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Cabot Guns CGI/Classic pistol review
Cabot Guns, LLC
CGI/Classic .45 ACP Pistol
“All-American Know-How for an All-American Pistol”
A gun test and review by Steve Clark
Less than one month after my tour of Penn United Technologies and Cabot Guns, LLC, in Western Pennsylvania, the much sought-after pistol arrived at Downing’s Guns in Cleburne, TX.
Having seen, first hand, how this All-American company builds these 1911-type pistols, I was itching to put one through its paces. A great deal of band-width has been used at the M1911.ORG Forum about “why” these pistols are so pricey. Let’s take a look, and allow everyone to decide whether the gun justifies the price and hyperbole.
The overnight delivery man brought two boxes to Downing's Guns. The larger one (16x13x5) was covered in an outer
cardboard sleeve. The smaller box was actually large enough to comfortably hold a full-sized 1911.
The smaller of the two boxes contained the owners manual, a child-proof Master lock, a small manila envelope containing a
fired cartridge casing, and an elongated box. That last box held a blue aluminum bushing wrench, emblazoned with "Cabot
Guns*Made in the USA*".
All this impressive packaging was merely a preamble to what was inside the double-paneled large cardboard box. Heavy duty Styrofoam protected the inner pistol box, which is not only sturdy, but suitable as a display case for the Cabot Guns CGI/Classic pistol within.
Removing the styrofoam cover of the inner box revealed a Certificate of Authenticity, signed by Robert Bianchin, the
President of Cabot Guns, LLC.
These pistol cases are custom built for Cabot Guns by Technoframes of Brescia, Italy. The case is based on Technoframes'
"Blaze" model cases.
This pistol case is constructed of acrylic resin (similar to Plexiglas), brushed black aluminum reinforced frame, with an inner layer of acrylic resin. This inner layer is cut-out for the pistol and one magazine. The case is double-hinged across the top (near the handle), and equipped with key-locks on both sides. When closed, the locks are automatic, and the key is necessary to open the case.
The brushed aluminum is actually a rather dark black, rather than the grey appearance suggested by the photographs. The acrylic resin outer and inner layers are quite thick, and protect the pistol and magazine from hard knocks, as well as the elements. The pistol can be moved into an upright position in the case, due to a swiveling insert which fits in the magazine well of the pistol, and secures the gun in a manner exactly like the magazine retention system works.
This photograph shows the case opened, with the pistol mounted upright in display mode.
The pistol had been test-fired and cleaned by Team Leader Ray Rozic prior to being shipped to Texas. Therefore, I wiped off all the excess oil, and began photographing the pistol and its parts.
The Cabot Guns CGI/Classic is basically a standard 5 inch barreled M1911-A1, based on John Moses Browning’s designs and blueprints for the original 1911. However, this pistol represents Cabot's contemporary interpretation of the M1911-A1. This is not a replica, nor was it intended to be. Purists will note several areas where this pistol departs from examples of Browning's designs and blueprints. Per Cabot Guns’ web site, the CGI/Classic has the following features:
• 1911-A1 Styling
• Polished Feed Ramp
• Flared Ejection Port
• 16.5 lb. recoil spring
• 5″ Post-Custom Kart NM Grade Barrel
• Semi-Polished Bright Bluing
• Modern Aluminum Trigger
• Standard GI Style Thumb Safety (RH)
• Standard GI Style Slide Stop
• Wicked Grips/Box Elder Grips
• Chip McCormick Power Mag Magazine
• Owner/User Manual
• Barrel Bushing Wrench
• Child Resistant Gun Lock
The 16.5 pound recoil spring is a Wolff variable rate spring. Like many other 1911 users, I have been buying and recommending Wolff gun springs for as long as I've been shooting. It speaks highly of Cabot Guns that they rely on Wolff springs in their line of 1911s.
"Post-Custom" refers to the fact that Cabot Guns uses Kart National Match barrels, and these barrels are tuned and fitted by the Cabot Guns technicians to fit in their slides. As was stated in the previous article about my visit to Cabot Guns, as well as references later in this article, Ray Rozic designed and built several tools to facilitate the fit of these Kart NM barrels in their pistols.
If these guns display “Semi-Polished Bright Bluing”, then the Master Polisher I met on my trip to Penn United deserves a raise! The beautiful polish, combined with a bluing job which makes the pistol appear to be black, made photographing the gun extremely difficult.
