Model 1911 Variations Part 3
The shape of the past, present and future
By Dennis Adler
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.