Over the last 10-plus years, a number of 10mm pistols have passed through my hands. Many were stock, but most were customized. Several are still in the hands of friends to this day. A few of these were double-column pistols, but the majority were either Delta Elites or similar single-stack pistols.
Having carried a 1911 for years, I regard the 10mm cartridge as simply providing another ballistic alternative. Especially early on, the 10mm was better suited than the .40 S&W for penetrating car doors, glass and other media. At moderate velocities, it also tended to make certain bonded bullets perform even better in soft tissue. Significant increases in bullet design and production have narrowed that gap a bit, but the 10mm remains an excellent cartridge for protection or duty use.
The year 2011 marked the 100th anniversary of the U.S. military’s adoption of the 1911 pistol. As part of the celebration, Gunsite hosted a 250 Pistol class with Colt, who, naturally, had a strong presence at the event. While enjoying the festivities and looking through a Colt brochure, the words “Tactical Package” piqued my interest: The Colt Custom Shop had begun offering a Tactical Package of customizations that could be performed on any of their 1911 pistols. The brochure detailed every upgrade 1911s generally needed—ones I had already been performing on my pistols. The Custom Shop has a fantastic reputation, and this seemed the perfect opportunity for another project.
A few months back, I tested the new production model Colt Delta Elite. As I’ve used so many of these guns, it felt like a homecoming for me. The pistol proved reliable, accurate and a true representation of the original, rekindling my interest in the caliber. So it seemed like the perfect pistol for the Colt Custom Shop’s Tactical Package—and everyone agreed.
The Colt Custom Shop’s Tactical Package starts with its “Action Tuning.” This includes lowering and flaring the ejection port and tuning the extractor and ejector. Also, the barrel-throat feed ramp is contoured and polished for flawless chambering, and the magazines are adjusted and tuned if needed.
The pistol is then dehorned of all sharp edges for comfortable concealed carry. Next, the Colt Custom Shop installs a high-quality grip safety, and Novak night sights, and if you would like an ambidextrous thumb safety, the Custom Shop will install one for you. The pistol is also given a checkered frontstrap as well as a matching checkered mainspring housing. The magazine well is beveled, and the slide and frame are hand-fitted for a perfect mating. Finally, the pistol is finished in your choice of the many finishes available from Colt. You can order additional upgrades and customization options, but for the most part, this basic package is all you’ll ever need to turn your stock Colt 1911 into an excellent tactical pistol.
I sent off the Delta Elite to the Custom Shop and eagerly awaited its return. Having owned several high-end 1911 pistols throughout the years, I was interested to see how the upgraded 1911 would size up. Upon getting the handgun back from the Custom Shop, the consensus was clear: The work was superb, rivaling that of any custom 1911 around.
All of the sharp edges were removed and replaced by a subtle but effective dehorning. Many shops go way too far with this in my opinion, but the Delta Elite was to my liking: there was just enough dehorning to remove any edges that might snag or impede concealed carry—and that was it. The mainspring housing was slightly rounded to prevent the grip from printing under clothing. The frontstrap was nicely checkered at 20 lines per inch at my request. Unlike some that checker all the way to the bottom of the frame, this stops and rounds off very nicely, providing a cleaner, more professional look. The grip was also high-cut, allowing me to establish a high grip—another quality touch, especially for a 10mm pistol.
The Custom Shop replaced the Delta Elite’s safeties with ambidextrous thumb and grip models that fit perfectly, the latter of which had the commensurate bump at the rear. The trigger was replaced with a solid aluminum trigger that broke crisply at 4.5 pounds and had a smooth take-up with no overtravel. The ejection port was flared for greater reliability, and the feed ramp and barrel were polished and mated.
An oversized match barrel bushing was also added, and the 5-inch barrel was flushed, crowned and beveled to match. The factory serrations on the Colt Delta Elite’s standard plunger were removed, and the plunger was also matched to the barrel bushing.
Per my request, a black Novak rear sight and a tritium front sight were installed. Given its working nature, the pistol was buffed into a neat satin stainless finish. The rubber grips were replaced with a set of black Hogue G10 grips with a solid, aggressive pattern. All in all, this was easily one of the cleanest 10mm pistols to have passed through my hands—now it was time to dirty it up.
I began testing the Colt Custom Shop Delta Elite with a number of dry-fire strokes. The gun spent most of its time in my well-worn Mitch Rosen IWB holster, a custom holster made some 10 years ago that has carried dozens of 1911s. The Delta Elite slid in and out with ease, and its trigger was crisp and predictable, belying its Series 80 internals. The tactical safety engaged and disengaged with satisfying snaps and extended enough to be practical without interfering with my gear. I conducted several magazine changes and found the magazine well flawlessly beveled for concealed carry. Nothing snagged when presenting the Delta Elite.
The pistol was accurate with all the test ammunition but had a decided liking for the 175-grain Winchester Silvertips: they produced a 1.32-inch group, while everything else hit right around 1.5 inches. That is pretty good for me with a 10mm, especially with combat loads. The pistol had no issues with the faster, light rounds, and the most comfortable to shoot were my custom loads of 180-grain Gold Dots loaded by the Hunting Shack years ago—this ammunition has served me very well.
Testing at closer distances yielded excellent accuracy, but as expected with this caliber, it definitely requires you to have a firm grasp on the pistol. Just for kicks, I tested at 50 and 100 yards on steel. One of the 10mm’s strengths is that it is flat-shooting, and this pistol did not disappoint. To hit a standard pistol silhouette at 50 yards, I used a solid hold in the middle of the target and got consistent results. At 100 yards, I held the front sight at about shoulder-height on the target to get the same center-mass hits.
The custom Colt Delta Elite worked with three different factory magazines, all of which could be swapped out smoothly, thanks to Custom Shop’s work on the beveled magazine well. My Trip Research nine-round magazines functioned perfectly. When you’re testing your new gun on the range, especially a single-stack 10mm, it’s critical to test all of your equipment, including your magazines.
The Colt Custom Shop Delta Elite has seen significant carry time in my Mitch Rosen IWB rig since receiving it and putting it through its paces. In fact, I’m so impressed with it that I will definitely use it at my police department’s next shoot.
The gun has proven accurate, reliable and a blast to shoot. The workmanship is top grade and an excellent value: the complete Tactical Package costs $895 and can be ordered for your new Colt pistol or performed on an existing 1911 that you would like to overhaul for tactical operations. Over the years, my pocketbook has lost a ton more money for far less work. This is a true value.
Having your Colt upgraded with the Tactical Package also means it will be a true factory pistol. This is extremely important for many, and for officers and agencies, it’s often a requirement. Make sure you take a close look at the Colt Custom Shop for your next customized, tricked-out 1911. Samuel Colt would be proud! For more information, please visit coltsmfg.com or call 800-962-2658.