The story of the Colt Gold Cup, National Match and Trophy 1911 handguns is a thrice-told tale that never grows old to some of us. The original 1911 design was to give soldiers every advantage in combat. While most handgun designs were for defensive use, the 1911 was an offensive handgun. Used in cavalry charges and in clearing a path through trenches, the .45 automatic was the greatest fighting handgun of its day. Many of us believe that this is still true.
After the war the National Rifle Association and the United States Army worked together to develop the National Matches. These matches involved long-range fire at small targets. The Springfield 1903 rifle design was for long rifle accuracy. The Colt 1911 was not, and needed considerable work to provide the specified accuracy at a long 50 yards. Colt had to rework the heavy trigger and small sights.
The heavy action, with its rapid reset, was practically ideal for defensive work. However, firing at 8-inch bull at 50 yards was another matter. The 1911 had been designed for reliability above all else. As long as the locking lugs and barrel bushing were properly fitted, it didn’t matter if the 1911 rattled when shaken—it would place five rounds of service ammunition into a 5-inch group or better at 25 yards.
The original military accuracy standards were for the 1911 to group five rounds into 5 inches at 25 yards, and 10 inches at 50 yards. Most would perform slightly better. This is generous by modern standards; however, the 1911 was a comparatively accurate handgun by standards of the day. For competition use, the 1911 needed to become roughly twice as accurate or better. A 4-inch 50-yard group was needed—or even smaller. Army gunsmiths went to work.
They polished and relieved the trigger action, fabricating lightweight triggers as they went along. Reduced trigger compression went from 6 to 8 pounds to 4 pounds or lighter. The barrel, welded up until it would not fit the slide, had the contact points carefully filed and polished into a tight fit. The fabricated target grade sights were not often adjustable during the first attempts at a target gun, however, they were large and easily picked up. The expense of such a handgun was prohibitive for civilian shooters. An Army gunsmith might work on the handgun for months, devoting his time to the team. Colt took notice and introduced the first National Match handguns.
The factory National Match handguns received special treatment in fitting and trigger work as well as good high visibility sights. The original Colt was a great pistol. Over the years, the pistol incorporated various fully adjustable sight combinations including the Stevens, Elliason and Bomar.
The Gold Cup at one time became more of a target gun than an all around shooter. The slide was lightened about 1957. Many shooters did not like this as they preferred the original 39-ounce balance. The lightened slide facilitated function with lightly loaded target ammunition. The rear sight attached to the slide by a pin that sometimes worked loose. Later the Colt Gold Cup’s weight returned to standard. Along the top of the slide was an added rib. Many of these modifications meant the Colt Gold Cup was a pure breed target gun, and not necessarily an all around service gun. This has changed in recent years. The new Colt Gold Cup is a great all-around 1911 well suited to serous duty—but also a great target gun.
The Gold Cup features sights solidly dovetailed into the slide. The front sight is a bold post while the monolithic rear unit is fully adjustable. This allows the shooter to regulate the sights for bullet weights of 160 to 260 grains.
If fitted with a lighter recoil spring, one may fire the Colt with loads as light as 185 grains at 750 fps. Such a load is a pure joy to fire, extremely accurate, and light on the gun. By changing the recoil spring the pistol may be set up for target loads, or +P loads as you prefer for different pursuits. A good addition to the field kit is the Wilson Combat ‘Spring Caddy.’ This kit contains a bushing wrench and a number of springs that allow the shooter to fine-tune the pistol for individual loads. Remember, a light recoil spring and full power ammunition will quickly batter the handgun. Match the spring to the load and you will have good results.
The Federal 185-grain jacketed SWC is a target grade load that burns clean offers excellent accuracy potential. From a solid benchrest firing position, with concentration on the sight picture and trigger press, I was able to fire a 5-shot group at 15 yards that settled into 1.75 inches. Remarkably, the Federal American Eagle 230-grain subsonic load was nearly as accurate, with a 5-shot group of 2.0 inches. To confirm the Gold Cup’s performance with full power ammunition, I also fired two magazines of the Speer Gold Dot 230-grain load. A 40-ounce 1911 .45 is comfortable to fire with these loads.
