Model 1911 Variations Part 1

Model 1911 Variations Part 1

The shape of the past, present and future

By Dennis Adler

This is where it all began in 1911 when the Colt .45 ACP was adopted as the official sidearm of the U.S. military. The early John M. Browning design for Colt bore Browning’s Apr 20 1897, Sept 5 1902, December 19 1905, February 11 1911, and Aug 19 1913 patent dates. Guns built through 1924 had the flat mainspring housing and longer trigger. (Military magazines had lanyard loops as well as the base of the grip frame.)

Shared design does not mean shared performance, or shared accuracy. This is true in the world of centerfire pistols and true in the world of blowback action CO2 pistols.

If there is one gun that epitomizes this statement, one handgun that has seen more variations, mechanical upgrades (internally and externally) and a greater variety of uses than any other, from a military side arm to a world class competition pistol, it is the Colt Model 1911. I honestly can’t even say “Colt” Model 1911 anymore because there have been so many 1911 models that have nothing to do with the Colt’s Patent Fire-Arms Mfg. Co., other than a shared design. read more


ASG CZ SP-01 Shadow Blue part 5

ASG CZ SP-01 Shadow Blue Part 5 Part 4 Part 3 Part 2 Part 1

A battle of equals

By Dennis Adler

Railing against the establishment, or at least the number one optics rail competition CO2 pistol, the Tanfoglio Gold Custom, the fully outfitted Shadow Blue looks like a solid contender.

A battle among equals is the best comparison and no two blowback action CO2 pistols are better matched than the CZ75-based Tanfoglio Gold Custom and the fully equipped CZ75 SP-01 Shadow Blue. There is one obvious advantage to the Tanfoglio; it comes this way right out of the box. The disadvantage is that it has to stay this way! The Shadow begins as a traditional blowback action DA/SA semi-auto that embodies almost every desirable feature one could ask for in a CO2 pistol. What it lacks is a windage and elevation adjustable rear sight that would make it an ideal target pistol instead of a straightforward counterpart to a 9mm duty pistol. read more


Revolvers vs. Semi-autos Part 2

Revolvers vs. Semi-autos Part 2 Part 1

The age old debate and 1911 magazine swaps

By Dennis Adler 

There was an overlap between the Peacemaker and the 1911 in the early 20th century, even in the military where the Single Action Colts were still being used, and this combination remained practical for southwest lawmen well into the 1950s. This match up of CO2 models is a factual portrait of a time in the American West when old and new worked hand in hand. (Single Action holster is a copy of Billy the Kid’s handcrafted by Chisholm’s Trail. The military 1911 flap holster is a reproduction of the U.S. Model JT&L 1942 from World War Supply)

It has been said that if you do something right the first time, you never have to do it over. At the turn of the last century there were a lot of armsmakers doing things over, especially for the U.S. military, which was in the rather unique position of having to find a large caliber replacement for the Colt Peacemaker and discovering that nothing was really working. The military began to abandon the .45 Colt Single Action Army in 1889 when the U.S. Navy purchased Colt’s new .38 caliber Model 1889 Navy double action revolver. With a swing out cylinder it was much faster to reload than a Peacemaker. But the 1889 was short-lived. It was replaced within the Colt’s lineup and in the U.S. military by the Models 1892, 1894, 1895, 1896, 1901 and 1903 New Army and Navy Revolvers in calibers ranging from .38 Colt to .41 Long and Short Colt. But none offered the stopping power of a .45 caliber Peacemaker. In 1905 the Marines Corps adopted another Colt revolver chambered in .38 Colt (or .38 S&W) aptly named the Model 1905 Marine Corps Revolver. This one saw only 926 guns produced before it was discontinued. By 1907 most of the earlier double action models were replaced by the Army Special model in either .38 or .41 caliber. read more


Swiss Arms 1911 Tactical

Swiss Arms 1911 Tactical

The totally tricked out rail gun Part 1 Part 2

By Dennis Adler

This is about as close to a realistically-sized, suppressor-equipped Model 1911 as you can get in a blowback action CO2 pistol. The Swiss Arms Tactical Rail System (TRS) pistol closely resembles the .45 ACP Colt Combat Unit Rail Gun in finish and features. The air pistols threaded barrel also makes it possible to equip it with the JBU faux suppressor. The finishing touch is the Tanfoglio extended capacity 27-round magazine which also works with Swiss Arms models.

When it comes to accessorizing a blowback action Model 1911 CO2 pistol, the Swiss Arms TRS (Tactical Rail System) pistol has the two most desirable add-on features, a JBU threaded faux suppressor and a 27-round extended capacity long magazine. In the “looks” department, a 1911 just doesn’t get any better, and there are actual .45 ACP, 9x19mm, .38 Super and 10mm models in existence that have been similarly equipped, so this CO2 model is not an exaggeration.

Think of this as a “kit” gun. You can buy the TRS by itself or as a Blowback Kit from Pyramyd Air, which includes the JBU threaded faux suppressor. The Tanfoglio extended capacity magazine is sold separately. Put them all together and you have one very remarkable looking CO2 pistol.

