Quality of 50's LW commanders - Pistolsmith

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Old 05-10-2002, 10:53 AM   #1
Join Date: May 2001
Posts: 693
How does the quality of the alloy compare to modern alloy? Wasn't the 50's a really good era for Colt? Pros and cons?

I'm putting it here because of my question on alloy frame may best be answered by gunsmith.

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Old 05-10-2002, 04:29 PM   #2
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 191
Rumors are just that. LW Commanders are great carry guns. They are as tough as any aluminum lower end gun from the 50's when they were concieved until the present time I have seen many cracked Colt frames and we used to drill a 1/16th inch hole in them to stop the crack travel. I have a friend who has carried one of my vintage ( 1954)since Korean days. It looks terrible and shoots great. I almost like that light purple lower end and the light gray patina on the slide. I think the metal these were made of is better than what they use today but have no basis for that thinking. I am sure I am on worng on that count. If I were building any lightweight lower end 1911 I would use a ramped barrel and Accu-Rails. That way I know it would shoot forever. Some people put a metal feed ramp in but I think that is silly. Why bother, I guess , when you can solve the problem my way. Any of the lightweight 1911's that are produced now would be of no use to me. I don't care for them and don't find them fun to work on. That's why Baskin Robbins makes 31 flavors. I am usually wrong, according to the other forum. So use your own judgement and spend your money like you want. Mine is too hard to come by to throw it away on guns I don't believe are worth the money. Bob Brown knows about carry Commanders.
Old 05-10-2002, 07:04 PM   #3
Senior Member
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Southwest
Posts: 2,371
Hello. Certainly, this is from limited first-hand experience, but a fine gentleman who was like a grandfather to me owned a couple of early '50s Commanders. They were stock. He carried them with ball ammo when I shot them in the early '80s. Not surprisingly, the pistols worked flawlessly and the sights, though small, were "on." Later, he sold me two LW Commanders, but not those, and I had both slightly customized to include high-visibility fixed sights, and a few other things. I tested both and have shot the fire out of one while the spare rests in the safe. I suspect I'd better shoot the spare, too, as the original just continues to shoot and shoot and shoot.

Most know that I'm a confirmed Browning HP nut, but for a most easy to tote and quick to use pistol of decent power, I find the Commander very hard to beat.

In fact, I'm not sure it can be done.


Old 05-11-2002, 05:15 AM   #4
Join Date: Dec 2001
Posts: 157
I have carried some form of LW Commander since I started my law enforcement career in 1981. The only concern I would have with a 50's LW would be with the slide, not the frame. Not because the steel was better or worse, but because the slides had a series of lightening cuts, and they have a tendency to crack. Remember Cooper's addage of a gun to shoot a little, carry a lot. The LW is a .45 that I would use a Shok Buff in, and change the recoil spring frequently.
Old 05-16-2002, 08:49 AM   #5
Join Date: May 2001
Posts: 693
Since Boothman brought it to my attention, are there disadvantages (problems) associated with the early LW Commander skeletonized slides? Did Colt change this because of cracking problems or cost issues? The gun would be a carry gun and not shot much.
Old 05-16-2002, 09:24 AM   #6
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 191
Colt quit doing the light weight slides because it cost money to machine them, not because there was a problem with them. I have never had a cracked LW slide come my way, but all parts fail. Some fail sooner than others. Colt also has never cared what it's customers want or need. They have the Great American Corporate Arrogance that has kept them on the verge of bankrupcy for most of my lifetime. I have no use for them or their products. They could have made a ton of money by selling their parts when Cooper started the 1911 craze, but they wouldn't. They do not answer their phone, and do not return their calls.They deserve to go broke.
Old 05-16-2002, 10:21 AM   #7
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Kansas, Land of OZ
Posts: 92
I couldn't agree with you more, Mr. Sample.

Please continue to "tell it like it is."

Regards, SRT
Old 05-16-2002, 11:45 AM   #8
Join Date: Apr 2001
Posts: 194
We gunfolks are a strange community. As a group we are as bad as the society we come from about seeking superlatives. It's like the ongoing quibbling about Ruger Redhawks and Blackhawks vs S&W 29's and the Ruger 357's vs anyone elses: who cares? They both seem to blow at so close to the same psi that it all seems moot. Might matter if I shot silhouette as a MAJOR competitor, but I don't--and if I did I'd choose a Freedom Arms SA anyway. Since I don't, I prefer the smaller size, the greater grace, the better balance and handling, and the better fitting of my early 29's (without even--horror of horrors--having the vaunted "endurance" packet).

At least two writers over the years have run several 5-10K round endurance tests on the Commanders and found that they basically kept functioning despite minor problems that were easily fixed. The drilling of a hole to stop an incipient crack has already been pointed out. Think I'll dig those out of the reference files one of these days.

Consumers jumped on the steel framed Commanders (perhaps because the Gunshop Codos leaped on the catchy COMBAT appelation), but I've always suspected that was because the 26-ounce Commanders kicked too much for the would be shootists whereas the couple of ounces difference beween the long and short steel jobs were so immaterial as to make any thinking person wonder why anyone would give up the extra sighting radius and velocity and the slight bit of extra muzzle weight at just the right point.

The Colt Commanders have endured for right on half a century and work for what they are intended. Alloy frame pieces were made to CARRY, not to serve as match guns. I surely don't know metallury well enough to pontificate about metallury then and now---and suspect few do with the specifics of the Commander alloy at any specific point in time. All I know is that my own last pair date to the early seventies, have never had anything lighter than GI ball run through them, and neither gun has presented any problem over the years.

Hell, even old Skeeter Skelton with his love of the 5 inch 27 and 44 SAA's was partial to his brace of Commanders when things really got tense. Now, how could anyone wish for more proof of the Commander's excellance, durability, and reliability than that old revolver man's sanction?
Old 05-16-2002, 06:00 PM   #9
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 849
256, Now THAT was very well said indeed!
I have three lightweight Commanders, all 70's series, and have never had an ounce of trouble with any of them! (ounce of trouble, no pun intended). :grin:
I remember the article from Shooting Times where Skeeter did the 5,000 round torture test with a lightweight Commander, and a Gold Cup. Neither gun failed in any way, and they were both stock from Colt.
Old 05-17-2002, 06:36 AM   #10
Join Date: Apr 2001
Posts: 194
Thanks, Lou. Appreciate the kind words. I thought Skelton did one of the articles and I think that old fraud Nonte did the other. In any event, both tests were pretty abusive and while I might doubt Nonte's conclusion (under any of his several pseudonyms), I'd take Skeeter's word as gospel. I need to dig those pieces out of my files.

People are funny about Commanders. They don't get a lot of publicity and yet folks keep dropping the term that they are "the professional's gun." That being said, I've never known a lot of folks who carried them. Of course, they've been around since the early 50's so they don't have the shine of brand, spankin' new offerings. I think I've seen more steel frame Combat Commanders than Commanders and, of course, for younger folks, the Commander seems to be ignored for the Officer's ACP's.

Personally, I think the Commanders are easier to conceal than say, an all steel Officer's ACP. The Commander distributes the weight better. Don't have a problem with the grip size and I'd rather have the extra rounds than the short grip. I surely feel that Commanders are much more reliable than the shorter guns---and even Commanders have had a reputation for being a bit less reliable than the full size guns. (That has NOT been my experience, however, though I do like a long ejector in the short guns).

I really do wish folks would make an effort to distinguish between THE COMMANDER which is an alloy framed weapon and the Combat Commander which is the all steel gun (less a few of the omnipresent plastic parts, of course).

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