View Full Version : Colt Rail Gun

Steve Shields
11th January 2011, 05:25

Suitable for LEO Duty

Reviewed by Steve Shields for M1911.ORG


Does a true fighting gun of this day and age need a light rail interface? There are serious considerations when contemplating the value that make a weapon-mounted light truly unique and useful. On the plus side, wherever the light goes, so goes the muzzle. On the down side, wherever the light goes, so goes the muzzle. When using a weapon-mounted light to search, invariably the muzzle may cross a target that the user does not intend to shoot. Thus comes the endless discussion on how to properly apply such a weapon/light combo and still maintain the four basic safety rules, without giving rule number 2 a good thrashing:


In my close to 20 years of teaching combat shooting, from the days of when the revolver was king, up to and including these new fangled plastic wonder pistols, the discussion of pointing a gun at someone which we havenít decided to shoot is still ongoing. There have been many a training hour dedicated to such a subject, and with weapon light systems now a commonplace, the training has been well expanded, from what to choose based on your particular need, how to properly employ such a system safely and effectively. I will pause at this time to highly recommend a quality low-light training class in general, but especially if youíre going to run a weapon-mounted light system.

Weapon-mounted lights are nothing new; they have been on entry long guns for years in both the LE (Law Enforcement) and military worlds alike. But now in the last few years the system has migrated to the carry sidearm, and with it comes the plethora of offerings that fight for your hard-earned dollar.

The last to come to the table of weapon mounted light systems is the 1911 platform. Granted itís a bit easier for the plastic framed guns to add a molded-in rail vs. their steel counterparts. The first to show on the market were rails that attached the underside of the frame with flush mounted screws. But finally someone saw fit to incorporate the rail into the frame, and rightly so as the rail being part of the frame would not have the possibility of coming loose.

With all the 1911 offerings on the market with an integrated rail, now comes the patriarch of the 1911 industry into the arena: Coltís 1911 Rail Gun




If youíve been around Colt very long, the first thing youíll notice is the XSE style features of the gun, save for a few upgrades. The gun has polished flats on the slide, with blasted top and edges, along with a solid blasted or matte frame, no polished areas here.

It comes with the original design round top slide, with front and rear serrations, along with a lowered and flared back ejection port. The serrations on the slide are cut well enough but not sharp, so when practicing malfunction drills and the like, there isnít an unexpected bloodletting.


Coltís National Match barrel

To the casual observer, one may think that Colt missed a clean up step upon finishing their machine work around the barrel ramp, maybe so, but I can say that this in no way hinders the function and reliability of the gun.


Original design take-down style, with a standard barrel bushing set up

Novak white 3-Dot low mount sights, dovetailed in front and rear, with the front sight not matching the radius of the slide top


A tight slide to frame fit, extended ambidextrous safety, fitted Smith & Alexander upswept beavertail with palm swell

3-Hole lightweight aluminum trigger with adjustable over travel screw, undercut trigger guard, along with standard sized slide stop, and magazine release

A modestly beveled magazine well

A plastic serrated main spring housing

Of course, the integrated light rail

The original style take-down

The Good, Bad, and the downright Ugly

Before I delve into this part of the article, we must understand what the type of firearm which incorporates a light rail is made for. They are made for serious combat work in low light situations, where one needs to readily identify their target in the most expedient way possible, while allowing one hand to be free for use if the situation deems necessary.

The above being said, one should not lay down over a thousand dollars for anything short of a weapon that will be 100 percent reliable without question, during any mission for which the build and the operator deem intended. Just because a gun has a light rail interface, doesnít mean itís ready for prime time entry work, any more than owning a piano make one a musician.

The Good

This Colt Rail Gun model that was obtained from Colt, is a well constructed 1911. The pistol is devoid of any rattles, exhibits a tight slide to frame fit, properly fitted and timed barrel, original take-down style with a bushing fitted barrel, and solid quality and well fitted small parts throughout.

The low-mount Novak sights, with the front being dovetailed, are a nice touch, but the option for night sights and a wide notch rear model would be welcome upgrades.

The upswept beavertail will be appreciated by many, compared to the abysmal ducktail style grip safety Colt has been known for.

A nice touch is the original design spring capture notch on the recoil spring plug. This will keep it from flying to an area not of your choosing!


Some donít care for the forward slide serrations, because it takes away from the classic lines, etc.. I personally can take Ďem or leave Ďem. But they can help out when performing press checks.

The Bad

The trigger has a tad bit more take up than I like before engaging the sear. It has considerable creep, and a pull weight of just under 5.5lbs that feels much heavier.

A plastic main spring housing. To be fair, the main spring housing historically doesnít pose much if any problem as to long term use. But, since weíre talking about a platform thatís made for high-risk deployment, one might want to think about a metal housing.

Bevel cut on the magazine well. This could be cut out a bit more, which would allow for a more forgiving and expedient magazine change.

This in my opinion only and may not be that of the other writers and moderators on this forum: the matter of having a firing pin safety on a platform made for serious work. Although the Colt Series 80 firing pin safety system is the most reliable of the types currently seen in 1911 pistols, unless you or your department require it I would recommend a model without it. One can make a drop-safe 1911 without having to go with a firing pin safety system and, given the possibility of the system failing vs. the gun going off when dropped, the real possibility of the gun failing to fire weighs more with me.

The Downright Ugly

Warning! Sharp areas ahead! Iíve had numerous people mention this about Colt over the years, and this model will not disappoint in this area. I donít care for some of the ďbevel carryĒ or ďmeltedĒ treatments that some makers put on 1911ís these days, as some of it is so over done that it takes away from the classic lines of the 1911. But a little taking off of some of the edges would go a long way to putting the bandage people out of biz.

