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Thread: Colt Lightweight Commander by Western Arms

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  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Colt Lightweight Commander by Western Arms

    Introduction

    Colt Commanders always attract my attention. As my friend Hawkmoon says "the Commander is more proportionally correct, than the Government model". I do not know if it was that, or the simple fact that I cannot own a Commander (here, only 5" pistols are allowed for those who have a athlete shooters license), which draw my attention to this pistol. I wanted one, and I got one, so now my collection features a 4.25" 1911 as well.

    The pistol was donated to M1911.ORG by Airsoft Extreme, one of our Airsoft sponsors, so please do pay a visit to their site, it shows them my appreciation.

    The pistol is made by Western Arms (WA), which is considered to be the manufacturer of some of the best Gas-Blowback pistols in the market today. This model is a copy of the Lightweight Commander (it is actually about 100 gr lighter than the Combat Commander model WA also produces). The pistol arrived in the usual dark grey (almost black) Western Arms SCW uninspiring box, with a just a blue label on the side, describing which model is inside.



    Upon opening the box, I found the pistol, a small, nice manual (if it only was in English instead of Japanese!),



    a warranty card, one paper target, a bushing wrench, an allen wrench (for adjusting the hop-up) and a small bag with a few BBs.



    What caught my attention, before anything else, were the cheap, totally plastic looking grips. I just couldn't stand them, even though they had the Colt pony in the middle. A search through my grips box, allowed me to replace them with a very nice set of double-diamond checkered cocobolo grips, that you see below.




    With the pistol now featuring a nice set of grips, I started examining the rest of it. The finish is ... well, how to put it? strange. The frame is plastic, that's for sure, but it is not ugly or bad looking. It is actually better looking than the slide, which looks as if it is metallic. However, the side surfaces of the slide, are not as polished as the ones of the frame. Actually, you would expect the upper surface of the slide to be more dull, in order to reduce light reflections, but in this case, it is the sides of the slide which looks more dull! Go figure why the made it that way.



    Pressing the mag release button, drops the magazine, which is a single column one, with a capacity of 15 BBs.



    To load it, you have to pull down the follower and have the BBs inserted from the top. The magazine does not have any base pad, so it appears very much like the standard 7-round Colt item. At the bottom of the magazine, is the gas filling valve, which is nested in a circular recess. Unfortunatelly, the valve's stem is not perfectly centered in its hole, but that does not affect the filling with gas, you just need to be careful to properly align the valve's stem with the nozlle of the gas bottle. Please note that this is a Japanese pistol, so the recommended gas is HF134 and not Green Gas (see note at the end of this report).

    Staying on the magazine, at the rear of it, there is the gas release valve, like in every other Airsoft pistol magazine, but there is also a special switch, which is used in WA magazines. This switch has to be pushed down, before charging the magazine with gas, or else the gas goes in from the filling valve and out from the top of the magazine! It's the perfect way to freeze your hands, so remember to press that switch down, before grabbing your gas canister to fill the mag with gas.



    The pistol I got featured full Colt logos as can be seen in the pictures below. Typically US customers cannot have those logos, due to Colt's pattends etc. Also, US customers will get the pistol with an orange barrel or barrel tip, thank God this was not on my pistol.





    As I was playing with the pistol, I noticed one thing. This grip safety, is no better than the spur one! Believe it or not, an Airsoft pistol pinched my hand, just like a real 1911 does.





    Amazing!

    In the next page, you can read how to disassemble the pistol and our shooting tests results.

    [BREAK]

    Disassembly

    I then disassembled the pistol. This is done in the normal (for a 1911) way, starting with the alignment of the slide stop notch with the slide stop. However, removing the slide stop, proved to be a hard job, even though I had the slide and slide stop perfectly aligned. Why?



    Because the slide stop that WA used in this pistol, is not your normal slide stop. First of all, it consists of two parts, the standard slide stop, and an outer jacket around the shaft, on which the barrel pivots. That outer jacket seems to be standard on WA pistols slide stops, but on this one, it had an additional canelure in the middle, which made removal of the slide stop, harder than it should be.

