Model 1911 Variations Part 3

Model 1911 Variations Part 3

The shape of the past, present and future

By Dennis Adler

It comes down to four guns that embody four different styles of 1911. The Umarex Colt licensed Commander was the standard against which other CO2 models were judged for several years due to its superior fit, finish, and accuracy. This has been challenged by guns like the Swiss Arms TRS that has all the features most people wished were on the Commander (though not everyone wants a Rail Gun), the Air Venturi John Wayne is totally retro, which appeals to 1911 purists, while the Sig Sauer is the best possible combination of features, as taken directly from Sig’s own .45 ACP 1911 models. But with this version, you have to be into making a bold statement with the look of a handgun, caliber notwithstanding.

With all four guns using the same self-contained CO2 BB magazine design and similarly based blowback action firing systems, one might expect that all four will have approximately the same average velocity and accuracy with their respective 5-inch smoothbore barrels. Allowing a + or – 5 fps for average velocity between guns, they should all be around 300 to 310 fps. Where I expect to see some difference is in accuracy at 21 feet due to varying internal tolerances, sight and barrel regulation (which too few blowback action CO2 pistols have), and, of course, different triggers. They are all hammer-fired designs but even there, hammer design can have an influence. This will be a proof of the sum total of parts used for each gun. The price spread for all four guns is from a low of $99.95 for the Sig Sauer to $109.99 for the Colt Commander and Swiss Arms TRS, and a high of $119.99 for the John Wayne (the higher price is reflected in the John Wayne name, licensing rights and use of the trademark signature).

Average velocity

To determine average velocity I am using Umarex 12 gr. CO2 cartridges and Umarex Precision .177 caliber steel BBs fired through a ProChrono chronograph at 1 shot every 15 seconds for 10 total shots.

I am going to do this in the order of the gun’s development starting with the Umarex Colt Commander which averaged 307 fps with a high of 312 fps. This is below the current model’s factory maximum of 325 fps, but this test gun is from 2015.

Next up is the Swiss Arms TRS, not quite as new as the Sig Sauer, but from a later generation of manufacturing than the Colt Commander. The TRS sent its 10 rounds downrange at an average velocity of 304 fps with a high of 309 fps, but this gun has slightly more robust recoil than the Commander. Factory specs for the TRS show a maximum velocity of 320 fps.

The Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE is the newest version of the 1911 design and the gun is built to Sig Sauer’s specifications and sold as a Sig Sauer product. First off, the Sig’s magazine has a locking follower, like the other three guns, but it also has a loading port which the others do not, making this an easier magazine to load. With the others you have to pull the follower down and hold it while inserting BBs into the slightly wider channel below the follower catch. Unfortunately, spare Sig brand magazines are harder to find but are sold directly from Sig Sauer’s website.

The average velocity for 10 rounds from the Sig was 334 fps with a high of 340 fps; a significantly higher velocity than the TRS or Commander. What if you put the Sig magazine in the TRS? Average velocity increased to 309 fps; in the Commander 305 fps. Then back into the Sig and clocking 330 fps as air pressure begins to drop off. So the gun itself is very much a part of the Sig’s better performance.

I didn’t forget about the John Wayne. A lot of you will probably not shoot this gun and keep it as a collectible. Like a handful of other commemorative 1911 models over the years, production on this gun will come to an end at some point and it may be worth more unfired and NIB. Since it is an antique finish, odds are you’re not going to mark it up. So let’s see what this Swiss Arms/Tanfoglio based 1911A1 can do, and that number is 304 fps average with a high of 305 fps.

The Umarex Colt Commander remains the gun to beat for trigger pull and accuracy even against the latest competition. It shoots close to POA (in this case a little right, and no it’s not me), but can group 10 shots under an inch.

21 feet downrange

This is going to be a process of elimination putting the Commander up against the John Wayne, and the TRS against the Sig. The winners from each go to the shoot off. All shots are going to be fired on the bullseye with a 6 o’clock hold and no POA corrections.

