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Colt's Stainless Competition
.38 Super

Installing a New Barrel, New Magazines

Colt Competition 38 Super handgun displayed with ammunition and magazines

by Joe Gorman

Made Super Versatile With Bar-Sto barrel in 9mm Parabellum

The Colt Competition 1911 may well represent the best value in a 1911 Government pistol these days. Out of the box it is completely ready to compete in a IDPA match or a bullseye competition or to carry as a self-defense gun. I wrote Colt to request a stainless .38 super version of the Competition as I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for that caliber and I carried a blued .38 super 1911 every day for 5 years.

When our test sample arrived, I was impressed with its super sweet 4.5 lb trigger, incredibly crisp and visible red Novak fiber front sight (other colors are provided) and adjustable combat rear sight, and, of course, its 70-series internals. The first 10 rounds I fired from the gun convinced me Colt hit a home run. From 10 yards, all 10 rounds were literally touching one another.

In short, this Colt Competition needs nothing, no matter role you have in mind for it. That’s not to say there aren’t aftermarket accessories out there that can make even this great 1911 better. For example, I like 10 round magazines more than the factory 9-rounders because, there’s one more round! I also would like a second barrel that would allow me to shoot 9mm. I also decked out my test gun with Altamont rosewood, double-diamond Colt Medallion grips for a traditional look and an arched mainspring housing from Colt.

Bar-Sto 9mm Barrel

The option to shoot more than once caliber of ammunition from the same pistol has always been attractive to me. These days when everyone seems to shoot 9mm, the economy of scale means 9mm is always very reasonably priced. .38 super, on the other hand, is relatively expensive and can be nearly impossible to find at your local gun shop.

Closeup of a Bar-Sto 9mm Barrel

I ordered a Bar-Sto semi-fit barrel and hoped that I might get lucky and it would just drop in. Well, it didn’t drop in. So off to Bar-Sto it went to be fitted.

It would be hard to top the first group I shot through the factory match barrel. After I installed the Bar-Sto 9mm barrel I was rewarded with a tight 2-inch group fired from 10 yards with Winchester 9mm PDX ammo. Considering it was me behind the trigger, that’s really good! The 9mm Bar-Sto barrel was expertly fitted and ran reliably. This offers me a truly flexible solution to shooting more than one caliber in this Colt Competition.

McCormick Magazines

The importance of good magazines cannot be overstated. Your pistol lives and dies on ammo quality and a proper functioning magazine. No matter how good your pistol is, if you run a sub-par magazine you will experience malfunctions. McCormick uses stainless bodies and their patented Rocket springs in their 10-round XP mags to ensure reliable feeding and a long service life. In our testing at Shooter’s Report, we use 9mm and .38 Super McCormick XP magazines. The base plates on McCormick mags come off easily to allow for thorough cleaning of the magazine tube.

We’ve shot all flavors of McCormick magazines throughout the years and I still have some 20-year-old McCormicks that have been used and abused and still feed and hold back the slide just fine after the last round has been fired. Both our .38 super and 9mm McCormick XP magazines functioned well in the Colt Competition with ball and self-defense ammunition.

Wilson ETM Magazines

Wilson Combat makes some very highly regarded magazines (and many other parts) for the 1911. Wilson also uses a very robust stainless mag body and they have a unique flat wire spring in their ETM line that Wilson claims can withstand long stretches of being left fully loaded and frequent loading/unloading cycles. I requested 2 .38 super and 2 9mm 10-round ETM magazines for our evaluation of the Colt Competition. I must say the thought of having a new type of spring that Wilson almost dares me to try and kill intrigues me.

You may know that Wilson ETM mags, like the 47D, use a super tough nylon follower, as opposed to the old school stamped metal and with all my brave attempts to kill the follower in the ETM mags with rude slide stop releases after aggressive fresh magazine insertions, I was unable to even leave a mark. Wilson also incorporates a small front ramp on the 9mm magazine to prevent nose down feeding with hollow point rounds. In my testing, it worked. Wilson also etches the caliber the magazine is designed for on the tube. I will let you know if I have any luck either weakening ETM the springs via leaving magazines loaded or frequent range duty where they will be loaded/unloaded multiple times a day.


We shot 600 rounds of Winchester .38 super ball and 200 rounds of Winchester .38 super Silvertip ammunition. We experienced no malfunctions. I tried to split the magazine usage up as evenly as possible. The factory mags were fine BTW. We ran them hard and they worked perfectly.

When shooting 9mm, we used Winchester white box ball ammo, Winchester PDX self-defense ammo and Hornady Critical Duty 135gr 9mm+p ammo. I scored very tight 9mm groups with both the PDX and the Critical Duty ammo. I did not experience any malfunctions with the 9mm self-defense ammo. For more recreational shooting and ringing steel I used the Winchester ball ammo and out of 300 rounds I experienced zero malfunctions.

I think you will love the Colt Competition, right out of the box. If you don’t like the color of the fiber optic sight that shipped with the gun, Colt has provided additional colors you can install to suit your fancy. I think you’ll love the Colt Competition even more with a Bar-Sto replacement barrel that allows you to shoot an additional caliber and McCormick XP and Wilson ETM magazines!

Action: Single Action, Hammer Fired Semi-Auto
Barrel: 5-Inches
Capacity: 9 + 1 Rounds
Finish: Stainless steel
Sights: Novak Adjustable Fiber Optic
Stock: Steel Frame/G10 Checkered Blue Grips Grips
Magazine: Two each 9 rounds
Weight: 36 ounces
Safety: Thumb Safety & Grip Safety
Grips: G10 Blue and Black Grips
Barrel Length: 5 inches
Overall Length: 8.5 - inches
Features: National Match Barrel w Dual Recoil Spring System