able to do the steel wool & cold blue treatment on my Sig WTP, and it fixed that gun. I doubt it would work on the Barra finish.

    I probably didn’t read it right, but on mags, why do the Springfield mags not interchange with the other models mentioned? I almost bought 1 for a Swiss Arms gun, and was glad I saw the disclaimer that it wouldn’t work.

  3. You can find Woolworth’s in every mall in America. It is called Footlocker.

    Colt being owned by CZ and making 1911s is still far better than a random fellow totally unrelated to anything historical making guns called Springfield Armory Inc and claiming a history and heritage he had nothing to do with.

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