A Nurse with a Gun

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Colt M1991A1 and Springfield GI45 Comparison

"Xavier, What is the real difference between the parked Colt 1911 and the Springfield GI 45?"
Well, not much really. The Colt has the Series 80 firing pin safety, but the Springfield comes from the factory with an integrated locking system. The Springfield's lock can be easily removed by replacing the mainspring housing. A shim can be obtained from Brownells to remove the Series 80 firing pin mechanism.Click to enlarge However, a gunsmith I highly respect advises against using the shim long term.

Little things like lanyard loops and such make up the bulk of the difference. The Colt does have more visible sights. The Springfield has a two piece barrel in contrast to the Colt tube. A used Colt M1991A1 with the old style rollmark and parkerized finish is generally priced a bit less than a comparable new Springfield GI45 with a parkerized finish. The Colt will hold resale value better, but the real difference is in the shooting. Or is it?

I took my Springfield GI45 and my Colt M1991A1 to the range for a comparison. Each pistol has some bits and pieces that were added by myself, but each one retains the original sights, barrel and bushing. Neither pistol has been tightened. Both have trigger jobs.

I shot at ten yards, alternating between the two pistols. The Colt target is on the left, the Springfield target is on the right. The accuracy of the groupings is about equal. The Colt was pretty much on target for me. The Springfield shot a bit high. I attribute that to the Springfield's arched mainspring housing. I learned long ago that I shoot better with a flat mainspring housing and a long trigger. Click to enlargeMy Springfield GI45 is set up to resemble a military pistol, while the Colt is set up to my preferences. I suspect a swap in parts on the Springfield would put me in the ten ring.

I have owned and regularly shot my Springfield GI45 since 2003. The two piece barrel (which I think may be a Storm Lake barrel) has been a non-issue. The pistol has been durable, reliable and accurate. The Colt is new to me, but frankly, I don't envision it being any different. The fact that many top notch 1911 'smiths keep a Colt barrel in a custom 1911 instead of routinely replacing it with a Barsto speaks volumes for Colt's barrel quality.

It was difficult impossible for me to determine whether one pistol actually shot better than the other. The groups were remarkably similar, except the pistol with the arched mainspring housing and short trigger shot higher for me. If you want a Colt, and are concerned about resale value, a used Colt M1991A1 is a perfectly adequate pistol. If you want a new gun and the Colt name is meaningless to you, the Springfield is a very fine substitution.

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10 Comments:

Blogger tom said...

The springer mainspring lock can be easily defeated by staking it in place. Whether you're worried about resale and liability is up to you. The springers that came that way I own that don't have different housings now have been firmly staked in FIRE mode.

Series 80 firing pin systems make it harder to do a clean trigger job and add a point of failure.

If I were in the market to buy a 1911 that was reliable and to purely shoot as well as possibly carry, at this very moment, I would buy a CZ Dan Wesson, as it has neither of those stupid encumbrances and their match barrels actually are. Best out of the box 1911s I've handled in some time for the price point of about 1k.

Knowing a gun causes you to shoot off because of grip ergos, you can tweak your brain and the mainspring housing becomes irrelevant. I instinctively shoot GLOCKS poorly and dislike them but I learned why and practiced and put them in the ten ring consistently. Mind over metal, Xavier. My Trapper .45-70 doesn't shoot the same as my Sharps but I can make both hit the same holes even if they feel entirely different.

The guns I buy for resale value/trading, and those are few, stay in the safe and are not shot much at all except for grins once in a while. The guns and magazines I carry aren't collector items just like I'm happier after a new to me truck gets it's first dent in it. Ready to use. NIB is for collectors not shooters.

My threepence,
Tom

9:25 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Tom,
On my Springfields, I simply swapped out the mainspring housings, the mainspring, and the mainspring cap on all three guns. That effectively took care of the issue for me.

A properly tuned Series 80 FPS does not affect trigger pull. A half decent 1911 'smith can make it a non-issue. If I can do it, surely a fellow who accepts money for doing it can accomplish the task.

As an additional point of failure...... Well isn't a staked ILS the same thing? Anything can be called a potential point of failure, from a staked on front sight to a crappy magazine that might lose it's baseplate and leave you with an empty gun and a spring hanging out the bottom.

Most of my 1911s have a flat mainspring housing. I shoot better with a flat MSH. The gun points instinctively with a flat MSH and a long trigger for me. However, this particular Springfield is one that I tried to approximate a WWII 1911 with. Those guns had arched mainspring housings. I was simply trying to be correct in what I was doing.

