Swiss Arms 1911A1 Part 3

Swiss Arms 1911A1 Part 3 Part 2 Part 1

From John Moses Browning’s first design to the original

Model 1911 the future was already written

By Dennis Adler

I rarely go off on a rant about fit and finish, but I am at a loss for any reason companies like Swiss Arms, Tanfoglio, and other major manufacturers can’t see the logic (or the consumer demand) for a nickel plated 1911A1 model. They have the features right and the finish wrong. We all know you can’t get a consistent gun blue finish on an alloy (aluminum) pistol, but you can get an excellent nickel finish. The WWII era 1911A1 at right has a factory nickel finish. Look how much better this is than the modern Cerakote-like finish on the Swiss Arms model. 

Authenticity is something that so many airgun enthusiasts demand, that I am often amazed by how few manufacturers acknowledge this segment of the airgun marketplace. Granted most CO2 air pistols are in the $100 to $200 price range, with some very nice examples hovering at around $80 (retail or discounted), so it is understandable from a marketing perspective that some corners are going to be cut. Just when you begin to accept that reality, someone comes along and proves that “it just ain’t so” with a model like the nickel plated Umarex Colt Peacemakers. Why nickel? Because an authentically blued model just isn’t a practical option, you can’t really blue an alloy pistol to look the same as bluing on steel. You can come close but not perfect. This gives us antiqued finishes (weathered) as an option and that has worked well on many pistols, Peacemakers, the Broomhandle Mauser, and others, some as special limited editions, but the obvious option manufacturers could pursue with many blowback action CO2 models that just don’t look right with a modern matte finish, like the Swiss Arms 1911A1, is to forego modern finishes on CO2 versions of guns that were originally built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and simply put them out with nickel finishes. Even Colt’s offered nickel finishes on semi-autos as far back as the early 1900s (1908 for hammerless .25 ACP, .32 and .380 ACP models and 1935 for the Model 1911A1). So this begs the question, why can’t Swiss Arms and Tanfoglio 1911A1 models (pretty much the same guns with different brand name licensing) turn out a nickel plated version that would look like a proper period pistol, even if they still had their brand names and Warning information on the slide? It is understandable that only Umarex can use the Colt name, but let us not forget that during WWI and WWII the 1911/1911A1 was also manufactured by other companies like Remington-UMC, Ithaca, Remington Rand, US&S Co., Springfield Armory and even the Singer Sewing Machine Co. It is the design and finish that matter not the name on the slide. Swiss Arms and Tanfoglio could and should offer the 1911A1 style CO2 model with a nickel finish.

Swiss Arms builds a near 100 percent accurate blowback action CO2 version of the early c.1924 Colt Model 1911A1 Government Model. It fits original and reproduction military holsters from early 1917 style 1911 holsters to the WWII era Tanker shoulder holster to the Vietnam-era Bianchi M-66 ambidextrous 1911 holster.

Meanwhile back at the ranch…

Build a Custom Airgun

Now that I have that off my chest and have probably assuaged the angst some of you share with me, let’s put the Swiss Arms 1911A1 through its paces and see what this model, finish notwithstanding has to offer.

As a blowback action CO2 pistol with a self-contained CO2 BB magazine, the Swiss Arms hits all the high points. The size, features, and handling are spot on for the early 1911A1 pistol. This is a CO2 model with great potential for use as a basic 1911 training pistol that fits the mold of the vast majority of actual 1911s built over the past 107 years. For the later Series 70 and Series 80, Rail Gun and 1911 competition model designs there are several fine examples including the Swiss Arms TRS and MRP models, but for a gun that falls into the classic mid 20th century military arms category, this one (and the Tanfoglio counterpart) are high on the list.

Before John Bianchi and Bianchi International designed the UM-84 military holster used today for the Beretta 92F in 1985, during the Vietnam era, Bianchi developed a military holster for the Model 1911 that used a snap-on pivoting flap and belt loops on both sides so it could be easily reversed for left-handed users. Bianchi is left handed and understood the issues soldiers had with dedicated right handed holsters for sidearms. The Bianchi M-66 Military Holster was sold directly to the military on an individual and joint basis though it was never officially adopted. The snap on pivoting flap could also be removed to make the holster into a contour fit open top design. The Swiss Arms 1911A1 is a glove tight fit.

Holster options  

Building an “authentic” reproduction of an actual handgun means that it should (absolutely) fit all existing holsters for its centerfire counterpart at any point in the gun’s production history, and for the 1911A1 that’s a span of 94 years!

Like any good copy of an original design it should have the exact same dimensions, and the Swiss Arms 1911A1 scores 100 points. It fits any 1911 holster including some very famous designs like this early Galco shoulder rig. The CO2 BB magazines also fit the off side double mag pouch. This makes the Swiss Arms an ideal training gun for practicing reloads starting with improving speed and dexterity withdrawing a full magazine from the pouch.
A contour fit holster like this Galco Combat Master will not work with a CO2 pistol that does not have precise dimensions. The Galco fits the Swiss Arms like a glove.

