Saturday, 2nd May I attended a local gun show in Grand Island, Nebraska. And I had money in my pocket. Always a dangerous proposition. Gun shows are harder on me than redheads or Jewish girls. (I shudder to think about meeting a redheaded Jewish woman! I’m stupid enough naturally.)
I found, and purchased, two firearms that simply called to me. One is the subject of this essay, a Colt Government Model. Calibre? .45 ACP, of course. For the record, I am aware the Government Model has been commercially available from Colt also in calibres Super .38 and 9mm Luger (Parabellum, 9mm NATO, 9×19 and simply Nine. It is properly chambered in .45 ACP. Super .38 is a needed addition as the cartridge was too powerful for the earlier .38 Automatic rendering. The 9mm Luger version is simply blasphemy catering to what was deemed popular opinion. Tsk.
The other pistol I purchased is another of my ancient .32 ACP – 7.65mm Browning – collection. I shall report it in a future essay.
I must say I like the Colt Government Model. The normal grips fit me properly. I can shoot them one handed and feel like I actually control it. They just sort of feel ‘alive’ in a good sort of way. (That’s opposed to the Stephen King sort of way.)
I saw it in a display case, saw what was a rather low price for it and had to look. Not bad, actually. It is a genuine Colt pistol, frame and all. According to the serial number, it is in the “70L…” serial number range. According to my handy Colt serial number book, it was made in A. D. 1972. A fine year for Colt automatics, as it happens.
The first change I noted were the sights. They were aftermarket; high rise, high visibility. Then I noted the rear sight is from a three dot set up, but the front sight has a white fill or wide line vertical in the center. If they offend me enough, I can paint them black.
The trigger is not original, either. It is slightly longer and the front is not as ’rounded’ on the sides. Which indicates someone did some trigger work, probably. Hmmm.
Locking the slide to the rear in order to insure the weapon was not loaded and inspect the chamber and bore, I noted the barrel has the faint ‘bell’ at the muzzle to position the barrel properly. By design, the bushing (mechanical link between barrel and slide) had ‘fingers’, actually three flat springs to grip and automatically center the barrel in place. Those ‘fingers’ had the reputation (somewhat deserved) of breaking. So most of them are long gone, replaced with a solid bushing fitted to the diameter of the ‘bell’. This seems to be the case with this pistol.
The grips are Colt grips, but feature ‘diamonds’ around the grip screws, imitating the original grips from 1911 or so. However, they are obviously ‘new’ (more or less) and have gold colored Colt ‘prancing pony’ medallions implanted. Which means someone probably put aftermarket grips on the item at one time, then couldn’t find the originals when he (she? it?) decided to sell the pistol.
Like they don’t work and like I don’t have – uh – several sets of Government Model grips in my treasure trove. Including a set of Jean St. Henri ‘coffin lid’ grips. Hmpf.
Oh, yes. There’s a blemish where someone dropped the pistol and put a ding in the port side cocking serrations. Not overwhelming. It doesn’t affect the function of the pistol in any manner. (Sort of like the idiot scratch from installing the slide stop – which it also sports, but very finely.) I think the pistol was dropped as the ding does not look like a random hammer blow. It is a bit too ‘ragged’ for a hammer face or peen.
So I bought it. The price was right and I like the vintage.
Got it home. Trigger pull, according to my spring type gauge was five and one half pounds. According to my finger, it was between nine and seventeen. It seemed to change weight, depending on mood. I knew it had been ‘worked’ due to the aftermarket trigger. And the factory installed hammer was bright metal on the sides (all over, in fact.) The hammer when purchased was blued all over. I pulled it apart and looked. Nothing obvious, but it didn’t work right. I also noted the hammer would fall to the half-cock when the slide was closed without the disconnector activated. Not horribly unsafe, but not as should be. I sprang for a Cylinder and Slide sear, disconnector, hammer and leaf spring kit. The trigger now runs about 4.5 pounds all the time.
Off to the range I go. I took a small portion of ‘hardball’ equivalent loads. For those just tuning in, in the context of .45 ACP rounds, ‘hardball’ is the short term for the U. S. Military standard cartridge loading known officially as “Cartridge, Caliber .45, ball, M1911”. It is described as a 230 grain full metal jacketed (FMJ) bullet with a muzzle velocity of 855 feet per second (FPS), plus or minus 25 FPS. It is what is normally considered to be the ‘standard’ .45 ACP load.
Posting a target at the twenty-five yard mark, I proceed to fire fifteen shots, more or less slow fire. Reverting back to bullseye days, I shot one handed, focusing on the front sight. The results were quite impressive. The first two strings of five shots each, I scored a 94 (out of 100). For me, that would have been a really good slow fire score (at fifty yards) and a pretty fair timed or rapid fire score) at twenty-five yards. I didn’t really fire in the time limits of timed (twenty seconds per five shots) or rapid (ten seconds per five shots) fire, but still…
The Government Model, as adapted by the U. S. Armed Services in A. D. 1911, was intended for use against a human adversary. It was intended to be used from either afoot or mounted on a horse. (Yes, a four-legged, hay eating, horse. The ‘cavalry’ was really cavalry in those days.) Ideally, the handgun was officially adjudged as being ‘effective’ for a range of fifty yards. That is to say, a trained soldier could hit a human silhouette out to fifty yards, presuming good light and visibility. The group I shot and recorded in this entry is markedly smaller.
If I can shoot it that well, the pistol can no doubt do better.
I think this new, old pistol is a keeper. One cannot have too many.
As Colombo would say, “One more thing…”
This pistol takes exception to the shape of my manly hands. Specifically the right one. When I grip the pistol normally, the grip safety doesn’t always depress. I can manipulate my hand so the grip safety does depress, but it’s a pain in the – uh – hand. So I have effected the 1940 field expedient. There is now a rather large rubber band around the grip and grip safety. Problem solved. At least for the moment.
I had the opportunity to shoot this pistol in the monthly bowling pin match at my gun club. I now have a rather impressive hammer bite on the web of my shooting (starboard, as it happens) hand; proving the pistol is a genuine Government Model. I am happy to report the pistol hit everything at which I aimed the device.
I am not so happy to report the ammunition and magazine did not serve as well. The ammunition was my reloads, hardball equivalent – except the bullets were cast lead rather than full metal jacket type. For some reason, not all the cases properly ejected. It seemed like the loads were a bit shy of full charge, except the primers were showing signs of being flattened. Recoil and blast seemed normal.
Also, the single magazine I took (yes, I know better) seems to be deficient. The follower seemed to be extended through the lips of the magazine. And it seems just a bit ‘wide’ at the top.
So. I will do a complete disassembly, inspection, cleaning and lubrication. Then I’ll try it again with FMJ full change ammunition AND a few better magazines. More to come…