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Reviews : Arsenal

Detonics USA CombatMaster

The revival of this 1911 improves on the original.

November 01, 2005  |  by Mike Detty - Also by this author

If you started your law enforcement career carrying a Smith & Wesson M19 in a Sam Browne rig, chances are that you're pretty darn close to retirement. Chances are too that you'll also remember the splash it made when Detonics introduced the CombatMaster in 1977.

Back when just about the only cops that carried automatics were hotshot UCs, Detonics had the vision to create a compact version of the semi-automatic 1911. Its CombatMaster became the "go-to" gun for those who needed a concealable pistol packing the powerful punch of the .45 ACP.

Unfortunately, financial problems and mismanagement forced the original company into bankruptcy in 1987 and a second incarnation, New Detonics, only lasted a few years before slipping into terminal slumber in the early 1990s.

Prices of CombatMaster pistols soared, and a lot of folks feared that they had missed their chance to own one of these neat little guns. That all changed this year when the newest permutation of Detonics, Detonics USA, surfaced. Led by noted gun and science fiction writer, Jerry Ahern, Detonics USA is producing an all new CombatMaster.

Unique Design

For those of you unfamiliar with the CombatMaster, it is a gun that was designed to be concealed easily yet provide full-size performance. It is immediately recognizable for several reasons, but especially because of the forward placement of its rear sight and its dramatically sloped slide that facilitates thumb cocking of the single-action, semi-automatic.

The gun's grip frame is also radically reduced in length, providing just enough front-strap for shooters to have a two-fingered grip with their little finger curled under the magazine's floorplate. The grip safety was eliminated and replaced with a grip plate and the tang of the frame was shortened to prevent the trimmed down hammer from biting the web of the shooter's hand.

Back in the day, Detonics created a bushingless design that used a coned barrel for lock up. But with a short 3.5-inch barrel, a new recoil spring system was needed. Detonics USA's answer is a three-spring design that not only makes the gun cycle smoothly, but also makes it incredibly easy to shoot for a compact.

The new CombatMaster doesn't look like a traditional 1911 and, to be completely honest, I never had any interest in owning one until I shot it. It was then that the ugly duckling became a swan. After getting a chance to shoot the CombatMaster it became easy to see why it has legions of fans.

Of course, as the owner of the newly resurrected company, Jerry Ahern now counts himself among these legions.

"I was never a fan of the 1911 but had a chance to shoot a salesman's sample at a police seminar and I was impressed," says Ahern. After that, he couldn't put it down. He even put it in the hands of one of his main characters. "In my 22-book series, The Survivalist, my character, John Rourke, carried two CombatMasters," says the author and gun enthusiast. "It's a gun that so impresses me that I don't think there has been a day that I haven't carried my original gun.

"When the company closed I really lamented its loss and about seven years ago I decided to get serious about resurrecting the Detonics line," says Ahern. "Our concern is building the finest pistols possible."

One of Ahern's smartest moves in bringing back Detonics was to track down the company's original gunsmith, Peter Dunn. Dunn worked for Detonics between 1977 and 1987 and during that time period approximately 17,000 CombatMasters were produced. Unfortunately, nearly 10 percent of them were returned for warranty work and Dunn worked on nearly all of them. It is this experience that makes today's CombatMaster better than any ever built.

"The guy that fixes these pistols is the same guy that knows how to build them better," chuckles Dunn. "Before I signed on with Detonics USA it was understood that I would have the ability to make changes that I saw necessary." Dunn's remedies for the old CombatMasters were incorporated into the new production models.

Tags: Duty Pistols, Firearms Reviews, 1911-Type Pistols, Detonics

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