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Education / Training The 1911A1 Colt National Match – Part 7

The 1911A1 Colt National Match – Part 7

by B.B.Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6


I acquired this old Colt National Match .45, which I set up for factory loads for my wife. She likes the grip and heavier trigger, and she wants to use it for defense. Unfortunately, it hasn’t proven to be reliable yet.

Shadow Express Dude has been after me to make good on my promise to report on the Colt National Match pistol I acquired recently, so today I thought I would fulfill that obligation. I also linked to the earlier reports on the PT1911 to maintain some continuity with this report.

Ever since discovering that I liked the 1911-type pistols very much, I have admired the National Match guns made from Colt parts. The first guns were assembled (gunsmithed, really), by Army armorers before World War II. They were for Army marksmanship programs, including the National Matches.

In time, the Army contracted for special parts to be supplied to the armorers, and these were known as National Match parts. After that, a gun could either be a made-up special project gun that contained National Match parts or it could be an actual Army-made National Match pistol.

Colt also produced a National Match model frrom 1933 to 1941. This is a rare model that today commands quite a high price.

The gun I’m reviewing for you was made in 1957. Colt called the model a National Match Gold Cup but didn’t add Gold Cup to the slide until 1970. I had an opportunity to shoot a Gold Cup-marked pistol a few years ago, and it impressed me. That Gold Cup was as smooth and probably just as accurate as my Wilson Combat CQB, so I figured the earlier Colt National Match would be even nicer, because I thought they paid more attention to the fitting of the action in earlier times.

Well, guess again! The Colt National Match I have is not as nice as a standard 1911 pistol made today and nowhere near as nice as the Wilson. Finding that out was an eye-opener to me. I will describe the gun to you and let you decide.

The finish on the metal is as flawless as gun finishes ever get. Because Colt used very light stampings for all logos and words on the slide, you can spot a refinish instantly. An original finish is stunning when you see it in person. Although the color is not as dark as that found on a Colt Python, it is so even that in some light it’s impossible to distinguish whether it is dark blue or silver.

The gun has an adjustable rear sight and a ramp front that is inappropriate for a target pistol. The front sight should be an undercut Patridge to eliminate any reflections, and that’s what all the references say it has, but the gun I have has a sporting ramp with tacky orange paint!


This is certainly NOT a target front sight!


This undercut Patridge front sight is what should be on a target pistol.


Whoever decided on this rear sight for the Colt was not a bullseye shooter.

The action is rough in comparison to my Wilson and even compared to my budget Taurus PT 1911. It is as if gunsmiths in 1957 didn’t know how to properly fit a 1911. When you rack the slide, you can feel the roughness, while the Wilson is glass-smooth and even the Taurus is noticeably better than that Colt. I was really surprised–especially after reading the glowing reports of “carefully hand-fitted parts.” Don’t believe it! Those handmade examples from Army armorers might fit that description, but the Colt-made National Match–the gun made before Gold Cup was stamped on the slide–is not a smooth piece.

This is a target gun; so, before I started shooting hardball ammo in it, I swapped out the 12-lb. recoil spring for an 18.5-lb. spring, which is the standard rating for a hardball gun. Maybe with midrange target ammo and that 12-lb. spring the pistol exhibits a different nature; but lacking target ammo. I had to upgrade the spring to prevent the slide from getting hammered.

The trigger-pull is a heavy 6 lbs.! I absolutely hate it! It’s heavier than a service gun trigger! But Edith likes it. She has always felt that the Wilson has a too-light trigger for her, and she welcomes the stiff resistance this one gives. I have offered to lighten it for her, but she is satisfied with it the way it is.

As you can see from the photos, I swapped out the original checkered grips for a set of smooth walnut grips that are fuller and come with finger grooves. Edith prefers them because they make the gun ride correctly in her hand. The other grips made the gun ride too low.

