War Dogs – The Colt Model 1911A1

War Dogs – The Colt Model 1911A1 Part 3

Racking and stacking the .177 caliber Remington 1911 RAC and Tanfoglio Witness

By Dennis Adler

The guns of World War II are generally out of date by contemporary standards, and most have become venerated collectables like the M1 and M1A1 carbine, M1 Garand rifle, Winchester Model 1897 trench gun, and Colt Model 1917 revolver, but one gun from WWII is still regarded as a modern weapon, the Colt Model 1911A1. This timeless design is still found in the holsters of elite U.S. military forces, albeit a more militarized 21st century variation, but still at its core a Model 1911.

Recreating the second version c.1924 of the John Browning designed .45 ACP semi-auto in .177 caliber has only been done by one manufacturer, which produces this early style 1911A1 for both the Remington and Tanfoglio branded versions. Were it not for the brand names on the all-metal (alloy) construction frames and slides, you would have a very close copy of the original design 1911A1.

In terms of clean lines and a minimum of “art” the Tanfoglio Witness is a little cleaner gun. The Remington brand name looks good but is on the wrong side of the slide. The side you see most (unless you’re a southpaw), is covered in manufacturer’s info and standard air pistol warnings. The safety also has big white S and F letters and an arrow pointing up and down.

In terms of clean lines and a minimum of “art” the Tanfoglio Witness is a little better looking. The Remington brand name looks good but is on the wrong side of the slide. The side you see most (unless you’re a southpaw), is covered in manufacturer’s info and standard air pistol warnings. The safety also has big white S and F letters and an arrow pointing up and down.

The two CO2 blowback action air pistols are almost identical in every respect, however, how the two brands approach the markings of their respective pistols is different, and here the Tanfoglio has a slight advantage being a little less overly decorated. A lot of people like logos or brand names on their guns, and neither Remington nor Tanfoglio are shy about it on their .177 caliber offerings. The really good news about the two guns coming from the same manufacturer is that their magazines are interchangeable and that means the Tanfoglio’s extended capacity 27-round magazine works in the Remington. It also works in the Umarex Colt 1911A1 Commander model, which makes it into one very cool looking tactical pistol! Point is, these three 1911 models all share the same design, so there isn’t too much differentiation between them except in small details.

When I say these two airguns are identical except for markings, I really mean it. The sights, arched mainspring housing, hammers, grips, and sights are the same. The differences come down to minor points, mostly graphics on slides, and a modest difference in average trigger pull, which is actually within the variances of one gun to another. Both use self contained CO2 BB magazines.

When I say these two airguns are identical except for markings, I really mean it. The sights, arched mainspring housing, hammers, grips, and sights are the same. The differences come down to minor points, mostly graphics on slides, and a modest difference in average trigger pull, which is actually within the variances of one gun to another. Both use self contained CO2 BB magazines.

Steel BB Challenge

I decided since these are old style 1911s, to go old school for the test and wear a World War Supply US M7 shoulder holster (like William Holden wore in The Wild Bunch). Drawing the Remington and Tanfoglio, respectively, from the M7, I followed the procedure from loading a magazine and racking the slide, to releasing the reset safety, acquiring the target, firing until empty, and reloading a fresh magazine. These steps help to reinforce good gun handling habits, even with .177 caliber air pistols.

As a point of interest, both guns weight exactly 32 ounces (w/empty magazine). The trigger pulls on both guns are almost identical, the Tanfoglio averaging 4 pounds, 15 ounces, the Remington an average of 4 pounds, 13 ounces. For a third comparison I tested the skeletonized target trigger on the Umarex Colt Commander, it averages a remarkably light 2 pounds 13.2 ounces. The sights on the Remington and Tanfoglio are identical, a military style u-notch in the rear and a shallow blade front. Also 1:1 are the checkered spur hammers, magazine releases, grips, checkered arched mainspring housings, grip safeties, and design of the original-style small thumb safety. If there is any advantage, it goes to the Tanfoglio for not having telltale letters and arrows on the thumb safety.

One of the other excellent features in the design of both guns is correct 1911 disassembly. Although with far less resistance, the steps are the same as a .45 ACP model; remove the magazine, clear the gun, depress the plunger and rotate the barrel bushing counter clockwise until you can remove it, push the slide back to the slide release lever disassembly notch, pull the slide release lever out, and then draw the slide forward off the frame. You can also remove the guide rod, (which goes inside a housing that also comes out), and the barrel from the slide, although this is neither necessary nor recommended. But the airgun does fully fieldstrip is you are so inclined.

You can fieldstrip the Remington and Tanfoglio for cleaning. The steps are the same as a .45 ACP model, although with far less resistance; remove the magazine, clear the gun, depress the plunger and rotate the barrel bushing counter clockwise until you can remove it, push the slide back to the slide release lever disassembly notch, pull the slide release lever out, and then draw the slide forward off the frame. You can also remove the guide rod, (which goes inside a housing that also comes out), and the barrel from the slide, although this is neither necessary nor recommended. But the airgun does fully fieldstrip if you are so inclined.