Note to Colt, please ease the sharp edges a bit.

The front edge of the slide

The edges around the ejection port

The vertical edges where the flats and the back of the slide meet

Now it is interesting that Colt will put a slight bevel on the bottom edge of the slide:


Because of the sharp edge along the trigger guard, I have seen many a shooter tape the finger that goes up under the trigger guard when doing an extended shooting session where they are practicing draws and other manipulations.


The front points of the magazine well

The edge where flats of the frame meet the bottom, around the magazine well area

How it Shoots

The Colt Rail Gun runs second to none of any 1911 Iíve ever shot. It digested every round I put through it. Itís a solid gun, with a bit heavier rail lug than others Iíve handled. The extra weight out front keeps the gun extremely flat and level for follow-up shots and fast multiple-round strings. The Colt Rail Gun is accurate, and easily keeps all the rounds in a tight fist group during rapid fire out to 20 yards, which is as far out as I tested the gun.

I always try to put right at 500 rounds through the pistol during a few different shooting sessions, and nothing differed here. From CQB contact distance out to 20 yards, and distances of 5, 7, 10 & 15 yards in between, I used seven different, commonly-found rounds, including some +P.

Besides using the two supplied Colt/Checkmate stainless steel, eight-round magazines that were supplied with the gun, I ran my usual gauntlet of various magazines; Wilson 47Dís, ETMís and a ten-round, stock Colt seven-round, Metalform seven & ten-rounders, Metalform seven-rounders with the Wolff spring update, Metalform magazine bodies with Wilsonís eight-round conversions.

With the combination standard 16-lb. recoil & 23-lb. main springs, along with the modern, large-radius firing pin stop, as mentioned above the gun recoils straight and true, allowing me to get consistent accuracy with fast follow-up shots and multiple-round strings. Even with +P ammunition, there was no felt torque, the pistol tracked like it should, and really didnít feel that much different in the hand.

I was able to run a good mixture of ammunition specimens through the pistol, most of which are currently available. Since I know many of you carry a variety of currently-available defense rounds, I try to include those in my testing. Ammunition used was: Remingtonís Golden Saber, Federals HST +P & Hydra-Shok, Speerís Gold Dot, Winchester's SXT +P, Winchester USA ("white box") ball (FMJ), and some reloads from Atlanta Arms, 230gr FMJ. Through the 500 rounds of various makes listed above, I never had one malfunction, or even a hesitation.

For accuracy tests, I used a two-handed, thumbs-forward hold on a sand bag rest, which was on a conference-sized table, and the accuracy did not disappoint. Obviously thereís a human factor in play here, but I was still impressed with the results I was able to get. The following shows the accuracy of five shot groups using the various ammunition:

Ammo|Group inches|Group mm

Winchester White Box 230gr. FMJ|

Remington 230gr. Golden Saber JHP|

Speer 230gr. Gold Dot JHP|

Federal 230gr. HST +P JHP|

Atlanta Arms 230gr. FMJ|

Winchester 230gr. SXT +P JHP|

Federal 230gr. Hydra-Shok JHP|


Colt is now considered a smaller manufacturer than some other 1911 makers on the market, thus their output isn't nearly as high as the others. But according to Rich Churchill at Colt, they sell everything they make...plus!

Compared to other ďrailĒ guns Iíve tested, on here and others that have passed through my hands over the last few years, Iíd rate this one a notch above any of the production models on the market. The overall feel, fitting of the parts, finish, along with more hands-on in its building than other makes, tell a person that Colt is still doing things right. The gun feels and shoots with a more solid feel to it.

The Colt Rail Gun is not perfect, no gun is and thus I will allow the reader to draw their own conclusions about my specific points I've made in the article. But overall I do not think you'll be disappointed with your purchase here. Some LE (Law Enforcement) folks are a bit hesitant to look at the Colt Rail Gun because of the firing pin safety, while others are clambering for it, as some departments mandate such a system.

The Colt Rail Gun should easily fit into any duty holster that's made for a 1911 fitted with a rail/light combo. I personally fit it into the Safariland 6280 SLS model, using both a Streamlight TLR-1 and a Insight Procyon model lights.

Yes, Colt arrived late to the "Rail Gun" party, but in doing so I think they avoided some of the pitfalls that other makers encountered, and with that the buyer is getting a solid firearm that Colt is known for.

Also of note, Colt does produce a blued model of the rail gun. Model O1980RG is still an all stainless steel gun, but with a blackened "Cerakote" finish.

You may discuss this review and this pistol in this thread in our Forums Site (http://forum.m1911.org/showthread.php?t=89814).

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{colsp=2}Colt XSE Rail Gun
Action Type:|Single Action
Caliber:|.45 ACP
Overall Length:|8.5Ē (216mm)
Overall Height:|5.3" (135mm)
Overall Width:|1.25" (32mm)
Barrel Length:|5" (127mm)
Sight Radius:|6.5" (165mm)
Weight w/empty magazine:|37 oz (1.05 kg)
Weight loaded:|46 oz (1.30 kg)
Magazine Capacity:|8 rounds
Finish:|Stainless Steel (Polished/matte blasted)
Front Sight:|White dot, carry (dovetailed)
Rear Sight:|Novak white dot carry
Grip Safety:|Smith & Alexander Upswept Beavertail with Palm Swell
Grips:|Double Diamond Rosewood
Thumb Safety:|Ambidextrous, extended
Trigger:|Aluminum, 3-hole




Colt's Manufacturing Company LLC
P.O. Box 1868
Hartford, CT, 06144-1868

Phone: 1-800-962-2658
Fax: (860) 244-1449
Web site: http://www.coltsmfg.com (http://www.coltsmfg.com/)