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The Dominator bolt-action powerhouse; Pachmayr's new conversion kit turns your Colt auto into a high-intensity single-shot pistol.

As the airliner started its descent for a landing at the Riverton, Wyoming, airport, I was painfully aware that my time schedule, which just ten days earlier had seemed so loose and flexible, had become critically tight. I was winging home from the 1984 Remington seminar and was scheduled to touch down in Riverton at 10:30 P.M. Then I had an hour and a half drive to my hime in Thermopolis. That would put me there at close to midnight. Tomorrow, November 15, was the last day of the 1984 deer season and I had to bag a buck with a handgun.

I couldn't use just any handgun, understand. The deer had to be taken with the new Pachmayr Dominator, a gun that is a radical departure from what we've come to recognize as long-range hunting pistols. One day didn't give me much time, and to complicate things I'd had only enough time before the seminar to load up a few rounds of 7mmm Bench Rest Remington ammo for the pistol and sight in at the range. Even this had been rushed. Instead of developing a load for the Dominator, I'd simly chosen one that shot well in my XP-100 Remington of the same chambering. Then I slapped a Redfield 4X pistol scope on the gun and fired just enough shots at the range to set the zero 1-1/2 inches above point of aim at 100 yards. There was no time to chronograph the load--29.5 grains of H322 powder behind the Sierra 120-grain spitzer bullet--but I was pleased to note that a three-shot group fired after the initial sight changes were made grouped in 1-1/4 inches at 100 yards.

When I say the Pachmayr Dominator is unique, it's because it's not a whole pistol by itself. Rather, it's a conversion unit that transforms the Colt M1911 semi-automatic pistol into a 14-inch barreled, bolt-action single-shot rig that competes favorably with such long-range rigs as the Contender and bolt guns from Remington, M-S Safaru Arms and Wichita.

The credit for the invention of this conversion unit must be credited to George Hoenig, the Boise, Idaho, gunsmith. I first saw the Dominator in Tom Siatos' office at G&A. At the time it had no name and was still a handmade prototype. Nevertheless, it was impressive, both as to the workmanship and the idea. If you own a Colt M-1911--I have no idea how many surplus and commercial versions are out there--all you need is to conversion unit to be in the long-range handgunning business. I made my feelings on the design known to Tom in hopes he's pass them on to Hoenig and maybe one day he'd perfect to prototype into a commercial success.

I next saw the conversion unit at the Pachmayr booth at the 1984 SHOT Show where I was informed that Pachmayr had purchased the design from Hoenig and would soon have it in production. Even though the unit shown at that time by Pachmayr displayed numerous changes from the original I'd seen, the unit was still a prototype.

Pachmayr finalized the design in early fall of 1984 and asked that I send them a 1911 frame so they could install a conversion unit in 7mm Bench Rest Remington chambering on it. This I did, only what I sent was an M-S Safari Arms Armaloy-finished Enforcer, a short-frame design. Carl Cupp of Pachmayr had to alter the recoil lug on the Dominator so it would fit the frame. When the returned it, he also sent me a complete gun in .44 Magnum chambering using a Colt frame.

All of the parts of Dominator unit have a deep blue-black matte finish that eliminates glare in the field. Of course, whether or not the whole pistol has a matte black appearance depends upon the finish on the 1911 frame and the stocks used. When a Colt frame and Pachmayr grips are used, the finished pistol has an overall flat black appearance.

The Pachmayr Dominator unit consists of a barrel/receiver ring, a slide/bolt carrier, a bolt, an attachment nut, a draw bolt and floorplate and a fore-end. All of these combine to form a bolt-action unit which attaches to your M1911 frame. The first step in the conversion requires stripping the barrel/slide assembly from your 1911 and removing the ejector from the frame. The magazine is also set asise. Next, you have to engage the barrel/receiver ring with the rails of the slide and lock the bolt carrier/slide and receiver ring/barrel together by simply camming the bolt down into its locked position.

Now insert the attachment nut into its carrier, which is integral with and located on the bottom of the receiver ring. Cock the hammer on the frame and push the conversion unit down into the frame and back as far as it will go. Insert the draw-bolt/floorplate and tighten it. Open the action and pull the slide back, then use a long Allen wrench provided with the unit to tighten the recoil lug against the frame. Finally, slip the steel fore-end into place between the barrel and frame and secure it by inserting the Colt slide stop in the usual manner. The Dominator conversion unit is now mounted and you have a strong, accurate single-shot pistol.