With excellent accuracy off-hand, I loaded five more into the magazine and fired a 25-yard group with the Gold Dot loads. I was rewarded with a 1.75-inch dispersal. The Colt Gold Cup is among the best shooting 1911 handguns I have ever used.
Over 20 years ago, I stopped a young man for speeding. In a military uniform, he snapped to attention and saluted me. I suppose it was the lieutenant’s bars on my stiff brown uniform collar. I have no military experience and this was pretty funny at the time—of course he got just a warning. As he shook my hand he said, ‘Nice Colt’. I was carrying a 1970’s Colt National Match in a Don Hume holster. This is the type of thing memories are made of. The Colt is good enough for who it is for.
A timeless old Southern folk song has a verse I’ve always liked because it applies to all of us who shoot.
The song is Oh, Monah, and it’s one of those toe-tappers that must have 1,000 verses. My favorite goes:
An old colored preacher was sittin’ on a log.
Had his finger on the trigger and his eye on a hog.
Well, the gun went boom! and the hog went zip!
And the preacher grabbed him with all his grip.
While none of my great misses have necessitated rasslin’ with a hog, some dandies have occurred to me.
One that was particularly humiliating goes back to the early ’50s. That was a rather Puritanical time when they blacked out the lower part of the TV screen while Elvis did his numbers, and when in the “dry” Texas county where I was a deputy sheriff, partaking of malt or spirituous beverages (by anyone but yourself, of course) was looked upon as so base an act as to hint of tar and feathers.
It was against the law to possess or transport alcohol for purposes of sale, and it was illegal to sell it. The nearest legal source of the sauce was Amarillo, 50 miles away, making for a thriving bootlegging traffic and a rather miserable job for me.
It seemed there was at least one bootlegger for every three or four residents of my county. All my waking (and most of my sleeping) hours were devoted to catching them with their cars loaded with hooch, serving search warrants, ripping up shanty floors, and dreaming up all kinds of Machiavellian traps to stop the noxious flow. This would cause all of the ladies to demand that their husbands vote for my boss, thus ensuring my job for a while longer.
One of the less euphoric facets of the job was to be present at a big Saturday night dance each week. Somehow, in spite of my vigilance, bootleggers would saturate the affairs, which were attended regu-larly by at least 500 happy (and getting happier) migrant laborers from up to 150 miles away. The festivities usually continued until about daylight, when most of the guests were passed out, rolled, stabbed, shot, or resting peacefully in the county jail or hospital.
Merriment and gaiety prevailed.
One Sunday sunrise found me leaving the hospital emergency room, bloody from holding down a drunk while the doctor sewed up a knife wound in his arm, the left side of my head throbbing from contact with a rock, my left knuckles swollen, and my new boots scuffed. I wasn’t in my usual jovial mood as I drove down a beer-can-strewn lane near the site of the celebration.
There, at the side of the road leaning against a fencepost, sat a man, pretty near sober, minding his own business. As I passed, he lifted a brown, quart bottle of beer to his lips and drank deeply. I slammed on the brakes and questioned him, thinking he might be a wetback.
He foiled me there, showing me a permit and telling me in soft Spanish that he was a bracero, a legally entered citizen of Mexico, contracted for a short time to work in the fields of Texas. I asked where he had obtained the beer. He named one of my craftiest bootleggers.
I’m afraid I committed a little police brutality at that point. I yanked the nearly full quart from his hand, and by the neck, threw the big bottle almost straight up. I was shooting a lot then and thought I was good.
The weight of the liquid in the bottle made it turn right side up, just as it reached its apex. I yanked my Smith .357 and fired. I was amazed when I missed my first, single-action shot and let a couple go double action as the quart came down. Clean misses.
