I have to admit that I have not always been a 1911 shooter. I cut my handgunning teeth on revolvers when I was very young. After all, my dad was a deputy sheriff at a time when revolvers were king and semi-auto pistols were a mystery to most folks. Still, my dad was a veteran. So even though he carried a revolver at work, he was a big fan of the Colt 45, and in particular, the Combat Commander. Dad and I were very close. As a young man I wanted to be like him. So, when it came time to purchase my first handgun in 1978 I opted to purchase a Colt Combat Commander in 45 ACP. There was a sale going on at Two Guys, a chain of stores which no longer exists, and I busted my hump to get down there and purchase my brand new Combat Commander before the sale ended. I bought it for the paltry sum of $186.86 out the door. That may not sound like very much today, but back then it was about a week’s pay.
At this point in my story you might be thinking about how excited I must have been to shoot that brand new gun. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way. At least not at first. It was several days after the purchase that I finally had a day off and time to go shoot the new gun. What I discovered on my first trip to the range was that shooting a semi-automatic pistol and shooting a revolver are entirely two different things. I was accustomed to the light recoil of a 38 Special and the heavy double action trigger pull of a revolver. That new Colt 45 was just the opposite in both areas. The combination of the heavier recoil of the 45 and the light single action trigger of the 1911 style pistol confused the tar out of me. I found myself anticipating the recoil with a serious flinch at the same time that I was jerking the trigger. Needless to say, I jerked the barrel downward every time I fired a shot. To my great surprise and considerable embarrassment, every round I fired went under the target and dug, what my father quaintly called potatoes holes, into the dirt. I was certain that I had made a terrible mistake in purchasing that pistol. My dad, who was with me at the time, had an amused look on his face as I expressed my frustration and told him there must certainly be something wrong with the gun. He tried to diagnose the problem and I protested. At that, he picked up the pistol and easily put every round in the center of the bullseye while shooting one handed. Well.. let me tell you that I have felt like a complete fool many times in my life, but that time was one of the most memorable. It was a humbling experience watching my father shooting my new gun better than I could. Needless to say, I had two choices at that point. I could let my pride get the best of me or I could practice humility, something I had very little of as a young man, and ask my father for help. Fortunately for me, I chose the latter. Three weeks later, and after considerable help from my dad, I was hitting the target and enjoying shooting my new sidearm. I have loved shooting it ever since.
Almost 40 years have passed since then and, amazingly enough, I still have that same pistol. Over the years I have fired thousands of rounds through it and I carried it so frequently and for so many years that I rubbed the bluing almost completely off the gun. As testimony to how much use the gun has seen, I had it re-blued some years back and it already needs to be re-blued again. More importantly, I shot the darn thing to pieces. The lock-up was loose, the barrel bushing was loose, the grips were falling apart and the accuracy was going to pot. I had to take serious action if my prized pistol was to survive and be useful once more.
I took the gun to my buddy Mike Hagen, who is an outstanding gunsmith. He did some phenomenal work on my gun. He replaced the sites, tightened up the action, did an outstanding trigger job and installed a bunch of cool stuff. Among other things, he installed an extended grip safety and beaver tail; an extended slide stop; an extended safety; and a new competition trigger. The result is an almost brand new pistol that shoots like a dream. I have to say that it shoots better now than it did when I first bought it. The wonderful thing about classic guns, like my Colt 1911, is that they are a lot like classic cars. With a little bit of attention and money they can be fixed up and made better than they ever were in the first place. My Combat Commander is certainly a fitting example.