The pistol design team at Cabot Guns made the decision to utilize Chip McCormick Power Mags with their line of guns. While the subject of magazines can always be depended on to cause lively discussion in the forums, I have never had a problem with any of the McCormick magazines in my collection. The Power Mag included with the test pistol proved to be reliable throughout the evaluation.
(Special Note) I must ask the kind indulgence of my readers, concerning the quality of some of these photographs. The macro setting on digital cameras picks up dust and fiber particles which are invisible to the naked eye. Please believe me when I say this gun is Clean.
These two photographs illustrate the difficulty I had taking pictures of this pistol. The lighting here allows the viewer to see
the roll marks and various accoutrements on the gun.
This photo, and the one below, more clearly show the true lustrous nature of the finish on the pistol. Since the previous
photographs tended to "wash out" the color of the Box Elder grips, these two give the viewer a more representative
impression of the wood grain and color.
The left side of the slide, featuring the Cabot Guns roll mark. Actually, this "roll mark" is depth-controlled, and put on the
slide using an engraving tool.
The right side of the slide, where the CGI/Classic name is engraved.
The sights on the CGI/Classic follow the tradition of the old Colt service pistols, in that the front sight is staked, while the rear sight is fit in a standard dove-tail. However, both sights are larger than the miniscule sights found on Government Models.
The front sight is wider, and sits taller on the top of the slide than the sights found on GI units. This was an intentional
change made by the team at Cabot Guns.
The serrated slide stop and checkered thumb safety, as mentioned above, are standard GI style units.
The pistol is equipped with a standard guide rod and checkered spring plug. The barrel bushing fits quite tightly on the end of the Kart NM barrel. I found that during field-stripping procedures, it was best to push the slide out of battery in order to more easily turn the barrel bushing with the supplied bushing wrench.
The front strap of the frame is smooth, as are the grip safety and flat mainspring housing. Combined with the slightly larger than normal Wicked Grips Box Elder stocks, these features made the pistol a little more difficult to control in rapid fire. The standard mainspring housing on all CGI/Classic pistols is an arched, serrated unit. While in Ray’s office during my visit to Pennsylvania, I had mistakenly mentioned my preference for the flat style, so Ray obliged me by putting the one pictured on the test pistol.
The serrated aluminum trigger is of the three-hole variety, and is equipped with an over-travel screw adjustment. This trigger, combined with the sear, sear spring, and hammer adjustments, make the CGI/Classic the BEST trigger pull I’ve ever experienced on a 1911. That is not an idle statement, as I’ve tested some of the best custom and semi-custom guns available.
There is an almost imperceptible amount of take-up, followed by a crisp release, and no over-travel. Using my RCBS spring-loaded trigger pull gauge, as well as a Lyman Digital Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge, I consistently got pulls which were no lighter than 3 lbs. 8 ounces, and not a single one which measured over 3 lbs. 12 ounces.
This photograph shows both the Lyman Gauge and the RCBS gauge, registering what proved to be the standard trigger pull
on this pistol.
Field-stripping the pistol is accomplished in the tried and true method of all standard configured 1911s, with the only exception being the aforementioned need to place the slide out-of-battery prior to utilizing the bushing wrench. During my visit to Cabot Guns, Ray Rozic had shown me several tools he had made to insure the precise fit of the Kart National Match barrel into the slide. The tightly fit barrel bushing, as well as the accuracy delivered by the pistol (see "The Firing Line" below), illustrate that Ray had done an exceedingly good job with this gun.
The Kart NM barrel, as seen from the chamber.
The Firing Line
I’ve always followed a procedure of shooting about 100 rounds through any T&E pistol, before actual accuracy testing is done. This protocol allows me the opportunity to evaluate any functioning problems which might occur, and to get a “ballpark” idea of the regulation of the sights.
In the case of the CGI/Classic, I fired 50 rounds of Remington/UMC 230 gr. full metal jacketed rounds, followed by 58 rounds of Winchester White Box 230 gr. FMJ. In addition to the supplied Chip McCormick Power Mag, I also loaded up 2 Chip McCormick Shooting Star mags, 4 Tripp Research seven-round magazines, 3 Wolff/Novak/ACT seven-round mags, and 5 Colt/Checkmate seven round magazines. All the magazines functioned reliably, and I encountered no difficulties during the initial 108 rounds.