We hope a new extractor will fix the reliability so the gun can be trusted. Would you have thought that a gun called a National Match would perform like this? I sure didn’t.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

55 thoughts on “The 1911A1 Colt National Match – Part 7”

  1. I too love old Colt 1911’s. I bought two new Gold Cup National Match 70 Series in the early 70’s for $400 each (a small fortune then). Each is a suberbly built and accurate firearm. Local range instructors and gunsmiths have shot them and offered to buy them. They are equal to any of the custom 1911’s available today. I will never sell them.
    If you can find a mint, unaltered 70 series Gold Cup, buy it!!

  2. Always wanted a 1911. I’m glad for the heads-up on the Taurus glitches. Still, I’ve considered a Rock Island 1911 recently. Say, where DO you learn all these tricks of the trade that helped you diagnose your Taurus anyway? Do you need a gunsmith handy for this kind of stuff? JP

  3. JP,

    Back when I was in th Army I augmented my income by gunsmithing 1911s. My capabilities were few, but I offered stippling of the grip frames, installing new bushings and tightened and lapped the slides.

    When I took on the Taurus, I researched the possible causes of the problems and found excellent information in the web. That lead to me purchasing two training DVDs on the 1911 operation, gunsmithing and faults.

    That’s how I did it.


  4. Ishaq,


    You don’t realize how accurate your intuition really is.

    Edith, “Mrs. Gaylord” is the better half. Better looking, better cook and better shot (read about her rat eradication story).

    Sorry B.B. Ishaq threw a soft pitch. Really like your 1911 stories. I was prejudiced about all 1911’s and you’re teaching me that there are some that would be worthwhile owning.


  5. Kevin,

    Very good one.. a soft pitch indeed!!

    you forgot better gardener!!

    Hey, all the women in our lives are better halves!! We men have a long way to go to catch up!!!

    I too have my doubts about the automatic pistol world.. I have a hard time seeing how it could be better than a dependable S&W 586 double action revolver..
    Sure the revolver is slightly slower, shot to shot, but not enough to matter.. and if you jamb up.. well, that's a big problem..

    Why did or do so many police depts choose revolvers over semi auto pistols?? (do they still?.. I see the State Police models, so I know they did at one time)

    I know so little about this subject.. please help me understand the reason semi autos are so popular over revolvers..


  6. Okay b.b., this is way OT.
    I saw a documentary awhile back about the Afghani/Soviet war in the 80’s.
    One part was about the arms ‘factories’ the mujahideen developed. Small villages that, with very primitive means were making weapons from barrel to stock.
    So…just how hard is it to make a rifle??
    CowBoyStar Dad

  7. BB,
    Interesting post for an airgun venue. Keep it up! A well rounded education is priceless.

    I can think of only a couple reasons for pistol over revolver: pistol holds more ammo, and is arguably more accurate rapid fire…ok, I can think of only one good reason…

  8. Chuck,

    Why would a semi auto pistol be more accurate than a revolver..

    less recoil? I don’t think so..

    better trigger? a double action could be harder to pull, making it harder to get the next shot accurately .. (maybe), but if the semi auto has a 6 lb trigger, then.. I don’t think so..

    My Dan Wesson .357 mag revolver with the 8″ barrel, is a very accurate weapon.. standing offhand, I can shoot it as accurate as my marlin 336c with open sites at 50 yards.. (that just says how bad I am with open sights on a rifle:):)…
    but the bottom line is… that pistol is a very accurate weapon..

    I’ve never shot a semi auto pistol of any kind.. so I have no comparison..

    That’s why I’m so curious about why the semi autos are so popular and have sort of replaced the revolver for the military and police depts… (if they have, I really don’t know).. help me understand?


  9. Wayne,

    Lees recoil? Abso-friggin-lutely! That’s a big reason why I like the Garand, which is a .30-06. We gotta get you behind the wheel of one, so you can understand.

    The 1911 is a pussycat, but a .44 special revolver kicks like a mule!

