JUNE 28, 2012

Editor's Notebook: A Visit to the Pony at Home: Colt Factory Tour

by Rich Grassi

A pair of TALO Special Editions over a Colt Combat Elite, all in .45 ACP.
Kids in a candystore; that's how a group of otherwise adult-type firearms industry media was labeled during a trip through the Colt Manufacturing factory in West Harford, CT. Want journalistic integrity? Good luck. I've been a fan of Colt guns since I was old enough to figure out that the single action revolvers wielded by the cowboy heroes of TV and silver screen were patterned after the Colt 1873 Model P "Single Action Army." I fired the best handgun of my early youth as I got old enough - it was a Colt Frontier Scout in .22 LR, nickle plated. In spite of shiny fixed sights, it was easily more accurate than I could hold it. I made shots with that gun that would be the envy of older shooters. My first centerfire handgun, purchased from a fellow GI, was a blue 6" Colt Python. A four-inch stable mate was introduced by my bride on the occasion of my fiftieth birthday, this one in nickle. The first autoloader I carried in a police uniform was a 1960s vintage Colt National Match - this one not marked with the "Gold Cup" terms or graphic. A trip to Colt was on my bucket list. I arrived to find the old and the new work side by side; a machine made in 1917 works next to a new CNC machine. Even with the new computer guided cutting machines, the amount of hand-fitting detail work on Colt guns is breathtaking. Colt makes the M240B machine gun and parts for the M249, as well as some 40 or so variants of the AR15/M16 firearms system. Colt Modern Sporting Rifles are run off the same line as military and LE guns. The same materials, springs, inserts, manufacturing techniques are used in the commercial guns as the government guns. The differences? Commercial guns aren't short barrel rifles, don't withstand government contract related inspections and they lack the ammo-guzzling "giggle switch." So what does Colt make? They make what they make well; the AR line, the Colt .380 Mustang Pocketlite, the 1911s in a number of flavors, Single Action Army revolvers - including the re-introduced New Frontier (plus Special Editions, like the Combat Elite). Colt is in business. Their sales are so good, their orders extend out as far as next Spring! The afternoon was consumed at Hartford Gun Club, a beautiful establishment. We had a Colt Combat Elite and Colt Mustang Pocketlite on the first range, single-action Colts on the second, a two-gun (AR and handgun) stage and the rifle range. On the rifle range, the Colt piston-driven AR was there as well as the M4 SOCOM commercial variant, a TALO Distributors LE6720MP and a pair of Colt LE901 rifles - one set up in .308 Winchester, the other in 5.56mm NATO. The first pistol stage was informative. I found that I could unintentionally drop the magazine on the micro-size Mustang. The second stage caused the epiphany. As I took the Colt 5 1/2" Single Action Army in hand, I felt the difference between it and any copy. It felt like a Colt. That's the difference between Colt and something else. Nothing else is Colt.