Colt’s New Gold Cup National Match 45 ACP Semi-Automatic Pistol

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

January 11th, 2012




Click pictures for a larger version.


Colt's new Gold Cup National Match pistol.



Excellent Bo-Mar style rear sight with target post front.



Slide lock.



Mag release.



Lightweight trigger with overtravel stop.







Wrap-around synthetic rubber grip.





Colt’s Manufacturing Company has in the past few months re-introduced some legendary firearms from their past; the New Frontier revolver and the Mustang PocketLite 380 auto pistol. Both are welcome additions to the market, and both firearms have proven to be superior to their namesake predecessors. Now, Colt has just introduced the latest in the celebrated Gold Cup line of match-grade target pistols with their Gold Cup National Match.

The Gold Cup pistols have for decades been the standard to which other match pistols were compared. I remember back in the late 1970s when I was having a 1911 pistol built for me. Being newly married and finishing up building a house that I had been working on for over a year, I was wanting my first 45 Auto, but the Gold Cup was out of reach for me financially. I had a gunsmith who obtained for me a National Match slide, barrel, and bushing. Looking back, he probably obtained it by less than honorable means, but I did not know that at the time. Anyway, he built it up on an Essex frame, and I ordered a good adjustable sight for it. I would have liked to have had a Bo-Mar, but could not afford that extravagance at the time, and settled upon a good Micro rear sight. Anyway, my only directive to the ‘smith was to “Make it shoot as good as a Gold Cup”. He did a fine job with the accuracy, carefully fitting the slide, barrel, bushing, and frame. It had some reliability issues, but I corrected those myself. Anyway, it was a poor man’s Gold Cup, but the Colt Gold Cup was still the standard at that time.

The Gold Cup National Match has a few design changes from earlier renditions of the Gold Cup, most prominently a round-top slide with a new Bo-Mar style fully-adjustable rear sight. The new Gold Cup National Match retains the Series 80 style firing pin safety, which prevents the weapon from firing if dropped, and has a lightweight aluminum trigger with an overtravel stop adjustment. The Gold Cup National Match ships with both one seven-round magazine and one eight-round magazine, and they each slip easily into the beveled magazine well. Set up from the factory to shoot light target loads, the lightweight spring is color-coded green, and a full-power spring is included for shooting high-performance hollowpoint and hardball ammunition. The five-inch forged CNC-machined match-grade stainless steel barrel is throated to efficiently and reliably feed target semi-wadcutter ammunition, which is the preferred choice of many target shooting competitors.

The carbon steel slide and frame on the Gold Cup National Match pistol shown here are beautifully fitted and finished. The grip panels are a wraparound black synthetic rubber with molded-in checkering, which is not my personal favorite for beauty, but provide an excellent hold on the pistol under adverse conditions, and grips are easily changed to suit individual tastes and preferences. The grip does feel very good in the hand, and is reminiscent of the Pachmayr grips which were so popular on 1911 pistols in my younger days.

The Gold Cup National Match arrived here a few days ago, and upon opening the box, I was impressed. With a large assortment of 1911 pistols now on the market from which to choose, this Colt still stands out with its polished blued finish and tightly-fitted construction.

Critical dimensions are listed in the chart below. Weight is listed in ounces. Linear measurements are listed in inches. Trigger pull is listed as pounds of resistance. Height includes the sights and magazine base, with the rear sight set at its intermediate position.