As for handling and operation these two .177 caliber 1911A1 models are as close as you get to a real .45 ACP for operation right up to the moment you pull the trigger.

As for handling and operation these two .177 caliber 1911A1 models are as close as you get to a real .45 ACP for operation right up to the moment you pull the trigger.

With a target placed out at 21 feet on the indoor range, the accuracy of the Remington 1911 RAC and Tanfoglio Witness was consistent with the Tanfoglio giving me just slightly better groups. I started a 10 shot run with the 1911 RAC hitting the target at 10 o’clock with eight of 10 shots at 1 inch and then pulled two shots low into the X increasing my spread to 1.74 inches. The Tanfoglio was fired at a larger Birchwood Casey Big Burst target and 10 shots grouped at just under 1 inch and blew out part of the X. I went back for another try on the smaller targets and the Tanfoglio delivered a slightly larger 1.25 inch group. Both guns at 21 feet are capable of offhand groups under 1 inch. Both have average velocities of 320 fps.

When you pull the trigger the Remington and Tanfoglio will deliver tight groups at the 21 foot range. The slides lock back on an empty magazine.

When you pull the trigger on the Remington or Tanfoglio they deliver tight groups at the 21 foot range. The slides lock back on an empty magazine.

On a point by point basis these two have strengths and weaknesses. The Remington, for example, has a far better instruction manual with specifics on handling, cleaning, etc., but it comes in a blister pack that has to be almost destroyed in order to remove the gun and instructions. The Witness comes in nice box with a French fit molded liner for the gun, up to two additional 18-round magazines, and the hex head tool. (If you are wondering how import boxes are, look at all the repro Colt and Remington boxes for sale online.)

My personal choice (if I wanted a 1924-era 1911A1 style pistol) would have to be one of these two models. Overall, both guns are excellent (as well they should be since they are essentially the same), but aesthetics still have some sway when making the final choice. The first airgun maker to clean up their slides (unless it is the proper Colt patent dates, name and Rampant Colt emblem), make it a correct early-style 1911 or 1911A1, with the right hammer, trigger, small thumb safety, military sights, arched or flat mainspring housing, and put it out in a polished nickel finish, will be the biggest winner of all. Until then, it’s the Tanfoglio.

The Airgun Experience will return on January 5 with a surprise! Happy New Year!

A word about safety

Blowback action airguns provide the look, feel and operation of their cartridge-firing counterparts and this is one reason why they have become so popular. Airguns in general all look like guns, blowback action models more so, and 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.

8 thoughts on “War Dogs – The Colt Model 1911A1

  1. Personally I like the Remington betterjust for looks .The Tanfoglio block letter Witness model is just a turn off . Remington on a 1911 just looks better .I got my Remington when it first came out for$20 less than it lists for now,and it came in a fitted box .I am second to none in my hatred of blister packs . Like their firearm brothers these pistols have good triggers and accuracy . They do what needs to be done, and do it well. My interest has been piqued about the January 5 surprise .


    • I could have lived with the Remington if they had put the name on the left side of the slide and all the verbiage on the right like everyone else. The fact that all the wording was on the left was my turnoff and why I picked the Witness. Umarex seems to get by with a lot less verbiage on the right side of he Combat Commander’s slide.


  2. Agree with that . A project in the making would be to take off the offensive safety marking ,and then the superficial warnings on the slide. A start at least .I have seen some done by covering them with repeated touch up blue to hide them . The best would be for the factories to recognize the serious shooters and collectors,and do a WW 2 version from the factory and put them in a period correct box . I have been putting my orphans from blister packs in nice repro boxes. As it should be .


  3. The more you shoot the1911 in either firearm or airgun, you have to ask , what doesn’t the 1911 do well , and what does a more modern handgun do better? For me two handguns that have proven themselves and cemented their legacy for all time are the Colt 1911 and the Colt Single Action Army revolver.


  4. Just got a Pyramid email re John Wayne 1911 Weathered finish, White warning letters all over the right side of slide and of course White safe and fire lettering . Pass . Two Colt 191/s are needed . One a regular production Combat Vet with no safety lettering , a standard version in blue with all Colt markings and and no warnings or safety lettering .Basically a pre war commercial version.


  5. It seems that I need some help here.
    My Swiss Arms 1911 (twin brother to the Tanfoglio I believe) started double feeding after some use. It happens with both magazines used alternatively. And with different types of BBs.
    Any thoughts?


    • Bill, I have not experienced that problem with any of the semi-autos. There could be some wear at the front of the magazine that retains the BB for feeding but it seems unlikely it could happen to both of your magazines at the same time. I might suggest you go online at Pyramyd Air’s website and look for the live chat, perhaps one of the techs can get you steered in the right direction for advice. Anyone else ever experience this problem?


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