A Nurse with a Gun

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Colt Combat Elite

Click to enlargeI am always alert for used Colts. At a gun show last year I spied what looked like a two toned Gold Cup. The pistol in question turned out to be an enhanced Combat Elite with Accro target sights. I was not familiar with this pistol, although the price looked good. I asked if I could field strip it, and got the go ahead. The inside of the pistol was like new. It appeared to have been fired very little if at all.

The barrel and breechface were pristine. The gun came with a 8 round Colt magazine with a McCormick follower. It had non-original rosewood grips. The seller was out of zip ties, so I volunteered to retrieve some for him if he would take the gun off the table for 15 minutes. While I was away, I grabbed my Blue Books out of the car and went searching. Enhanced Combat Elites were not listed with target sights. Fixed sight versions were though and I saw that I would be getting a decent deal for his $650 asking price. I brought the seller some zip ties and offered $600 for the gun. He agreed, and then I learned he was a private seller. No tax! I took the pistol home for $600 out the door.

When I got the pistol home, I did a detail strip, cleaning and lubing. I dug up an old polymer flat mainspring housing and installed it, along with a trigger with an overtravel screw. I adjusted the trigger and took off for the range. The pistol shot reliably, and reasonably accurately. I ran 400 rounds through it with no failures of any sort, using the factory magazine and Wilson magazines. Looking at the groups, I decided to add a Wilson or a Brown barrel bushing to my Brownell's order.

While I waited for parts to arrive, I did a bit of research on the Combat Elite. Many people thought it was a gun similar to a Gold Cup, calling it a "Poor Man's Gold Cup". I disagree. Above are pictures that compare my enhanced Gold Cup and Combat Elite. The slides appear to be remarkedly similar, the difference being that the Gold Cup National Match has an Eliason rear sight while the Combat Elite has an Accro rear sight. Both sights are attached with a roll pin that has a reputation for breaking, although I have not experienced that yet. The real difference comes in the reciever. The Gold Cup takes a wider trigger unique to itself, as well as a sear depressor and spring inside the frame to prevent sear bounce. The Combat Elite has none of that, it takes a standard trigger and has standard lockwork.
So, which one is better? That is hard to answer. My Gold Cup is more accurate in my hands, but it is set up the way I like. The Combat Elite has a lot more choices in regards to trigger and sear selection, and it to rivals the Gold Cup in accuracy after I finished it. I really think the telling difference for most people like myself is whether you prefer the wider Gold Cup trigger.

When the parts arrived, the first thing I did was install the Wilson match bushing. It was a close fit from the start, and all it took was a little hand lapping and it went into place.

One modification that I always want on a 1911 is an Ed Brown grip safety. This grip safety gets my hand higher behind the bore axis, and allows better control of the gun as well as protecting me from hammer bite. I use a Ed Brown jig and a Dremel to cut down the frame and install the safety. I put electrician's tape under the jig to keep from scratching the frame. The jig fits through the thumb safety hole, and is hardened steel. Once I get the basic shape with a Dremel, I switch to files for the finish fit. I fit the grip safety tight, and then install it with some lapping paste in the joint and go shoot the pistol. This results in a joint that is almost imperceptible.
On the right you can see the frame colored with a blue Sharpie marker to tell me where to file. You can also get a fair idea of how much metal the Ed Brown grip safety requires to be removed. The Ed Brown grip safety requires metal to be removed both above the grip safety and below it, to about half way down the piece. If the gun recieving the part is not stainless, refinishing is a must. On a stainless gun, however, the job can be finished with a bead blaster or with a buffing wheel.

Click to enlargeHere is the grip safety installed on the pistol. It's a much nicer job than what was originally on the gun. I dug out a McCormick trigger, and installed it along with a Ed Brown thumb safety and a 20 lpi checkered mainspring housing. I polished up the Colt slide stop and stoned the hammer hooks to 0.020. I did not touch the sear.
All in all, I'm pretty pleased with this shooter. I polished the bead blasted rounds to a satin texture, which shows scratches a whole lot less. I had to trim the top of the left grip to clear the extended thumb safety, and I installed a Nowlin sear spring along with a Wolff 18.5 pound variable recoil spring. In the end I got a reliable, accurate, unique and good looking Colt for under $750. That's hard to beat.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice piece; congrats!!!

S. Clark

1:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those Combat Elites are sweet!

4:34 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

i have one and i love it!!!

8:48 PM  
Blogger John said...


i have one of these,and find it to be a great gun. i would like to send you pics if you like. i would be interested in your thoughts.

nova scotia canada

7:03 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

bought a 1911 from an acquaintance recently. as it turned out, the frame was a gold cup but the upper assembly (slide and barrel) was not.

the frame was still in good working order though, according to a gunsmith friend, somebody had removed a plate and a spring on the sear and disconnector whatnot.

i love shooting but, i have to admit, i'm not very technically inclined though i hope to understand.

the gun has one problem. if i drop the slide after a lock-back and the grip safety is properly pressed, the hammer will drop to the half-cock notch.

the hammer, however, stays in the cocked position even if i drop the slide for so long as the grip safety isn't accessed.

i hope you can help explain this to me. just pretend i'm seven years old. thanks.

6:31 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

the sear depressor sring and lever that someone removed at some time was designed to prevent the hammer follow.

The Gold Cup hammer is thicker and heavier thanother 1911 triggers. Without the sear depressor spring and lever, the weight of the trigger often causes hammer follow as it bounces.

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked your comments on the Combat Elite. I was a municipal police officer for 27 years and carried a Combat Elite for 15 of those years. I had a Street Reliability job done by "Terry Jacobson" at the time one of the 100 best pistolsmiths in the country. When I retired I gave my self a present of pre-ban Ivory Grips. I was a range officer and fired many rounds with never a failure. Love the Weapon. Thanks for your fine article on a fine living life insurance. The Sarge.

1:37 AM  

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