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1911 Model Series 70 Vs 80

Discussion in 'Handgun Discussion' started by wichaka, Apr 15, 2011.

  1. wichaka

    wichaka Wa State Well-Known Member

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    For those who know me, I'm a 1911 guy, and pretty much bleed Colt. In fact I don't own any other type of handgun, but 1911 based/style guns...'nuff said there.

    I've had some tantrums on other forums about the misuse of the "Series 70" term. I see for sale adds or trouble shooting questions about a 1911, and the person refers to their gun as being a 1911 Series 70. So me, I'm thinking this person has a Colt, when in fact they don't. It just happens that their particular make/model doesn't have a firing pin safety, so therefore it must be a Series 70...ain't so!

    Colt and only Colt made a Series 70 model which was a full sized Government model that ran from approx. 1970-71 to 1983. It's most notable feature was the 4 pronged (collet) barrel bushing. Then a few years ago, Colt brought out the Series 70 re-issue model.
    If you have a 1911 that is not made by Colt, it is not and can never be a Series 70. You just happen to have a 1911 by X maker that doesn't have a firing pin safety.

    Also, there are no Series 70 Colt Commanders, just Commanders made in the 70's. As again, the series 70 is the designator for a full size Government model 1911 made by Colt only.
    The term Commander came about in late 1949-early 1950 and all had an alloy (aluminum) frame. They were designated "Colt's Commander Model" The term "Combat Commander" did not come into being until the 1970's, when Colt produced a steel framed model.
    The term "Lightweight Commander" came into being with the Series 80 designator, or thereabouts. So technically there were no "Lightweight" Commanders in the 70's or earlier, just "Commanders"

    Ok, I know I'm pick nittin' here, but when I see something on the boards, it may help others to know exactly what you have, and call it correctly. Just sayin'

    Now onto the Series 80. This is also a Colt only designator for the inclusion of a firing pin safety system that came to being in 1983, and continues to this day. So again, if you have a 1911 made by X, and not by Colt, it can never be a Series 80, you just have a 1911 with a firing pin safety.
    As noted above, there happens to be Series 80 Combat & Lightweight Commanders.

    Here's a nice piece of written work by a friend of mine, and is used with his permission. He's a bit more articulate than I am...


    Series 70 vs. Series 80

    There have been a lot of questions posted by new members and 1911 owners as to what the difference is between Series 70 and Series 80 Colts. This question is best answered by giving the following history:

    Colt is the original manufacturer of 1911 pattern pistols, having made versions for both the military as well as commercial market since regular production began in January 1912. The commercial versions were nearly identical to the military ones, differing only in markings and finish. Following World War Two military production ended, but the commercial guns remained in production with only minor changes such as deletion of the lanyard loop and a larger thumb safety shelf. These pistols are known to collectors as "pre-Series 70" guns, as they pre-dated the Series 70 guns introduced in 1971. It was during this year that Colt introduced the first major design change to the Government Model in nearly 50 years. In an attempt to improve the accuracy of production guns the barrel bushing was redesigned, along with the barrel. In this system the bushing utilized four spring-steel "fingers" that gripped the enlarged diameter of the muzzle end of the barrel as the gun returned to battery. By tightening the fit of barrel and bushing in this manner Colt was able to improve the accuracy of the average production gun, without going through the expense of hand fitting the older solid barrel bushing to the barrel and slide. Models using the new barrel/bushing setup were the Government Model and Gold Cup, which were designated the "Mark IV Series 70" or simply Series 70 pistols. It should be noted that the shorter 4 1/4" barreled Commander pistols retained the use of the older solid bushing design and thus were never designated Series 70 pistols, although one hears the term erroneously applied to Commanders from time to time.

    The new "collet" bushing (as it came to be known) worked quite well, however it was prone to breakage if the inside diameter of the slide was too small as it caused the fingers to buckle, then later break from the stress of being wedged between the barrel and slide. On pistols with oversized slides the bushing didn't grip well enough, and accuracy suffered. Because of this the collet bushing was eventually phased out sometime around 1988, with the older solid barrel bushing design being reinstated for use in production guns.

    The single biggest change to the 1911 design came about in 1983, when Colt introduced the "MK IV Series 80" pistols. These guns incorporated a new firing pin block safety system, where a series of internal levers and a plunger positively blocked the firing pin from moving until the trigger was pressed, thus eliminating the possibility of the gun discharging if dropped onto a hard surface or struck hard. In this instance however, ALL of Colt's 1911-pattern pistols incorporated the new design change so even the Commander and Officer's ACP pistols became known as Series 80 guns. With the previous paragraph in mind, it is important to know that from 1983 until 1988 the early Government Model and Gold Cup Series 80 pistols used the Series 70-type barrel and bushing as well, although they were known only as Series 80 guns.

