Colt’s Stunning Combat Elite Government 1911

One of the most complex writing tasks any serious gun review writer can face is a firearm with a venerable reputation for performance. Colt, even under its new corporate structure, makes guns that work and the Combat Elite is no exception. This is a fine example of a factory 1911 from the company that defined the standard for factory 1911s.

Colt Combat Elite 1911
The top of the slide on the Combat Elite is non-reflective. Note the Novak sites—ideal for EDC. This weapon has come a long way from its M1911 beginnings – without sacrificing the essentials that make it the most iconic of handguns.

Saying anything that hasn’t been said thousands of times before will be complicated.

To this end, I think I can empathize with the engineers at Colt. The Combat Elite must have begun with one of those board-room discussions where someone in either sales or marketing, or both, asked for something new in a 1911. I can hear it now—”We need something new!”

Colt Pony logo
The old pony, still rampaging after more than a century.

New. The standard single-action semi-auto in its basic 5″ form is about as old as guns get these days. The only handguns currently in production that could remotely compare are the Single Action Army revolvers (also made by Colt). So how do you take something so familiar to your customers and change it in a way that would make it new?

Combat Elite laser cut logo
The Combat Elite’s logo is laser cut.

It all comes down to looks.

Colt’s Combat Elite Government 1911 has a very distinctive finish. While most of the features are a step up from what you’d find on a bog-standard 1911A1 build, the first thing that you’ll notice is its two-tone finish.

And that finish is superb. It is electric. The ion-bond PVD finish on the curved surface has been sanded off of the flats, revealing the stainless below, and it provides a black/silver contrast that is really mesmerizing.

Colt Elite Combat 1911 two-tone finish, up close
The color contrast provides a solid visual reference for the controls, too.

As a student of steel, I’m still not 100% confident I can speak to the finishing technique. I don’t believe the steel flats are brushed free of their finish, as the brush fibers would be too hard to control.

My assumption is that the high spots, such as they are, might be sanded on a 2 x 72 grinder with a fine belt. The finish shows really fine directional scratches, and—if done on a flat platen—it could allow for the control needed to cut such crisp lines.

Colt Combat Elite 1911 contrasting colors
The contrast of colors is very well executed.

Either way, the finish is exceptional—really clean, perfectly executed, and flashy. I say flashy. It is meant to be looked at, but I don’t find it to be as ostentatious as some guns with chrome finishes or gold controls.

Novak Night Fision front blade
Novak Night Fision. A long, low front blade with a glowing dot.

But what makes this a Combat Elite?

Naming products is really complex. I’ve been involved in the process with both guns and accessories, and it is damn near impossible to get good names to pass through the trademark protections process. So companies often end up going with names they already have protected, and I’m guessing that’s the case here, too.

Night Fision ramped rear sight
The ramped rear sight, as many do, misses the boat for me. I’d rather have a ledge than a ramp, even on a carry gun.

There’s nothing about the look of this particular gun that speaks to combat. Colt has made some fighting 1911s—the originals, of course, but a lot of the single-actions with refined features are still in favor by those who want protective finishes, enhanced controls, and more functional sights. But this is a gun that is meant to be seen, not one that’s easily camouflaged.

Combat Elite Extras

Maybe after your eyes have adjusted to the glare of the finish, you’ll see some more Combat Elite features. This is a series, after all. In .45 ACP, or 9mm; Defender, Commander, and Govt.—they all have a couple of things in common.

Colt Combat Elite 1911 hammer
The Combat Elite’s hammer won’t bite.

The controls are oversized. From the skeletonized hammer to the thumb safety, and the beavertail grip safety… they’re all what you would expect from a 1911 built for practical carry.

These are series 80 guns, so they have the mechanical firing pin block. This only falls when the trigger is pulled. A series 80 gun provides an extra measure of safety in the event of an accidental strike on the hammer (which sits right up on the firing pin when the hammer is down).

Colt Combat Elite 1911 45 firing pin
The Combat Elite, and all of the models in the series, are series 80 guns and are drop safe.

Carrying a 1911 with a round in the chamber and the hammer down is a bad idea, but that’s hard to communicate. That’s why we have the series 80 guns now.

Back on track… There’s one element of the Combat Elite that has to be felt. The checkering on the front strap is intense: 25 lines per inch. This gives a sharp and uncompromising grip surface. My 15-year-old, whose hands aren’t as calloused as mine, claims they draw blood. I love the grip texture. And the G10 grips are useful, too. All told, this gun shoots like a well-built carry gun.

Colt Combat Elite 1911 45 grip checkering
That checkering. This is a glorious piece of work.

Shooting the Combat Elite

target headshots from 25 yards
Running headshots from the holster at 25 feet. Rock-solid results.

The 5″ 1911 is my personal favorite for OWB EDC. I’ve carried these guns off and on for more than a decade now. While I’m not carrying one concealed much anymore, I still respect its potential. The 1911 earned its place in history, for sure.

shot group at 25 yards
From 25 yards, with a second more for aiming to reflect the practical distance.

Accuracy from the Combat Elite is respectable. I’m more concerned with practical speed, and this single-action checks those boxes.

Colt Combat Elite 1911 45 steel magazine follower
The Combat Elite comes with an 8-round mag. You’ll want more.

The aggressive grip texture helps with the speed of follow-up shots. The controls are big enough to be almost instinctively deactivated during the draw. And even the top of the slide, which has been left black, cuts that glare.

Colt 45 Auto 8-round stainless magazine baseplate
The stainless mags are solid and well marked.

So how much?

The Combat Elite Government is not cheap. No Colt 1911s are, either in their build or their pricing. This one has an MSRP of $1399.

Colt Combat Elite 1911 45 G10 grips
G10 grips and incredible checkering add to the ease of control.

Is it worth it? The quality of this build speaks volumes. My gut tells me the two-tone finish is going to polarize buyers, though, with the love-it and hate-it crowds being pretty far apart.

David Higginbotham is a writer and editor who specializes in everyday carry. David is a former backcountry guide in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Boundary Waters Canoe Area who was a college professor for 20 years. He ultimately left behind the academy for a more practical profession in the firearms industry and was (among other editorial positions) the Managing Editor for a nascent Mag Life blog. In that Higginbotham helped establish The Maglife's tone and secure its early success. Though he went on to an even more practical firearms industry profession still, he continues to contribute articles and op-eds as time and life allow.

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