This many sound complicated, but it's well within the capabilities od most shooters. Pachmayr furnishes simple, plain instructions, complete with a drawing, so most of you will have no trouble mounting the Dominator unit. However, Pachmayr warns that Colt Series 80 pistols require a special trigger alteration before they can be used with the Dominator unit. As I mentioned, special fitting is also required to mount the unit on a short frame and this should be done by Pachmayr. The Dominator should not be installed on any aluminum frame.

The 14-inch barrel on the Dominator has a nominal muzzle diameter of .710 inch and a diameter at the receiver ring a .965 inch. The barrels are furnished with or without sights. The iron sights on my .44 Magnum consist of a .115-inch-wide undercut blade up front that's set in a dovetail ramp. The ramp is secured to the barrel with a special epoxy glue. Should you wish to remove the front sight ramp when you install a scope, apply about 400 degrees of heat with a propane torch and bump the ramp with a mallet to free it. You'll have to clean a little glue residue from the barrel surface, but this is no problem. The entire barrel is blued before the ramp is attached at the factory, so removing the ramp doesn't change the overall appearance of the barrel as it would if the ramp were silver soldered on. A Millett rear sight, fully adjustable for windage and elevation, is provided. The sight radius on the pistol is 13-1/2 inches.

My 7mm B.R. unit came without sights, but fitted with a modified REdfield base and rings for a one-inch scope. The base is secured to the receiver ring by four screws anchored in holes drilled and tapped in the top of the receiver ring. The rear sight must be removed for scope mount installation. Right now the scope mount is available only from Pachmayr, but once the Dominator unit hits the market, it shouldn't be long before all of the major mount manufacturers offer a base to fit it.

A unique feature of the Dominator is the bolt/slide unit. It started as an artillery breech design and remains so for the most part. The bolt is very short, just 1.365 inches long, and has three front-locking lugs that cam into mating recesses in the receiver ring. However, the face of the bolt is very much like a detachable shell holder on a reloading press. Pachmayr calls the design a T-Slot bolt. When the bolt is opened, pulling back on it draws the slide back, exposing the bolt face. A cartridge is inserted into the T-Slot where it remains. Pushing forward on the bolt moves the slide forward to chamber the round. Camming the bolt handle down in the usual fashion locks the action. After firing you open the bolt, draw the bolt carrier/slide rearward and pop and fired case out of the T-Slot. The use of this system eliminates the need for an extractor or an ejector.

The headspacing of rimless cartridges with the T-Slot bolt system is on the datum line of the shoulder, the same system used with rimless bottleneck cases in any bolt-action pistol or rifle. But the .44 Magnum poses a different problem. The .44 headspaces on the rim, but with this bolt system, how do you mill a rim recess in the face of the chamber? You don't, so Pachmayr simply cuts the T-Slot to tight dimensions, allowing headspacing on the rim, but using the T-Slot to maintain headspace. Given the large tolerances in rim thicknesses around the industry these days, I would expect problems with this design. However, Carl Cupp tells me that they have managed to avoid any so far and I certainly had no headspace problem with my .44 Magnum unit.

The firing pin on the Dominator is set in the center of the bolt, and the external hammer on the Colt frame is used to deliver the blow to the firing pin. The hammer must be cocked before the bolt carrier/ slide assembly can be withdrawn and a cartridge inserted. The first thing that comes to mind is that this is unsafe--closing and locking a bolt with the hammer cocked. Not so! There are three positive safeties on the Dominator. One is the familiar grip safety found on all M1911 guns. Another is the thumb safety on the frame. On my M-S Safari Arms frame the long, modernized thumb safety can't be engaged because it hits the receiver ring. As if two safeties weren't enough, Pachmayr added a third, a hammer block safety that is automatically moved to "safe" when the bolt is opened and must be manually placed in the "fire" position. This safety is a 3/4 circle piece of flat steel that rotates around the rear periphery of the bolt. Projecting forward on the left side is a thumb lever, an integral part of the safety. As the bolt is opened, it contacts this thumb lever, forcing the ring to rotate counterclockwise. This places the lower end of the safety beneath the firing pin. Should the hammer fall, it hits the safety and is stopped short of hitting the firing pin. You must push the thumb lever up with your thumb before firing. I tested this safety thoroughly and found it reliable.