    Find some way to shoot a 1911 and a Garand. Then you will understand.

    But the reason semis have replaced revolvers is because of the number of rounds they carry.


  10. Wayne,

    Semi-automatic pistols are about less recoil and more firepower. Don’t try it you’ll buy it.


    You’re too generous with your gratitude. You and I both know I’m more like your 6 year old helping you work on your car. In the way far more than helpful.


  11. Wayne,

    My thought is that the double action of the revolver causes less accuracy. My opinion is based on my own experience in that I am so much more accurate when shooting my revolver in single action than double. Single action with my revolver is the same experience I have with the single action semi-autos I’ve shot. Also, I think the double action of a revolver is not the same experience as a hard pull on an semi-auto. With the revolver the cocking of the hammer and the movement of the cylinder are more distracting and easier to pull the gun off target than a hard pull on an semi-auto.

    I know semi-autos come in double action now but I’ve never experienced one so maybe that would make them a wash with a revolver on that point. However, the action still is not the same since there is no turning cylinder involved.

    Now, I’m not saying a revolver is inferior to an semi-auto. I chose a revolver because it is safer and more reliable than a semi-auto. I am not going to accidentally discharge my revolver even if I drop it. I know, I can carry a single action semi-auto uncocked to make it as safe, but the extra time to cock and load when needed leaves it undesirable, to me. I can train for accuracy.

    Revolver pluses:
    less expensive(?)
    Easier to clean

    Revolver minuses:
    Less accurate
    Fewer rounds
    Harder to reload

    Semi-auto Pluses:
    More rounds
    More accurate

    Semi-auto minuses:
    Less reliable
    More complex
    Harder to clean
    More expensive(?)


  12. BB,
    I have a hard time thinking of you as the zip-gun carrying type. You don’t seem like the hard cases I knew. Knowing how technically adept you are I can see you building a zip-gun for a hoot for target practice but I can’t visualize you packin it around school playgrounds lookin for a “rumble”. Maybe you were the “fixer” for the gang and not the “rumbler”.


  13. Lol BB, I see you conveniently didnt comment on Kevin’s claim , that Edith is the better shot.

    Anyways I tried the Gamo rocket pellet today! Some of the worst penetration I have ever seen. From now on, I stick to the domed pellets.

  14. B.B.

    The quest for 1911 reliability continues. On the one hand one keeps hearing about how reliably the 1911 has served the military through two World Wars and smaller conflicts in all kinds of environments. The book on infantry weapons that I read supports this point. But the 1911 seems to trail modern autopistols in reliability. The reason for this I’ve heard is that modern target pistols are more tightly fitted for accuracy; the looser service pistols are supposed to have been more reliable.

    But here we go back to a Colt model used by the army from an earlier era and find that it’s not especially reliable either. Are the problems the same as those of modern target pistols? Perhaps. I’m also inclined to think that the history of your particular model might be relevant. Anyway, your experience with multiple 1911s is a little discouraging, but I retain faith.

    Do you use two-stage triggers for your 1911s? That would give predictability without a heavy pull. I can’t believe that one would want a heavy pull for its own sake.

    I’ll look into the question about the P70 and 700 although I suspect you are right about ergonomics. Somewhere, possibly the PA comments, I read that beyond a certain point the top-level target rifles are distinguished by their ergonomics and not their actions. Someone even quoted FWB staff as saying the extra ergonomics on their most expensive aluminum rifles don’t serve any particular purpose….

    Wayne, good heavens, there is a major hole in your armor. Never mind about the Air Arms Evanix, you’ve got to get yourself a semiauto pistol, and as B.B. says you need a Garand while you’re at it. With the 1911 and the M1 Garand, you’ll have the entire 20th century, not to mention, all of modern firearms in your hands as far as I’m concerned. I understand that the 1911 is still the basis of all auto-pistols while the Garand combines the long-range power of Mauser-style bolt-actions with the semi-auto capability of the AK-47, and for the combination of accuracy, reliability and power, the Garand action remains unsurpassed. I was intrigued to see that Ruger has just released its entry into the AR-15 field with a gas-piston system. That should clear up reliability problems but at the price of at least a half-minute loss in accuracy. Then there’s still the magazine problems, weapon fragility, and low power. Get an SW1911 (which has never failed me except for operator error) and a CMP Garand accurized by Clint Fowler and your S410 will start to gather dust….


