Colt/Umarex Daring Duo—Part 1

Umarex USA Hits It Out of the Park — TWICE!
Reviewed for M1911.ORG by Harwood Loomis

All the way back in the first quarter of 2010, in a review of the Umarex/Colt Defender air pistol, I wrote, “The long-lasting ammunition crunch shows signs of easing, but commercial ammunition still isn’t nearly as available or as affordable as it was a couple of years ago.” Signs of easing? With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, as I read those words I have to wonder if I used to be an incorrigible optimist, or if I was taking some sort of hallucinogenic substance. As I write this article, in the fourth quarter of 2015, it seems that the ammunition shortage of five or six years ago hasn’t eased much at all.

Yes, some brand name ammunition is now available on-line. But it’s often out of stock. Wal-Mart now usually has some 9mm and some .45 Automatic, but what I see on the shelves of Wal-Marts in my area is brand names I’ve never heard of—or Tulammo, which I know to be steel-cased and which, therefore, I won’t touch. And .22 rimfire ammunition remains largely unobtainable. That leaves budget-minded shooters in the same place they were five years ago—looking for an affordable way to get in some quality trigger time without robbing a bank or spending the kids’ college money.

We recently came across references to some new offerings by Umarex USA in their ever-expanding line of CO2 air guns (“BB guns,” as most people my age persist in thinking of them). They looked interesting, so we contacted Justin “JB” Biddle at Umarex, and not long thereafter a care package arrived on our doorstep. Opening a package that you know contains something gun-related is always a bit like Christmas, so we tore into the box immediately. However, we were completely unprepared for what we would find.

Just, WOW!

The new offerings include an extremely realistic, CO2-powered, blowback (simulated) version of the M1911A1. This is the one that caused us to contact Umarex. While they were at it, perhaps because, “Hey, it’s a Colt, so why not?”, the good folks at Umarex USA also sent us one of their new CO2-powered, 1873 Single Action Army cowboy six shooters. Both guns set new standards for realism, level (and quality) of detailing, and sheer enjoyment in the shooting experience.

Affordable trigger time? These two blasters offer it in abundance, but …where to begin? In Part 1, we’ll look at the Colt/Umarex Commander. See Part 2 for the Colt/Umarex Peacemaker .177.

Umarex/Colt Commander

This is, without doubt, the most accurate reproduction of an M1911A1 this writer has ever seen in a BB gun. It looks real, it feels real, and – within the parameters of a CO2 air gun firing a .177” projectile – it acts real. What more could we ask? (Well, we could ask for a couple of things, but we’ll get to that.)

The Colt/Umarex Commander pistol

From the outset, we need to establish one fact: Although Umarex has named this pistol “Commander,” it is not a Commander size pistol. It is the same size and has the same proportions as a full-size, 5” Government Model 1911. Our conjecture is that Umarex already has a high-level 1911 air pistol, with a rifled barrel, that’s named the Government Model. Designating the new pistol the Commander may have been intended to avoid confusing the two pistols, which are completely different in both concept and execution.

The Colt/Umarex Commander compared to an Argentinian Sistema M1927 (which is an exact copy of an M1911A1)

The new Commander pistol doesn’t come in a box, it comes sealed in a clamshell blister pack. Our initial reaction was that a pistol of this quality, selling at this price point, deserves better. However, we recognize that this pistol will be sold at retail outlets such as wal-Mart (in fact, by the time this article is published the Commander will be available at most Wal-Mart stores in the U.S.), and anything that’s in a box in such places is subject to theft or damage through tinkering. Sealing the pistol up in an impenetrable plastic cocoon is, unfortunately, probably the best way of protecting it from shoplifting and damage.

The facts, M’am, just the facts

The level of detail and authenticity in the new Commander is astonishing. For example, one of my pet peeves is faux 1911 air pistols that have swinging triggers. This one doesn’t; the trigger is a sliding trigger just like on the real thing. Unfortunately, the product engineering team must have gotten caught up in the current fad of “lightened” triggers because, even though the trigger shoe appears to be plastic, it has three “lightening” holes in it. This would be appropriate if the Commander was modeled after one of Colt’s current, upscale models. But it isn’t; it’s modeled after the M1911A1. The face of the trigger shoe is serrated for more positive positioning of the trigger finger.

