Chop nearly two-inches off the barrel and an inch off the frame of a Colt 1911-A1 and what do you end up with? A highly effective, eminently concealable yet still accurate Colt officer's model.
By Joe Gorman
Is it good enough to take a brand new 1911 Colt Officer's model out of its box and immediately holster it in a inside-the-pants-rig and forget your troubles? Doubtful. Don't get me wrong. The Colt Officer's model is excellent in terms of reliability and accuracy. But it can be improved upon. And us pistoleros are known for tinkering.
It's no secret pistoleros are fickle perfectionists. Most of us spend hundreds of dollars customizing a pistol just the way we want it only to trade it off for some virgin canvas of a new handgun in a moment of melancholy. I confess to said transgression. I've let pistols go that I still kick myself for today. And if you've done similar trading, it's no secret that custom gun work doesn't pay at the dealers show room when you go to trade it in. So what if we could make a decision as to what had to be changed about the Officer's to make it perfect for the mission planned for it and still maintain afford ability? That involves planning and assessment and finding a likely candidate for modifying.
My candidate for Officer's Custom School is a blue steel Colt MKIV Officer's enhanced. (In Genesis God decreed that handguns shall be blue!) Right out of the box this weapon's beavertail safety, lowered and scalloped ejection port and undercut trigger guard have taken care of a lot of customizing chores. Even so I chose to lose the wimpy stock barrel bushing and the reverse recoil plug, replacing them with a OFI bushing and an Ed Brown full length recoil guide rod. I then replaced the stock hammer, sear and trigger with an Cylinder and Slide hammer and sear and a Videcki speed trigger. I replaced the stock rubber grips with a beautiful set of Melvin Tyler Ivorex medallion grips that look very much like aged ivory. I also replaced the stock plastic mainspring housing with a steel, checkered, Smith and Alexander flat mainspring housing. And last but not least, I chose to rig out with a no-nonsense holster.
Aficionados of the Officer's already know the stock barrel-bushing is a weak sister. Because of the short barrel length, the bushing must allow the barrel to dip a long way off axis and yet keep the tolerances tight enough to ensure an accurate pistol. The stock bushing handles this job reasonably well, but it is only .060 of an inch thick and therefore prone to breakage. This is one of those unspoken gems of knowledge that Officer's devotees (my usual euphemism for nuts) just assume is instinctive and passed along between generations via genes. I replaced the stock bushing with an OFI that measures .120 thick and much more durable due to the extra heft.
The reverse recoil plug, that retains the dual recoil springs, complicates disassembly tremendously and is also known for premature failure. I got rid of both those negatives with the installation of an Ed Brown full-length, recoil-spring, guide-rod. Installation required filling away metal from the under side of the slide, at the rear of the recoil plug housing. But once installed, the action was smoothed beyond what one would expect from a mere $30.00 part. Incredible! Disassembly was somewhat simpler yet still no cake walk. Stoning stock hammers and sears usually produces less than perfect results.
I once sent two Government .45s to Bill Laughridge at Cylinder & Slide and instructed him to give them both trigger jobs. In one pistol I asked him to retain the stock hammer and sear. In the other, I asked him to stone a new Ed Brown hammer and sear. The stock parts gun came back with the slightest trace of a sliver, of creep. So minuscule that most persons, even well-versed .45 guys thought it was right on the money.
The Ed Brown parts gun came back museum piece perfect. Not choosing to mess with success, I had Bill Laughridge do the kind of fine trigger work that made him world famous. He installed one of his new C&S Tactical hammers and C&S tactical sears. Bill also replaced the series-80 plunger lever with a national match plunger, radiused and tensioned, and tensioned the extractor, beveled the inside of the ejection port and installed a 24 lb. recoil spring and changed the stock magazine spring with a 11-pound Wolff spring. When I got the Officer's back, the Videcki speed-trigger broke crisply at 5 1/2 lbs--just perfect for carry use.
Replacing the trigger on this gun was a personal call on my part. I don't think this part has to be touched in order to make it suitable for carry use. In fact, the argument could be made that replacing the stock trigger with an over-travel-adjustable trigger reduces reliability by introducing the possibility that the over-travel-adjustment screw could back out and prevent the trigger from moving sufficiently to allow the hammer to fall.
There is still, at least in theory, this potentiality even if the over-travel adjustment screw is lock-tited after adjustment. I've never heard of a cleaned, and then, lock-tited over-travel-adjustment screw backing out and making the pistol inoperative. But it could happen, I suppose, if conditions were just right. The Videcki speed-trigger, when properly fitted, is a beautiful thing, and adds so much in consistency and hence accuracy that its benefits outweigh the potential drawbacks.
I then replaced the stock, plastic mainspring housing with a checkered steel, flat, Smith and Alexander housing. The S & A mainspring housing looks right on this pocket powerhouse. Besides, who wants plastic on a one-of-a-kind gun?
I also got rid of the rubber (Yuk!) wraparound grips and replaced them with a very pretty set of Melvin Tyler's Ivorex medallion grips. These things are a work of art. They look like aged ivory and better yet, cost 1/10th the price of most real ivory. A good gun should look good.
The final fix-up is one mostly overlooked: Gunleather. Depending on what I'm doing, I'd like to carry my Officer's in a shoulder holster, an inside the pants holster or a strong-side carry holster. Purchasing three quality holsters would be an expensive proposition. Fortunately DeSantis makes one holster that can do all three. Called the Triple Agent, this quality rig boasts pigskin webbing securing a molded leather, thumb-strap holster on one side and a double mag pouch on the other. Unsnapping the holster from the shoulder web produces a strong side thumbsnap hip holster. By snapping two belt loops to the outside of the holster, an inside the pants holster is created. Very versatile!
Here's where I'd stop modifying the gun. It's now more accurate and more reliable than when it came from the factory. Not that it was any slouch out of the box. At the shooting range this pistol produced some stunning off-hand groups from 25 yards out. The best of which put five 185-grain Federal JHP (non +p) into just under two inches, measured center-to-center. This ammo also shoots to point-of-aim at 25 yards, it's easy on the hand in the Officer's and is no slouch in stopping bad-guys.
Finally, my wife loves this pistol. She recently put 48- of 50-rounds of the Federal 185-grain JHPs into a paper plate from 25-yards. Now she affectionately refers to it as "My gun." Could be I refined it too well.