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Detonics USA CombatMaster

The revival of this 1911 improves on the original.

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

Gun Details

The CombatMaster is built entirely from stainless steel, right down to the springs. In fact, the only parts that are not stainless steel are the sights and the grips. According to Dunn, "Today we have better stainless steel and that allows us to get a much better frame-to-slide fit and a better slide-to-barrel fit. It's much easier to hold tighter tolerances with the current stainless steel."

My test sample displayed an exemplary slide-to-frame fit with no discernible play. Likewise, the barrel locks up solidly at the front and rear. All of the parts look as though they have been blasted with glass beads for an even, subdued satin finish. There are no cast or metal injection-molded parts used on the CombatMaster. All of the parts are machined and made in the U.S.A.

My test pistol had a feed ramp that was polished to a mirror-like finish. In fact, I had no idea that stainless steel could be polished this brightly. The barrel is heavily throated and also polished bright for feed reliability. Detonics USA also radiuses and polishes the extractor.

All of the CombatMaster's parts show a great degree of fitting. Case in point is the trigger. There's not an iota of play either vertically or horizontally and the trigger breaks crisply with 4.75 pounds of pressure. The thumb safety also engages and disengages crisply with just the right amount of pressure, and I don't think it would be possible for the thumb safety to disengage inadvertently while carrying the gun. I've been carrying 1911's for over a quarter century now and am completely comfortable with the cocked-and-locked method of carry-that's a round in the chamber with the hammer cocked and the thumb safety engaged.

Methods of Carry

One of the CombatMaster's most noticeable design elements is the pronounced slope at the rear of its slide. In the old days, this was to facilitate thumb cocking of the hammer for those who want to carry the pistol with a loaded chamber and the hammer down. The CombatMaster owner's manual, however, recommends only one other method of carry besides the cocked-and-locked condition, and that's with the hammer down on an empty chamber.

The manual, by exclusion, does not recommend carrying the pistol with a round in the chamber and the hammer down, though a company spokesperson says that the firing pin spring is the strongest in the industry and that the gun will easily pass California's drop test. Your method of carry will be dictated by your personal needs and comfort level. For me, condition one, cocked and locked, works best.

Shooting Details

With the forward position of the rear sight and shortened sight radius, I didn't think that I'd be able to shoot any tight groups with the CombatMaster. Boy was I wrong.

I'm farsighted and the position of the rear sight actually helped me obtain a sharper sight picture. This, combined with the gun's excellent trigger, made it possible for me to shoot some very respectable 15-yard groups. Of all of the loads I tested the Winchester 185-grain SilverTips were the softest shooting and produced the best accuracy, grouping five rounds into a neat cluster just 1.15 inches.

Even shooting the pistol from a rest with hot defense loads was not uncomfortable and I have to credit the pistol's three-spring recoil system. This set-up gives the gun all of the spring mass necessary to cycle correctly, yet it remains controllable. Despite the three-spring recoil system, it was still easy to cycle the slide by hand to chamber a round.

The CombatMaster's magazine holds six rounds for a total capacity of seven if there's a round in the chamber. A fully loaded magazine, locked into the gun, will have a small tab that protrudes from the magazine's floorplate so that the shooter will know without looking that the magazine in the gun is fully loaded.

Like the rest of the CombatMaster, the magazines are all stainless construction, including the extra power springs that Detonics USA has specially made for them. With a little gun like this, magazine spring power is critical in that the slide's faster cycle time requires the round to be moved up quickly to be chambered. A sluggish magazine spring will result in plenty of feed problems. But I found no such trouble with the CombatMaster.

Even though the gun uses an extra-strength firing pin spring, I didn't experience any misfires or light firing pin strikes. Despite the gun's petite size, it uses full-size mainspring housing and a mainspring that supplies the hammer with plenty of force to overcome the strength of the firing pin spring. Reliability was 100 percent during my 300-round evaluation. This included factory FMJs, hot defense loads, and even some lead handloads.

Because of the captive recoil spring system the CombatMaster is an incredibly easy gun to disassemble. After unloading the gun and removing the magazine, simply move the slide back far enough that the disassembly notch is located over the head of the slide stop. Push out the slide stop and run the slide forward off of the frame. Now the recoil spring assembly can be lifted out and the barrel can be slid forward out of the slide. For routine maintenance and cleaning, this is as far as you'll ever need to disassemble the pistol.

Final Thoughts

Because of the CombatMaster's rear sight location, care must be used in selecting a holster. I chose a Galco Yaqui Paddle Holster to carry the pistol. A new improvement on an old theme, this Yaqui slide holster is updated with adjustable retention screws and attachment to a paddle. It's secure, fast, and convenient, and makes a lot of sense for off-duty and undercover carry.

I am impressed with the Detonics USA CombatMaster. It is an extremely well-built pistol that provides full size performance in a compact package.

Mike Detty is an NRA-certified rifle, pistol, and shotgun instructor. A certified rangemaster and competition shooter, Detty served as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps and holds a degree in criminal justice from the University of Arizona.

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