My targets during this informal session consisted primarily of clay pigeons, set anywhere from ten to twenty-five feet away. The sights allowed me to hit most of those small targets with the first shot.
LuckyGunner.com was kind enough to donate ammunition to several of the editors of the M1911.ORG E-zine earlier this summer. I received 220 rounds from this fine company, four boxes of which were various brands of full metal jacketed 230 gr. cartridges.
At some time prior to the summer of 2010, the editors of the E-zine decided to discontinue the practice of chronographing the loads used during the evaluation of test pistols. I have decided, however, to include some basic chronograph results in this section. Since 5 different varieties of hardball ammo would be used in this test (Sellier & Bellot, Speer Blazer Brass, MagTech, Winchester White Box, and Remington/UMC), I thought the reader might want to know which brand is the hottest of these. At least “hottest” as of October 2011!
Each brand was fired through the screens of a Competitive Edge Dynamics Millennium Chronograph, from a distance of 12 feet. The average of ten shots is presented.
Clearly, in this competition the Remington/UMC ammunition was faster than the other brands. All brands were fairly representative of the quality of factory ammunition available today. Also of note is the fact that through 150 rounds of hard ball ammo, the gun remained perfectly reliable.
For the accuracy portion of the test, I fired at approved NRA pistol targets. My target stand is one I built from PVC pipe and wood. This target stand was placed 25 yards from a sturdy table, on which I have several sand bags. I was sitting in a chair, behind the table, with my shooting hands and arms braced by the sandbags.
In addition to the aforementioned 230 gr. FMJ loads, I fired several different brands of Jacketed Hollow Point ammunition. These would include Winchester Supreme 230 gr. SXT, Hornady 200 gr. XTP, and two types of Remington Brass Jacketed Hollow Point loads. One, the Golden Saber, is a law-enforcement proven cartridge, while the other, is marketed as their “Ultimate Home Defense” ammo.
I also had some MagTech 230 gr. Guardian Gold JHP and some Hornady TAP ammunition, but both of these are +P rated. Cabot Guns advises against the use of +P ammo in their pistols.
I had exactly ten rounds of Federal Gold Medal 185 gr. FMJ-SWC Match loads left. I realized that I might have to change the recoil spring in the pistol before firing these loads, but I decided to try them out.
As expected, the Federal Match ammo didn’t have enough “Oomph” to reliably cycle the slide, but firing those rounds was very gratifying. For the record, I had two failures-to-eject out of ten rounds. Notwithstanding, the reader can see why I included this ammunition in my accuracy test! Actually, each of the five round tests created one ragged hole on the bull's eye, with one flyer spreading the group to one inch.
While I'm generally pleased with the overall results, several of the higher "spreads" can probably be traced to fatigue. By the time I shot the Hornady XTP loads (with their "snappy" recoil), I was pretty well done in.
These chronograph and accuracy tests stretched over the last two decent days of weather that was expected for that week.
The remainder of my test ammunition was shot during “rapid-fire” drills, and general plinking at paper targets, water jugs, clay pigeons, and aluminum cans. I fired 530 rounds of ammo during those two days, and only had the two previously explained malfunctions.
Ejection of spent casings was positive using everything except the Federal Gold Match. The casings consistently landed behind my right shoulder, about three feet from my firing position.
During the shooting tests, I only occasionally wiped down the exterior surfaces of the pistol. Most shots were fired at a frequency which allowed the pistol to cool, somewhat. Twice, during the course of my shooting tests, I wiped the powder residue away from the feed ramp and breech end of the barrel.
All of the magazines used during this test (factory supplied Chip McCormick Power Mag, Tripp Research Cobra Mags, Chip McCormick Shooting Stars, and Colt/Checkmate) went into the magwell easily, and dropped free when the magazine release was pressed.
Evaluation and Summation
Cabot Guns, LLC has made some bold claims about the tolerances of their pistols. The “clone” technology, touted on their web site, mentions clearances of one-one thousandth of an inch, or less. These remarkable tolerances are achieved without files or lapping compound. I toured the Penn United Technologies facility where these guns are built. While I freely admit that as a tool and die expert I’d make a great airline pilot, I DO know what I saw. I KNOW the machines and people who operate them are capable of these microscopic measurements. I talked with people in all aspects of the business, and experienced the passion with which they do their jobs.
