Colt’s Series 70 Trigger Put to the Test — Series 70 vs. Series 80

Colt's Custom Shop Mk. IV Series 70 in stainless

Colt’s Custom Shop Mk. IV Series 70 in stainless

On Monday I posted an initial look at the Colt Mk. IV Series 70 — a current version from Colt’s Custom Shop.  In that article I explained how the Series 70 came about, how the Series 70 firing system differs from the Series 80 system used in Colt M1911 pistols since 1983, and why Colt reintroduced the Series 70 in limited runs beginning in 2001.

Colt M1991A1 (blue, top); Colt Mk. IV Series 70 (stainless, bottom)

Colt Mk. IV Series 70 (stainless); Colt M1991A1 (blue)

In the M1911 world, there is a persistent, often repeated claim that the Series 70 firing system results in a superior trigger to the much maligned Series 80 system.  But does this claim hold validity when put to the test?

Mk. IV Series 70 versus M1991A1 Series 80

Mk. IV Series 70 versus M1991A1 Series 80

To find out I took a new, fresh from the box Colt Mk. IV Series 70 .45 ACP and directly compared the trigger to three Series 80 pistols.  The video below shows how the Series 70 stacked up against a blued, 2014-vintage Colt M1991A1 Series 80 .45 ACP.  Not in the video — but also used in comparison — were two unfired Colt M1991A1 Series 80 pistols.  One is another blued .45 ACP identical to the test pistol but of slightly later vintage; the other is stainless and chambered in .38 Super +P (see: Stainless Colt .38 Super +P M1991A1 — How do you go bankrupt making something this good?).  Here are all four Colts posing for a family portrait:

Colt Mk. IV Series 70 swimming against school of M1991A1

Colt Mk. IV Series 70 swimming against school of M1991A1

This was a pretty simple test of triggers, and admittedly perhaps a bit subjective as I used no measuring equipment in this test.  On each cocked weapon I depressed the grip safety, took up the trigger slack, and then slowly and carefully squeezed the trigger until the sear tripped and the hammer fell.  I took video of the first test, which pitted the Mk. IV Series 70 against the aforementioned M1991A1.  This particular M1991A1 has perhaps 100 rounds of .45 ACP through it, so break-in shouldn’t have been a factor.  The results of this test were thus:

I was pretty shocked at the results of this comparison.  I previously reviewed the M1991A1 used in the above video (see: A 1911 by Any Other Name Would Be . . . an M1991A1 — Shooting Review), so I already knew that the Series 80 trigger is one of the best I’ve ever encountered in a semiautomatic.  In that article I said of the Series 80 firing pin block and the reported effect on the trigger:

That last Series 80 feature is a bit controversial. Some claim that it unnecessarily complicated the original design, degraded the trigger by making it stiffer and adding an almost imperceptible (in my view) amount of trigger creep before the hammer trips, and gunsmiths complained that the new design is more difficult to tune to competition standards. My personal opinion? It’s still one of the best triggers out there, and according to my research any gunsmith worthy of the title will be able to tune your trigger with just a bit more effort. But even out of the box, I’d be hard pressed to understand why anyone would think this weapon needs any tuning whatsoever. If the shooter can’t hold this weapon on target, then it’s the shooter who has a problem rather than the trigger and firing system on this weapon.

Still, after having read so many Colt M1911 purists touting the Series 70’s superiority, I thought there was a chance that this particular M1991A1 was perhaps exceptional.  I was wrong.  Compared to the two additional comparisons I ran on the second and third unfired M1991A1 pistols, the one with some rounds through it wasn’t even quite as good.  Darn close, mind you, but it has just a hint of creep between slack take-up and sear trip.  The other pistols had none . . . at least none that I could feel, and the .38 Super +P was the best of the lot as the trigger was noticeably lighter than either of the other two Series 80 pistols or the Mk. IV Series 70.

Is three against one fair fight? Apparently not!

Is three against one fair fight? Apparently not!

Incredibly, the Mk. IV Series 70 was the worst of the lot.  But even the worst M1911 trigger bests pretty much anything else out there in the semiautomatic world.  From the descriptions I’ve read of the Series 80 trigger I expected all three would in comparison be stiffer, display more creep, and exhibit at least a degree of grittiness.  But this wasn’t the case on two of the Series 80s, and on the third the ever-so-slight trigger creep and any “grittiness” were noticeably less than that of the Series 70.  In quantifiable terms, the Series 70 crept for between ⅛ to ¼ inch (3.2mm to 6.3mm) from slack take-up to sear trip, and there was a faintly detectable grittiness to the feel.  The M1991A1 in the video in comparison had less than ⅛ inch creep (in other words, nearly none), and no grittiness in the feel of the trigger.

The Series 80 Competition

The Series 80 Competition

So, is the Mk. IV Series 70 from Colt’s Custom Shop worth the price premium over a Series 80 M1991A1, or even the slightly more expensive Series 80 M1911A1?  Not if you’re looking for a better out-of-the-box trigger, because this isn’t it.

Is the Mk. IV Series 70 worth the premium to round out a Colt Collection?  Probably.  If you can get the price down from the MSRP.  This is especially the case now that Colt have reduced the MSRP on the M1991A1.  When I first reviewed the M1991A1 the MSRP was $974, and the pistol reviewed was purchased for $950.  Now MSRP on the M1991A1 is $799, and the unfired example in today’s post was snagged for $775.  The somewhat rare stainless chambered in .38 Super +P cost $900 back in June.

In comparison, MSRP for the Mk. IV Series 70 is $979 (at the time of this writing), but it seems prices are falling since the purchase of this example for a buck more than the MSRP (and some $200 less than the gun store was originally asking because of its exclusive, hard-to-get nature).  Probably because of Colt’s recent excursion into bankruptcy, you can find Mk. IV Series 70 pistols at online gun stores for well south of $900, and is some cases even below the $850 mark.  That makes this a good time to add one to the collection, as these pistols were going from several hundreds of dollars more just a few months ago before Colt’s recent bankruptcy announcement.


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