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TALO/Colt 21st Century Commander

The Wiley Clapp TALO/Colt Century Commander is nothing short of a modern-day classic.


It has been said that for people to accept anything new, it has to be at least 50 percent old. If that is true, the gun-buying public should readily embrace one of Colt’s newest offerings, the 21st Century Commander, designed by noted handgun expert, gunwriter and American Rifleman Field Editor Wiley Clapp, and marketed by TALO Distributors, Inc. Although the pistol is not a radical departure from the proven, 100-year-old O-frame design, it does incorporate a number of features that define a state-of-the-art carry M1911.

The Commander Legacy
First, a little history. Colt’s Commander model originated in the years after World War II in response to the U.S. military’s interest in a smaller, lighter alternative to the M1911A1 intended to be carried by officers. The specifications for this new pistol, issued in 1949, included a maximum length of 7 inches and a maximum weight of 25 ounces. Along with Colt’s prototype, samples were submitted from Inglis, FN and Smith & Wesson. Although none of the submissions was selected, Colt wisely chose to go into commercial production with its design. Introduced in 1950, the 4.25-inch-barreled Commander, as it was then known, was notable in two ways: It was the firm’s first full-size pistol with an aluminum-alloy frame, and it was also Colt’s first M1911 chambered in 9 mm Luger. Both .38 Super and .45 ACP versions were also produced. In 1970 the steel-frame Combat Commander was released, and the designation of the aluminum-frame gun was changed to Lightweight Commander. Among the fans of the Lightweight Commander was modern pistolcraft guru, Gunsite founder and NRA Board Member the late Jeff Cooper.

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.

Also noteworthy are the sights. The 0.125inch-wide Novak front post is mounted via a transverse dovetail, and its slightly ramped face sports a 0.077-inch-diameter brass bead. In the rear is a plain Novak Lo-Mount fixed sight, unremarkable except for the 0.170-inch-wide notch specified by Clapp. Not only does this wider notch afford more rapid sight acquisition and alignment for fast defensive or combat shooting, but it also promotes sight visibility and sight alignment in low-light situations.

Internally, the 21st Century Commander is classic Colt. The stainless 4.25-inch barrel is rifled in the standard 1:16-inch left-hand twist, with thorough throating around the entrance to the chamber and a shallow trough at the bottom of the throat to promote feeding. Also located in the slide are a conventional Commander-length bushing; a short recoil spring guide, plug and single coil recoil spring; a conventional firing pin, firing pin spring and firing pin stop; and an extractor with a beveled and relieved claw. Inside the frame is the conventional M1911 ignition system, consisting of Colt hammer, sear, disconnector, sear spring and mainspring, as well as a long, solid aluminum trigger with a black finish. Pinned to the top of the frame is a long ejector. Each 21st Century Commander is serialized with a unique number that contains the letters “WC” for Wiley Clapp.

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21 Responses to TALO/Colt 21st Century Commander

David wrote:
July 10, 2014

I've had mine for a year and a half. I carried the Combat Commander off duty for most of my LEO career, and received this one as a gift. I did my HR218 qualification with it and had 49 out of 50 in the 5 and the last one cut the line in 4. I'm telling you this thing is accurate, WOW!

Jim wrote:
May 17, 2014

Have had mine for two years now and a good five thousand rounds through it. Replaced broken ejector after two thousand rounds. Love this pistol. Find it to be as accurate as I am capable of shooting. Eyes are not what they use to be so appreciate the wide opening in rear. Would highly recommend.

Bill wrote:
March 28, 2014

Interesting that most of the modifications on this gun are eerily similar to the Series 70 Combat Government produced in 1982.

Jaames wrote:
January 02, 2013

Still no 9mm available. Why?

Rob wrote:
December 31, 2012

I've had my 21st Century Commander now for several months. 500+ rounds of mixed factory and reloads with no problems what so ever. Doesn't shoot as well as my Wilson Combat custom Colt Combat Commander, but shoots VERY WELL for a factory piston and cost 1/3 the cost of my full-house custom Colt. Understand and am disappointed it sounds like so many have needed service -- shouldn't happen in this day and age. But I cannot understand some of the comments like "it does have what I don't need." If so, don't buy it! But don't negatively comment on features others think are valuable.