Chambering 45 ACP
Weight with Empty Magazine 38.8 oz.
Trigger Pull 4.9 lbs.
Barrel Length 5.04"
Barrel Diameter 0.572"
Overall Height 5.58"
Overall Length 8.51"
Slide Thickness 0.911"
Grip Thickness 1.27"
Trigger Reach 2.8"
Magazine Capacity 7 rounds / 8 rounds
Magazines Supplies 2

The Gold Cup National Match pistol was fired for accuracy and reliability with several brands and types of ammunition. Velocities were recorded at a distance of ten feet, at an altitude of 541 feet above sea level, and an air temperature hovering around forty-three degrees Fahrenheit with sixty-seven percent humidity. Velocities are recorded in the chart below, and are listed in feet-per-second. JHP is a jacketed hollowpoint bullet. EPR and AF are specialty premium bullets as loaded by Extreme Shock Ammunition. DPX is a homogenous copper hollowpoint. FMJ is a full metal jacket bullet. WCC is Winchester military hardball ammo. PB is Cor-Bon Pow’RBall.

Ammunition Bullet Weight Velocity
Cor-Bon JHP 200 1076
Cor-Bon JHP 165 1249
Cor-Bon JHP 230 924
Cor-Bon DPX 185 1078
Cor-Bon PB 165 1265
Cor-Bon Glaser 145 1251
Buffalo Bore JHP 230 1001
Buffalo Bore FMJ 230 1006
Handload LSWC 200 1007
Extreme Shock EPR 185 1156
Extreme Shock AF 125 1414
Stryker FMJ 230 757

Reliability was one hundred percent. There were no failures or stoppages of any kind. Every cartridge fed, fired, and ejected perfectly. The Colt performed very well with my standard target handload; this load consists of a Rim Rock 200 grain lead SWC atop 5.5 grains of Hodgdon Titegroup powder in a new primed S&W 45 ACP case. This is a moderate load, and a very good general working load for a 1911 pistol. I used the standard-power recoil spring for all loads tested. I do not shoot light loads in my 1911 pistols, so had no need to use the lighter weight spring. It is a good practice to always use the heaviest spring that allows one-hundred percent reliability. Accuracy was very good, with all ammo tested grouping in the just under one inch up to the two and one-half inches range at twenty-five yards from my Ransom Rest. Brass ejected cleanly to the right, and the empty cartridge cases were not damaged nor dented, leaving them in very good condition to be reloaded.

The Gold Cup National Match performed as I have come to expect a Colt Gold Cup to perform, which is very well. With a couple of different loads, accuracy was superb, and pretty good with even the worst-performing ammunition tested. Functioning was perfect. The pistol handled exceptionally well, and was very easy to shoot precisely with either a one-handed hold or using a Weaver stance. The new Gold Cup National Match pistol from Colt is perhaps the best in the Gold Cup line to date. I certainly like the Bo-Mar-style rear sight, which combined with the black post front, gives an excellent sight picture for target work. The trigger is crisp; about one pound heavier than I prefer on a 1911 pistol, but still very good. The magazine well is beveled. I tried each type of ammo tested with both of the magazines, and again, functioning was perfect.

The Colt Gold Cup National Match 1911 pistol is a pistol that would be equally well-suited to punching paper on the range, hunting game, or in filling a much more serious role as a combat handgun. Check out the line of Colt firearms and accessories online at

For the location of a Colt dealer near you, click on the DEALER LOCATOR at

To order the Gold Cup National Match pistol online, go to

To order quality pistol ammunition, go to,, and

Jeff Quinn

NOTE: All load data posted on this web site are for educational purposes only. Neither the author nor assume any responsibility for the use or misuse of this data. The data indicated were arrived at using specialized equipment under conditions not necessarily comparable to those encountered by the potential user of this data.  Always use data from respected loading manuals and begin working up loads at least 10% below the loads indicated in the source manual.

Got something to say about this article? Want to agree (or disagree) with it? Click the following link to go to the GUNBlast Feedback Page.

Click pictures for a larger version.






Gold Cup National Match pistol ships in a hard plastic case with instructions, padlock, bushing wrench, and two magazines.







Pistol comes with a lightweight-color-coded green spring for light target loads, as well as a standard-power recoil spring.





Pistol also comes with a seven-round magazine and an eight-round magazine.



Groups fired from a Ransom Rest at 25 yards.