It was way back in 1931 when Colt’s introduced the first Government Model chambered in .22 LR. It was called the Colt Ace, and the inspired moniker was boldly stamped within a horizontal diamond on the left side of the slide.

The right side bore the standard Model 1911 patent dates and marking and in all other respects appeared to be a Government Model .45 with the small thumb safety (still in use at that time), arched mainspring housing and serrated slide release. What the original Ace didn’t have was sufficient power to consistently operate the heavy slide with .22 LR cartridges. The 4.75-inch barreled 1931 to 1941 design was not one of Colt’s greater success stories, but the idea proved was well worth pursuing with an improved model appearing in 1937 under the name Service Model Ace, which employed a new adjustable rear sight, a 5-inch barrel, and a floating chamber device mitigating the issues that had plagued the original 1931 design. At the same time Colt’s began offering a .45 ACP to .22 LR conversion unit, so owners could practice shooting or go plinking with the same handgun.1 The ACE models used 1911-style magazines that carried 10 rounds of .22 LR, as did the conversion kits. Both used the new floating chamber designed and patented by David M. “Carbine” Williams.2 Despite its notable improvements, the Service Model ACE was not an overwhelming success either, with sales totaling around 13,500, a couple of thousand better than the original Ace. Production ended after World War II.

It is one of those grand old stores of American marketing, we invent, we improve, we discontinue due to lack of interest, and immediately thereafter, interest is piqued. In the case of the .22 caliber Government Model 1911A1, that process took from 1945 until 1978 by which time the original 1931 through 1945 pistols had become something of a collector’s item. The Post-war ACE Service Model was introduced in 1978 with specifications identical to the late prewar models. The new .22 caliber guns had a bright blued finish (though some were nickel plated by the Colt’s Custom Shop), large thumb safety, click adjustable rear sight, and they were far more successful than either the original Ace or Service Model .22s, with sales reaching over 30,000 by 1989, when the .22 LR 1911A1 went on hiatus once again. Today, post-war Ace models in excellent condition easily command over $1,000. An original Ace circa 1931 to 1937 can bring upwards of $5,000 and the Service Model circa 1937 to 1945 a whopping $7,500.3 That makes the new Colt Government Model .22 a virtual steal at just $399 to $499.

Gun Details

There are a number of similarities between the latest .22 caliber Colt Government Model and the original post-war version, and an almost equal number of differences, the most notable of which is that the new small caliber Colt Model 1911A1 is made in Germany by Carl Walther GmbH and sold in the U.S. through Umarex USA. The guns even have their own dedicated website, as there are three different versions available, Government Model, Rail Gun (with Picatinny rail), and a Gold Cup Trophy Target Model. The Rail Gun and Gold Cup have target triggers, skeletonized hammers, and different sights than the standard Government Model.

In comparison, the original Ace tipped the scale at 38 ounces, the Service Model at 42 ounces (which was 3 ounces more than a .45 ACP model). The new Colt .22 only weighs 36 ounces (empty) and packs a dozen .22 LR rounds in the magazine instead of 10, giving these new models 12+1 capacity. A 10-round magazine is also available.

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