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Colt's Officer's model.

* Shooters who like the 1911 Government Auto will certainly be pleased with the latest addition to the Colt Firearms Company's stable.

Officially called the Officer's ACP Mk IV/80, the new pistol is a compact version of the Government Model that has been chopped both horizontally and vertically. The end result is an auto that has all the characteristics of its bigger brother in a much reduced package.

Of course the new pistol is not Colt's first effort at producing a more compact version of the famous 1911 auto. The Commander, which was first introduced in 1949, was intended to cater to the needs of those who desired to carry a concealed large caliber auto. Actually, the Colt Commander was only slightly smaller than the standard 1911, having the length of its slide and barrel reduced by 3/4 inch. Other than this, it was exactly the same as the Government Model except for its frame, which was constructed of a lightweight alloy instead of steel. The latter feature was probably the Commander's greatest virtue for it enabled the overall weight of the pistol to be reduced from 39 ounces to just over 26. However, when Colt introduced an all-steel Combat Commander in 1971, its weight was increased to 32 ounces.

In the intervening years, the demand for an even more compact pistol than the Commander induced a number of pistol-smiths to produce chopped, customized 1911s. More recently, some manufacturers have come out with designs of their own, the most notable being the Spanish Star PD and the Detonics. Both are available in .45 ACP, and bear a strong resemblance to the 1911.

The new Officer's ACP is certainly much more compact than the Commander. Its overall length is 7-1/4 inches, compared with just over 8-1/2 inches for the Government Model and 7-3/4 inches for the Commander. More important is the reduction in overall height, for the Officer's ACP measures 5 inches compared to 5-3/8 inches for the 1911 and the Commander. A mere 3/8-inch reduction may not seem much but, in fact, it is quite significant and reduces the magazine capacity of the new pistol to six instead of seven rounds.

In outward appearance, the Officer's ACP looks very similar to a scaled-down Government Model that was developed by the Air Force armorers. The original gun was constructed by Air Force Marksmanship Unit master armorers Frank Coleman and Tom Kremar for use by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. Apparently, some 2,000 similar guns were then rebuilt using avilable stocks of 1911s.

A major difference between the Air Force guns and the new Colt is in the length of the slide. In the Former, it is the same length as that of the Commander. Whether the Air Force pistols had anything to do with Colt producing a similar auto I have not yet been able to determine.

I was only really able to appreciate just how much more compact the Officer's ACP is when I received one for testing in the middle of 1984. The first thing I noticed was the finish which was a workman-like non-reflective matte black rather than the usual highly polished sides that the standard blue Government and Commanders have. In addition to this combat style of finish, the Officer's ACP will also be available in electroless nickel.

A closer examination showed some other notable changes. The sights, although fixed, are a big improvement over those of the Government Model, having a much higher profile plus the three-dot system to better facilitate aiming in dim light.

Another significant difference is the fit of the barrel to the front of the slide. The barrel itself has a sharp forward taper, similar to that used in the Detonics and some of the customized .45 Pin guns. However, instead of having the barrel mate directly with the slide, the new pistol also has a barrel bushing. Actually, this could well be an asset, because the bushing can be replaced when it becomes worn.

To cater to the shortened slide, the pistol has a very short recoil spring guide and plug. The recoil spring, or springs, are also different. Instead of the usual single coil spring, the new pistol uses two, one inside the other.

The pistol has the Commander-style burr hammer and a grip safety with a modified tang to prevent hammer bite. A flat style mainspring housing has been utilized, rather than the arched type, while the grips are of checkered wood with gold-colored medallions.

In all other respects, the rest of the pistol is identical to the new Mk IV Series 80 Government Model. The manual safety and the slide stop are the same, being located on the left-hand side of the frame. There is also no change in the lock work and the pistol has the new firing pin lock in addition to the usual grip safety.

Of course the magazine is shorter, accommodating six instead of seven rounds of .45 ACP. However, the little pistol will also accept the standard magazine of the standard Government Model. Actually, the larger magazine does not really look too much out of place on the Officer's ACP, as it protrudes out of the bottom of the grip about the same extent as a large buffer base pad of the type popular with IPSC shooters. The Officer's ACP functions and operates in exactly the same manner as a standard 1911. It retains the locked breech system and, being a single-action self-loading pistol, operates with the hammer fully cocked for every shot.

It has the usual Government Model safety systems. In addition to the manual safety, which is located in the usual position on the left rear side of the frame, the pistol has a grip safety that only permits firing when it is fully depressed by the web of the hand.

A disconnector prevents the pistol from being discharged unless the action is fully closed, while a half-cock step in the hammer stops the hammer from coming in contact with the firing pin should the full cock notch fail. The safety feature prevents the gun from going fully auto. Finally, a firing block locks the firing pin until the trigger is operated.

The magazine release catch is of the button type and is located on the left side just behind the trigger. Depressing it releases the magazine from the bottom of the grip. The slide stop, which is located on the left side of the frame just above the trigger, locks the slide open after the last shot. Depressing it will release the slide.

