series 80 1911

A Brief Guide To The Series 80 1911

You might have run across a magazine article, video or forum thread where people praise or complain about the Series 80 1911 pistol. What's really common to run across is people complaining about the trigger.

What IS a Series 80, anyhow? Well, the Series 80 is a number of features added to the basic Colt pistol which were installed in the early 1980s, though not in the actual year 1980.

Are they as bad as everyone says? Not even close. Someone who says so is lying or doesn't know what they're talking about.

The Series 80 1911 Pistol

1911 pistol

So, what IS a series 80 1911 pistol?

The Series 80 is/was the term used to refer to a number of modifications made to the firing mechanism of the Colt 1911 pistol. These updates were added in 1983 and were dubbed the "Series 80" since the previous revision to the base model gun was similarly dubbed the Series 70.

What were the differences between the Series 70 vs Series 80?

One of the first revisions was the half-cock notch, which was changed to allow the user to pull the trigger at half cock and drop the hammer, though without firing the pistol. The previous pistol had a hook notch that totally captured the sear, preventing the hammer from being released at half-cock.

The base model pistol of the Series 80 also no longer had the arched mainspring housing that the M1911A1 and Series 70 pistols did. The first edition dropped in 1983, and a further revision occurred in 1988, when the collette bushing of the Series 70 was dropped in favor of the traditional solid bushing.

However, the chief modification was the addition of a firing pin block safety. On the Series 80, a pivoting link is actuated by the trigger pull, pushing the firing pin block up and unblocking the firing pin. Thus, the firing pin can only move IF the trigger is pulled.

The Series 70 (and previous models) could be drop-fired if dropped directly on the hammer. Some say it was a move to make the lawyers happy, but some point out that revolvers had transfer bar safety features starting the 1890s so there's no excuse for a semi-auto not to have something like that.

The Series 80 1911 Trigger

series 80 trigger

Okay, now we're onto the nitty-gritty: the Series 80 1911 trigger. This is the cause of all the complaints. Whether you want to listen to them is up to you.

So, the addition of the firing pin block gives the trigger a little creep. Any Series 80 gun will have a little bit of take-up and creep to it. You'll notice the trigger slides back without any pressure, then hits the wall when you finally get the spring tension. Then, the trigger breaks.

The Series 70 .45 was known for a very decent trigger right out of the factory. Colt had cut the trigger back for easier reach and shorter travel and thus broke easily. The Series 80 was perceived as having a poorer-quality trigger than its predecessor.

However, these complaints are mostly bogus and for three reasons.

First, you only really notice the trigger if you stack while pulling the trigger. If your trigger control technique is to pull the trigger in stages, you'll definitely notice the creep. However, if you apply uniform pressure and just squeeze straight to the rear, it's barely noticeable.

Staging the trigger is fine on, say, a Timney trigger in a competition rifle. In a carry pistol? Not so much. If that's what you're doing, you're doing it wrong.

Secondly, smiths figured out how to do a Series 80 trigger job a long time ago. You polish the trigger, put in a spring kit, maybe get the Series 80 kit from Cylinder and Slide. It is not complicated, and not even really expensive. Maybe install a flat blade trigger to eliminate creep. Point being, it can be improved.

Thirdly, what people who gripe about the Series 80 don't know or won't admit to is that getting a slick factory gun involved a number of trips to a gunsmith back in the Series 70 era. It was not the case - AT ALL - that the basic factory gun from Colt in those days was as good as a Wilson Combat today. The crisp, easy trigger only really happened after the gun went to a smith. Before that happened, it was pretty good; it only became really good after some work.

It's like muscle cars. Today's factory cars blow the factory cars of the "good old days" out of the water; that Camaro or Mustang or what have you back in the day only got really good after some tweaking.

So...Why Should I Get A Series 80?

series 80

So, whether a Series 80 1911 is a good buy...well, that sort of depends on what you're looking for.

One thing to know is that most 1911 pistols you'll find in stores aren't made by Colt. Almost all of them will have a firing pin block, which is the hallmark of the Series 80 system.

How can I tell if I have a Series 80 1911? Field strip it. You'll see the firing pin block lever ahead and to right of the trigger. Look on the bottom of the slide and you'll see the firing pin block plunger. If those things aren't there, you have something else.

Okay, so whether to get one or not now that you know what you're looking at. If you're getting a carry's a better idea. A trigger job will cure the creep if it's just too much for your delicate sensibilities and you don't have to worry about the slam fire issue.

Why get a Series 70 or older version? First, these are the basis of a LOT of competition guns, where a hair trigger is necessary. In fact, Colt's Competition series of guns don't have the Series 80 firing system but their Government model (formerly called the 1991) do, so that tells you something.

Then there's the nostalgia angle. Today's Series 70 Government is as close as you get to a real GI pistol, but with better fitment. If that's your deal, then it fills the bill.

Tl;DR as the kids say: Get Series 70 for a safe queen or competition gun. Series 80 everywhere else. Either way, you get a 1911, one of the best shootin' irons ever invented.

Sam Hoober  

About The Author

Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.

purchase gun belt