    With the slide stop removed, the slide is pulled towards the front of the pistol and removed.



    This action revealed the inners of the slide, which (believe it or not) uses a ... shock buff!!! I know, I find it hard to believe it myself, but it does. Also, the recoil spring plug is a reverse plug one. Why? Most probably so that the barrel bushing is not constantly under the stress of the recoil spring.



    To further strip the pistol, you remove the recoil spring assembly, by pressing the guide rod forward and lifting it up from the slide. Then, you turn the barrel's bushing counterclockwise, and remove that too. The barrel can then be removed from the front of the slide.



    Below, you can see the pistol's barrel with a BB in the ... chamber, and right below that, on the feeding ramp, you can see the hole through which the hop-up is adjusted.



    Some interesting things:

    - I tried to use a Horseshoe Leather 1911 holster with this pistol. It didn't work. The pistol's slide is probably a little thicker than a standard 1911 slide, so it will not fit in a tightly molded holster. And this difference is apparent to the naked eye, you do not have to get your micrometer to compare the slide's width to that of an actual Commander. The only holster I have which fit the width of this pistol, is an old Wilson Combat Lo-Profile, which is not a tightly molded holster.

    - The sights are fixed, and of military heritage. Actually, there are in between the original 1911 size and the size used lately by Colt and other manufacturers. Still the sights are difficult to use. The rear face of the front sight is serrated, but the serrations are so fine that you have to look twice to see them. As I said, I put a touch of red paint on the front sight to help me in my shooting, but still the sights are difficult to see.

    - I wish I could find a flat mainspring housing for the pistol, the arched one doesn't feel good in my hand. So does the short trigger, I wish I could find a long one.

    - It happened to me at least twice, while holding a full magazine in my hands. If the top BB loaded in the magazine touches something (like your belt or the edge of a chair), then all BBs are ejected out of the magazine, in one swift ... burst. Frustrating to say the least, having to collect 15 BBs from the floor, while the crazy cat starts playing with them).

    - The thumb safety plunger and spring have the tendency to fly away, when you remove the thumb safety. The spring is not notched and its edges are not tight around the plungers, so as soon as the thumb safety is out, the plunger and the spring fly to the not-to-be-found-again-land. This has happened to me twice with this pistol, and several more times with the other ones I've tried. I wish I could install a real 1911 plunger spring and plungers, to avoid the 30' search that follows, every disassembly of the pistol. I have heard that newer WA 1911s can accept the real pistol's parts, which is great news.

    In the next page, you can read about our shooting tests results.

    [BREAK]

    Shooting

    During the last few days, I was occupied with some chores (painting my parents apartment), so I didn't have time to do some serious shooting with this pistol. Add to that the fact that it gets dark earlier than before, so by the time I take the kids in the yard to play, it is almost dark, and you will undertand that I didn't have the time to do the shooting I would like to do with the Commander.

    However, from the first informal shooting sessions, at about 8 meters, accuracy is very decent. The pistol shoots a little high at this distance, but until I try it at 10 meters, I do not plan to alter the sights at all. Groups of around 1.5-2" are easily obtainable, even when the target is not a Bullseye one, but a picture cut from a magazine. If you do your job, the Commander will do its own.

    The trigger pull is light (like in every other WA pistol). I would assume something in the area of 3.5-4 lbs, which of course works wonders for accurate shooting. , What makes accuracy work difficult with this pistol are the tiny sights. A touch of red paint on the front one, helped things a little, but not a lot. I wish WA had installed the later fixed sights that Colt is using on their pistols, but then the replica won't be faithful to the real gun.

    Here are a couple of targets shot by me and ... Lena, which prove the above statement. This is my target, shot at 10 m with 5 BBs. The first four rounds formed a group of less than 1", while the fifth opened the group up to 1.75".



