Tag Archives: M1911

An original Colt MK IV Series 70


Next week I begin another travel series — 54 days at sea on a trip that took us on two transatlantic crossings and a tour of both the Mediterranean and Black Seas. But for this week I’m returning to the subject that garners my highest audience, firearms.

An original Colt MK IV Series 70

It’s not often you come across a 36-year-old firearm in this condition. And according to the previous owner, the original Colt MK IV Series 70 has less than 100 rounds through it.

Colt MK IV Series 70 circa 1982

There are a few flaws in the original Colt satin blue finish, but I’d rate this pistol at around 98%. The wood grips also had some minor dings, as well, but also very minor.

Colt MK IV Series 70 original grip with Colt medallion

If you read my previous blog article on the new MK IV Series 70 (see: A Look at the Colt MK IV Series 70), then you know that the originals differed from the original in more than just the trigger. The original run from 1970 to 1983 also included a fingered “collet” bushing over a barrel with a widened muzzle end. This change was incorporated to improve the barrel-to-bushing fit in order to improve accuracy.

Series 70 collet bushing and wide-end barrel

The collet bushing held over into the Series 80 line until the late 1980s, but reports of bushing failures led Colt to revert back to the solid bushing which carries over to the reintroduced Series 70 pistols of today.

An original Colt MK IV Series 70 disassembled

The example here has a 70B prefixed serial number. That places this 1911 at the very end of the original MK IV Series 70 run, as the 70B serial number began in 1981 and ran through the end of production in 1983. The rest of the serial number leads me to believe that the actual year of production was probably 1982.

Colt 70B serial number places manufacture between 1981 and 1983

In my second article on the current Series 70 (see: Colt’s Series 70 Trigger Put to the Test — Series 70 vs. Series 80) I noted that the trigger was not all it was cracked up to be my Colt 1911 enthusiasts. I’ve since repeated my experiment (see video below) on side-by-side comparisons between probably half a dozen new Series 70 Colts and the current line of Series 80. Results were always the same. Out of the box, the current Colt Series 80 routinely beats the current Series 70 on every gun I’ve tried.

So, what about the original MK IV Series 70? Not so in this case. This truly the trigger I’ve seen praised. That’s not to say that the current Series 70 trigger is bad, as no Colt 1911/1991A1 trigger can be described as such from my experience, it’s just that the new Series 70 has more creep after take up and displays a degree of grittiness that simply doesn’t exist in any other Series 80 Colt I’ve tried.

Colt MK IV Series 70 slide stamp

COLT’S GOVERNMENT MODEL slide stamp

Sights on the original Series 70 match the current crop. They’re nothing about which to write home. I much prefer the three-dot sights Colt uses on the current Series 80.

Colt MK IV Series 70 rear sight

Colt MK IV Series 70 front sight

Here’s a comparison between a new Series 70 and a Series 80 M1991A1 to illistrate what I mean:

New MK IV Series 70 left; new M1991A1 Series 80 right

Fortunately, both the original and previous owners of this pistol did something that far too few people do; they retained the original box and owner’s manual.

Colt MK IV Series 70 box and owner’s manual ©1981

Here is this original Mk IV Series 70 posing with the box it came in:

Colt MK IV Series 70 with original box

But the box has definitely seen better days, and the Styrofoam insert inside was partially melted away from gun lubricant. Fortunately, that didn’t mar the finish on the pistol.

Colt MK IV Series 70 box

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Firing Review — The stainless Colt M1991A1 .38 Super +P


Colt M1991A1 .38 Super +P

Colt M1991A1 .38 Super +P

You may recall that I gave a first-look review of this intriguing weapon and caliber before.  I had no intentions of firing that weapon, and still don’t as it’s a pre-bankruptcy example of the venerable Colt M1911 design in a somewhat rare caliber.

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What’s in the box

Fortunately I satisfied my itch to try the M1911 in .38 Super +P by acquiring a second copy.  As with the first copy, this one is also a Model 1991A1 in stainless, and outwardly it’s identical.  The only difference appears to be the included magazines, as the firing example came with rubberized footings screwed onto the bottoms.  See below for a comparison:

Rubberized footing on magazines

Rubberized footing on magazines

Previous magazine footplate

Previous magazine footplate

So, finally, I got around to firing this incredible combination — the classic Colt M1911 chambered in the powerfully exquisite .38 Super +P cartridge.  For an explanation on how this combination came about in 1929, and a brief history on the .38 Super +P cartridge, read my first-look review by clicking on the link below.  I’m sure you’ll find it both informative and entertaining.

The Prancing Horse

The Prancing Horse

Being the M1991A1, today’s Colt has the  Series 80 trigger.  For an explanation on that and a comparison with the Series 70 trigger go to these links:

Starboard view

Starboard view

And since I’ve covered the trigger on the Colt M1911 in those past articles, I won’t cover that again here today except to say that it’s what you’d expect from the M1911 design.  In a word — Superb.

Slide locked back

Slide locked back

As I’ve stated previously in the above articles, the Colt M1911 was originally designed around the .45 ACP cartridge.  Only in 1929 — when law enforcement had trouble going up against Depression-era desperados in thick steel-bodied cars and wearing body armor impervious to the .45 — did Colt get around to putting a bit more oomph through the Colt M1911.  That resulted in what is basically the forerunner to the Magnum load — the .38 Super +P, which would for six years reign as the most powerful handgun cartridge until the advent of the .357 Magnum revolver in 1935.  The .38 Super +P still beats the .40 SW, and even compares favorably with most commercial loads of the .357 SIG.

Slide forward

Slide forward

Considering the increased muzzle energy and higher velocity of the lighter .38 Super +P round, one would expect more recoil over an M1911 chambered in .45 ACP.  In actual practice it turns out just the opposite.  M1911 recoil with the much slower, quite heavy .45 ACP is very controllable, but it does have a “push” to it that gives some muzzle rise.  I refer to this recoil as a “push” because that’s the best way to describe what you feel.  If you read my article on firing the .45 ACP M1991A1 at the link below, you’ll find this description:

“In my opinion the 9mm has a sharper, quicker recoil whereas the .45 ACP imparts a steady, even, thrust-like reaction.  Recoil management is thus easy to accomplish and target reacquisition is very quick.”

Cocked and locked

Cocked and locked

If anything, the .38 Super +P feels more like the recoil one experiences when firing a standard locked-breech 9mm Parabellum when shot from a SIG P229.  The recoil impulse feels quicker than with an M1911 firing a .45 ACP, but the muzzle rise seems less and reacquisition on target is about the same.  There is one difference, however.  That’s in muzzle flash.  I shot this M1991A1 .38 Super at an indoor range with somewhat dim lighting.  The flash was . . . impressive.  Not .357 Magnum-out-of-a-two-inch-barrel impressive, but you’ll definitely notice a flash coming out of the muzzle.

Port view

Port view

My impressions after firing the .38 Super +P is that this is probably my new favorite handgun shooting round, and the M1991A1 in stainless is now my new favorite hiking piece except in brown bear country.  For that I’ll rely upon bear spray and shop around for something even more powerful as a backup to the spray, perhaps a Smith & Wesson .500 revolver with ported barrel.

Colt M1991A1 .38 Super +P in stainless — A real winner

Colt M1991A1 .38 Super +P in stainless — A real winner

Yep, the Colt M1991A1 is simply that fun to shoot.  This is also an incredibly accurate combination in an very controllable package.

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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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