Umarex Colt Special Combat Classic Part 2

Umarex Colt Special Combat Classic Part 2 Part 1

Choosing performance over authenticity

Shop Benjamin Rifles

By Dennis Adler

If looks alone can sell a CO2 BB gun, the Umarex Special Combat sells itself. It is, unfortunately, a non-blowback 1911 semi-auto (not a terrible thing really), but also uses an older-type CO2 BB magazine with an exposed seating screw. The magazine’s capacity is 19 shots and is very easy to load with a locking follower and good sized loading port. The gun’s star attractions are an LPA-type fully adjustable rear sight and use of a DA/SA trigger design. With the hammer manually cocked for each shot, the gun is capable of consistent accuracy with an average trigger pull of 3 pounds, 11.5 ounces. Fired double action, trigger pull averages a moderate 8 pounds, 8 ounces.

The Umarex Colt Special Combat Classic, with its unusual DA/SA trigger design, actually has some basis in Colt history, although not as an actual production gun, but rather one originally developed back in the 1960s and later used for the U.S. military trials in the 1970s and early 1980s (the Joint Service Small Arms Program or JSSAP), when a replacement for the Model 1911A1 was being considered. It was called the Colt SSP, a 1911-style 9mm pistol intended to update the John M. Browning design. It was more of a hybrid combining design elements of the 1911, Browning Hi-Power and Sig P210, to create a 1911-style semi-auto with a higher capacity and double action/single action trigger system; essentially what Beretta had with the  Model 92FS, which was eventually chosen to replace the M1911 in 1985. Unlike today when almost every unsuccessful military trial gun becomes a new, high-tech civilian model, back in 1985 when the Colt SSP failed to win the military contract, the design was shelved and never put into production. In that respect, the Special Combat Classic offers a small part of that design with its DA/SA trigger. But even as a CO2 model, the idea is not fully executed.

Although Colt never made a DA/SA 1911 model available to the public, it did develop a 9mm prototype over 50 years ago which was later updated to compete against Beretta, Sig Sauer and other manufacturers to replace the 1911 as the standard issue U.S. military sidearm. The Beretta 92FS won, and the Colt DA/SA model, known as the SSP (Stainless Steel Pistol), faded into history.

The gun is a DA/SA only in the academic sense; it has an external hammer that can be cocked to fire the gun single action (or when cycling the slide after loading the magazine), but since it is a non-blowback action pistol, there is no slide to re-cock the hammer after the first shot is fired, thus the gun is functionally a DAO unless you manually cock the hammer for each shot.

Umarex has several major competitors for the 1911 airgun market, but manages to create its own very effective competitor with the Special Combat Classic (top), a better looking and slightly more accurate take on its well established Colt licensed Commander. The advantage goes to the Special Combat for appearances, but the Commander has an edge with its blowback action. And despite having fixed white dot sights is almost as accurate (within 0.25 inches at 21 feet) as the Special Combat’s adjustable LPA-type rear sight.

Facts on the ground

The Special Combat Classic has a look that no other Colt licensed 1911 can boast; this is a visually dazzling 1911 copy and though it does not have ambidextrous safeties, it does have the accessory rail, excellent adjustable target sights, and a very good trigger. All pluses to offset its two big deficiencies, its non-blowback action slide and CO2 BB magazine with exposed seating screw. What make the good outweigh the bad are the trigger, sights, higher velocity, and accuracy. These are features you want in a CO2-powered .177 caliber air pistol. If these compromises are viewed in light of other designs, they become less important if the Colt Special Combat Classic can deliver on the features that count most, beginning with ease of loading.

The self-contained CO2 BB magazine has a follower that locks in place for loading and a decent sized loading port that works well with speed loaders. The CO2 loads quickly, albeit with that annoying exposed seating screw (a simple rubber extended base pad that could slide over the screw handle would make that visual quickly vanish), and the drop free magazine design works well with the chromed release button. This pistol is a smooth operator.

One issue some have with the Commander is the S-arrow-F thumb safety intended to make it clear which way is up. The Special Combat’s thumb safety does not bear this burden. The non-blowback model also has an integrated accessory rail. Aside from sights and safeties, and blowback action vs. non-blowback, the Special Combat’s hat trick is a DA/SA trigger.

The LPA-type rear sight allows for minor elevation corrections and click stop windage adjustments, making it possible to fine tune the sights for individual users. The white dot front is large enough to be easily acquired indoors or out and aligns in the rear notch with target pistol speed.

Last is the DA/SA trigger design. Similar to the Para LDA 1911 trigger and larger in size than the experimental trigger Colt used decades ago on the SSP prototypes, it has a wide shoe and a deep crescent shape that is easy to engage. Since it functions as a DAO (unless you manually cock the hammer) DA trigger pull is critical. The trigger also has to cock the hammer for each shot, so there is fairly firm resistance as it comes back with 0.94 inches of travel. There is zero over travel and even but firm stacking all the way through. Double Action trigger pull on the test gun averaged 8 pounds, 8 ounces (with a low of 8 pounds 2 ounces), which is heavy but not excessive. If you want to take slow fire aimed shots and thumb cock the hammer after each round, (a fairly easy move with the support hand thumb), the trigger stages 0.56 inches back, leaving just 0.38 inches to release, and a pull of only 3 pounds, 11.5 ounces average. That puts it very close to the SA trigger pull on the Umarex Colt Commander. But again, this is a non-blowback design so you have to manually cock the hammer to achieve that short, smooth trigger pull. If you are looking for accuracy, this is the way to go with the Special Compact Classic.