  15. Good afternoon everyone,

    I can’t find any Crossman silicone chamber oil here locally, can anyone recommend a commonly available silicone oil that I can use to lube the chamber on my springer?

    I’ve got about 4-5k shots on the RS2 now and I’m thinking it could use a drop or two of lube.


  16. Good afternoon B.B.,

    Revolver verses semiauto–a topic that has been dicussed over many a camp fire. The best answer is you need examples of both! Yes Wayne, get thee to the pawn shops and follow the excellent advice from Matt61 and B.B.–a 1911A1 and M1 Garand. There is a whole different world wating for you there.

    Mr B.

  17. BB,
    ZIP gun… yeah I built one when I was about 11. 22 cal out of junk from our garage. All too simple to constuct and it did fire.

    But… since we children might be reading I’ll end the story there.

    No one got hurt. It did fire and you could hit a trash can at 10 feet. It was just a secret science project.


  18. Matt,

    I’m just looking at CZ’s, the Savage MKII BV is what I’m going to buy:). The CZ’s are nice looking, except the trigger and guard look like they belong on a chinese B2. I didn’t like the CZ Varmint version, for some reason. The basic trainer is a great deal, if you like the funky euro-stock.

    I’m going to strain my credibility here, but I just shot an MOA group with the Glenfield 60/4×15 Daisy scope/CCI Minimags (solid) off bags: 1/2″ ctc at 50 yards. Of course, there were several 1.5″ or greater groups, but the wind cooperated for a very short time. It was a welcome relief, since I had an unpowered round (different ammo) stick in the barrel earlier and had to forcibly remove it from 1/2 way up the barrel, which made me fear damage. I think that’s about as far as I can push it, so its back to offhand, and maybe open sights for the old girl:).

  19. Got a chance to shoot the new Daisy 953. Man is it a shooter.

    Groups very well nice tight 3/4 groups at 15 yards and 1/2 groups at 10 yards using CR heavy pellets. 20-shot groups using original iron sights and old eyes. No wind.

    The Chrony results had me worried because the spread was worse than the one you tested. But at close range… does not seem to matter much.

    The air leak seems to have stopped… that is good. Gave it a massive oil treatement.

    The barrel is a drooper though. Had to ramp the rear sight all the way to the top to get on target.

  20. BB,
    Thanks for the report. Ouch, I hope it is accurate to go with those looks. They just don't make em look like that anymore, I'm tired of front serrations mainly. My Rock Island is not a looker, but I actually beat a guy with a springfield milspec, one with an SR9, and another with a S&W M&P .40 in a small shoot off. Very accurate gun, but not really tight fitting. I look forward to a Springfield GI soon as an all purpose fun gun.
    Shadow express dude

  21. BB,

    You wrote an exciting review of the Benjamin Sheridan Super Streak (part 3 appeard in December 2007). That was the .177 gun. Any chance you might review the .22 some time? I’m thinking the SuperStreak might be a good gopher rifle.

  22. BB; I have two National Match .45s.
    One was made in 1968 and the other in the early 1980s. The second is a “70” series. Both are very accurate with good triggers. So, I guess each is a law on to it’s self.


  23. This is way off topic, but I’m so excited I feel like a kid again. I found my old Crosman 766 in my dad’s basement a few weeks ago!

