The Colt 01911SE-A1 Classic 1911 Pistol in .45 ACP

by Vern Evans

Colt recently introduced the 01911SE-A1 pistol, the newest member of its Classic line of 1911 guns. The all-blue gun is a modern rendition of the venerable John Moses Browning design. However, it has some modern updates to make the gun useful for competition and self-defense alike. For me, it was love at first sight!

The Colt 01911SE-A1 1911 Pistol

I’m old enough to have been a USPSA competitor before any manufacturer offered a gun with usable combat sights, an extended safety, or beavertail. Back in those days, if you wanted to be competitive, you’d have to buy a 1911, collect sights, safeties, etc. Then, you’d drop them off with a gunsmith to begin the long wait.

The rule of thumb then was you’d spend as much on parts and smithing as you did on the pistol.

I first saw the 01911SE-A1 at the 2023 Athlon Outdoors Rendezvous. Our publisher’s annual get-together draws over 30 different companies from the firearms industry to spend face time with its top content creators. The 3-day event gives the companies the opportunity to introduce new products to the writers. Likewise, we had the chance to shoot the guns and gather insight from company officials.

Colt was one of the companies that attended. I was fortunate to spend some time with Colt’s consumer sales administrator, Patrick Beekly, who detailed me on the 01911SE-A1.

The 01911SE-A1 in Colt’s Words

“We basically took our Classic 1911 C, which is our 70 Series pistol, and added a couple more features to make it handy at the range and for self-defense. Additionally, we added the Novak Lo-Mount rear sight and a brass bead front sight for a better sight picture. We also have an upswept beavertail grip safety, serrated mainspring housing, and frontstrap checkering.

“For a nostalgic flavor the thumb safety is the 1918 pattern with checkering. I prefer this to the newer half-moon safety and feel like I get a better purchase with this one. The slide stop also has the same checkering on it, as does the magazine release, for an “old-school” look.

“We use a carbon barrel on the 01911SE. So, it is a full-blue gun, without any stainless parts. We also use the older style four-line rollmark with the rampant Colt at its center.

“It uses the 70 Series frame, and Colt adds a modern update by undercutting the trigger guard where it meets the frontstrap. We’ll only be making this particular pistol in .45 ACP-you won’t see it in any other chamberings.”

First Shots

Beekly handed me the gun and a couple of loaded magazines to shoot at steel targets set out between 10 and 35 yards. For me, the 01911SE-A1 was like shaking hands with an old friend.

During my USPSA career, I built roughly a half dozen match guns with the same features as the newest Colt. As far as I was concerned, Colt did everything right on the 01911SE-A1. So, I ordered a test and evaluation sample for a more thorough evaluation.

It’s worth noting that Colt was not the first company to offer a 1911 with a beavertail, extended safety, and low-profile sights. In fact, it was Kimber in 1993, I believe. I feel that if Colt offered a production gun with the 01911SE-A1 features in 1992, Kimber would not exist in its present form! Of course, that’s speculation on my part.

Colt machines both the frame and slide of the 01911SE-A1 from carbon steel forgings. It uses the Series 70 frame without the firing pin safety. The gun also uses the original solid bushing and recoil spring guide rather than the ubiquitous full-length guide rod.

That’s fine with me, as I’ve always felt the full-length rod was unnecessary. In fact, I have asked some of the most renowned 1911 smiths if they’ve ever seen a failure that a full-length guide rod would have prevented. The answer is a unanimous “no.”

The 01911SE-A1 in Hand

To aid in getting a higher grip on the gun, Colt undercuts the trigger guard where it meets the frame. In conjunction with the high-sweep beavertail grip safety the shooter’s hand is closer to the bore’s axis. This helps attenuate muzzle flip.

Colt also machines the front strap at 25 lines per inch, and the steel mainspring housing is serrated. Double-diamond walnut grips add a splash of color to the otherwise all-black gun. Not to mention adding to the gun’s nostalgic look.

Its barrel is well-throated for use with any bullet nose profile from semi-wadcutter to hollow point. In addition, the frame’s feed ramp is well-polished. Overall, I give the Colt pistol high marks for its deep Royal blue finish and parts fitment.

Its beavertail grip safety is well-fit without unsightly gaps between the part and the frame. Additionally, its thumb safety snicks on and off crisply. Likewise, the slide release sits flat against the frame and engages the slide stop cut out precisely.

The trigger pull on my T&E gun registered at 2 pounds, 15 ounces, and breaks crisply with some overtravel. Colt uses a short trigger on this model. If it were mine to keep, I’d replace it with a lightweight, long trigger adjustable for overtravel.

Shooting the 01911SE-A1

To test the 01911SE-A1 for accuracy I set my targets out at 25-yards. I fired all my groups from a seated rest utilizing a DOA Tactical portable shooting bench and rested the Colt’s dust cover on a Millett BenchMaster for support.

Three, 5-shot groups were fired with each ammunition with the most accurate group listed in the chart (below).

Besides the crisp trigger pull, the gun’s sights greatly aided in shooting small groups. I had enough light on both sides of the front sight to keep it from blurring with the rear sight.

Federal’s Syntech 230-grain TSJ rounds produced the best group, clustering five shots well under one inch at 25 yards. This really impressed me!

Doubletap’s 230-grain FMJ Match also produced a very tight group just over an inch. In fact, the aggregate group size for the five loads tried was under an inch and a quarter. That level of accuracy indicates that Colt craftsmen spend significant time fitting the lugs, feet, and hood of the barrel. Its bushing displays no play, yet I was able to turn it for disassembly without a bushing wrench.

I also shot steel targets at 15 and 25 -yards, working on target transitions and controlled pairs. The Colt did extremely well. I like the thumb safety and could disengage and reengage as I came up on target and then back down to the ready position. The brass bead is also very helpful in finding the front sight on presentation.

I fired 300 rounds during my range session. Every load fired, extracted, ejected, and fed without fail. Even my 200-grain lead round nose handloads, that just barely make “major,” fed and cycled without a bobble.

Parting Shots

Colt’s new 01911SE-A1 is quite a gun! It is accurate and reliable enough to use for competition and self-defense. However, it is also handsome enough to pass along to family members as an heirloom.

It displays the fit and finish we became accustomed to decades ago. Likewise, it gives shooters a retro gun with modern upgrades at a very reasonable price. Best of all, it bears the image of the Rampant Colt!

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Colt 01911SE-A1 Specs

Caliber/Capacity .45 ACP, 8 + 1
Overall Length 8.72 inches
Height 5.25 inches
Weight 39 Ounces
Barrel 5” Carbon Steel, Blued
Frame Forged Carbon Steel
Slide Forged Carbon Steel
Sights Novak Lo-Mount Rear Sight, Brass Bead Front
Safeties Extended Thumb Safety, High Sweep Beavertail Grip Safety
Grips Double Diamond Checkered Walnut
Finish Colt Royal Blue
Suggested Retail $1299.00


Ammo Velocity Group
Black Hills 230-grain FMJ 817 1.40”
Doubletap 230-grain FMJ Match 795 1.10”
Federal Syntech 230-grain TSJ 800 .90”
Hornady Critical Defense 185-grain FTX 1021 1.40”
Hornady Critical Duty +P 220-grain FlexLock® 958 1.33”
Average   1.23”

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