Detail of trigger, magazine catch and slide stop

The slide stop works. It not only swings up and down, it also locks the slide back when the last shot has been fired. We have no idea how Umarex accomplished this feat of magic, and we didn’t ask. We just offered a sacrifice to the 1911 gods and smiled. The grip safety not only moves, it functions as it should. If the grip safety hasn’t been depressed, the Commander won’t fire.

The Colt/Umarex Commander grip safety

The thumb safety is functional. To our surprise, we found that the thumb safety, as on a real 1911, could not be moved to the safe position unless the hammer is cocked. As is standard (and perhaps required?) on air guns, the thumb safety is emblazoned with markings to indicate which direction is for “SAFE” and which is for “FIRE.” We can live with that if it gets us a properly functional thumb safety. (The thumb safety, by the way, is left side only, not “ambidextrous” or bi-lateral.)

Detail of thumb safety

A puzzling departure from authenticity is that the Commander sports an M1911A1-style grip safety tang, but it has an elongated loop Commander-style hammer. We are still trying to figure out how they did that, because in the world of real 1911s that hammer style won’t work with an A1, GI profile grip safety. But this combination works, even to the extent of when the hammer is pulled back beyond the cocked position, the hammer spur correctly depresses the grip safety. We were impressed.

The barrel is smooth-bore, not rifled. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage. A smooth-bore barrel simply can’t produce the accuracy of a rifled barrel. But – this is a plinking handgun, not a competition or hunting air rifle. We don’t think absolute accuracy is of paramount importance in a pistol of this class. The advantage is that it shoots readily-available, steel BBs. Because the BBs are loaded into a removable magazine (just like a real 1911), pellets are not appropriate. Further, in researching the differences between steel BBs, pellets, and lead BBs, we learned that the bore diameters are different for air guns with rifled barrels than for guns with smooth bores. Round lead BBs are larger in diameter than steel BBs, so they likely wouldn’t work in these guns even if you could find them. (Which isn’t impossible, but you would have to look on-line; you won’t find them on the shelf at Wal-Mart.)

Astute readers may notice that the specifications list the barrel length as 4.50 inches, yet the pistol is the size of an M1911A1, which has a 5-inch barrel. The discrepancy is due to the fact that the actual muzzle of the .177-inch barrel is set back a half inch from the apparent muzzle at the front end of the slide, in effect creating a much exaggerated target crown. The effect is that, viewed from most angles, the Commander appears to have a .45 caliber barrel. The faux muzzle even has six small ribs in it to simulate the rifling of a real pistol barrel.

Comparison of the mainspring housings

Comparison of detailing on rear of slide

One of the features that in our estimation makes the new Colt/Umarex Commander an excellent training aid is that so much of the 1911 manual of arms is the same on this air gun reproduction as it is on the real thing. Where other air pistol quasi-1911 pistols generally either load the BBs directly into the body of the pistol or have a magazine that doesn’t look anything like what might be found in a real firearm, the Commander is loaded using a magazine that occupies the full magazine well in the grip frame. The CO2 cartridge is loaded into the magazine, with the BBs, rather than into the pistol itself, and the pistol is loaded by inserting the magazine and racking the slide. Just like in real life.

The magazine well is opened up to accept the CO2 cartridge

The CO2 cartridge is placed into the magazine

The set screw is tightened using the included hex key wrench

BBs are loaded into the front of the magazine

The charged magazine is inserted into the grip frame

The magazine body is heavy, cast metal, not lightweight plastic. The tiny magazine spring doesn’t have enough strength to pop the magazine out when the release is pushed, and in our test pistol the magazine didn’t fall free due to its own weight. After some use, the magazine might loosen up enough to drop free but, in our testing, we found it necessary to manually remove the magazine from the pistol.

In fact, the entire slide and frame are cast metal construction, with the result that the weight and balance of the Commander are very close to those of a real 1911 pistol. The end result is a shooting experience that’s as close as possible to the real thing without having an actual firearm in your hands.

