Although I’ve shot original Colt National Match pistols, the only one I ever owned was a 1962 production Colt marked “National Match” and not “Gold Cup.” It had already been accurized at Lackland and fitted with BoMar sights for the Distinguished (service pistol configuration, .45 hardball) bulls-eye matches when I got it, around 1970, for $100 from a bullseye shooter who was giving up the game and wanted to get rid of his equipment. Its gorgeous Royal Blue finish was soon marred by constant presentations from concealment leather and, before long, police duty holsters.
The thumb snaps of the period did not have the cushions you see today to protect a gun’s finish from metal-to-metal drag during the draw.
It never jammed until the day (at Bianchi Cup, naturally) that its extractor gave up the ghost. I pretty much wore out the trigger and Bill Laughridge at Cylinder & Slide Shop replaced it with the much better Videcki unit. I won guns with it at Second Chance, won a police combat state championship with it, and even took my share of trophies with it in the bulls-eye days of my youth. I eventually retired it to the gun safe and ultimately gave it to my ex-wife, who was my young fiancee when I bought it. My younger daughter likes to liberate it from her mother’s gun safe and take it to the range, like giving a retired racehorse some exercise.
Over the years, the deep lustrous blue of the top-line Colt finish lost its appeal. Having ruined that finish once, I was more interested in rugged gun surfaces that didn’t wear and better resisted corrosion. By the late ‘80s I was spending more time with the new generation of National Match inspired pistols. These days, Kimbers and Springfields and “combat custom” Colts fulfill my 1911 needs, along with Ed Brown, Nighthawk, and Wilson Custom guns. I used a Kimber Gold Match to first make Master in IDPA’s single action .45 division, and shot the Springfield Trophy Match at Camp Perry one year.
Yet for me, as for anyone who appreciates handguns, the great old Colt National Match remains the piece de resistance. As a tool, this accurate yet reliable gun was the apotheosis of the powerful semiautomatic service pistol in its time, and it spawned generations of similar guns in the decades that followed. As an icon of fine craftsmanship, it deserves the “American Beauty” title Tim Mullin bestowed upon it. Colt’s Custom Shop today has the ability to resurrect this pistol in its original glory. So does the Performance Center at Smith & Wesson, who could duplicate the original NM’s old world blue-black finish that looks like liquid, on their SW1911 .45.
I really wish they would. Great beauty … unparalleled functionality in its time … that honed action that racks so smoothly, it feels like running your hand over Waterford Crystal … the Colt National Match pistol was truly one of a kind. It would find a much more receptive market if reincarnated today.
This article is an excerpt from Massad Ayoob’s Greatest Handguns of the World. Click Here to get your copy.
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