Comparing the Commander to the John Wayne is as fair a comparison as possible since only the JW has military sights but both the JW and Commander have single thumb safeties. Sight and trigger advantage go to the Colt. For accuracy, the feather-light trigger pull on the Commander is a definite advantage. The gun shot slightly right but groups were tight. At 21 feet, the best 10 rounds from the Commander had a spread of 0.93 inches, the JW a wider spread of 2.15 inches (though right around POA) with the tightest overall group between the two guns of 0.44 inches, all overlapping, shot with the Commander.

The John Wayne 1911A1 is built from the same basic parts as the Commander but with military-style fixed sights and a 1911A1-style solid trigger, it can’t get groups as tight fired off hand. It shoots close to POA but generally a little low. As a retro design it delivers a pretty nice 1911 commemorative for the price.

With the Swiss Arms TRS you have a little more weight to the gun and the same sights as the Commander. Same trigger, too, but with a different level of resistance that makes this gun not quite as light to the touch. The TRS delivered 10 shots downrange into a group measuring 1.74 inches but with tight multiple 2-shot hits allowing a best 5-shot group of 0.68 inches. Not quite as good as the Commander.

Going to the polar opposite, the Swiss Arms TRS is one of the most modern looking CO2 models, with all of the hot button features for 1911 enthusiasts, including an integral MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny accessory rail, front and rear slide serrations, flat mainspring housing with extended beavertail safety, and ambidextrous extended thumb safeties. It just can’t shoot as accurately as the Commander. Again, the TRS hits the target a little low without correcting POA.

You might consider the Sig as a ringer in this competition, since it has the best overall design and highest average velocity. It also has a heavier trigger than the Commander (by almost double), a bit more kick to the CO2-induced recoil, smoother operation and the best sights of the four models. It is all going to come down to trigger pull and build quality between the Umarex and the Sig Sauer. My best 10-shot group measured 1.03 inches with a best 5-shot group (4 of 5 overlapping) at 0.46 inches.

Guilty of shooting low as well, the ultra modern commemorative Sig Sauer WTP is the most authentic to an actual centerfire 1911 of all four. It is accurate but not quite as dead on as the Commander and that is solely because the Umarex Colt has as close to a hair trigger as you dare put even on a semi-auto CO2 pistol.

Obviously, none of the guns shoot to POA, most shoot low, a little left or a little right and if you want to punch shots into the red you have to correct your aim for the idiosyncrasies of each individual, fixed sight pistol. But just shooting where they hit, it ends up a very close match between the Commander and the Sig, but overall the old Colt CO2 model still has the edge because of its lighter trigger. However, if you remember the original premise of this article, this series is about the best “overall” gun, and that has to factor in more than accuracy, it has to include velocity, and authenticity to an actual .45 ACP Model 1911. For weight, design, and an aggregate of velocity and accuracy between the Commander and the Sig, the Sig is the overall best 1911. If Umarex would update the Commander, lose the white arrow and S F on the thumb safety, maybe go with a Cerakote desert tan, minimize the warning and verbiage on the right side, switch to a flat mainspring housing and ambidextrous thumb safeties (all existing components for CO2 models) and retain the lightweight trigger, they would have the winning combination for a 1911A1 and own the category. For now, the Colt 1911 crown remains in Sig Sauer’s hands.

The second most accurate downrange, but most accurate for details, quality fit and finish, and realistic handling, the Sig Sauer is the best “overall” blowback action 1911 model.

3 thoughts on “Model 1911 Variations Part 3

  1. I would have to agree. My We the people doesn’t shoot as tight as the Commander, but recoils and hits harder. My Colt Combat Vet with its cruder military sights shoots as well as the Commander. As usual , with a little effort ,Umarex could update the Commander, put it in a decent box and make the desired upgrades. They have not done done that to the Ppk, P38 , and have offered no further Peacemaker variations , so it is doubtful. Too bad.


    • I asked Tom Gaylord on today’s Pyramyd Air Airgun Blog about the upcoming Diana Mauser K98 PCP. He said he doesn’t know yet when he will have one of those to review, but he did say that he will start the M1 Carbine reports next week.


  2. Since there is an airsoft cartridge Mauser it would be nice to see a co2 steel or lead firing version . A pcp single shot look like a Mauser is as exciting as the old kitPorche cars on aVW beetle frame.


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