Going Tactical with your Umarex Colt Commander

Going Tactical with your Umarex Colt Commander

The Recover upgrade for Government Model 1911s can work with CO2 Models

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By Dennis Adler

This is exactly what it looks like, an Umarex Colt Commander Rail Gun with a tactical light and 27-round extended capacity magazine. And here is the best part, you can make it yourself! Read on.

Everyone who owns (or buys) an Umarex Colt Commander loves the gun. It is ruggedly built, easy to handle, and authentic in virtually every operating detail. It has white dot combat sights, a pretty snappy blowback action, and it is more accurate than the majority of fixed sight blowback action 1911 CO2 models. But there is one often heard complaint, that there is no Rail Gun version. Well, with a little time and effort, you can make your Umarex Colt Commander into a Rail Gun yourself!

Recover Tactical manufacturers a grip replacement for Colt and other Government sized 1911 models that adds textured side panels, a wraparound finger grooved frontstrap, extended combat triggerguard, and a full length MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny accessory rail. With a little bit of work it can be adapted to fit the Umarex Colt Commander.

If it fits, it works

Every once in awhile an accessory designed for centerfire handguns also ends up working on comparable CO2 models, if the airgun is close enough to its cartridge firing counterpart, and the Umarex Colt Commander is. This accessory is a very elaborate pair of replacement grips called Recover (manufactured by Recover Tactical), and not only do they replace the standard grips on any Government Model 1911 they add an extended triggerguard and a MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny rail! If you have $39.95 for a Recover Tactical Grip & Rail System and a Dremel in your tool box, what you are looking at could be your Colt Commander Rail Gun. And this brings me to the second biggest complaint about the Umarex Colt Commander (and all 1911 models with self-contained CO2 BB magazines); original 1911 grips won’t fit. So how can the Recover grips fit? They don’t, at least not at the beginning. Real 1911 grips are flat on the inside whether they are manufactured from wood, hard rubber, G10 or any other material, such as ivory, mother of pearl, bone, stag, etc., but the Recover grips, like the grips on the Umarex Colt Commander, are injection molded (the Recover’s are glass reinforced polymer) and have a concave interior. It’s just not concave enough, and that’s where the Dremel comes in.

The inside of the Recover grip is molded for strength and assured fit to any standard Model 1911 semi-auto. The key feature though, is that it is hollow enough to also fit the Umarex Colt Commander by grinding down a few surfaces to get enough clearance for the CO2 channel. The Recover is comprised of two halves that mount to the gun using the grip screws, and two additional threaded screws and hex head nuts to tie the triggerguard and rail halves together.
The battle of the bulge is the curved portion of the airgun’s magazine well needed to allow the CO2 to fit inside. A centerfire Model 1911 has a completely flat magazine and grip frame. It is this curve that prevents replacement or original Model 1911 grips from fitting the CO2 models.

If you remove the grips from a .45 ACP Model 1911, you will see that the grip frame is flat. If the CO2 models had flat grip frames all 1911 grips would fit, but as you see after removing the grips from a CO2 model the grip frame has a bulge necessary to accommodate the curvature of the CO2 cartridge in the magazine; that’s how they’re able to get a 12 gram cylinder into a correctly-sized 1911 grip frame.

The magazine is the right width but the CO2 cartridge isn’t so it extends out on both sides. The bulge in the base of the grip frame is to allow the edges of the cartridge to fit. This in turn requires the grips to have a corresponding curve on the inside.

The down side, of course, is that you need hollow grips. The injection molded Recurve grips are most of the way there. By most of the way I mean there is some material that will have to be ground off the inside so that the grips can fit snugly around the frame. This requires grinding down the outer edges inside of the Recover grips (as shown in finished stages) until you have removed enough material to allow them to wrap around the frontstrap forming a very nice finger groove grip. This is another advantage of fitting the Recover Grip & Rail System to the Umarex. Removing the polymer surfaces inside the grips is not hard work with a Dremel and a grinding attachment. But you have to remove material slowly and in specific places only. Care should be taken to use the slower speeds on the Dremel to avoid friction and heat, and also to leave a fairly smooth, even surface. The polymer loses its shine when you cut into it, but since you are working only on the inside surfaces of the grips, it isn’t anything you are going to see once they are attached to the pistol.

The arrows indicate areas that have to be ground down to create a deep enough recess to fit over the airgun grip frame. The left side is shown before modifications and right side after beginning to remove some of the internal surfaces. Key areas are the front edge, which requires the most work, the rear edge of the framework and X frame, which needs to be ground down flush with the rest of the grip surfaces. You need to work slowly, measure, fit, and rework until the grip sets flush with the airgun’s grip frame. Grinding away material on the inside of the Recover grips will make them unsuitable for reuse on a cartridge firing 1911 for several reasons, obviously proper fit, and secondly structural integrity of the injection molded pieces. They are designed to take the recoil of a .45 ACP round, but once you change the internal structure I wouldn’t recommend it. Since the recoil of a CO2 model is astronomically lower than a .45 ACP, the grinding away of surface area is irrelevant to their structure when used with a CO2 pistol. With a cost of around $40, it is not a big investment for an excellent airgun like the Umarex Colt Commander.
With the left grip properly fitted and sitting flush with the Umarex Colt Commander’s grip frame and triggerguard, the right side panel shows the final amount of modifications and the curvature added at the bottom center to allow the grip to fit over the CO2 channel. Other minor adjustments included using the Dremel sanding tool to take a little material off the top of the grip and edges of the triggerguard. This was a very minor adjustment to get a clean fit to the airgun’s frame.

