Colt Lightweight Commander

I rarely set out to buy a particular gun; my preference is to wait for a deal to pop up. Such was the case with the Colt Lightweight Commander I’m reviewing today, which most people would understandably look past. In short: the “Lightweight” designation means that the frame is made of an aluminum, which is going to absorb far less of the considerable recoil that the .45 ACP round can generate. And the “Commander” size means that there’s less barrel and less slide to absorb that recoil. And this gun is still a good bit larger than the pocket-sized polymers that dominate the compact market now, which leaves the Lightweight Commander in a strange middle-space. But one man’s odd duck is this man’s bargain, and when it was offered to me for a good bit below dealer cost (translation: “we’ve had this thing in the case for well over two years and we need to make space for more Glocks and Springfields”), I decided to give it a shot. Can’t go wrong with a pony gun, right?

Actually, you really can’t go wrong with this gun. For all that the Lightweight Commander should have going against it, the reality is that the increased recoil is only slightly more perceptible than a steel-framed Government model 1911. And after a hundred and fifty surprisingly accurate rounds at the range today, I can see that this li’l 1911 is going to be getting a steady diet of ball ammo.

In true Colt fashion, this gun comes in a thickly padded molded case with proper inserts for the instruction manual and the orange chamber plug. I suspect this is the same case that full-sized Government models ship in, so the diminutive Commander fits comfortably inside with three magazines (one in the mag well and two to the side). The wood furniture is black cherry and is machine-engraved with decent checkering and Colt’s logo. I haven’t measured the trigger pull weight yet, but it breaks crisply and the reset (while a bit long for my taste) is audible and very positive. The two included magazines are both eight rounders, giving this gun an out-of-the-box capacity of 8+1 rounds, plus an 8 round reload. The sights are perfect — three bright white Novak dots that, in my opinion, allow for the quickest and most positive target acquisition of any sight configuration in existence. And while I recognize that everyone’s body geometry is a bit different, I think most people will find the 18 degree grip angle instinctively perfect.

But like many things in life, the perfect gun on paper isn’t always the perfect gun at the range. Thankfully, Colt’s 100+ years of refining the basic 1911 design (and 68+ years in refining the Commander) shows at the range.

I put 150 rounds of CCI Blazer 230 grain FMJ down the pipe this afternoon, and each round fed and extracted as planned (with zero FTF’s and FTE’s). As I said before, the biggest surprise was that there was not much difference between the recoil of this gun and its larger Government brethren (which I brought along for comparison). Even in my off-hand, this gun reminded me of why .45 ACP can be such a joy to shoot, and why the simplest configurations (stock trigger, basic three dot sights, etc.) can be the best. NPOA comes naturally with the 1911, and this gun could just as easily satisfy a competitive shooter looking to up their CDP game as it could satisfy a new shooter looking for a versatile semiautomatic that could easily take them into competitive shooting.

Taking down the Lightweight Commander followed suit with virtually every other 1911, and I found no need for a bushing wrench. The dual recoil spring is shorter than I was expecting (making it easier to stuff back down the spring well). As one expects from Colt, the internals are well executed although the barrel may benefit from a slightly deeper crown.

If you’re as lucky to find new old stock of the Lightweight Commander in your local dealer’s case, give it a serious second look.

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