    It didn’t work of course, every time I pumped it air came right out the barrel. So instead of shooting, I took a trip down memory lane! I grew up in Florida and spent my youth hunting lizzards and huge african toads (which were as big as dinner plates and poisonous, so we were doing the world a favor and saving our dogs who may theoretically try to eat them)

    I thought why not try to fix it? After all, it’s already broken so the ‘if it aint broke’ rule didn’t apply.

    I did some research on the internet and found a posting of someone who rebuilt one with plenty of pictures! I took it apart and immediately found the problem. The ‘o’ ring sealing the valve to the pumping chamber was completely rotten. Easy fix, I’ll just go to Home Depot and get a new ‘o’ ring. (Obviously, I know very little about air rifles) Well, HD did not have the right size, but Lowe’s did! So now I was only moments away from finishing my job! Needless to say, this was not the problem. Back to the Internet for more research. Turns out the valve body needed to be rebuilt. (No clue.) Figuring it’s still broke, I dug in and basically destroyed the cap of the brass valve, but eventually got it off. It definitely did not look pretty after I finished. The seals inside the valve were rotten and crumbling. They looked like ‘o’ rings, so back to Lowe’s I went, and guess what they had the right size again. The one at the bottom of the valve looked a little different, it was flat instead of rounded, but still the same size. I thought that I could swag a fix, so I took some gasket sealer and put it around the post, then put the ‘o’ ring on which pressed out much of the gasket sealer. I wiped off the excess and then reassembled lightly and let it set up overnight. The next morning I came down and took it back apart and had a flat bottom on the valve seal!

    I put the valve back together and was going to press it back into the chamber, but the chamber looked pretty old and rusty. For that matter the barrel looked pretty bad too. The barrel is probably screwed I thought. I then realized that this is just a barrel cover! I took it off and the barrel itself looked pretty good! Lucked out on that one. I painted the barrel cover and the pumping chamber with rustoleum figuring that even if it doesn’t work, it will look better and I can keep it for nostalgia’s sake.

    Even though the valve cap was mangled, there was enough of the fitting to hold the ‘o’ ring so I pressed the valve back in and started to piece the thing back together. It went together pretty easy, I had lost a spring that fit at the top of the breech, but that was about the same size as the spring in a ballpoint pen so… (am I making anyone cringe?)

    The seal where the compressed air gets released into the barrel was not an ‘o’ ring and too thick to do my previous swag. But the seal was actually in pretty good shape. It was still flexible, for some reason it had held up much better than the other seals. It was definitely dirty and pretty rough. So I cleaned it up and installed it bottom side up. I finished putting everything back together, lubricating appropriate places with oil (I used Remmington Gun Oil, because that’s what I had. I’m not sure how it’s different than Pellgun Oil, please let me know so I don’t use it on a springer when I get one.) Anyway, I got it back together and guess what, It shoots!

    I’ve been shooting paper targets in my basement ever since. What fun! I have no idea how fast it’s shooting, it seems like it is shooting pretty hard though. It’s also very accurate, at least for me. It hits what I aim at and when it doesn’t, I have to admit it’s my fault because I pulled the barrel to one side or another. I’ll blame it on the trigger, it’s a beast!

    Anyway, sorry to dumb things down but I thought I’d share the fun I’ve been having.

  24. I had a Chrome 70 Series Gold Cup which I dearly loved. It was always reliable, but after I let a top-notch pistol-smith (and state champion .45 shooter) work on it, that gun was incredibly accurate. (plus the new grip safety let me raise my grip and let the scar on the web of my hand start to heal ;0) Unfortunately, hard times forced me to part with it. But I’ve always got my eye out for another.

  25. Anonymous with the 766 –

    GREAT STORY!! I’ve had a similar experience with an old Daisy 880. I have to warn you though, if you keep having fun with this airgun, you may become hopelessly addicted and start hanging out on this blog all the time, trying to learn everything you can about your gun and the multitude of other fascinating guns that are out there.

    And be fully aware, they are “enablers” on here. Wait until you meet Wayne….:)

    Have fun,


  26. Thanks all!!!.. for the info on the revolver vs. semi auto pistols..

    I’ve made some friends at the range, so I’m sure I can try out a few different semi auto pistols..

