Colt Delta Elite Rail Gun 1911 in 10mm – Review & VIDEO


Colt Delta Elite Rail Gun
Colt Delta Elite Rail Gun

U.S.A.-( Every time we hear the death knell of the 10mm cartridge, some manufacturer rolls out a new model to get fans of the round something to lust after and bring a few new converts its way. With this year being the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the Colt Delta Elite, Colt released the pistol in a rail gun format: Colt Delta Elite Rail Gun.

Colt may have been the manufacturer that saved the 10mm round from certain death back in the mid-1980s. Some folks may give this credit to Glock who rolled out the Glock Model 20 in 1991 and they may have a valid point regarding numerous waves of resurgence over the past three decades with the 10mm, but Colt was the first major manufacturer to catalog a 10mm in 1987 with the Colt Delta Elite 1911.

So fast forward thirty years later and we see some much needed changes to this pistol.

Colt Delta Elite Rail Gun

The first of these changes/upgrades is the addition of an integral accessory rail on this all stainless steel 1911 style pistol.

Colt Delta Elite Rail Gun - 10mm
Colt Delta Elite Rail Gun – 10mm
Colt Delta Elite Picatinny Rail

We used to hate rails on pistols long ago. We felt that they threw off the distinctive lines of classic firearms like the Colt 1911, the SIG P226, or even the Beretta. That was until we started taking lowlight and no light tactical pistol courses and soon realized that weapon lights were essential on handguns, because when you need one to save your bacon it's more than likely going to be in the dark and you will need to identify targets and ensure that you do not shoot the wrong person.

So we see rails as more of a must-have on certain firearms, rather than a nice to have and Colt made a nice solid Picatinny rail as part of their dustcover on the Colt Delta Elite Rail Gun. This means that most devices (whether you run lights, lasers or a combination unit) should fit without any adapters.

Novak-style low profile sights are installed and we do prefer these to the old GI style sights common to Colt's other 1911 pistols. The Colt Delta Elite Rail Gun features an extended thumb safety and an upswept beavertail grip safety to protect the shooter from “slide bite”. There is a Series 80 firing pin safety installed and a three-hole aluminum trigger rounds out the fire control group.

They actually made all of these upgrades in 2011 or 2012, but this was the first time we had a chance to try out these features on a Delta Elite. In the past, we had tried the “standard” versions which meant vestigial mil type sights and a plastic trigger or someone who dumped more money into their Delta than what it was actually worth.

However one of our favorite upgrades is the composite grips with the Delta medallions. In the past, a few of the Delta Elites that we handled had Pachmayr Rubber grips with these medallions. We often felt that they cheapened the look of a 1911 and like the new grips much better.

Colt Delta Elite Rail Gun
Colt Delta Elite Rail Gun

Colt Delta Elite Rail Gun : The Good

Despite the opinions of folks on a 1911, a well-made one just feels perfect the first time that you pick it up. The Colt Delta Elite Rail Gun had no sharp edges or rough spots at all. Those folks at Hartford still know how to set the standard when it comes to making a 1911.

The extra weight of the railed dust cover and the all steel pistol takes much of the brunt out of the felt recoil. That first round through the other Delta Elite always gets us and reminds us that we are not shooting 45 ACP.

The bottom line is that this is a good looking pistol and the two 8 round magazines drop effortlessly when needed and feed flawlessly.

We typically shoot pistols at 50 feet but let this one go out a bit further to 75 feet. We used a variety of ammunition types and noticed something different in this handgun than our others chambered in 10mm.

The lighter bullets in the 155 grain to 175 grainers grouped almost 2” better than our heavier bullets that we have always sworn by. We anticipated the opposite. The lighter weight bullets grouped about 1.75” to 2” at 25 yards, but the heavier 200-grain loads were shooting 3.5” groups.

It could have something to do with the actual bore diameter or maybe those loads were a little hotter with more pressure.

Novak-style low profile sights are installed on the Colt Delta Elite Rail Gun and we do prefer these to the old GI style sights common to Colt's other 1911 pistols.
Novak-style low profile sights are installed on the Colt Delta Elite Rail Gun and we do prefer these to the old GI style sights common to Colt's other 1911 pistols.

Colt Delta Elite Rail Gun : The Bad

Some folks will cry foul about the Series 80 Firing Pin safety, but these are the same people who cannot understand why they took Happy Days off the air or get frustrated when they see a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine. The firing pin safety is here to stay and if you think it makes your factory trigger atrocious, you are either living in a fantasy world or are the type that complains that their free ice cream was vanilla instead of chocolate.

