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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

Colt Mk IV Series 80 Government Model: A Truly Classic .45 ACP Gun

The Series 80 Colts debuted in 1983. Two then-newfangled features were its maintenance-friendly stainless steel and the controversial passive firing pin safety.

Colt Mk IV Series 80 Government Model. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Aside from the Beretta 92F/M9 and the Glock series of pistols, the M1911 pistol series is the weapons system about which I have written the most articles in the 11 months that I’ve been on the 19FortyFive staff. As I have previously noted, my first 1911 shooting experience was not in its best-known Colt .45 ACP brand and chambering/pairing, but rather the 10mm Colt Delta Elite. Moreover my first shooting experience with the .45 ACP wasn’t with the Colt, but rather the SIG Sauer P220. That said, it is now way past time to finally write about my first time actually firing the 1911 and .45 ACP tandem: Say hello to the Colt Mk IV Series 80 stainless steel Government Model .45 auto. 

Colt Mk IV Series 80 Government Model History and Specifications

The Series 80 Colts debuted in 1983. Two then-newfangled features were its maintenance-friendly stainless steel and the controversial passive firing pin safety. The latter was intended to make the pistol more drop-safe, but critics complained that it ruined the quality of the trigger pull. The biggest improvement that distinguished this firearm from earlier-model Colt 1911s — including the much-coveted Series 70 guns — was the fact that this iteration was finally factory-throated for jacketed hollowpoints. Earlier editions would only feed full metal jacket “hardball” and required the aftermarket services of a top-notch gunsmith like Bill Wilson or Jim Hoag to work properly with JHPs. As self-defense guru Massad F. Ayoob noted in his 1987 book The Semiautomatic Pistol in Police Service and Self-Defense

“My stainless Government Mk IV Series ’80 fired approximately 4,000 rounds of hardball, hollowpoints, and lead bullet handloads with fewer than ten malfunctions, all of which could be traced to bad reload ammo or an extremely weak hold on the gun. Shortly after the 4,000th round, ‘wiring’ occurred in the slide rails on the frame, that is, a roughening of the surface. This was polished out, and the gun continued to be reliable with hollowpoints, firing some 1,000 Federal, Remington, and Super Vel hollowpoints without further malfunction. I have trusted, and would trust, this pistol with my life.”

Personal Shooting Impressions

My first time experiencing the joys of the Colt Mk IV-.45 ACP combo was via a rental gun at the Los Angeles Gun Club in downtown L.A. in October 1990. I remember the manager, who was a big-time SIG P220 fanboy, warning me about the Colt, saying that “you won’t be able to shoot good groups with it.” Two months earlier, on my 15th birthday, I had gotten that first .45 ACP trigger time with the P220. Well, on this particular day, I started off with the P220, which left me just as underwhelmed as it had before. Then I rented the Colt, with the lowered expectations that the range manager had planted in my head. To my pleasant surprise, it blew those low expectations out of the water.

The ergonomics, trigger pull, felt recoil, and muzzle flip were much more pleasant to me with the Colt Mk IV than with the SIG, and I shot much better groups as a result, nailing 7-yard head shots with aplomb. Plus, I found it to be such a handsome-looking pistol. I became a fan right then and there. For ammo, I used the range’s roundnose lead reloads. 

The manager was quite surprised to find out that I actually liked the Colt better than his beloved SIG. 

Want Your Own?

According to True Gun Value, “A Colt Series 80 MK IV Government Model pistol is currently worth an average price of $1,092.39 new and $851.06 used. The 12-month average price is $1,092.39 new and $851.06 used.” Meanwhile, Guns International currently lists one with an asking price of $1,050, while GunsAmerica lists a customized blue steel version at $989. 

Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.  

Written By

Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon).