Barra 1911 Part 3

Barra 1911 Part 3

What makes a good 1911 CO2 model?

By Dennis Adler

The new Barra 1911, top right, fits into the category of more modern designs along with the older Swiss Arms TRS, top left. For fit, finish, and handling (with one reservation that I will explain), the Barra is in a class shared by the Colt Commander, new (2020) Springfield Armory model, center, and the best 1911 blowback action pistol on the market, the Sig Sauer We The People.

That’s a question I ask every time a new CO2 version of the Colt Model 1911, 1911A1, or 1911 variant comes out. What manufacturers want to do is make air pistols that will sell. Umarex recognized that in 2014 with the Colt licensed Commander model, which wasn’t actually a Commander but a Government Model 1911 with a couple of upgrades to the sights. Back in 2014 it was the only game in town but the components to manufacture it in Taiwan were not exclusive. Others came (and went) but the designs rarely upped the game until Swiss Arms started having Rail Guns built. They have been few in number and now the Barra picks up the mantle with a gun that is more authentic than the Swiss Arms model. But is it any better? Is it a good 1911? read more


Barra 1911 Part 2

Barra 1911 Part 2

A 1911 by any other name

By Dennis Adler

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.

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.

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? read more


Barra 1911 Part 1

Barra 1911 Part 1

The first “new” gun of ’21

By Dennis Adler

The shape of things to come is the shape of things that were, the Colt Model 1911. This is still the gun to beat when it comes to a timeless classic even in its latest tactical guise as a Barra CO2 version of the current Colt Combat Unit Rail model.

Why did I put “new” in quotes? Well, there’s nothing new about a blowback action 1911, even a modern tactical version like the Barra. Why then is the first new model for 2021 based on a design that was used for one of the very first blowback action CO2 models introduced seven years ago? The answer is that the 1911 is the most successful handgun of the 20th century; the fundamental design is literally 110 years old! If you think about it, there isn’t much from 1911 that is still around today in its original form. What else is memorable from 1911? The first bi-wing seaplane was put into service in 1911, and flying boats would become highly successful in commercial aviation by the 1930s. In 1911 GM introduced the Kettering electric starter on the Cadillac and hands and wrists have been thankful ever since. Crossword puzzles….OK, that’s one that really hasn’t changed too much, but when it comes to handguns a whole lot has changed since 1911 and continues to change, yet the 110 year-old Model 1911 design endures even in the age of polymer-framed Glocks and Sig Sauer M17s. Why? Because John M. Browning designed the most rugged, reliable, and easy to service handgun for the U.S. military in 1911, a gun so good it remained the standard issue sidearm from 1911 to 1985, that’s 74 years; through two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, and the early conflicts in the Middle East, and even since it was replaced (twice in a little over 30 years time), the 1911 has remained in use with some specialized military units and with law enforcement. In spite of newer, higher capacity, lighter weight handguns, the 1911 is still that good in 2021. read more


Why manufacturers upgrade guns

Why manufacturers upgrade guns

Change is always questioned

By Dennis Adler

Change is inevitable in gun making. Manufacturers come up with improvements, some suggested by consumers, other created by factory designers. In CO2 pistols the best example of this is the Umarex Walther PPS and PPS M2, the same fundamental gun and firing system (blowback action, CO2 in the grip frame and stick magazine with a full size base pad), but otherwise an almost entirely new gun with improved sights, different triggerguard, slide and frame contours, grip design, and magazine release mechanism (the old PPS used the P99 based ambidextrous release from the P99, the M2 uses the frame mounted release, which is not ambidextrous, from the PPQ M2. The same has transpired with the 9mm centerfire guns with Umarex following suit, which makes sense since Umarex and Walther are the same company. Despite the use of a stick magazine, the PPS and now PPS M2 remains one of the very best blowback CO2 action pistols for shooting fun and fundamental CCW training. Change can be good.

“Why did they do that?” How many times have you said it in your life? And it’s not just firearms, it’s Oreos, it’s Coke, it’s your favorite brand of shoes, and it’s Colt, or Smith & Wesson, and the list goes on ad infinitum, just choose what item you want to debate. Change is always questioned and sometimes the answers are just not acceptable. Other times the answers are understandable, even if you don’t agree, and when it comes to firearms you need to have an open mind because change is inevitable. It is usually the result of improvements, something gunmakers have been doing since the beginning of gun making. Other times, change is to meet the demands of consumers, but that generally only satisfies a portion of customers, the other portion would have preferred things left as they were. (My personal one is Walther doing away with the ambidextrous triggerguard magazine release on the P99 in favor of a typical magazine release button on the frame. Why did they do that?) read more