The Dominator conversion unit is constructed of stainless steel with the exception of the barrel, firing pin and attachment nut. The stainless parts are investment cast with the T-Slot in the bolt machined after casting. The action has been tested to pressure in excess of 100,000 copper units of pressure (c.u.p.) without any evidence of bolt setback. That's good enought to me. Should a case head rupture, or a primer pierce, the gas released will be vented away from the shooter through a hole on both sides of the receiver ring.

With iron sights and the Dominator .44 Magnum unit on a Colt frame, the pistol weighs 3 pounds, 11 ounces and measures 16-3/4 inches long overall. My M-S Safari Arms frame with the 7mm B.R. Dominator Unit, scope mount and 4X Redfield scope makes a pistol that tips the postal length of 18-1/2 inches. The difference in length results from the scope eyepiece extending back beyond the rear of the pistol.

The trigger pull on any Dominator is nothing better or worse than that of the pull on the frame to which the unit is attached. The trigger pull on my M-S Safari frame is 4-3/4 pounds while that of the Colt frame is 5-1/2 pounds. Neither of these is what I call acceptable for precision longrange shooting. I recommend that you have an expert do a trigger job on the semi-auto on which you plan to mount a Dominator unit, hopefully to get the pull weight down to at least three pounds.

Does the Dominator shoot? You bet-on a par with any other good single-shot pistol of the same chambering. All of my testing of the 7mm Bench Rest was done with the 4X Redfield scope in place, with I used only the iron sights to test the .44 Magnum. The recoil of the .44 Magnum Dominator is rough by any standards, partly because the gun seems to come straight back into your hand.

I felt a little rummy after only four hours of sleep, but when the sun popped over the eastern hills on the last day of deer season, I was sitting on a barren knob near Lake Creek, glassing the sage-covered hills. Nothing showed near my first vantage point, so I moved to another. I was about to move again when a doe materialized out of a dry wash a half mile away. She was followed by a second doe, then a dandy buck. The deer were in no hurry, just feeding as they gained elevation along a hillside. Quickly I set up my 20X Bushnell Trophy spotting scope to get a better look at the buck. This was really wasted effort, because things were down to the wire. If I hoped to bag a deer with the Dominator, I had to do it--today--and couldn't afford to be too choosy. Nevertheless, I looked the head over as best I could. One side sported four points, but the other side remained hidden due to the buck's position. I couldn't wait any longer. If I wanted to make a stalk, I'd have to do it before the deer fed out on top of the ridge.

It was actually an easy stalk. Once I made it off my observation hill, I was out of sight of my quarry. The wind was in my favor and a high ridge hid my approach. I took my time, and just below the ridgetop I shed my backpack and sat down for a breather. Then I crawled slowly up, pushing the backpack ahead of me. At first I saw only the two does, but after a couple of minutes the buck walked into full view, feeding broadside to my position at what I estimated to be 200 yards. He had no idea I was in the country.

With the backpack as a rest, my position was rock solid. I set the crosshair about four inches below the top of the buck's shoulder, and when everything settled down, I thumbed the safety, off and squeezed. The pistol recoiled off target, but I was sure I heard the bullet hit home. The buck swapped ends and in five jumps disappeared behind a rise.

I jacked the action open, popped out the fired case, fed a fresh round into the T-Slot bolt and slammed the action closed. I felt there was no way I would have missed, but fired no more than I had the Dominator at that time, there's always an element of doubt. I worked up the ridge so I could look down on the spot where the buck had disappeared. At least thay way he'd be in sight long enough for me to get off a second shot.

I needn't have worried. When I looked donw, the buck was on his side not 20 yards from where he'd disappeared. He looked very dead, but I approached with the Dominator loaded just in case. But he was down for keeps--the first head of big game to fall to the Pachmayr Dominator.

As of this writing the Dominator is available in four chamberings--.223 Remington, 7mm Bench Rest Remington, .308 Winchester and .44 Magnum. Without sights the Dominator will retail for $295, with sights for $320. For an additional $15 Pachmayr will fit the unit to your frame and test fire the gun. Fifteen dollars more will buy installation of Pachmayr sling swivels to make for easy packing afield.
COPYRIGHT 1985 InterMedia Outdoors, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Milek, Bob
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Apr 1, 1985
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