Shooting the Colt/Umarex Commander

As we wrote five years ago when we tested the Colt/Umarex Defender model (, the bottom line is, ultimately, trigger time. BBs and CO2 cartridges are inexpensive and readily available virtually everywhere. Wal-Mart always carries large stocks of both. For people who like to shoot, any shooting is better than no shooting. However, the Defender is more of an entry-level product. Whereas we tested the Defender by improvising a “range” in the basement, the Commander is at least a mid-level product—or better. For testing, we took the Commander to Chris’ Indoor Shooting Range in Guilford, Connecticut, and ran an air gun target out to the standard 25 feet to give the gun a fair test..

The trigger was light, with just a bit of creep after initial take-up and before release. As expected, recoil is almost zero. What is not expected is that the Commander uses some of the gas energy to cycle the slide, resulting in a CO2 air pistol that feels more like shooting a .22 rimfire than it does an air gun.

It is worth noting that the genre of full metal, [simulated] blowback air pistols is a rapidly expanding market. There are other 1911 air pistols on the market that also claim to provide "realistic" blowback action. Be careful. Some of these sell for less than the Colt/Umarex Commander, and there's a reason. Some of them don't really have blowback action, and they don't function as a true single action pistol. With the Colt/Umarex Commander, gas is what powers the slide action, and the slide cocks the hammer for the next shot. This means that the trigger only has to release the hammer, resulting in a light, fairly crisp trigger. Some of the less expensive pistols require the trigger to retract the slide, cock the hammer, and fire to shot. Needless to say, performing all those tasks makes the trigger pull weight much heavier, and the trigger travel longer. If you decide that you need a pistol like this for keeping your skills sharp (and who doesn't?), do your homework before buying, and be sure you get a pistol that operates as close to the real deal as the Colt/Umarex Commander.

Umarex USA recommends using premium BBs with the Commander, and with this in mind we conducted our testing using RWS BBs. As a comparison, we dredged up a (very) old canister of ordinary Daisy BBs that had been stored in the basement for more than twenty years. The pistol functioned perfectly with the RWS BBs, but we encountered problems with the old Daisy BBs, and we abandoned the attempt to use them. There seemed to be a thin coating of surface corrosion, such that the BBs felt a bit "crunchy" when loading them into the magazine, and they didn't work well when we tried to fire them. Stick to new, good quality BBs and you should have no problems.

Shooting at a distance of twenty-five feet, we found that the point of impact was about an inch and a half below the point of aim. Our best group of the day was one inch, the worst was just larger than an inch and a half, and the average was approximately an inch and a quarter.


There's a lot to like about the Colt/Umarex Commander, and very little to dislike. For an air pistol shooting experience that's as close as you can get to shooting a real M1911A1, there doesn't appear to be anything on the market to compete with it. Accuracy for a smooth-bore pistol shooting steel BBs is very acceptable, and certainly well within "minute of tin can" at normal plinking distances.

What we didn't like had nothing to do with function or value. The use of a trigger pad with three holes in it, and an elongated loop Commander-style hammer on a pistol that's a full-size model simply seemed to us as a momentary lapse of consciousness on the part of the product design team. These details in no way detract from the shooting experience or from the value of the pistol. They are just minor details that leave a person wondering, "Gee ... they did such a great job with everything else, why in the world did they do that?"

We rate this pistol a solid "Buy."


Colt/Umarex Commander 1911
Caliber:.177 (Steel BBs)
Overall Length:8.50" (216 mm)
Overall Height:5.50" (140 mm) (Including sights)
Overall Width:1.31" (35 mm)
Barrel Length:4.5" (114 mm)
Sight Radius:6.50" (165mm)
Sights:"Combat" style rear, dovetail front
Weight w/ empty magazine32.0oz. (910 g)
Magazine Capacity:18 rounds
Grips:Black plastic, double diamond-checkered
Finish:Matte Black
Velocity325 fps (advertised)

Please go to this thread on the M1911 Pistols Organization discussion forum to discuss this pistol and this review:

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Umarex USA, Inc.
6007 S 29th Street
Fort Smith, AR 72908
Tel: (479) 646-4210

Web Site:

Range Facilities

Chris’ Indoor Shooting Range
2458 Boston Post Road
Guilford, CT 06437
Tel: 203-453-1570