The Mexican hadn’t moved from his sitting position and remained perfectly relaxed as the bottle thudded to the ground, right side up, within reach of his right hand.
Not a drop of beer had spilled.
Knowing how important it is not to lose face in these situations, I jammed my magnum back into its holster and scowled at my hapless victim. In stern Spanish I ordered, “Let that be a lesson to you!”
As I drove away, I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw the bracero shrug his shoulders as he reached for another drink. “Ay, these crazy gringos!”
There’s a great deal of good advice passed along these days in NRA literature, hunters’ safety courses, and the like, about how you should never shoot at a bird on a power or communications line. It’s excellent advice and should be adhered to strictly, but I’d never heard of it when I was about 10, and it never occurred to me that a .22 bullet could cut one of those vital threads.
So, I was laying under a railroad trestle one afternoon some 40 years ago, along with a cousin who was armed with a single-barreled .410. My gun was a trusted .22 Remington pump, loaded with .22 Shorts. A bird landed on one of the railroad telegraph wires that parallel our cubbyhole, and I took the shot, hitting just a hair low.
The wire separated, with each segment whipping toward its pole. Cousin and I hurriedly departed the premises, stored our guns, and played softball for a week, waiting for the railroad detectives to come and beat the truth out of us. In that week, there occurred no head-on train collisions between Hereford, Texas, and Clovis, New Mexico, no “bulls” knocked on our doors, and neither of us has since fired at a target on a communications or power line.
Every grown man has to have a hideout, a place to escape momentarily from his woes, to sit and whittle with his peers–men who speak his language. This is the reason for the existence of private clubs, pool halls, and masculine off-limit “studies” in the abodes of the affluent.
At one pleasant period of my life, my hole-in-the-wall was a slaughter plant operated by V.C. Hopson. We have been understanding of one another since age six. I was employed as a cop, as usual, and on slow evenings, I would check out on my radio, leaving V.C.’s business phone number with the police dispatcher.
It was conveniently located far enough from town that we could shoot at will, and money changed hands in many impromptu pistol matches. The Hopson Meat Co. was one of those pleasant spots where, after chores were done, you could sit in a chair on the loading dock and plink at tin cans in the evening breeze.
Far more brutal methods were used, which might surprise the antigunners, but V.C. was disposed to ease an animal through a chute, into a dead end, then dispatch him humanely and instantaneously with one shot to the brain with a Smith & Wesson K-22. On normal-sized cattle or hogs, this was accomplished in a very quick, painless way.
As I sat in the small room, one idle evening, V.C. moved a Brahma bull from outside into the chute. He was what is known as a “hamburger bull,” a large animal comprised almost entirely of tough, lean beef. This beef is mixed with beef suet and run through the grinder three times to ensure tenderness, then formed into mechanically shaped patties that are the basis of the TV-touted sandwiches that sell by the millions to Americans.
After completely reducing the oak chute to splinters, he charged me. I dodged. Circling the room rapidly, he looked for a way out. Circling the room rapidly, I looked for a way out, but the bull stayed between me and the only door, and the dirty, narrow window was nailed down.
The bull’s big hindquarters slapped me against the wall, knocking me off balance. He turned to face me.
A little wobbly legged and figuring I was about to be turned into a hamburger patty myself, I drug out my Smith .44 Special and snapped a shot at the bull’s head. I was a little off, hitting near the base of the right horn. The big slug addled him a little–enough to make him turn slightly and notice the light coming through the window.
He stuck his big nose through the glass, sort of shook his head, and jumped from the building to the ground several feet below, taking the whole window frame with him. It wasn’t until I looked outside that I realized V.C. had been “helping” me by standing outside the window, waving his hat and hollering, trying to keep the bull inside with me. V.C. was sort of resting on his back, and three or four hoof marks ran up his torso and continued on into a field. We finally had to drop the unfriendly behemoth with V.C.’s Mauser .30-06.