The Colt M1991A1
"I dunno. What kind is it?" I asked.
"A M1991A1," replied Ralph, as he maneuvered the C-arm past my back table. "I took it to the gun store to trade in on a Smith & Wesson M&P, and they only offered me $300."
"That's too bad. Is it in decent shape?"
"Yeah. It's a bit beat up, but not bad," replied Ralph. "I have some custom grips on it."
"How's about $450?"
"Sounds good. Meet me after work?"
"OK, but the deal is dependent on whether it shoots reliably."
So it was that I met up with Ralph after work to take a look at another Colt. When he took the blue case out of his truck, my mouth began to water. The Hogue wrap around "Good Year" grip stopped my Pavlovian response though. I hate those things.
The Colt M1991A1 is actually a 1911 manufactured by Colt to meet a certain price point. It was first introduced in..... 1991, and the gimmicky new name was emblazoned across the slide like a big bumper sticker. The finish was parkerizing, and the pistol contained the Series 80 firing pin safety. It was a basic gun, not glamorous, but reliable and effective. The factory installed a plastic trigger and a plastic mainspring housing to meet the price point desired. The model designation is still used, but today's version of the 1991 pistol is brushed blue with sandblasted rounds, and the pistol comes with nice wooden grips. It also sells for seven hundred dollars or so.
Ralph's pistol had some finish wear, and on field stripping it, it appeared as though he used 3 in 1 oil and WD-40 for lubricant. Other than the outer finish wear, it hardly looked to have been fired. "You shoot this much?" I asked.
"Nah, I just had it to have it," he replied.
I went through my process of checking a used 1911 prior to purchase. The thumb safety did not ping when the hammer was pulled back. The feed ramp had not been touched. The bore was like new. The barrel fit well, as did the slide. The magazine was a no name stainless steel mag, but it looked decent enough.
The 1911 wheels in my head got a quick kick start. In my spares box at home, I had a solid black aluminum trigger. I also had a checkered aluminum mainspring housing. I had walnut double diamond grips. This pistol would take very little to turn into a very nice, serviceable 1911. In fact, I would have to put no further money into it.
"I tell you what Ralph, I'll give you three hundred today, and the remaining one fifty after I shoot it," I offered.
"Fair enough," said Ralph. I placed the Colt in its blue box, snapped it shut, and drew three Benjamins out of my wallet.
Once home, I took out a few tools and began to detail strip the Colt. Everything was dry and in good shape, except both bushings unscrewed with the grip on the left side of the pistol. I used a pair of vise grips and a screwdriver to free the trapped bushings from the fat rubber grip, and then I set them back into the receiver with red LocTite.
I used brake cleaner to dissolve the gummed up oil inside the pistol. Digging through my spares box I found the trigger, mainspring housing and grips. It would take a lot to get me to change my mind now. I did a trigger job on the pistol and installed the parts. I removed a little metal from the tab of the grip safety to make it more responsive in my hands. I deepened the plunger recess in the thumb safety so it would engage and disengage with more authority. I dressed the extractor. Finally, I went to my range bag and retrieved a blue Shooting star magazine and stuffed it in the bottom. The pistol was starting to look like a clean, no nonsense pistol.
I was sold. Over time, my tastes in handguns has meta morphed from a love for large capacity European 9mm blasters, to plastic fantastics, to 1911 trend setters. Back in 1991, when this Colt pistol first hit the market, I was wrapped up in the 9mm wonder gun scene. I had passed them by at $400. Now, it is a fortunate man who finds one for that price, in almost any condition. I stuffed the Colt M1991A1 and some ammo in my range bag for a trip to the range.
I shot 230 hardball, 185 grain hollow points, and a couple magazines of reloads. I shot the pistol right side up, upside down, and on it's side. I let my thumb ride the slide and I limp wristed it. No matter how I tried to induce a failure, the Colt gobbled anything I had to stuff into it's magazine. It was accurate, more accurate than I was.
It looks like I'll be taking $150 to work in the morning.