When Centuries Collide – an adventure in CO2

When Centuries Collide – an adventure in CO2

By 1915 Texas Ranger’s were mixing .45s

By Dennis Adler

There was a period in the early 1900s when lawmen were carrying the Colt Peacemaker and the .45 ACP Model 1911. This was especially true in Texas where Rangers began carrying the .45 Auto around 1915. And while the “Old West” was fading away by then, throughout Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, and in the Oklahoma oil fields, not that much was different when it came to crime. The semi-auto gave lawmen (and outlaws) another choice in guns, but the Peacemaker was still favored by those on both sides of the law.
When this picture of eight Texas Rangers was taken in 1915, only one of them had switched to carrying a 1911, the man standing second from the left in the top row. (Photo courtesy Former Texas Rangers Assoc.)

In the early 20th century, it was not unusual to see a Texas Ranger packing a .45 Colt and a .45 ACP.This seemingly incongruous pairing of Peacemaker and 1911 was an interesting part of Sam Peckinpah’s groundbreaking 1969 western, The Wild Bunch, which took place in 1913, and had an eclectic mix of Single Action Colts and Model 1911 semi-autos. This same mix was taking place in real life, at the same time, in Texas and throughout what remained of the American West. And these two legendary Colt models were still being carried during WWI, and well into the 1940s. But the period from around 1915, when the 1911 was first coming into the hands of civilians, lawmen, and outlaws alike, the choices of sidearms worn by Texas Rangers covered the entire last three decades of the 19th and first 15 years of the 20th centuries, along with a mix of smaller caliber Colt semi-autos, early S&W double action revolvers, and Winchester slide action shotguns from the 1890s.   read more


Dan Wesson Valor

Dan Wesson Valor

A 1911-style pellet slinger Part 1

By Dennis Adler

The Dan Wesson Valor 1911 is a mixed bag; it looks like it is going to be another fairly accurate-looking M1911 CO2 pistol, but doesn’t quite deliver what you’re expecting. The front and rear sights are early 1911-A1 style, as is the hammer, but the trigger is the DAO design used on other 1911 copies like the Crosman 1911 GI Model, and Crosman 1911 Black (or Silver) tactical models, the latter two using the same style self-contained CO2 pellet magazine. You can consider this a review of those models as well.

One expects several things from a CO2 powered 1911, first is a self contained CO2 BB magazine, the other is fully operational controls, and last, but not least, blowback action. That’s just the basic requirements. This does not apply to the Dan Wesson Valor, because it is not a BB pistol, it is a pellet pistol. This is a non-blowback action air pistol, and unfortunately, has an inert grip safety and a dead hammer. By that I mean it does not cock because the Valor is a DAO, yes, a double action only design with a long-pull trigger blade. Don’t throw up your hands just yet…there’s more. read more


“One Gun, One Carry and Master it” Part 1

“One Gun, One Carry and Master it” Part 1

Lessons from the professionals

By Dennis Adler

Full-size guns vary in dimensions, take the Glock 17 Gen4 at left and the Model 1911 at right, the Glock is a much smaller footprint. All three guns pictured are CO2 models in the holsters used for their centerfire counterparts. The little Sig P365 at the bottom gives you a comparative relationship between a full-size handgun and a Micro-Compact.

“One gun, one carry and master it” is the principle taught by John Bianchi, the master of concealed carry and the world’s most famous holster maker. I wrote John’s Biography in 2009 (John Bianchi – An American Legend) and he taught me his rules for concealed carry, the first of which was to find one gun and master it from holster, to drawing, aiming, shooting and concealment. If your are in law enforcement, as Bianchi was early in his career when he first began designing and making holsters for fellow police officers, this is easier to achieve. For civilians it is a precept that is easier to embrace than actually accomplish, at least it has been for me, because I have made a profession out of testing guns, and aside from a few favorites, have never had one gun long enough to consider mastering it for CCW use. Over the years I have gone from one to another, from DA/SA revolvers to semi-autos, full-size duty guns to subcompacts, and as for reviewing guns, it is hundreds of guns in and out of my hands for more than 20 years. So for me, mastering one gun is still a personal goal because my carry guns have changed a dozen times over the years (one of the benefits and pitfalls of having so many options from testing new models). There’s a handful I am proficient with to the point that I have total confidence in carrying them, but to be totally honest, the older I get the smaller my EDC gun gets. Still, I have never narrowed it down to one gun or even one holster. But I’m getting closer; more about that later.   read more