In all seriousness, we were disappointed with the performance of the heavier loads, particularly because we have shot more 1911s than any other semi auto pistol and 10mm is part of our regular shooting sessions (albeit in a different platform). Maybe it is isolated to this particular handgun or maybe we just had a bad few days at the range, but if I were going to shoot one of these on a regular basis, I would stick to the lighter loads.

However, that can be a good thing as the Delta Elite cannot withstand a steady diet of hot 10mm ammunition without causing undue wear on the components. Think of this as shooting 40 S&W “+P” type loads as opposed to those sub 41 Magnum power loads.

We suspect the issue may be with the recoil springs.

Colt Delta Elite Rail Gun : The Reality

For an MSRP of $1300 and a street price still over $1000, Colt makes a fine 1911 chambered in 10mm. It’s nice to see these upgrades after 30 years and while many of us might have liked to have seen them sooner, we always think that it’s better late than never.

We would not recommend the Colt Delta Elite Rail Gun for self-defense against Brown Bear or Polar Bear, but it should be adequate in the lower 48 against black bears or for hog hunting with a handgun.

The 10mm cartridge is a niche caliber and while it is one of our favorites, it will never truly go mainstream. Its following should keep it in production for the foreseeable future.


  • Name: Colt Delta Elite Railgun
  • Part #: SKU 02020RG
  • Caliber: 10mm
  • Capacity: 8+ 1
  • Slide Material: Stainless Steel
  • Slide Finish: Brushed
  • Frame: Stainless Steel
  • Frame Finish: Matte
  • Barrel Length: 5″
  • Barrel Spec: Stainless Steel 1:16 LH, 6 groove
  • Overall Length: 8.5″
  • Overall height: 5.5″
  • Width: 1.25″
  • Sights: Novak White Dot Front, Novak Low Mount Carry Rear
  • Weight: 38 oz (2.375 Lbs)
  • MSRP: $1299

About Mike Searson

Mike Searson
Mike Searson

Mike Searson's career as a shooter began as a Marine Rifleman at age 17. He has worked in the firearms industry his entire adult life as a Gunsmith, Ballistician, Consultant, Salesman, Author and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1989.

Mike has written over 2000 articles for a number of magazines, websites and newsletters including Blade, RECOIL, OFF-GRID, Tactical Officer, SWAT, Tactical World, Gun Digest, and the US Concealed Carry Association as well as AmmoLand Shooting Sports News.

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  • 11 thoughts on “Colt Delta Elite Rail Gun 1911 in 10mm – Review & VIDEO

    1. Since Colt has no milling capability on stainless steel, the basic gun is a Ruger, which explains Colts exorbitant mark up. Currently, Ruger is the only company that can forge, and machine stainless pistols. So you pay over $500 extra for the caliber. Colt eitherneeds to get back in the gun business, or get out of the gun business, and quit it’s “dallying”.

    2. Colt Delta Elite in 10mm. $1300+? “….the Delta Elite cannot withstand a steady diet of hot 10mm ammunition without causing undue wear on the components.” In trying to be not sarcastic, I would just have to ask ‘Why Buy It’ then? If you wanna shoot stuff like the Remington 10mm/180 grain Green Box ammo, or other FAKE;) 10mm rounds, just buy yourself that .40 S&W!

      The ONLY reason for a 10mm is the ability to have NEAR .41 magnum power in a pistol! The author is correct that part of the issue of increased wear has to do with the spring rates. Accuracy, at least at distance, will be affected as well, called stringing. Rather than extend this post, just go to the Buffalo Bore web site and read up on why they recommend using a heavier RSA with their products! Wanna ‘play’ with lighter loads, just swap out to the lighter RSA.

      I NEVER, at least since I shot my first match with my rig, shoot anything except ‘my load’ that I intend to defend my life with, and it mirrors that Buffalo Bore 180 ‘heavy’ loading! My RSA is actually a variable 3 spring rig, somewhat like an increasing resistance shock absorber. The original 17 lb RSA, with the REAL 10mm stuff, would prematurely open the chamber, smoke the cases and give wildly varying Extreme Spreads in Velocity (50-100 fps). My RSA (21lbs) is consistently under 30 fps, no smoked case mouths! Also, NOT an all steel, pretty gun;)

