70 - 80 - 90 ??

Discussion in 'The 1911 Forum' started by Squeak, Jul 27, 2011.

  1. Squeak

    Squeak Member

    OK, I know a little bit about the series 70 model 1911's because I got a couple of them with the spring finger barrel bushing. What I'd like to know is what's diffrent about a series 80 & series 90 etc. etc..
    I see on the internet auction sites about a 1991 model. What the heck is the diffrence between all these models? Has Colt made any changes since the 1991 ( what ever that is ) model? Are newer guns any better than old ones?

    I've become a real 1911 fan since I retired & would like to find out as much as possible about them. Never had this much time before to persue questions.
  2. JLA

    JLA Well-Known Member

    Feb 26, 2007
    Heart Of Texas
    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 1970. 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) generally worked quite well, however it was occasionally prone to breakage so it was eventually phased out around 1988 as Colt reverted back to using the solid bushing in all of their pistols.

    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), so far Para-Ordnance, SIG, Auto Ordnance, and Taurus have adopted Colt's Series 80 or a similar firing pin block system as well. Kimber's Series II pistols and the new S&W 1911s have a firing pin 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, for the past few years Colt has been producing new pistols out of their Custom Shop that lack the Series 80 firing pin safety. These are the Gunsite and CCO models, WW1 and WW2 GI replicas, and a reintroduced original-style Series 70 in both blued and stainless steel that should appeal to 1911 purists. Interestingly, all of these use a solid barrel bushing, so mechanically they are more similar to the original pre-Series 70 models despite being advertised by Colt as having a "Series 70 firing system".

    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.

    (Taken from the 1911forum)

  3. H-D

    H-D Active Member

    Jun 20, 2011
    yeah what he said... also the series 90 is about the same as series 80 but small like the pony, new agent, and defender, the double eagle may have been a series 90 too
  4. Squeak

    Squeak Member

    Wow - - what a wealth of information!! About a month ago I bought a stainless steel "MKIV series 70" 1911 off the auction site on the internet with the "100 year" rolemark. Sold as a "model O" (& that's what it says on the box too). I've never had it apart, so, are you saying that this model O has a solid barrel bushing instead of the split finger bushing? What's a "collet"?

    Kinda sounds like the "model BB" that I bought back in Feb. 1970 is the only 1911 I got with the split bushing. Only shot that guy 6 or 8 times to "make sure it would".

    Thanks again for all the info. I'm sure there are others out there who appreciate your impressive knowledge
  5. hogger129

    hogger129 Well-Known Member

    Nov 29, 2009
    The Series 90/1991A1 is technically a Series 80. Series 80 was a re-design to the Series 70 where they redesigned the barrel bushing to the way they make them now, plus they added the drop safety into the gun.

    The M1991A1 is an economy version of the Series 80, some of them have different rollmarks than others, there's NRM and ORM versions. The ORM just says "M1991A1" on the slide. The NRM has it like the other Colt 1911s.

    They also picked up where they left off with the last M1911A1 for the serial numbers.