The Special Combat Classic fits all Colt 1911 Rail Gun holsters and draws smoothly from this Galco thumb break safety belt model.

Initial downrange tests

For the velocity test I selected Umarex .177 steel BBs. With a factory rating of 412 fps, the Umarex steel rounds cleared the ProChrono traps at an average of 405 fps with a high of 416 fps, a low of 402 fps and a standard deviation of 12 fps for 10 consecutive shots. The range test was done indoors at 21 feet using a Weaver stance and two-handed hold, and all shots were fired single action (manually cocking the hammer). A second test was shot firing double action, and a third head-to-head test was done against the blowback action Umarex Colt Commander.

The wide rear notch LPA-type adjustable rear sight quickly aligns with the white dot front to get this gun on target.

At the standard 21 foot range the Umarex Special Combat Classic delivered 10 shots at 1.25 inches, with a best 5-shots measuring 0.5 inches. The gun was hitting a little low and right, and after making a slight adjustment to the rear sight, all shots were in the 10 and X ring. I did shoot a little wider on the second target with 10 rounds spread across 1.5 inches, but again a best 5 rounds at 0.5 inches. My double action test put 10 shots at 1.9 inches, and 5 rounds 1.0 inches.

With the hammer manually cocked for each shot I managed a best 10 rounds from 21 feet measuring 1.25 inches. Being a non-blowback action design, when fired DAO you never lose your sight picture since the slide remains stationary. My best 10 rounds fired double action measured 1.25 inches. (photos by Sydnee Yazzie)
My single action target from 21 feet delivered a best 5 shots at 0.5 inches.
After making a slight adjustment to the rear sights I was able to put 10 shots in the 10 and X with another best 5 measuring 0.5 inches.

The Umarex Colt Commander clocked an average velocity of 302 fps and delivered a best 10 rounds at 1.44 inches with a best 5 shots measuring 0.74 inches. The non-blowback Umarex fired single action cleanly out shot the Commander by 0.24 inches. Both are accurate BB-firing pistols at 21 feet. The tradeoff is a hair better accuracy with the adjustable rear sight and much higher velocity with the non-blowback action, vs. the Commander’s blowback action, non-adjustable white dot sights, and not nearly as attractive finish. In a perfect world I would take the slide, grips, hammer, and thumb safety from the Special Combat and put them on the Commander frame to have a blowback action pistol with a correctly styled CO2 BB magazine. Unfortunately, even if you buy both guns and try and make one perfect gun, none of the parts or operating features are compatible. Only Umarex can make the perfect 1911 CO2 model out of these two guns. Until then you certainly can’t go wrong by owning both the Commander and Special Combat Classic; two very different approaches to the same end, accuracy.

The Umarex Colt Commander sends .177 caliber steel BBs downrange at about 100 fps slower than the non-blowback action Special Combat Classic, and despite having fixed white dot sights, it has a smoother trigger pull and can deliver almost the same accuracy at 21 feet. If you could put these two in a blender and mix them together, you would have one heck of a blowback action CO2 1911 target pistol. Current option; buy both.

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.

6 thoughts on “Umarex Colt Special Combat Classic Part 2”

  1. Dialing in the sights is s big plus , and one that did not add significantly to cost. Too badColt did not put the SSP pistol into civilian production , they would have fared better than they did with the Double Eagle that was more of a Turkey. If nothing else the Special Combat should pave the way for a Combat Government and GoldCup. Nice shooting

    • Well they have the various parts, up to Umarex to put the right combination together and make a Gold Cup or National Match CO2 model. Seems to be of interest and there is a market for it, at least from those who read this column.

  2. very nice groups for both pistols at 21 feet. I wonder why you choose to shoot BB pistols at 21 ft. rather then usual 15 ft. that a lot of reviewer use ? For the 1911 collector it certainly has it’s place with it’s higher velocity then the Commander.

    • Harvey, I shoot BB pistols (revolvers and semi-autos with blowback actions) at 21 feet because the guns are capable of decent accuracy at that distance. I also use 21 feet since it is one of the tactical training distances used for law enforcement, 7, 15, and 25 yards, which is 21, 45, and 75 feet. Also for testing short barrel subcompact pistols and snub nose cartridge revolvers, the optimum distance is 21 feet. What’s good for a small to medium caliber pistol is good for a .177 caliber airgun. Training with semi-auto air pistols and revolvers at 21 feet is also good practice for stepping up to centerfire and rimfire pistols. In my opinion, shooting CO2 BB guns at 15 feet is reserved for under-powered models like the Umarex Walther PPK/S and a handful of others with velocities below 300 fps and short, smoothbore barrels. Most blowback action pistols meet or exceed 300 fps. Part of the Airgun Experience articles is about proper handgun training, and 21 feet is well within the capability of most CO2 semi-autos and revolvers.

      • OK Dennis, I was not aware of the actual distances required for law enforcement training. For the most part, your 21 ft. groups look as good as the other guys 15 ft groups . Again great shooting.

        • It is repetition with the same type of guns, and this is true with cartridge-firing pistols. If you shoot a lot you get better, that is why training is so important and airguns help keep skills sharp, even though the elements of noise and recoil are absent. Even if you never shoot a cartridge-firing handgun, the skills you learn with air pistols still apply. The 21 foot distance is just a good medium range for practicing with CO2 BB pistols, while with pellet-firing guns the distance increases to 10 meters (the Olympic competition distance for air pistols) because the guns are capable of higher velocity and greater accuracy with rifled barrels It is all a learning experience Harvey, so indulge yourself and enjoy!

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