Al wrote:
May 23, 2012

I just recently bought this pistol based on all I had read about it. After picking it up at the gun shop the first thing I did was give it a good cleaning. I then lubed the rails, the inside of the slide and the exterior front of the barrel with a drop of Tetra lube. I finally took the Clapp Colt LW Commander to the range. I shot 150 rounds off hand unsupported out to 15 yards. Using an NRA 25 yard pistol target and slow fire I put all the rounds inside the black with the exception of eleven rounds which I cooked off and placed just outside the black. My shooting is off due to a screwed up right rotator cuff and a strained right bicep. In essence, the gun did its thing extremely well if I did my part. While the trigger may be slightly harder then that on my Wilson Combat Elite Professional Commander size pistol it shot just as well out to 15 yards. I would have gone out to 25 yards but time was an issue and as I said I had arm problems. Prior to shooting this LW Commander I had very limited experiance shooting them. I do remember feeling a bit more recoil on the LW Commanders I had previously shot. Not so with this one. I believe it shoots just as well as my other two all steel customized Commanders. The recoil was completly unsignificant. The accuracy was much better then any other "out of the box" (uncustomized) Commander. I really think the National Match barrel has alot to do with this. Stock Colt Commanders are not know for their accuracy. I shot 100 rounds of Federal 230 grain FMJ's and 50 rounds of Speer 230 grain HP's. I did not experiance any malfunctions. I used the three Colt mags supplied with the gun as well as several from Wilson Combat. It feels significantly lighter then my old all steel Colt Combat Commander and the aforementioned Wilson Combat. It's a keeper. When it's properly broken in at somewhere between 500 to 1,000 rounds and if there are no malfunctions I may just decide to carry it.

Bill wrote:
May 04, 2012

I've had mine for several months now and have over a thousand rounds threw it. Perfect....most accurate 1911 I've ever owned. Comfortable, smooth. I tell you it's almost a little to mellow for a 45. Almost like a 9mm. Love it.

Scrounger wrote:
February 19, 2012

Too many complainers on this article. They're looking for Mustangs in a Crown Victoria garage. The Wiley Clapp Commander is perfect for it's intended audience. If you want a bob-tail go to the Dan Wesson site. If you want a 10mm, then look into getting a Delta Elite. My Wiley Clapp Commander is exactly perfect in every way. Tell me what you like about it and not what you don't.

Patch Delta wrote:
February 12, 2012

Santa brought me one for Christmas. It is on my hip as I write this. I must have been very, very good this year.

Steve wrote:
July 15, 2011

Just received mine and took it to the plinking range to run a couple hundred of rounds through it. A guy shooting next to me says, "What are you laughing about?" I said, with a smile, "I'm hitting everything I'm aiming at! What a gun!"

Jon wrote:
May 31, 2011

Eddy, that's what I thought too, but I also was able to easily get 8 rounds into each of my magazines without forcing them at all. I didn't count the first time, but looked at the fresh box of ammo and it looked emptier than it should, 16 missing instead of 14. I paid closer attention after that, and the 8th round just dropped right in.

Eddy wrote:
May 31, 2011

Jake, the magazines supplied with the Clapp Commander are Colt 7 round magazines and as such will only hold 7 rounds.

Jake wrote:
May 30, 2011

Appologies for the typo, as Mr.Clapp says magazines should hold only 7 rounds. That's caused some consternation among some of us since they accept 8 rounds easily.

Jake wrote:
May 28, 2011

Mr. Clapp says the magazines should not hold more than 8 rounds, but each of mine easily takes 8 rounds, and the first one often stabs right into the bottom of the feed ramp. What's up? 7 rounds is apparently the best idea, here, since 8 is not reliable.

Ricardo E. Alvillar wrote:
May 27, 2011

Excuse me, gentlemen, but this pistol DOES have what I don't need. I do NOT need a pad on the grip safety, I do not need grasping serrations on the forward part of the slide (placed, presumably because of a recoil spring guide) and a recoil spring guide (which prevents me from "press checking" the chamber). Also, the stocks do nothing for my hand. P.S. I was born and raised in Texas and now live in Arkansas.

Eddy wrote:
May 27, 2011

KNIVESAMERICA, Your statement of 1% of all guns are returned for service may be true but my Clapp Commander has much more than ammo issues. Colts Repair Order says: 1.Repair for slide locks open before last round 2.Replace barrel 3.Install new firing pin stop 4.Replace ejector 5.Check for primer strikes 6.Adjust to factory specs 7.Test for function All these problems in a $1400.00 Special Edition gun are certainly not ordinary.

Donald Sharp wrote:
May 27, 2011

Wow just like my S&W Gunsite 1911 except the S&W has all melted edges.

Eddy wrote:
May 26, 2011

Tried to get mine to run; put 500 rounds through it.I sent it back to Colt. They tell me it will be 6-8 weeks before I get it back. Needs a total rebuild. The Pete Single checkering is awesome, too bad it won't shoot.

May 26, 2011

Unfortunately, about 1% of all new guns are returned for repair for one reason or another, even Kimbers. I learned this over the last 30 years in the industry selling firearms. Sometimes all it takes is the right load for function and best accuracy.

Zundfolge wrote:
May 26, 2011

Not perfect because not available in 10mm (a bobtail grip would be nice too).

Jon wrote:
May 25, 2011

My very expensive W.C. Colt has spent all but one day of my ownership in the repair department at Colt. I'd rather have a refund now that I have a Kimber. What a lemon.