The obvious choices are original and reproduction U.S. military holsters that were used during the service life of the gun. This includes U.S. military holsters dating from 1917 (or the Pershing era) all the way up to the Vietnam War era. The 1911 also had a major resurgence in popularity with civilians from the late 1960s on, and the variety of contemporary holsters for this pistol number in the hundreds, including belt holsters like the famous John Bianchi Speed Scabbard, the classic Galco 1911 shoulder holster, Yaqui belt slide holster, and numerous thumb break belt holsters, and paddle holsters, as well as IWB (inside the waistband) holsters, and SOB (small of the back) belt holsters. The Swiss Arms CO2 model fits them all!

One of the greatest open top 1911 holsters for concealed carry was designed in the 1960s by John Bianchi. He still makes the classic Bianchi Speed Scabbard to this day. This 50-year-old design is still one of the most compact and easy to wear full-sized 1911 rigs there is.

Aiming and accuracy at 21 feet

I can recall the first time I fired a .45 ACP Model 1911 (that was 50 years ago…some things you never forget). I was 25 yards from the target, which was a regulation military size target, and I missed it, not the bullseye, I missed the entire target. I had shot a few pistols prior to my first time with a 1911, and I had never missed the target entirely but I was used to sights I could actually see (target pistols) and smaller calibers. The 1911A1 was a learning experience that took time and a lot of ammunition. The sights on the Swiss Arms 1911A1 are just a fraction larger than those on a standard 1911A1 Government Model, and you can experience the same level of difficulty. The upshot is there is almost no perceptible recoil just the slide slamming back to re-cock the hammer and then closing. There is just enough “sensation” to know you have shot a pistol that comes close to a .22 rimfire in feel and operation. It is a very good training aid and the Swiss Arms model is an all purpose understudy for learning your way around loading, handling, aiming and firing a Government Model 1911A1.

Not exactly a Novak combat sight…the early 1911 models had simple military sights with a blade front and a fixed notch rear dovetailed into the top of the slide. Learning to hold a good sight picture with these rudimentary sights will make you a better shot!

Swiss Arms claims a maximum velocity with .177 caliber steel BBs of 320 fps. Using Umarex steel BBs the Swiss Arms 1911A1 model clocked an average of 302 fps. If you recall earlier tests of the Swiss Arms 1911 Rail Guns, you know that Swiss Arms models are more accurate than most blowback action CO2 models. With the TRS Rail Gun I had a best 10 rounds measuring 1.48 inches in the 10 ring with a best five shots at 0.25 inches. That sets a pretty high mark for the 1911A1 to equal with its stingy Government Model sights up against modern Novak-style white dot combat sights on the Rail Guns.

The Swiss Arms 1911 models are all accurate CO2 BB pistols capable of 1-inch groups at the optimum range of 21 feet (7 yards). The fixed sights on the 1911A1 were just about POA with a 6 o’clock hold at that range. My best 5-shot group measured .625 inches (lower circle)

Starting with a sighting target POA was a traditional 6 o’clock hold under the red bullseye. Using a two-handed hold from 21 feet, my best 10-shot group had a spread of 1.25 inches with three X bulls and a best 5-rounds grouped at 0.625 inches. Switching to a Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C target, which with the small, shallow sights on the Swiss Arms 1911A1 becomes a Hard-2-C target, I managed a best 10-shot spread of 1.56 inches with seven inside the 10 ring and three dropping low and right in the 9 ring. The best 5-shot group measured 0.875 inches.

Shooting against a white target like my sighting targets is a lot easier with a gun like the Swiss Arms. Using a Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C target it is harder to get a good sight picture because you are looking at black sights against a black background. I shot just a little low and then began to drop right before I finished my 10 rounds. I only load 10 for target practice, although the Swiss Arms magazine will hold a total of 18 BBs. The magazines have a locking follower that has to be pulled down slightly to drop in BBs through a deep rectangular cut in the channel. It is one of the easiest CO2 BB magazines to load.


Swiss Arms makes a top notch 1911 line including the back to basics 1911 which, even with Government Model style sights, can still pack the shots in tight. There were no failures to function, no feeding problems, and the gun handles with the balance of a centerfire 1911. If you want an early style 1911A1 the Swiss Arms delivers the handling and accuracy you expect from a quality blowback action CO2 pistol. This one is another Swiss Arms keeper.

2 thoughts on “Swiss Arms 1911A1 Part 3”

  1. Aside from the finishes, it would be nice if there was a wood grip option like the Beretta 92FS and Walther CP88 models. Having a nickel finish, wood grip Government 1911A1 would make a very desirable piece.

  2. Will echo the disappointment of the nickeless 1911 option . Seems like a no brainer. Instead of blue I would like to see the finish used on theDan Wesson 715 used on a 1911 and aPeacemaker . Looks like black chrome. Once more we see that at 21 feet and beyond , a smoothbore bb airgun can be extremely accurate. I have gotten similar accuracy with 1911s and the P08 .

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