    And here is Lena's results. This needs some clarification. Lena does not like shooting. Lena has shot a pistol maybe three times in her life, two times she shot the real 1911, and once she shot the Hi-Capa. This was her fourth time shooting. From prone position, at about 7 meters, 10 shots formed a group of less than 3". Keep in mind that Lena altered twice the way she held the pistol, during the shooting. I am sure that with some experience under her belt, she can do much better than that.



    In general, I liked the accuracy of this pistol, especially since it has only a 4.25" barrel.

    Poor Man's Chrono Test



    This pistol proved quite powerful. The BB penetrated the one side of the can and opened up the opposite side, but failed to completely exit.

    Overall

    This test shows that even out of the box Airsoft pistols (admitedly from the most well-known manufacturer) can be used for decent practice at the convenience of one's home.

    I like this pistol a lot, so it will be kept in my collection closet. I like it so much, that I carry it some times on myself, when I do not feel like carrying the real ones. And I can carry it Mexican-style, inside my waistband, without worrying if it will rust from my perspiration. Plastic does not rust!

    I want to thank Airsoft Extreme, for this pistol. These nice folks have send us several more 1911s for our tests. The rest of them are customized ones, so the Commander will be used as a reference, for the comparison with the custom ones. Thanks Andrew and Peter.

    Note on Gas

    With all Western Arms pistols, you are supposed to use the HFC 134A gas. Using Green gas in them, will cause problems, premature wear etc. HFC 134A is giving slightly less performance (lower BB speed), when compared to Green Gas. Green Gas should not be used in unaltered pistols made in Japan, like the WA ones.

    With the above warning noted, I have to admit that I am testing all pistols using ... propane. Green Gas is in reality propane, with a little silicone oil added, to lubricate the pistols. So instead of paying for Green Gas, I bought a canister of propane, like the ones sold in US for the camping stoves, or flame torches, and a special valve adaptor, which allows me to use the much cheaper propane instead of Green Gas. In this site, you can read more on this issue:

    http://www.airsoft-innovations.com

    The reason I am ignoring the manufacturer's recommendation, as far as gas is concerned, is two-fold. First, I want to have consistent environment for all the tests (some of the pistols we'll test here use HFC 134A, some use Green Gas), and second it's plain difficult to find HFC 134A in Greece. Also, I plan to upgrade all the standard pistols (like this one) so that it is safe to use Green Gas (and thus propane) with them.

    Latest note

    Even though I do not shoot my airsoft pistols much, the usage of the wrong gas, in unaltered pistols will definitely cause problems. On this pistol, the slide stop notch on the slide has already be slightly damaged from the slide stop. The lower corned is now a little rounded. So please take my advise, DO NOT USE the wrong gas, in unaltered pistols.

    Rating

    Accuracy: 3
    Upgradeability: 2
    Training Capability: 4
    Realism: 4
    Quality: 4
    Power: 2

    Overall: 19
    John Caradimas SV1CEC
    The M1911 Pistols Organization
    http://www.m1911.org
    Last edited by John; 13th September 2008 at 08:39.


  2. #2
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    Thanks for the report John. I'm seriously thing about purchasing some type of airsoft for the long winter months and not much range time avaiable.

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    Stay tuned, there are still several more to come!
    John Caradimas SV1CEC
    The M1911 Pistols Organization
    http://www.m1911.org

  4. #4
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    Any idea where I can purchase a pistol like this? All I can find on the web are so-called "custom" models with long tiggers and funny grips.

    -- Chuck

  5. #5
    Join Date
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    Chuck,

    Did you check our two sponsors site, Airsoft Extreme and Airsplat? You may write to these people and ask if they have the plain 1911s in stock, some times they have more models than what is shown in their web sites.

    If that does not work, I would suggest you try some of the Hong Kong sites, like :

    http://www.gunsnguys.com/home_ns.htm
    http://www.airsoft-armory.com/
    http://www.wgcshop.com/

    Rgds
    John Caradimas SV1CEC
    The M1911 Pistols Organization
    http://www.m1911.org

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