Armchair Quarterbacking: DETONICS.

Combat Master

Before I roll forward with Armchair Quarterbacking Detonics, I want the readers here to know my long history with the Combat Master, and my affections for it.   I wrote two articles about the Combat Master for Concealed Carry Magazine.  Both articles were rather glowing of the guns overall.   You can read them both here.  The second article has photos here.

“This is like Scarlett Johanson winning an Ultimate Fighter Championship.”

I considered Jerry Ahern a friend.  We had many great conversations about Detonics and about the Combat Master.  When Jerry passed away, I was greatly saddened.   But what saddened me the most was the new iteration of Detonics and the all new version of the Combat Master.

One of the things we had talked about was the use of a regular dovetailed front sight with Tritium and moving the rear sight back to the normal 1911 position and using a regular Commander style hammer and a Beavertail.    Make it more like a regular 1911 that people are familiar with instead of having the Combat Master occupy the Uncanny Valley.  We had even discussed me buying one in this configuration from Detonics USA, and Jerry had said “Don’t worry about it, George.  We’ll send you a prototype.”  This was being discussed while I was writing the second Combat Master review.   But before I could return the review pistol to Detonics, the company had closed its doors and Jerry was removed from his office.  And what we had discussed went with him.

Some time after that all happened, Detonics had reopened.   And they did come out with a new version of the Combat Master…. and this happened:


They did indeed use a regular sized front sight post… and they moved the rear sight back to where they normally go.  And then they did that.  I don’t even know what that is.  No one else did either as this version of the Combat Master was killed off almost as fast as it had come out.     Here is where it failed again.  It’s still not like a 1911… It’s still almost familiar but wrong – dead nuts in the center of the Uncanny Valley zip code.   Right where people look at it from a distance and say “hey, look at that” and then they get close enough to really see it and they are repelled.  Instinct dictates the initial attraction and the subsequent revulsion.  Because it’s not what they are familiar with it.  A hexagon barrel with the front sight mounted to it is just fine… On a Webley.  But on a 1911 pistol of any sort?

Detonics needs to bring back the Combat Master because that’s WHAT DETONICS IS.  But they need to forget that strange polygonal barrel and make it more like a traditional 1911.

The scalloping of the ejection port on the older Combat Masters is both elegant and beautiful.  That’s a nice touch that should come back.  The Rear Sight should be in the normal 1911 position.  But not a Novak ramp style.  Something more like an ICE Claw rear sight.  And give it a small Beavertail.  For better accuracy, reliability, and ballistic punch, lengthen the barrel a bit.
The other problem with the Combat Master is the Magazine.  They are shorter than the standard Officer’s model, which means you are Single Sourced for them.  Lengthen the frame just a touch so that you can use regular Officer’s Magazines.   The result is you will have a gun that fits people’s hands better and they can get a bunch of spare mags without having to sell a car to do it.
I’d even take this a step further and use a GI Guid rod and Bushing.  Take a look at the Nighthawk T3.  You know what, Detonics?  There is a waiting list for those things.  And those guns cost double your discontinued Combat Master.   Do you see the difference here?  You probably don’t.  The difference is your gun was not just different – it was strange.  While the T3 was a compact 1911 DONE WELL.  That’s the difference.  And that’s why people were waiting to pay double dollars for something that the Combat Master was competing with.

The 1911 should always feel like it’s familiar.  You should never have to break out a Manual or look up a How To video on YouTube.  The 1911 should be a 1911.  Like Apple Pie and Baseball, it should be Classic and it should be reminding their owners of heroic days past… and it should be inspiring in its accuracy and reliability for future adventures.   It it doesn’t do that, you’ve failed.   I can’t explain this any better.  If it’s not clear to you, well… Good luck.

The MTX pistol looks interesting.  But you said a 3.5″ and a 5″ version will be available in 2013.  Nothing looks worse than saying you are coming out with something and then you don’t.  Unless it’s a double stacked 1911 with a 3.5″ barrel.  Just don’t do that.  It sounds good at first but is never a good thing once it’s in the hand.  Just drop that, and concentrate on getting that 5″ version done… and maybe even do a 6″.  Do a 10mm version in 6″ because that would be awesome and something that is just not available outside of STI.  A 6″ 10mm MTX would have me drooling.

