Even with the proliferation of accurate, reliable carry pistols, most with aluminum or polymer frames, the M1911 is still considered by many to be the ultimate fighting handgun. Arguably no other pistol provides a better combination of ergonomics, ruggedness and superb trigger quality, and it can be had in a plethora of calibers and factory variations, with barrels from 3 to 6 inches. Moreover, the M1911 is unparalleled in its potential for customization and accurization. True, older or unmodified Government Models sometimes have trouble digesting modern hollow-points; however, in my years as a gunsmith with legendary pistolsmith Austin Behlert and his son-in-law, Art Leckie, I learned that with simple reliability work, the M1911 can be made as dependable as any other semi-automatic handgun.
A New Classic Emerges
The 21st Century Commander was created as the result of a conversation a couple of years ago between Clapp and Bob Coyle, his friend and executive director of TALO Distributors. TALO, which was formed in 1965 by hunting and fishing wholesalers in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma (hence the TALO name), is a wholesale buying cooperative of major firearms distributors. TALO’s collective buying power has enabled it to originate special-edition and custom-designed firearms, and to make them available to the shooting public.
As is often the case with pistol buffs, Clapp and Coyle’s conversation turned to the ideal carry M1911. Clapp’s long and diverse firearm experience gave him some pretty firm opinions on what works and what doesn’t, and his concept gun so impressed Coyle and other TALO members that the group asked Colt to produce a Lightweight Commander model made to his specifications. Colt agreed, and the 21st Century Commander was born, with production guns hitting dealer shelves around mid-2011.
The governing principle behind the design of the 21st Century Commander was, “Everything you need, nothing you don’t.” The gun that resulted from this philosophy was neither austere nor lavish, but was supplied with all the features needed for everyday carry.
As with Colt’s standard Lightweight Commander, the new TALO pistol features a forged, carbon steel round-top slide and a forged, aluminum alloy frame, which, for all practical purposes, is just as serviceable as a steel frame. I have seen numerous aluminum-frame Commanders with 20,000 or more rounds through them that showed no more frame wear than minor peening where the recoil spring guide head seats (which is also observed on steel frames). However, owners of aluminum-frame guns should be aware that some magazine followers (such as the steel followers in Devel magazines) can gouge the feed ramp.
The slide has a polished, black-oxide finish on the flats and a matte-black finish on the top and rear. It features angled front and rear cocking serrations and a fluted and cleared ejection port that is moderately lowered to a height of 0.470 inches. The frame and frame components all have a matte-black finish, although the steel parts—slide stop, thumb safety, magazine release and grip safety—have more of a satin-black appearance. The slide stop, magazine and thumb safety follow the original M1911A1 pattern, while the grip safety is a Colt beavertail design with a raised palm pad for positive activation.
Missing from this gun—and for many shooters, thankfully so—is the Series 80-style passive firing pin safety mechanism incorporated into Colt O-frames since 1983. The 21st Century Commander’s Series 70 mechanism is mechanically simpler and is considered by some authorities to offer a slightly crisper trigger pull.
The flat Smith & Alexander mainspring housing is steel and is checkered in a 20-l.p.i. pattern. A moderate bevel is machined into the mouth of the magazine well to facilitate magazine insertion. The frontstrap is machine-checkered at 25 l.p.i., and the radius where it meets the trigger guard appears to be somewhat reduced, allowing a higher hand position. The machine checkering is particularly well-executed, being sharp but not painful and terminating symmetrically on both sides of the frontstrap, parallel with the front edge of each of the stock panels.
Of special interest are the gun’s Dymondwood Tactical Oval stocks, designed by Clapp and produced by Altamont of Thomasboro, Ill. Both stock panels have “fingerprint checkering,” a pattern in which checkered areas are located only where finger contact is made. More subtly, the panels have an asymmetrical rounded cross-section that is fatter in the rear and tapers inward to the frontstrap in the front.