Gratuitous Gun Pic: Colt Combat Commander (.45 ACP)

Here’s the gun with which I learned to shoot the .45 ACP cartridge:  the Colt Combat Commander Model 70:

Now I’ve said a lot of bad things about Colt (the company) before, but I have to tell you, my Commander was an absolute joy to shoot, and I never had to do anything to improve it.  What’s more, it loaded, fired and ejected every possible type of .45 ACP I ever put into it, and within the confines of the shorter 4” barrel, it was as accurate as I could shoot it — which, I have to tell you, wasn’t saying much.  In those days, I had no patience, and every handgun shooting session seemed to involve shooting a box of ammo as quickly as possible, then heading off to the rifle range lanes to do the serious stuff, i.e. trying to get five rounds of .308 through a single hole with my Israeli Mauser.

It seemed pointless to me to spend a lot of time at the range trying to coax tiny groups out of a 4” barrel, when most self-defense situations involve distances of less than seven yards and shooting fewer than five rounds — when pin-point accuracy is largely irrelevant, really, as long as all the holes are in a sideplate-sized hole in the center of the target.

But to return to the old days:  after shooting off my first thousand rounds of .45 ACP, I could handle the Commander in my sleep, and saw no reason to spend more time than I needed “to keep my eye in”.  Ah, the silliness of youth…

To a certain degree, I still have some of that cavalier attitude towards large-caliber handgun shooting, and most especially with a carry gun.  Now, though, that’s confined to my backup S&W 637;  the 1911, however, always gets a thorough workout.

And here’s the scoop:  the smaller 1911 frames like the Combat Commander are a perfect compromise between stopping-power and concealability — for a man.  I think that women need something which either tames recoil better (i.e. a larger-frame pistol) or else should shoot a cartridge which has less recoil to start off with.  Or both.  Like this shiny Combat Commander in 9mm:

And yes, I know there are women who compete in IPSC and all that jive, using full-frame 1911s to shoot .45 ACP.  (David also killed Goliath — but that’s not the way to bet.)  The stainless Commander fits every bill for the ladies, I think.

As for me:  would I use a Commander for my carry piece nowadays?  In a heartbeat.


  1. Seven yards? Harrumph! If you only practice at that range, you leave yourself wide open to being whacked by any twit with an AK.

    No. I maintain that the counsel given in the old books on combat shooting, written before shooting schools became big business, was wise. Get a solid handle on the precision disciplines. When you can hit a man-sized target at 50 meters using one hand, you have solid fundamentals.

  2. For concealed carry, the Commander is half of a good idea. The 4″ barrel is a good start. What really helps the 1911 pattern pistol be a great every day carry pistol is adding the shorter Officers frame to the Commander’s 4″ slide.
    What you get is a more easily concealed pistol.
    In my case, I use a Springfield compact 1911. Aluminum alloy Officers frame & a 4″ barrel, its lighter than a standard Commander. Mine is chambered in 9mm due to arthritis in my hands, but I get an extra round to make up for it.
    Fitted with Tritium night sights and a Crimson Trace green lasergrip. I have fitted a Cylinder & Slide hammer & sear & adjusted to trigger pull to 4.25 lbs. Sufficiently accurate, sufficiently powerful and totally reliable. John Moses would approve.

  3. My first 1911, (first pistol was a Dan Wesson .357 pistol pack when I was 17), was a Colt Gold Cup NM. I won many pistol competitions with it, and still shoot it a lot. Can hit the plate on the 100 yard rifle range every time. The target sights are terrible for concealed carry so I carry a Springfield Armory XD subcompact in .40. It is not pretty, but it is reliable. I use a Custom Carry Concepts Gesalt holster in the appendix position and it works great.

  4. So my brother 8 years older departed early and left me his Gold Cup. While I like to shoot it, I’d rather preserve it for one of my sons to pass on down. If I were to spend $1,000 or less, what is the best 1911 I could buy?

    1. Take a look at the SIG 1911 XO Black. Bud’s Guns has them at around $900 at time of writing.
      Also at the same site, the Magnum Research DE1911G for just under $700. I haven’t shot this one before, but Mag Research has a decent rep for well-made guns.

    2. There’s also the Ruger 1911s- I’ve heard mostly good about them.
      New Colt can still be had for under a grand.

  5. Both of my 1911s are full size (10mm and .45ACP). I rented a Commander once many years ago at an indoor range. As I recall it was fine, though that gave no useful data as to its carry-ability.

    I have to admit I rarely shoot past 15 yards with a handgun (and rarely past 10 with a pocket gun, even with a laser sight).

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