Bring back the Range Master and the Street Master.  Make the Range Master a 5″ traditional 1911 with adjustable sights and the Street Master a 4.25″ with fixed sights.  Make them like the originals, but better.  Give them Match barrels and triggers and make them as accurate and as reliable as any other high end 1911, but do it at a competitive price.  Look at Dan Wesson’s 1911’s.   They are absolutely excellent.  Do some extra touches that need to be done… Polish the rails and the locking lugs.  Polish the trigger parts so the trigger feel is absolute perfection.    And forget the gimmicks.  The only options should be polished blue or stainless.  The grips should be stunning woods with torques head screws so it looks clean.  Double Diamonds.  Traditional.  Traditional done to Perfection. Make the guns live up to their names.  It should make the person feel like he really and truly is holding something special and wonderful in their hands when they pick one up.  Nothing about it should make one raise an eyebrow.

Caliber options for all guns should be 9mm, 10mm and .45 Auto.

If at this point, you can’t do a good traditional 1911, Detonics should be allowed to die with dignity.  But for some people, the name still holds currency and we want it to succeed.  You just need a man with some vision to take charge and make the name great again.  You need another Jerry Ahern.

I’m available for contract negotiations at any time.  😉

15 thoughts on “Armchair Quarterbacking: DETONICS.”

  1. Had one of the first Detonics back in the early 80’s, one built in Bellevue WA. It was a heavy little beast and seemed to kick like mad, which could have been my reaction to it as I was fairly new to shooting. Still it never was a fav carry, too heavy, too hard even then to get mags and no real way (seemingly) to carry it ready to go except cocked and locked which to this day makes me nervious with the design of the gun. Sold it soon after getting it and never could hit much with it….now the P45 from Kahr seems (for me) to solve all those issues. Time and tech marches on Org.

  2. If you weren’t comfterable carrying cocked and locked you weren’t really ever part of the gun’s intended market. Detonics is a flaver of 1911 maker, saying you werent comfterable with cocked and locked carry is like saying you don’t like Rocky Road because it’s ice cream. Ogre had good sugestions on how to fix most if their other issues but 1911’s arent for everyone . There is however a pretty big market for anyone who can make a good one.

    1. (Here’s a tip. Try spell check) Anyway…as to cocked and locked its the most over hyped carry mode ever. Even the US Army didn’t like it when the 1911 was first used, they allowed it on horseback after the weapon was used to avoid AD’s until the horseman could get off the horse and get it back to the approved carry mode of condition 3. But if you like it go for it my comment was not on C/L’ed in general but about the Detonics design in particular which has proved problematic over time with the small hammer…IMHO

      1. A agree – no point in wasting time unlocking. Cocked and unlocked is much safer, because there’s nothing safe about needing a gun and having it be non-functional.

      2. I am not going to debate the sutability of cocked and locked carry, it’s a personal choice and I am not going to fault one’s choice either way. The point I was trying to make is that if you arent comfterable with cocked and locked there are other guns for you. Those who are comfterable with this mode of carry represent a sizeable market for Detonics if they can make a good product.

  3. Seth, my understanding has always been that the reason the rear sight was set forward and the slide had that shelf on the rear was because the CM was designed to be carried in Condition 2 (hammer down on a chambered round).

    Ogre, I disagree that the CM’s grip needs to be longer. If you lengthen it and the slide, you have a CCO, which several folks make – albeit not in steel. I’m not saying don’t make a CCO: rather, don’t kill the CM to do it. Other than that, we’re in harmony.

    IMO, the three perfect sizes of 1911-style pistols are GM, CCO, and CM. I’d take one of each.

  4. That’s an octagonal barrel, not a hexagonal (minor point, I know).

    I love the way an octagonal barrel looks on a custom single-action revolver, but this….

    …I don’t know, it kind of looks like a steampunk interpretation of a 1911.

  5. As a side note, Wilson Combat sells mags that fit and work fine in the CM.
    I have carried my Combat Masters in both condition one and 2… just to see how they were intended to be carried.
    The rear sight WAS moved forward to make it easier to cock when carried in condition 2.
    I have the CM, CCO, and GM sizes… and the little CM is truly a joy to carry and fire.


    1. I’ve seen some customs configured as such, but none that really impressed me. The .357 SIG round is a good one, but it has some issues… such as ammo price and availability.

  6. Despite the “here and gone again” nature of the CM..I still want one..btw George, you were right about the new Chevy SS..finally got to see some pics..dead sexy beast…how Ford should have done the SHO..just a wee on the pricey side..But it does look like you really get what you pay for.

    1. The shame about the SS, is that is’s going to be short lived.
      Which means every SS is going to be a collector’s car in just a few years.

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