Series 70 vs Series 80 1911 Handguns : Which Should I Get?

Alien Gear Holsters' Sam Hoober lays out the differences, positives and negatives of the Series 70 vs Series 80 1911 pistol designs.

Series 80 1911 Pistol Disassembled
Series 80 1911 Pistol Disassembled
Sam Hoober
Sam Hoober

USA –-(AmmoLand.com)- The 1911 platform is one of the most versatile and widely available pistol designs on the market today. It might seem that everyone and their brother makes one, and they practically do.

Today's gun buyer can find a 1911 pistol to fit virtually any need, including discreet compacts for concealed carry all the way up to intricately ornamented safe queens that are purely for use as a “barbecue gun” – meant to be carried to show it off – and all points in between.

A few people might have noticed some 1911's are labeled Series 70 and some are Series 80, and wonder just what the difference is.

The differences between the two are not insignificant nut it is something to bear in mind while 1911 shopping.

Series 70 vs Series 80 1911's

Series 70 : The series number terms come from Colt. Colt released an updated design of their full-size 1911 pistol in the 1970s (hence the name) which consisted of a collet bushing instead of the traditional barrel bushing. The four “fingers” of the collet bushing helped keep the barrel perfectly centered and thus shot very accurately. The only drawback was the “fingers” would break occasionally.

Series 80 : In 1983, Colt released a new 1911 design dubbed the Series 80 (also named for the decade during which it was released) with a few design changes. First was the addition of a trigger-actuated firing pin block. Similar to the transfer bar safety common to double-action revolvers, the trigger must be pulled to unblock the firing pin.

Additionally, Colt revised the hammer so it had a half-cock shelf, rather than a half-cock hook as previous generations of pistols did. This was so the hammer would fall to half-cock if the user's thumb slipped while attempting to cock the hammer. The half-cock hook was prone to breakage in rare cases. Colt also flattened the mainspring housing, as previous generations had a curved mainspring housing at the back of the grip.

What Series 70 and Series 80 Really Means When 1911 Shopping

The thing is that none of the Colt 1911 designs in the Officer or Commander frames received the collet bushing of the Series 70; it was for Government frames only. So, if you notice a compact 1911 that's billed as “Series 70“…it actually isn't. What's meant by that is the pistol lacks the firing pin block. The half-cock hook is also a common feature, though it was standard on previous generations of the pistol as well.

1911 Collet Bushings
1911 Collet Bushings : 80 series pistols use the standard solid barrel bushing shown at left. Original Series 70 pistols used the breakage-prone finger-collet bushing shown on the right, along with a specially-tapered barrel. IMG www.m1911.org

The defining characteristic of an actual Series 70 is the collet bushing, which is only offered by Colt on the Colt Series 70 pistol that they sell right now.

However, Series 80 1911s are another matter. A number of companies sell the Series 80 design as well (the Remington R1 springs too) that feature the firing pin block as well as the half-cock shelf.

Series 70 1911 Pistol
Series 70 1911 Pistol

The difference between the two? One has a firing pin block, the other doesn't, and one has a slightly different half-cock notch than the other. Some people complain about the Series 80 trigger, that it's harder to get a crisp, light pull with compared to the Series 70, but the truth is that any decent gunsmith can easily accomplish the task.

About Sam Hoober

Sam Hoober is a contributing editor at aliengearholsters.com, as well as for Bigfoot Gun Belts. He also writes weekly columns for Daily Caller and USA Carry

  • 4 thoughts on “Series 70 vs Series 80 1911 Handguns : Which Should I Get?

    1. I have an AMT Hardballer, that I purchased in early 1980s. would like to install a beavertail grip safety . Is the pistol series 70 or series 80?

    2. Want new parts for a auto ordnance pit bull. Would I need model 70 or 80?? Or does it mater since it isn’t a govt. model.

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