Pre War Commercial/NM vs. new production Colts - Pistolsmith

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Old 10-14-2003, 09:29 PM   #1
Posts: n/a
Pre War Commercial/NM vs. new production Colts

Just out of curiousity, I have seen a small sample of good Pre War Commercial guns and quite a few NM guns. For those who have seen both compared to what Colt is producing now, what is the major concensus difference in quality. I know there was a time when I looked at an older Colt and figured they didn't and wouldn't ever make them as good as that again. Is it that they were just so bad for so long? Were we just really thirsty? Just interested in some thoughts.
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Old 10-15-2003, 06:40 AM   #2
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 91
Well...I haven't seen one of the NEW new Colt 1911s at my club, but I've seen lots (and shot some of them) made between 1913 and the early 90s.

The pre-war commercials I've handled (maybe a half-dozen that I can remember) seemed to have been fitted to duty tolerances. I'd "shake them to see if they rattled", and they would. Lots of barrel bounce and muzzle wiggle. Very heavy, creep-free triggers, generally. But the bluing was of a very high quality, and some of the machining was just artistry. Checkered trigger faces; sculpted and checkered hammer spurs; bushings and spring plugs that look like someone spent an hour on them. No file marks left in plain sight. Gorgeous pistols that clanked like radiators.

Never had a pre-war NM in my hands for more than a minute.

I can summon nearly a dozen post-war, pre- Gold Cup, late 50s/early 60s NMs on any given club night. These pistols (the .45s, any way) all have very, very tightly- fitted slides; they feel hand-lapped. Some of the barrels bounce (mine did), but most seem to sit on their slide stop pins. Tight bushing-to-barrel fits. The trigger pulls are superb. These pistols NEVER puke. My confreres and I feed them everything, and they eat everything without a bobble. The detail machining is more pedestrian than what one sees on pre-war commercials, but the pistols have a cleaner look, and the polishing jobs are almost flawless. Perfect rollmarks, properly aligned, and of uniform depth. Minimalist chic.

I own two Series 70s, and have examined and shot several Series 80s. Out of the four categories I've had my hands on, the S70s are the worst, cosmetically (crooked rollmarks, unbelievably bad surface finishing in places such as the bottom lugs), fit-wise (peened-over top lugs after 500rds), and in terms of reliability. The S80s look and shoot a lot like the 50s NMs. Maybe a touch cruder, some toolmarks where there oughtn't be, but nowhere near as bad as the S70s.

The most practically accurate stock-barrelled .45 of the bunch I describe above would have to be a club member's 5" S70; its overlong barrel link is wearing oval from jamming the top lugs into the slide recesses. The barrel feet ride way above the slide stop cross pin. Shoots tiny little groups. Go figure.
Old 10-15-2003, 07:57 AM   #3
Join Date: Jan 2002
Posts: 458
In general I agree with "coach" except that my pre-war guns are all .38 supers and they are very well fitted.

I have two of the consecutively numbered "St. Louis P.D." engraved guns that were shipped to the St. Louis P.D. direct that are virtually NIB. I also have one of the guns which was originally in "Fitz's" personal account and was tuned by him (Factory letter documenting it.). All three of these guns have amazing metal work, barrel fit, triggers, slide fit, and the unbelievable charcoal bluing. Obviously the Fitz gun is the best and competes with any custom gun that I have.

The NRM Colt's that I have seen do have reasonalbe 5lb. triggers with little grit or creep, excellent barrel fit, and good slide to frame fit. Functionally, I would say they are almost as good as my "St. Louis P.D." supers and better than the .45 commercial I used to have. However, the external metal work and fit of all the small pieces was better on the pre-war guns.

My $.02

Old 10-15-2003, 06:27 PM   #4
Posts: n/a
Thanks for the information guys, that is exactly what I was looking for. I have seen a most if not all the guns mentioned. Some more than others but not quite enough to get a total grasp on it. Thanks again.
Old 10-16-2003, 06:06 AM   #5
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Texas
Posts: 57
Well, my experience has been different. I don't own any post 1946 pistols but I currently own more than a half dozen prewar Colt Govt Models, including several National Match pistols. All of them are tightly fitted with decent trigger pulls. If you disassemble a GM and a NM and lay the parts side X side you can see that all the NM parts are highly polished. But the GM's are not rough or misfit in any way and the slide to frame fit is tight on my guns. There were not too many M1911A1's made between the wars but they were blued (not parkerized) and are also tighter and generally built to higher standards than the pistols manufactured during wartime.
Old 11-07-2003, 09:35 PM   #6
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 91
Handled and shot # C95XX this evening, made in 1914. Rattletrap, lots of barrel bounce and muzzle slop, and what seemed like a nine-pound trigger. The pistol didn't group; it patterned. Wasn't shot out, though, far from it. I have twenty-five year old firearms in worse cosmetic condition.

Still, a lovely frame and slide. Gorgeous bluing. I made the owner an offer. I'd bang a set of King-Tappan sights, a Dlask short trigger, and a Schuemann AET barrel in there so fast. And that smooth backstrap's gotta go....
Old 11-08-2003, 07:07 AM   #7
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Texas
Posts: 57
To each his own...

but if it has at least 80% of its original finish then making the mods you suggest would cut its value by about 2/3.
Old 11-08-2003, 09:12 AM   #8
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 91
Well, the trigger, barrel, and backstrap mods don't involve any frame alterations, and I certainly wouldn't throw the takeoffs away. But it's almost unshootable indoors with the stock sights. Hard to find the front, and hard to keep it aligned.
Old 09-08-2004, 08:27 PM   #9
Join Date: Jun 2001
Posts: 63
The pre-war pistols had a level of polishing that is unequalled today. It was done by hand, yet all edges remained straight and true and the finish was always either a perfectly smooth semi-gloss or a mirror finish. While the new Colt products are far better than anything they've made snce the 1960's IMHO, they still have a long way to go to being able to re-create the artistry seen prior to WW2.

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