The Swiss Arms difference

The success of dustcover rail-equipped 1911s has become almost standardized as a model variation for U.S. and foreign manufacturers of the Colt M1911 and M1911A1 platform. The Colt 1911A1 Rail Gun, a 21st century tactical version of the most successful semi-auto pistol in history, was first built by Colt for the Marine Corps in 2013, which led to other manufactures (the Colt patent is long expired) to produce similar rail gun designs. Today both full size Government Models and Compact 1911s are available with accessory rails. In 2016, Colt’s introduced the Combat Unit Rail Gun with a blackened stainless steel receiver and frame. The Swiss Arms 1911 TRS is very similar to this model using anodized black all-metal (alloy) construction. The blowback action pistol has the Colt Combat Unit Rail Gun-style integral dustcover rail and uses correctly sized, self-contained CO2 BB magazines. The extended capacity magazine shown is actually made by Tanfoglio for their 1911 CO2 models, but is completely interchangeable with the Swiss Arms semi-autos. read more


Blowback action felt recoil and what it means to shooting practice Part 2

Blowback action felt recoil and what it means to shooting practice Part 2 Part 1

Just for kicks

By Dennis Adler

For this series on recoil I have chosen eight different blowback action semi-auto models, most with different characteristics, several with true short-recoil operating designs where the back of the barrel lug and slide lock together in battery and disengage with the barrel tilting slightly downward and unlocking from the slide interface when fired. Pictured from top to bottom, Tanfoglio Limited Custom, Umarex S&W M&P40, Umarex Beretta 92A1, ASG CZ-75, Swiss Arms 1911 TRS, Sig Sauer 1911, Sig Sauer P226 X-Five, and Umarex Colt Commander. They all work about the same way, but only one will deliver the most felt recoil for training purposes.

Readers have already raised the question of building CO2 powered blowback action air pistols with increased recoil. While this contradicts the goals of centerfire pistol manufacturers who look for ways to reduce recoil, for CO2 pistols, if you want more authenticity, you need more felt recoil. This is, in part, what will be a result of Sig Sauer’s current venture into building new models that generate higher velocities with self-contained drop free CO2 BB magazines. Higher velocity should mean more recoil from the blowback action (if everything is kept proportionate); action, reaction. read more


Blowback action felt recoil and what it means to shooting practice Part 1

Blowback action felt recoil and what it means to shooting practice Part 1

Or as Sir Isaac Newton put it in 1687,

“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

By Dennis Adler

Four ideal candidates for blowback action CO2 models with just enough felt recoil to give shooters a better sense of the gun firing in addition to slide motion. This small “kick” is less than a .22 target pistol, but enough to give some degree of feedback. Pictured are the Umarex S&W M&P40 (left and moving clockwise), the Tanfoglio Limited Custom, Umarex Beretta 92A1 and ASG CZ-75. All four have similar barrel and slide designs but only the Tanfoglio and M&P40 have barrels and slides that lock and disengage like a cartridge firing pistol.

Newton’s third law of motion is still the best explanation of recoil from a firearm, even though when he postulated his three theories of motion 330 years ago it is unlikely he was thinking about firing a handgun (unless he was familiar with Wheelock pistols), but his theory of action and equal and opposite reaction is perfectly suited to defining recoil in a handgun. Heavy recoil has never been a desirable characteristic, but it comes with the territory. This is, of course, relative to the handgun design and other mitigating circumstances, but Newton’s theory applies in proportion whenever a bullet, BB, or pellet, is fired from a handgun. What are those mitigating circumstances? With handguns it is design. The maximum example would be firing a .500 S&W magnum revolver, the most powerful production revolver in the world (sorry Harry you’ve been replaced), in which the full action of firing the revolver distributes the recoil back through the gun and into the shooter’s body. The weight of the gun itself, barrel length, as well as porting of the barrel to allow gasses to escape upward and reduce muzzle lift, and even grip design are factors to mitigating felt recoil. (Different bullet grain weights, type of gunpowder, and even bullet designs will also have a bearing on recoil). The opposite end of that extreme would be a silenced .22 caliber semi-auto which would exert almost no appreciable recoil. So why are we looking for recoil in a CO2 powered blowback action air pistol? read more


Revolvers vs. Semi-Autos Part 2

Revolvers vs. Semi-Autos Part 2 Part 1 Part 3

Honing your shooting skills the old fashioned way

By Dennis Adler

As far apart as two (original) cartridge-firing handguns could be the CO2 versions of the Colt Peacemaker and Tanfoglio CZ-75 based semi-auto pistols make an interesting match up for shooting accuracy at 21 feet. The Colt has a slight advantage with its longer rifled barrel and firing 4.5mm pellets vs. the semi-auto’s smoothbore barrel and .177 caliber steel BB load.

How can a handgun with fixed sights equal the accuracy of a handgun with adjustable sights? For that matter how can a 145 year-old handgun design like the Colt Peacemaker shoot as accurately as a 21st century version of the Colt 1911 equipped with target sights (or any other semi-auto equally outfitted)? At some point it probably can’t, but at a fighting distance, say out to 25 yards, you would be amazed what a practiced shooter can do with a Single Action Army revolver. There is even a well documented commentary about one of the Old West’s greatest pistoleros, Wild Bill Hickok, by none other than Buffalo Bill Cody. Commenting on his friends abilities with a pistol, Cody said, “Bill was a pretty good shot, but he could not shoot as quick as half a dozen men we all knew in those days, nor as straight, either. But Bill was cool, and the men he went up against were rattled, I guess. Bill would just quietly pull his gun and give it to him…he was never in a hurry about it.”  Hickok’s most famous gunfight took place just after the Civil War in Springfield, Missouri. Embroiled in a quarrel with an ex-Confederate soldier named David Tutt, the two men were at opposite sides of the town square when Tutt drew and fired at Hickok. His first and only shot missed. Hickok rested an 1851 Navy over his left arm and, took careful aim, and shot Tutt dead where he stood nearly 200 feet away! There was much to be said for the simple sights on a Colt revolver. Another famous lawman perhaps said it best. In one of his 1907 Human Life Magazine articles Bat Masterson wrote, “…looking through the sights is a very essential thing to do when shooting at an adversary who is returning your fire.” read more