    And…then..from the sounds of it.. I guess I’ll be watching the pawn shops for a clean 1911A1 and M1 Garand.. it’s a very large gun world out there!!! ..

    ..and gathering dust is already an issue!!.. but not for the Air Arms S410.. doubt it ever will be..

    Volvo.. I added a ’98 V-70 AWD wagon to the rest of the old Volvo herd..
    ..and a FX Superswift in .177 to do a comparison with the Air Arms S410 .177..

    I’m running out of wall space for gun cabinets!!


    It’s not the “Air Arms Evanix” it’s the Evanix Blizzard S10 Thumbhole .22 cal .. that has already shipped from PA!! .. so the new stuff will be waiting awhile!!!

    And poopyness.. I got hung up on the lumber/supply run and didn’t make it to the range!! very unhappy camper today!


  27. BG_Farmer,

    Yes, by all means get that Savage Mark II BV and try out your benchresting with it.

    Wayne, thanks for the info about the field target championships, and by the way, I see the FWB does offer a field target rifle although PA does not carry it.


  28. Mr. 766,
    Good post!!! I enjoyed every bit of it. I’ve never worked on any of my guns yet. They’re too new. But, you’ve given me more courage to dig in if necessary. Thanks for sharing with us.

    You made a comment about dumbing down things?!…not here my friend! I think we pretty much all enjoy your kind of experience and see no “dumb” at all.

  29. Wayne,
    Congrates on the new Volvo. However, I need a new alias as my Volvo has departed. I am open to suggestions. As far as the revolver vs. semi-auto debate, I own both but prefer a revolver. But I’d guess we are in the minority on the issue.

    Bg –farmer,
    I can attest to the accuracy of the Makarov 16-shot CO2 BB pistol. I actually thought I was experiencing failure to feed as I emptied the clip and the hole remained the same size. It was only when I aimed off center to verify I realized how sweet it was shooting. My group was definitely larger then Tom’s, but then I aimed in two places. : )

  30. Matt61,

    Last year I got a Feinwerkbau Oberndorf /N P70 ..
    I got it from Anthony Storey and here is what he said to me about it..
    “It has the Guy Omictin/Rick Lake receiver conversion. A custom Mac-1 24 inch HW barrel with custom Mac-1 “T” brake and nickel plating on the barrel.
    Dave Matticks reworked the reg and custom made and tested the Titanium airtube and shiny endcap.”

    It’s the fastest and shoots with the least “Arc” of any of our field target rifles.. (I think it’s too fast .. over 22 foot lbs with CPH 10.5 we need to turn it down a little to compete with it in a real contest)..
    It’s fits super well, very easy to shoot well.. very consistent and accurate FT gun!! One of our favorites for sure!!

    Ashland Air Rifle Range

  31. Thanks, this forum is a lot of fun. I’ve also been posting recently about looking for a new gun TF 59 just to fill in the blanks. Haven’t ordered anything yet, waiting for some more contracts to come in. Have to weigh the options you know, summer camp for the kids on one hand / new air rifle on the other. Decisions decisions.

  32. Wayne,

    So you already have a FWB. Well, the good review doesn’t surprise me although it is nice to hear.

    Fused, I came close to getting a TF59 myself. Tom Gaylord writes a mean review. Why don’t you skip the summer camp and let the kids play with the air rifle instead. They’ll probably like it more.


  33. Volvo,

    It’s up to you on your new name.. but I’m for keeping Volvo.. I have fond memories of the dance we did to give it to you!!

    You know it’s sort of like the cowboy in me has control.. and the semi-auto pistol just doesn’t cut it with my black leather cowboy hat!!

    If I’m doing the 100 year old Marlin 1893 thing where I switch from sidearm to rifle and back again shot to shot.. well.. it wouldn’t be the same.. now would it??


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