Cabot Guns are built exceedingly well. My test sample (the CGI/Classic) has the best trigger, the smoothest slide action, and the nicest polished surfaces I’ve ever seen. The acrylic resin and brushed-black aluminum pistol case stores the gun in an exquisite package. The test pistol proved to be amazingly reliable, and astoundingly accurate.
“So, Steve Clark,” you might ask, “Is it perfect?”
I’ve already mentioned that I prefer my mainspring housings to be checkered. (This is my fault because I opened my mouth in Ray’s office!)
I also prefer stocks which are checkered, and not as thick as the Box Elder grips on the CGI/Classic. Once again, Ray Rozic encouraged me to change out the grips, if I wanted to. However, I always test a pistol “as issued”, and the results didn’t justify changing the pistol and the configuration.
The sights caused me some minor “fits” during the accuracy portion of my evaluation. While larger than the old GI sights, the notch on the rear sight could stand to be enlarged. The front sight fills that notch completely, and made 25 yard shots a little difficult for my 62 year old eyes. Not insurmountable, mind you, just difficult. In "The Firing Line" I mentioned the fatigue I experienced while shooting for accuracy. I readily admit that I had several "do-overs" as a result of the front and rear sights "blending" together while on target.
I was also struck by the fact that the thumb/slide safety was harder to engage and disengage than are similar safeties on my personally owned pistols. While I would rather have one which is stiff, this one was a little too stiff. Extended use would probably loosen this up, but it still was slightly annoying.
That’s it! No more “nits” that I can pick.
The Cabot Guns CGI/Classic is a superbly manufactured contemporary version of a M1911-A1. The 4140 billet steel used in the construction of this pistol insures its strength. The manufacturing techniques will be proven, over time, to be superior to anything coming out of the facilities of the mass-produced pistols. In fact, the "big boys" in the gun industry have been moving in this direction for some time. They just don't currently have the state-of-the-art machines possessed by Penn United.
While it is quite true that I’ve reviewed some outstanding custom pistols during my tenure at the M1911.ORG E-zine, very few had the quality or commitment to excellence which I saw at Cabot Guns.
The folks at Cabot freely admit that their pistols aren’t for everyone. They realize the cost of manufacture puts these guns out of the price range for a lot of people. Because of the nature of Penn United Technologies’ business, relatively few guns are produced each year. It’s interesting to note that many of those not-yet-produced pistols are already spoken for.
To those who realize that the entire Cabot Guns line ("Jones 1911," "RangeMaster," "GI/Classic," and "CGI/Classic") are groundbreaking pistols in the history of 1911 developement, the price is acceptable. If one doesn't accept these notions, then the point is moot.
As a retired railroad man, on a semi-fixed income, I cannot make the investment required to purchase a Cabot Guns pistol. But if my bank account were a little "fatter", I would be sending Rob Bianchin a check, instead of returning this pistol.
To Bill, Rob, Ray, Steve, Al, Betty, and everyone else at Penn United Technologies and Cabot Guns, LLC, my most profound “thank you” for a great visit to your facilities. I’d also like to thank you for the opportunity to test the CGI/Classic. Perhaps if you weren't as passionate about perfection and integrity, I would have found some really major things to “bash” about your product. Yeah, like that’s going to happen!
The Downing’s (dad Jerry and son Todd) have been my go-to gun store for as long as they’ve been open in Cleburne, Texas. Words cannot express my appreciation for all your wise council, advice, and help over these years. “Thank you” is not near enough.
LuckyGunner.com has provided me with quality ammunition at a fair price since becoming an M1911.ORG Forum sponsor. The donated ammo (as well as some from my personal stock) made this gun test possible. Thank you for your support, and your great customer service, both before and after the sale.
You may discuss this review http://forum.m1911.org/showthread.ph...047#post886047
Cabot Guns, LLC
799 N. Pike Road
Cabot, PA 16023 USA
Web site: http://www.cabotguns.com
PO Box 32747
Knoxville, TN 37930
Web Site: http://www.luckygunner.com/
Downing's Guns and Family Treasures
516 N. Main Street
Cleburne, TX 76033 USA
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