My parkerized GI45 is not a competition or a defensive pistol. It is a pistol to have fun with, and that is what I use it for.

You can say mind over matter mind over matter, but when you shoot a magazine out of one, swap to the other, and then go back and forth with only seven shots each time before switching, things blend.

I do not want to learn to shoot an arched MSH pistol any more accurately than this. I do not have to. If I want more accuracy, I simply switch to a gun that suits me better.

I did find it interesting that in comparing the two I replicated the Army's reasons for putting an arched MSH on the M1911A1, except I was pretty close to being on target with the flat MSH. In other words, the arched MSH had me shooting high just as the Army hoped it would do for the soldiers who shot the M1911 low.

10:10 PM  
Anonymous Thomas F said...

What do you think of the Auto Ordnance 1911?

11:20 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

I looked an Auto Ordnance 1911 over and wrote about it earlier this month. Click here.

I have not shot one, nor have I detail stripped one.

11:55 PM  
Blogger JesterToo said...

Thought you would like to post this for your idiots with guns:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8k0TZqXS7Q

8:07 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

Regarding the use of the frame shim in series 80 pistols, I have installed one on my Combat Elite, for the express purpose of using a pre-series 80 .22LR Colt Conversion unit.

Several thousand rounds later, and I haven't had any problems...yet. Fortunately, those shims are very inexpensive. I keep a handful of them on hand so I can change them whenever I change out the recoil spring.

Like your gunsmith said, I haven't, and wouldn't, do that with anything other than a range gun.

Regarding the Springer's ILS, I gave a friend of mine a USGI arched MSH that I had in the junk drawer. It's an easy fix! We had it installed on his GI45, in very short order.

9:44 AM  
Blogger Frank W. James said...

It's always been my understanding the two piece barrel that Springfield uses was or is Made In Brazil. However, there have been some one-piece barrels installed in their GI 1911 models that in the experience of myself and other knowledgeable people shot as good or better than a comparable Bar-Sto barrel. Where did they come from?

It seems the mgt. at Springfield found a company in Pennsylvania that was supplying the military with really good 1911 barrels and they contracted to take all their 'over-runs'.

I don't know if this is still the case but I know it was about five years ago because I had two guns with one piece PA-made barrels and they were simply outstanding.

All The Best,
Frank W. James

11:46 AM  
Blogger tom said...

There's staked and STAKED. Or swap housings. Your guns, therefore do what you want. No insult intended. Just observations. Use whatever mainspring housing you like, it's your gun, once again.

Many of your readers aren't going to take a slightly gritty Series 80 to a competent smith or learn to do it properly themselves, they're just going to shoot it.

That was something I was factoring in. People that buy $4-600 1911s usually don't have gunsmithing services high on their budget. Maybe a couple percent of buyers.

As to what I've seen come through the shop of late, I'll stand by what I say about the Wessons as far as best out of box, but then we're in a different price range again...

Me, I tend towards buying frame kits and the parts I like for my 1911s. Guaranteed to suit me that way but it's more work than dropping cash at a shop and going to the range, as you're well aware, though you seem to start with existing guns and smith them instead of smithing your own. We used to do that 20 years ago when USGI and Norincos were cheap at the shows. Now I lean towards "why buy a complete gun when I'm going to put 1/3 or more of it in the spares drawers?"

6:02 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Yep. After pricing a decent receiver and slide, plus a decent barrel to be the basis of a custom build (which would bring $5-600 tops on the used gun market) I simply had to ask myself why not buy an existing gun preferably a Colt. I swap in the parts I want, sell the rest online and make my money back.

The Colt holds value in the used market, especially if you buy it used. A Capsian frame and slide runs what? $450-500. A Barsto barrel $150? So we are at $600-650 with just a frame, slide and barrel.

When you can buy the entire pistol used for less than you could build one, I figure it's a pretty sound investment. Buy, swap and sell parts to get what you want, and you break even.

6:36 PM  
Blogger tom said...

You have better discipline about selling left-over parts. My packrat nature makes it usually not a break even deal for me at least in the near term, though the parts sometimes later become trading material and I don't sell guns much. As long as you end up with 1911s you like, that's all that matters, aye?

As for frame kits, both Para double stack frame kits I bought from them were quite nice, if you ever go that route, they left a lot of extra meat on to play with. Like single stacks better though so dunno if I will build another.

It's true the name on the side matters if you might want to resell it. When asked who made parts like barrels, answering "I did" only works if you're pretty well known already no matter how good of a job you did.

Happy Shooting,

7:04 PM  

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