Because of its different barrel and bushing, the disassembly procedure for the Officer's ACP is somewhat different to that of the 1911. After removing the magazine and pulling back the slide to check that the chamber is empty, the first step is to release the barrel bushing. This is done by depressing the recoil spring plug and twisting the bushing counter-clockwise a short distance until it is freed from the front of the slide.

Next, a screwdriver is placed in the horizontal slot of the recoil spring plug so that the same can be depressed about 3/8-inch and then rotated 180 degrees so that it too can be released from the front of the slide.

The slide is then pulled back so that the small notch of its left-hand side is in line with the rear of the slide stop. When in this position, the slide stop can be removed, freeing the slide and barrel assembly so that both can be pulled forward off the frame. The recoil spring guide assembly is then removed from the bottom of the slide. Finally, the barrel is removed from out of the front of the slide. The pistol is assembled in reverse order.

The shortening of the slide and grip certainly makes the gun more compact, for it almost fit within the palm of my hand. In spite of this, the gun sat well in my hand and was very comfortable to hold. Being right-handed, I could operate the manual safety, slide stop and magazine release catch with my thumb without having to change my grip on the pistol. The grip safety tang combined with the burr hammer also seemed to give the web of my hand good protection against hammer bite.

I test fired the pistol at the Wes Thompson Juniper Tree Range some 36 miles north of Los Angeles. The ammunition used in the test was a variety of reloads together with factory Federal 230-grain hardball, Federal 185-grain jacketed hollowpoints, Federal 185-grain metal case wadcutters and Frontier 230-grain jacketed truncated hardball.

Most shortened large caliber pistols tend to have a heavy recoil that makes them difficult to control and this was what I was expecting when I inserted a magazine of factory hardball. To my surprise, the recoil was much milder than I had expected. I had no difficulty in controlling the pistol, even when shooting with one hand. Much of the initial shooting was done on metal plates and time and time again I heard the satisfying ring as bullets made contact with steel, indicating a hit. In a short while, my speed increased as I got the measure of the little pistol.

By way of comparison, I shot a magazine of all the test ammunition through a standard Mk IV Series 80 Government .45 to gauge the difference in felt recoil. While the bigger gun had a definite edge in this department, the difference was not that great and the Officer's ACP was still quite controllable with all the ammunition I put through it. Just as impressive was the manner in which the gun digested all the ammunition I fed it without a single malfunction. Even the semi-wadcutters, which often cause hang-ups, were fed and ejected as efficiently as hardball.

At the closer ranges of 7 yards and less the pistol pointed well when I shot it instinctively at steel combat targets. When I did aim, I really appreciated the large fixed combat sights with their three dot sighting system. The latter was especially beneficial when I did some shooting under a covered firing point. Here the three dots made the sights easy to pick up when they would normally have been lost in the shade.

The little pistol also exhibited a good trigger action. The actual pull required to drop the hammer was around 7 pounds, quite acceptable for a service handgun. There was very little creep or blacklash in spite of the fact that the end of the trigger stroke has to lift the lever that disengages the firing pin block as well as drop the hammer.

Compact as the pistol is, it holsters well and is easy to get into action. I did some shooting from an inside-the-pants holster made by Michael's of Oregon. These holsters certainly help in carrying a handgun concealed but make drawing a bit more difficult because they keep the butt pressed tightly against the body. Even so, the grip of the Officer's ACP was big enough for my hand to grab a good hold of it to release the pistol without fumbling.

The pistol also proved to be pretty accurate when shot from a benchrest at a target some 15 yards away. The best five-shot group measured 1-1/2 inches and was obtained with Federal 185-grain semi-wadcutter ammunition. The pistol also shot to point of aim with all five shots centered in the ten ring, three of them in the X ring of an NRA 25-yard Standard American Pistol Target. All too often, pistols with fixed sights require some Kentucky windage to get them on target.

The pistol was accurate enough for me to consistently obtain hits on a combat metal plate some 50 yards away. No doubt, the sights, comfortable grip and good trigger all contributed to the pistol's accuracy.

During the test the pistol was also shot by two experienced combat shooters who both have had considerable practical shooting experience in the military and law enforcement. After firing both the Standard Government Model and the Officer's ACP, they too were impressed with how easy the latter was to shoot.

At the conclusion of the test I was very impressed with Colt's new pistol. As a defense handgun, it has a lot going for it. It is very compact and chambered for an excellent cartridge that is renown for its stopping ability. Unlike most other compact large caliber handguns, it is accurate and remarkably easy to shoot. The gun is robust and well made and, in my opinion, comes equipped with the best set of fixed sights ever fitted to a Colt auto pistol.

The Colt Officer's ACP is built around the proven design of the 1911 that has served this country's military forces with distinction for over 70 years. The new gun's suggested retail price is around $485 which makes it competitive with other large caliber compact autos. It fills a definite need for those who want a compact single-action pistol that packs a punch and, if all the other guns handle and shoot as well as the one I tested, Colt could well have a winner in their Officer's ACP.
COPYRIGHT 1984 InterMedia Outdoors, Inc.
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:evaluation
Author:Arnold, Dave
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Oct 1, 1984
Previous Article:The academic roots of the anti-gun movement.
Next Article:Ruger's Ultra Light.

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