      As noted by others, that DE might be able to tighten up those 2″ @25 groups. I do smile a bit, however, when reading about some high $$ manufacturer touting their 1.5″ 25 yd capable pieces. My load, out of my little 3.78″ barreled rig, will consistently do 3/4″ groups out there, and I paid less than $500 for it; however, did turn it into a near $700 rig with my upgrades;) I call this my “Mickey Mouse,” off-hand (slow fire, of course;)) group:

    3. It’s absolutely a “recoil spring thing.” 24and7 nailed it. They took a wonderful cartridge and gave it a wide “Power Rating.” Because of that, most 10mm 1911s are undersprung so they will feed. Think about the 45acp and it’s 100+ year evolution in ammo. Browning’s original design calls for about a 13.55lb spring. My 1911 runs with a 22lb, and the 20lb makes it super reliable. Mitigates recoil big time. Get the right spring in that 10, and it might surprise you. 24, 26, or 28lb.

      If you still have your targets Mike, go back and look at the heavier rounds…It would not be a surprise to see them predominately North to South groups.

    4. Interestingly, the 5 holsters shown would not accommodate the gun with a tac light installed on the rail. What’s the point of the rail if you can’t put stuff on it?

    5. Originally, the Delta Elites had problems with the slide cracking. Maybe that’s why the gun didn’t perform well with heavy loads. I don’t have a lot of confidence in Colt these days, sadly.

      1. JPM,
        I worked for Colt in the early DE days and it wasn’t a problem with slide cracking. In fact I don’t think I ever personally saw a slide crack. The frames,however were cracking at the left hand rail where it transitioned over the slide stop cutout in the frame. Colts solution was to machine that cutout all the way out and eliminate that part of the rail that was cracking. There were other issues with the gun. It got battered up pretty bad with a steady diet of full house 10mm loads(especially those early 200 grain Norma’s) Man those were hot. A heavier recoil and main spring fixed some of that.

    6. The real true death knell of the 10 mm is the ammo companies… most of the 10 MM ammo out there is hot 40 cal S&W ( especially in the law enforcement markets).. Ammo companies ought to just make 40 cal S&W +p and +p+ instead of watered down 10 mm offerings.. hardly any ammo companies make Full House 10 mm ammunition.. if an ammo company does make a full house load it is very expensive…Norma needs to bring back the real deal loads.. other than that you can still buy Full House 357 Magnum loads.. so I passed on the 10 mm for hunting and defense..

      1. Full House 10mm is expensive! No doubt ’bout dat;) Why I reload mine. Can’t afford the required amount of shooting with the stuff I ‘carry,’ if I had to use Buffalo Bore, Underwood, or Double Tap stuff. I’ve blown up thousands of rounds I reloaded, however, at that Buffalo Bore level! As they say, there is no cheap lunch. Any of that “Personal Defense” touted stuff, @20 rounds per, will run you over a buck each! Called fleecing the public with a dose of hyperbole;)

        “….I passed on the 10mm for hunting and defense….” Too bad! Never had anything survive from either my 3.78″ barreled rig or my 6″ BarSto barreled outfit. Two coyotes, one at a RF verified 110 yards w/one shot through the neck;) Unlucky ‘ote, as was trotting a bit SW through our pasture, was holding just above the V in his ears, & as the shot broke, he stopped and turned just his head to look at what I was doing – shot took him squarely through the neck, but prolly wudda just creased him, or completely missed left? Running BIG boar hog from a moving boat, one shot through its heart/lungs, but still running, and one behind its ear that did not penetrate the skull but brained him sending him tumbling head over teakettle through the water–other ‘ote was only 75 yds w/6″.

        As far as defense goes, I marvel how the anti-gun outfit thinks to ‘ban’ those dastardly AR’s. In many states, the 5.56/.223 is NOT legal for deer, the 10mm is. Item to note, also, last I checked, deer are only ARMED with feet and horns, no firearms, the human animal is just a mite more formidable! That short 3.78″ barrel provides me 624 FPE, that 6″ right at 800 with that Buffalo Bore mirrored loading! NEAR .41 Magnum power in a pistol.

    7. Correction on the barrel it’s not a National Match. I bought the new 10mm Colt Delta Elite Rail and it didn’t have the lette NM on the barrel. I called Colt and they confirmed the Delta Elite doesn’t come with a National Match Barrel.
      Guns Magazine reported it having a National Match barrel too. The Colt website doesn’t have any NM reference on either of the two Delta Elite rail and non-rail guns. I wish it came with it and though it did based on the Special Edition Magazine published this year by Guns Magazine. Just thought everyone should know what I learned after my purchase.
      I’m still very happy with my purchase.

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