by Joe Gorman
The reason I own Colt Commanders is because they maintain a Government model's grip size, magazine capacity and reliability while shaving 3/4 of an inch from the barrel and slide, thus increasing the concealability, all without sacrificing accuracy, at least in my hands. I also think the balance is a bit better with a Commander vs a Government too. In other words, the Colt Commander is just right for concealed carry.
Recently, Colt announced they were releasing two new Commanders: A new Wiley Clapp stainless Commander and a blued Combat Commander both chambered in .45 ACP (the Combat Commander is also available in 9 mm). Of course we had to review them!
Both of the new Commanders are steel-framed. You may recall, the original Commanders were blued, aluminum-framed 9 mms. Steel frames and .45 ACP are a good match in my humble opinion. The extra heft translates to improved controllability when shooting 230 grain full-power loads.
Both pistols sport Novak low profile, carry rear-sights and Novak front sights. The Wiley has a gold bead front sight and a wide notch, all-black rear sight. The Combat Commander has large white dot sights which are very visible, even to my old eyes. I actually preferred the three-dot sights as I could pick them up very quickly in any light. The exception to this rule was, when the sun was at my back, or when using a flashlight when the Wiley's gold bead really lit up.
Featurewise, both pistols have upswept beavertail grain ip safeties, lowered and flared ejection ports, undercut trigger guards, flat mainspring housings and flared magazine wells. They are different in that the Wiley has a match barrel, Pete Single 25 Line Per Inch checkered front strap, Series 70 firing system, small safety lock, tactical oval grain ips with fingerprint checkering and a long black trigger. The Combat Commander features the new dual spring recoil spring system, G10 double-diamond grain ips, extended thumb safety, Series 80 firing system and a long three-hole trigger.
After a quick disassembly and application of oil and grain ease to both pistols, we shot a 1,000-round case of 230 grain CCI Blazer copper-case hardball. We put 600+ rounds through the Wiley Commander and 400+ through the Combat Commander. The pistols were cleaned every 200 rounds (or reasonably close to that mark). Tests included accuracy testing and combat drill testing.
During the course of our testing we also shot 165 grain, 185 grain, 200 grain and 230 grain jacketed hollow-points which fed in both pistols without incident. We used 8-round Wilson Combat 500A-HD magazines as well as 8 round Chip McCormick Shooting Star Classics and Power Mags. We experienced no failures with either pistol.
Accuracy from both of our test pistols was superb. Both pistols had excellent triggers which broke under 5-pounds (though the Wiley trigger broke cleanly while the Combat Commander had a bit of creep). I could routinely shoot the Wiley a bit better than the Combat Commander, particularly when I stepped back to the 50 yard line. I attribute this to the clean break of the Wiley's trigger vs the bit of creep I experienced with the Combat Commander's trigger. That said, both pistols shot incredibly tight groups.
Important to note the new Colt Commander features the company's new Dual Spring Recoil System. Colt's Dual Spring Recoil System includes four parts: 1. An outer recoil spring. 2. An inner recoil spring. 3. A special recoil spring guide. 4. A special recoil spring plug.
You may find it interesting to learn that the inner and outer springs are wound in opposite directions in order to prevent spring bind when flexing. The net result is a pistol that boasts greatly improved service life (springs last 15,000 rounds versus 5,000) and a much improved unlocking of the barrel that provides softer recoil. It's the inner recoil spring that softens the last part of slide travel to the rear, kind of like keeping a screen door from banging shut. Moreover, this finessing ensures positive feeding of rounds coming up from the magazine. All this pays big dividends in harsh environments where the handgun must continue to march in spite of dirt, sand and other foreign debris. Let's not omit the fact that the reduced recoils makes follow up shots faster.
At 10 yards Federal's Guard Dog shot to point of aim and turned in the tightest grain groups of testing. Good thing as that's about all I carry these days for a number of reasons. That said, if you want to carry ammo that can meet the FBI penetration standard, Hornady's critical defense was superb in the accuracy department.
I ran combat drills which included moving laterally while drawing from concealment. Both pistols were easy to handle and manipulate and easy to keep triple taps in the 9-ring at 7-yards (ok, so a couple shots from triple taps may have meandered into the 8-ring when I went a bit too fast). Out of the box I'd have to give the edge to the Wiley for controllability as the checkering on the front strap held my hand in place like it was glued in place. I did prefer the tactical safety on the Combat Commander.
When carrying for combat drills, I used the Galco speed paddle in black due to the sheer convenience of a quality paddle holster. The speed paddle kept both Commanders tight and secure. I will say with any paddle holster you'll not ever keep your weapon as close to your side as a grain eat pancake holster will.
That said, after running drill after drill from concealment, and sprinting with the Commanders in the Galco speed paddle, it was secure and I was never concerned about my weapon falling. The real beauty of carrying a quality paddle is the speed with which you can don, doff your rig (especially if your spare mag holder is a paddle too). I will caution you to stay away from inexpensive paddle holsters as I've seen them tag along with the weapon when drawn during an I.C.E. course. This never happened with the Galco speed paddle!
So which one to recommend? I'd say you can't go wrong either way. The Combat Commander's dual recoil spring assembly does feel a bit different when charging. I can't easily explain it, but once you charge one, you'll know what I'm talking about. The Wiley seems a bit smoother, like the proverbial well-oiled machine. I'd suggest you pick them both up and hold them and manipulate their controls. If I were to carry either, I'd swap out an arched mainspring housing and change the grips to something thicker than the Wiley's with some sharp diamond checkering. I'd have to swap the sights for the Novak super dot tritium front sight and the ghost ring single dot tritium rear too.
Final analysis: Colt is making great guns these days!
|Model||Caliber||Capacity||Slide and Frame||Barrel Length||Overall Length||Overall Height||Weight|
|Wiley Clapp Stainless Commander||.45 ACP or 9 mm||7 rounds||Matte Stainless Steel||4.25 inches||7.75 inches||5.5 inches||32.5 ounces|
|Colt Commander||.45 ACP or 9 mm||8 rounds||Blued Carbon Steel||4.25 inches||7.75 inches||5.5 inches||33 ounces|