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Thread: From the Detonics Combat Master to Now: All things 1911 Subcompact-ish...

  1. #1
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    Jan 2015
    N. Alabama

    From the Detonics Combat Master to Now: All things 1911 Subcompact-ish...

    Disclaimer: I've owned exactly ONE 1911 compact style gun: A Colt 1991 Officer's Model years ago. However, my 80's nostalgia has me interested in picking up a vintage Detonics Combat Master.

    1. Anyone here have any experience with this specific gun?
    2. What about this general class of guns? (1911 compacts & subcompacts)
    3. Who makes the best (or least-bad) tiny 1911s these days?

  2. #2
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    Jun 2014
    I had a couple; mags are difficult to find these days. Detonics really broke the code for making a short 1911 reliable, within it's very small operating envelope. I had both a MkVII (which was really neat but I wound up moving it couldn't really aim it...) and a latest incarnation of the standard Combat Master from Pendegrass, GA. The Pendegrass one I had was %100 reliable with everything I tried to feed long as the mag springs were fresh. My example was an early one; later ones from when Detonics was on the down slope of that operation were a lot more haphazard; they could be made to run, but they might not out of the box. No so dissimilar from Colt

    The 3 spring recoil spring assemblies are pretty good but have a short life, less than 2k rounds (and honestly less than that, optimally). Magazine springs are measured more in time than rounds; maybe 2 months tops, if you leave a mag loaded.

    When the springs are in fresh condition, it's inside it's operating envelope, and in my experience they run great. Mine really didn't have punishing recoil shooting standard 230gr loads, either; it wasn't a handful as compared to say an alloy framed Officer model. Those felt a little more jumpy to me than the all steel Detonics.

    I'm not an expert in them even though I've owned a couple, but if I had a chance to get another one I probably would; first things I'd do is replace all the mag springs and recoil spring assembly (or rebuilt it with springs from Wolff), run a couple hundred rounds through it, replace the mag springs again, and put it aside for when I need something more concealable than a G19. I really kind of do miss mine..

    Edited to add - short 1911s in general are super sensitive to mag springs, so always keep on top of them. Alloy guns are great to carry but can be pretty punishing, especially if you get into +P loads. Detonics was all steel, so while it was a boat anchor, it also shot like a boat anchor...not bad at all. Again, because it was so small, the slide operated so fast...timing and springs, timing and springs. I'm not sure I'd venture into too many other aftermarket micro 1911s these days, except maybe Colts. Colt got into the micro game because Detonics basically cracked that market open, and Colt said "Waaaiiit.....we could do that..." and presto, the Officer's ACP was born. Better late than never. (At least, that's my understanding). I had a micro Kimber in the mid-2000s and it was actually reliable for the 500+ rounds I put through it, but oh lord was it punishing to shoot. I would probably aim for an all steel micro if I had to have one today just so if I ever needed to use it, my overriding thought wouldn't be "Oh boy, this is going to suck" before pulling the trigger.
    Last edited by obremski; 01-17-2020 at 04:18 PM. Reason: more color

  3. #3
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    Dec 2011
    Athens, AL, USA
    To answer the last question first, Colt makes the best affordable Officer's ACP frame, the Defender. The three-inch barrel does not use a bushing, Colt has figured out the recoil spring system, and the magazine is long enough to not entirely "over-stress" magazine springs. The Wilson Combat Sentinel is pretty good if you are willing to pay almost 3x the price of the Colt. It also is about a 0.5" shorter (magazine is shorter).

    If you do opt for the vintage Combat Master, I would not suggest carrying it. As noted, the magazine springs will collapse, the sight radius is short, and it is not an easy gun to shoot accurately or at speed. I would suggest one of the newer Pendergrass, GA guns, and I can vouch for this seller:
    Last edited by farscott; 01-17-2020 at 04:46 PM.

  4. #4
    Member Gary1911A1's Avatar
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    Jan 2012
    Portsmouth, OH
    You can still get recoil and magazine springs here:
    I like mine although as it is a little heavy for conceal carry.

  5. #5

    My favorite!

    Actually as a kid the Detonics Combat Master was the first pistol I ever shot. My dad got one way back when as an ankle gun and still has it to this day. He always describes it as having a ďdiamond blastedĒ finish but Iím pretty sure after my research itís a Mk V with the brushed stainless finish. Itís like the rough stainless, not too shiny. Sexy as hell and to this day my favorite pistol to shoot. Being a police guy he also had a .40 P226 and a Glock 9mm. When I was young the I couldnít help but limp wrist the sig leading to jams and the I just never liked glocks...but that Detonics spoke to me. Itís just like a Swiss watch. Beautiful, rare, never jammed and felt like it had the right power to get the job done despite its size. Iíve tried to get him to sell it to me like 3 times now but he still loves it too much and only letís me borrow it someday though. Hope to pass that one on and keep it in the fam. The thing is built like a tank, I donít see it crapping out anytime soon! It hasnít had any general maintenance in maybe 20-30 years but since Iíve grown up and gone out to the world I think Itís made only 1-2 trips to the range but no issues. If you see one I highly recommend picking one up! Well, a Mk V at least, I canít speak for the other models. Any thoughts on general upkeep for this pistol though? Should I replace a recoil spring just because itís old or should I wait for issues until I worry about it?

  6. #6
    I have no Detonics experience but have carried a 3 1/2" Colt for many years and would never wait for issues.
    I consider springs (in short 1911's) a consumable and replace them well before they sack out.
    Kept lubed and with good springs my 1991 based gun has run like a clock despite cycling in much less time than Mr Browning intended.

  7. #7
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    Feb 2011
    Never my cup of tea. My original shooting mentors could keep them running when they did the following. Note-info was from the 1991 to 2011 time frame:
    1. Started out with a quality gun-usually an old Colt

    2. Insured it had proper extractor tension and basic dimensions

    3. Figured out what kind of mags it liked, usually Wilson's or CMC

    4. Figured out a practice load and a carry load it liked (practice was 5.0-5.2 of 231 with a 230 RNL Bullet, carry was usually something by Remington as they tended to have a more FMJ profile.

    5. Recoil Spring got changed religiously at 500 rounds or when it was visually shorter than a new one, which ever happened first.

    6. Clean and well lubed.

    To me as a youngster, it seemed more art than science to keep such a pistol up and running so I never went down the 1911 road past all steel, 5 inch 1911s.

  8. #8
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    Nov 2013
    I'd stay away from a shorty 1911 for all the reasons above.

    But if I were to consider carrying one, it'd be a 9mm.

    Sent from my moto g(6) using Tapatalk

  9. #9
    There is a fella at a local gun store who carries a Combat Master to work every day....he helped design it.

    Imagine he could steer people to parts etc.

    Ben's Loan Renton Wa.

  10. #10
    The only small 1911 other than a Wilson I would go with is the Dan Wesson ECO. Itís a 3.5Ē, not a 3Ē.

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