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

11 Comments
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Ed Gaulin
Ed Gaulin
2 years ago

I recently acquired a NIB Colt M1911 series 80 at a great price. I’d like to find out when it was manufactured. I did check a couple of the serial websites without finding any GV XXX XXX or 80 Series numbers. Am I looking in the wrong place? Ed in Florida

Jim
Jim
2 years ago

The series 70 I have locks to the rear on an empty chamber when the last round is fired. Yet I can remove the mag and pull the slide to the rear but the slide catch stays engaged, even with the mag removed I have to manually depress the slide catch to move the slide back to the forward position. I’ve tried introducing a full mag while the slide is locked to rear and it still won’t slide forward when I pull the slide to the rear and release it without manually depressing the slide catch. Why?

Dale
Dale
3 years ago

I bought mine in 1994 new in the box. The Colt box is marked series 70 with the serial number but the slide is stamped series 80.
Is that normal? Or did I end up with a factory double headed quarter?

Rob Ulp
Rob Ulp
2 years ago
Reply to  Dale

Hello – I’ve always been somewhat confused over Colt model designations but the above article convinces me that I have a Model 80 and I often see that designation printed large on the right side of the slide. So now I look at my Gov’t Model in 38 Super that I bought a few years back and there is NO stamp on the right side of the slide. The blue case is marked 02991 along with Blue Finish M 0 and serial No. Regardless, is mine still a Model 80? Thanks!

Stacy luttrell
Stacy luttrell
3 years ago

I have a colt 1911 70 series government model. A gun dealer looked at it and said that the lower was made by colt but the upper was not because it had federal government on it?? Can u explain wat he is saying??

Jim
Jim
3 years ago
Reply to  Stacy luttrell

Would you have been considering trading it in? And would it have been to his economics advantage to “under-value” the pistol?
I collect M1911’s – many with US markings, and never heard of such silliness.
When you say “federal government” stamped on it, did it say “federal government” verbatim, roll marked?
I’ve seen US, US ARMY, US GOVT, stamped, but never “federal government”. I’m assuming you meant US, or one of the above examples provided.

Ralph Michael Frontera
Ralph Michael Frontera
3 years ago

I have a queston on the 70 series if I pull the hammer back and my finger is off the trigger will the gun fire or will it stop at half cock. Because I am looking at a rock island and that gun is a series 70 .thank you Ralph

Eric
Eric
4 years ago

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.

Tbone
Tbone
4 years ago

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?

Longbow338
Longbow338
4 years ago
Reply to  Tbone

Series 70. AMT never produced a series 80 copy.

Webley Guy
Webley Guy
4 years ago

There were no Officer’s Models when the the Series 70 Came out!
Webley Guy