    There was one other design change made to the Series 80 guns as well, and that was a re-designed half-cock notch. On all models the notch was changed to a flat shelf instead of a hook, and it is located where half-cock is engaged just as the hammer begins to be pulled back. This way the half-cock notch will still perform its job of arresting the hammer fall should your thumb slip while manually cocking the pistol, yet there is no longer a hook to possibly break and allow the hammer to fall anyway. With the notch now located near the at-rest position, you can pull the trigger on a Series 80 while at half-cock and the hammer WILL fall. However, since it was already near the at-rest position the hammer movement isn't sufficient to impact the firing pin with any amount of force.

    Regarding the "clone" guns (1911-pattern pistols made by manufacturers other than Colt), only Para Ordnance (SIG, Auto Ordnance, Taurus have since adopted it also) adopted Colt's Series 80 firing pin block system as well. Kimber's Series II pistols and the new S&W 1911s have a FP safety also, but it is a different system than Colt's and is disabled by depressing the grip safety. No manufacturers aside from Colt ever adopted the Series 70 barrel/bushing arrangement, so technically there are no "Series 70" clone guns. What this means is that design-wise most of them share commonality with the pre-Series 70 guns, using neither the firing pin block NOR the collet bushing. Because of this it is important to remember that only Colt Series 80 models, and a couple of "clone" 1911 makers use a firing pin block. Older Colts and most other clone guns lack a firing pin safety and can possibly discharge if there is a round in the chamber and the gun is dropped on a hard surface, or if struck a blow hard enough to allow the firing pin to jump forward and impact the primer of the loaded round. By the way, Colt has just recently reintroduced new custom pistols lacking the S80 firing pin safety (called the Gunsite models) as well as a reintroduced original-style Series 70 to appeal to purists. Interestingly, the latter uses a solid barrel bushing and Series 80 hammer, so it is somewhat different mechanically than the original Series 70 models.

    Regarding the controversy involving getting a decent trigger pull on a Series 80 gun, it is only of importance if the gunsmith attempts to create a super-light pull (under four pounds) for target or competition use. In defense/carry guns where a four-pound or heavier pull is necessary, the added friction of the Series 80 parts adds little or nothing to the pull weight or feel. A good gunsmith can do an excellent trigger job on a Series 80 and still leave all the safety parts in place, although he will probably charge a little more than if the gun were a Series 70 since there are more parts to work with. But any gunsmith who tells you that you can't get a good trigger on a Series 80 without removing the safety parts is likely either lazy or incompetent.


    1991 vs. 1911

    For those wondering what the difference is between these pistols, the fact is there really is none. Back in 1991 Colt decided to market an economy version of their basic Series 80 Government Model. The polished blue was changed to an all-matte parkerized (later matte blue) finish, checkered rubber grip panels were used, and the serial number sequence was a resumption of the ones originally given to US military M1911A1 pistols. The resulting pistol was cleverly named "M1991A1", after the year of introduction. Mechanically however they are the same as any other Colt Series 80, 1911-type pistol. Around 2001 or so Colt upgraded these pistols with polished slide and frame flats, nicer-looking slide rollmarks, stainless barrels, and wood grips (blued models only). The newer ones are commonly called "New Rollmark (NRM)" pistols by Colt enthusiasts, to differentiate them from the "Old Rollmark (ORM)" 1991 pistols. The earlier guns are easily identified by having "COLT M1991A1" in large block letters across the left face of the slide. The NRM Colts will have three smaller lines of text saying "COLT'S-GOVERNMENT MODEL-.45 AUTOMATIC CALIBER", along with Colt's rampant horse logo.
    __________________
    D. Kamm
     
  2. gaijinsamurai

    gaijinsamurai Beaverton Well-Known Member 2016 Volunteer

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    Nice info, Wichaka. Thanks.

    Don't 1991 Colts also have MIM parts, such as the trigger and mainspring housing? My "Officers" size 1991 has those, which I intend on replacing at some point.
     
  3. wichaka

    wichaka Wa State Well-Known Member

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    The only MIM part on a Colt is the sear. I have beat one half to death on an anvil and it took quite a beating...so they are hard!, and didn't crumble like some other MIM sears.

    The MSH should probably be plastic, which I despise, but to be fair there really hasn't been any problems with them.
     
  4. iamme

    iamme Lane County Well-Known Member

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    I thought Colt used more MIM, huh.

    As for 70 vs 80, I think people get a little carried away with it and whats "right". While it may not be technically correct, it's much easier to diagnose a "series 70" or *series 80" issue becuase you know which parts are there, rather than simply "my 1911". Then add to that people don't want Ser 80 so as a seller you try to help people along a little and let them know it is not and you get issues. Very cool write up though and great info.
     