It took me about two and a half hours going slowly and fitting and refitting on the Umarex grip frame until I took off just enough of the inside surface to get a good wrap around the frontstrap. This also requires the careful removal of some surface area at the bottom center of the grips to create an indent to fit over the bulge in the CO2 BB magazine. That is the final step, and once everything has been carefully ground down to the correct depth, the Recover Tactical Grip & Rail will fit over the Umarex grip frame (or other 1911 CO2 models using a self-contained CO2 BB magazine) and screw down using the original grip screws. The Recover also has two of its own screws to securely join the two halves at the base of the triggerguard and front of the rail, making it a secure fit from grips to muzzle. Just add a tactical light and laser combo and you are ready to dial in your Umarex Colt Commander Rail Gun.

Back together and equipped with the Crimson Trace Rail Master Pro combination light and green laser and a 27-round Tanfoglio/Swiss Arms extended capacity magazine, the Umarex Colt Commander has gone tactical.

Testing at 21 feet

For the final evaluation I used a Crimson Trace Rail Master Pro green laser and tactical light combination that I have for testing 1911 (and other) Rail Guns. It is a universal fit for just about any standard length Picatinny rail on a full size or compact semi-auto or tactical revolver. Adjusting it to POA with steel BBs flying at 300 fps downrange for 21 feet was quite a change from the last .45 Auto it was used on! But once dialed in for windage and elevation, I managed to punch 10 rounds into a total spread of 0.95 inches and seven of the 10 into a hole measuring 0.5 inches.

Never mind the white dot sights, all of the tests were shot using the tactical light and green laser only.
A dialed in laser will help the Umarex Colt Commander center punch your targets. I pulled three to the right, but put seven of 10 .177 caliber steel BBs into 0.50 inches in the red bullseye. Any laser will work on the Recover rail, many costing far less than the Rail Master Pro and available from Pyramyd Air.

For those of you who want to try a laser on a 1911 without purchasing a dedicated Rail Gun model this is absolutely the least costly and most direct route. There are also folks who prefer a standard Government Model look over a Rail Gun, but want to have their cake and eat it too. Dessert has been served.

A Word About Safety

Colt 1911 CO2 models provide the look, feel and basic operation of their cartridge-firing counterparts. All airguns, in general, look like guns, but those based on real cartridge-firing models like the 1911 even more so. It is important to remember that the vast majority of people can’t tell an airgun from a cartridge gun. Never brandish an airgun in public. Always, and I can never stress this enough, always treat an airgun as you would a cartridge gun. The same manual of operation and safety should always apply.

11 thoughts on “Going Tactical with your Umarex Colt Commander”

  1. Interesting approach . How much wider are the new grips? For those lesshandy might be worthwhile for Pyramid to have the fitting done and offer them with a laser as a package. Next up ambi safety. After all is said and done an accurate pistol got better

    • Sorry everyone, there were several typos in the first published draft this morning that have been corrected, nothing technical, just typos. As for the Recover grips, they are the same width as the 1911 grips, but they do add about 1/16th of an inch to the frontstrap with the finger grooves. So a little better fit for average sized and larger hands. The Recover is a means to an end for those who want the occasional benefits of a Picatinny rail but otherwise prefer a stock 1911 Government Model frame.

  2. This may be a tired subject. Please set me straight. www. Leland gas. com makes a 12 gram nitrogen filled capsule for air pistols. Aside from the cost and reduced number of shots, they say temp. is not an issue. Thus allowing multiple shots. Have you tried these?

    • I know of them but have no personal experience with their use. I’m not sure if they are practical for everyday shooting in an air pistol because of the amount of shots you will get per cylinder with nitogen compared to CO2. If you live in a climate with harsh winters (as I do) they may be worth trying for outdoor shooting in temperatures below the minimum for CO2. I will check them out and write about it this winter. Leland also makes higher pressure 12 gram CO2 cylinders that are up to government (military) specs. These would be interesting to compare to regular 12 gram CO2 cylinders.

  3. Would that translate to higher velocity per shot? As an aside , just received nickel Gletcher Nagant pellet revolver today . Will shoot it for accuracy this week . Glad you convinced me to take another look. May rate a place of honor next to my WEBLEY . Very compact revolver. It actually fits into a WW2 replica S&W pilot’s shoulder holster.

    • It is a handsome air pistol and as you will find out a very accurate one with the rear loading pellet cartridges. The small grips size also adds credence your many comments in the past about building accurate copies of famous S&W revolvers like the Model 1917. Maybe the grips frames are not too small after all.

      • Don’t want to stray off topic , but looks like the technology to make exact replica revolvers is here . The Nagant is a near perfect fit for S&W Kframe holsters . Looks like it is possible to replicate medium and large frame classic revolvers. Make it so!

    • That is a long standing request to Umarex and others. There is actually a 93R made as an Airsoft model. So, the tooling exists! Blowback action CO2 enthusiasts need to make this a request large enough to encourage manufacturers. This one is almost too easy. Swiss Arms could and should step up. The correct selective fire mechanism used in the now unavailable Gletcher BRT 92FS is identical to the design used by Swiss Arms for their P92 copy. The automatic firing detent is even there in the thumb safety. All the gun needs is a muzzle break, longer magazine and the folding foregrip. Anyone?

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