  5. jordanvraptor

    jordanvraptor Oregon City, Oregon Well-Known Member

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    I have had two Colt Series 70 pistols and the last one was very accurate. I think the collet barrel bushing was perfectly fine and don't understand why some people say that it could break and lead to a malfunction. Probably the same people who are all gaga about the O-ring on an H&K SOCOM... :)

    I think I'm strictly a Colt guy as well. There are others out there that are made just as good, but they aren't a Colt...
     
  6. scrappydoo

    scrappydoo Federal Way Active Member

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    I thought I'd read this somewhere before. You must be DSK on 1911forum.com.
     
  7. orygun

    orygun West Linn Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Great read. Thanks.:thumbup:
     
  8. iamme

    iamme Lane County Well-Known Member

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    We do have some very knowledgeable folks here for sure!
     
  9. wichaka

    wichaka Wa State Well-Known Member

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    I'm not DSK. As I stated above I used his article in the latter part of my post.
     
  10. coltnewbie

    coltnewbie earth New Member

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    How do I classify my colt 1911 if it has a Mark IV series 70 for a barrel and a Mark VI series 80 slide?
     
  11. wichaka

    wichaka Wa State Well-Known Member

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    A Series 80 has the firing pin safety parts.

    Colt is known for using up all their production stock when transitioning to a new model. They were some models that do have the parts you describe, yet do not have the firing pin safety parts.
    The serial number will need to be looked at. But since you describe a "transition" model, you'll need to check the frame and slide for the firing pin safety parts. A true Series 80 will have them.
     
  12. tattoo

    tattoo NorthWest Active Member

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    How about the term Colt 70 or 80 STYLES. Just for people who want to advertise a 1911 for sale. Like, My Dan Wesson is like the 70 style Colt with no firing pin safety.
    I have met DSK. Nice guy. He Is definitely the Colt go to guy for reliable Colt 1911 info. :)
    Dave
     
  13. coltnewbie

    coltnewbie earth New Member

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    Thanks wichaka, but how can I know if the firing pin block is working or not/if it has one? sorry for this question but I don't want to pretend that I know this stuff.. : ) By the way, I just noticed too that the frame/receiver is not by colt but by essex arms co. is this still a good gun?
     
  14. wichaka

    wichaka Wa State Well-Known Member

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    Ah, now we're gettin' somewhere.

    I'm not an Essex fan, but don't believe that their frames have the cuts for any firing pin safeties.

    I just moved, and don't have the net hooked up yet, so can't post my own pics. Here's some pics I found on the net.

    Here's a photo of a frame without the firing pin safety garb;

    Google Images

    Here's a frame with the firing pin safety parts;

    Google Images


    A photo of the underside of a 1911 slide, without the firing pin safety garb.

    Google Images

    Here's a slide showing the firing pin safety plunger, compare to the slide pic above;

    Google Images


    Here's a pic of Colt's firing pin safety garb, outside of the gun;

    Google Images

    The levers (bottom two parts) are in the frame, while the plunger (part with spring) is in the slide.



    Here's a crude drawing of the firing pin safety parts in the gun;

    Google Images


    Hope this helps.
     
  15. coltnewbie

    coltnewbie earth New Member

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    Thanks Wichaka! That was really helpful, I'll go see if mine has one.
     
  16. The Quiet Man

    The Quiet Man rural Washington County, Oregon Active Member

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    Good job Wichaka!
    I know better but have been guilty of referring to my pair of 70's vintage Colt Combat Commanders as "70's Series" on occasion — mostly to avoid having to explain the difference to those who don't understand. Rather lazy on my part. You did a masterful job explaining it and it is gratifying that so many have expressed an interest in the difference.
     
  17. Smoke It

    Smoke It northwest New Member

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    What a great thread thanks for sharing
     
  18. orygun

    orygun West Linn Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    What about all of the wonderful guns Colt made before the Series 70 came along? What do we call them? (besides the best combat handgun ever!!!)
     
  19. mjbskwim

    mjbskwim Salmon,Idaho Well-Known Member

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    So the 1991 A1 I've been fondling at the local store, is as good a Colt as any other?
    May have to go fondle some more.

    And thanks for the info
     
  20. Paradox

    Paradox Seattle Member

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    Good write up and it's great info that any 1911 fan should really know. The reality of the situation is that in the modern gun vernacular series 70 and series 80 have become synonymous with "without firing pin safety" and "with firing pin safety". It's kind of like the whole clip vs. magazine thing. You can get your panties in a wad every time someone "misuses" the correct term and correct them but then you'll be "that guy" (@$$-hole). Fact is we know what they mean when they use the generic term that has become common. Just smile and nod, knowing that you know what they don't and get on with it. ;)

    If it's clear that the potential student is worthy and in need of the correction and will be capable of appreciating it, then by all means enter into a teaching moment. I think you'll find it to be a rare ocasion though. :(
     
    fry and (deleted member) like this.