Shin Tao
Star Wars
Weapon Articles
Beretta Cougar

Detonics Combat Master

S&W 66 & 696

Edged Weapons


Springfield Mini-XD

Marlin 336CS

Myths & Molotovs

Magic Bullets

Medical Kits

Hate the AR-15

Beretta 92FS



Top CCW Picks

Defensive Power Factor

Army Rifle needs

Springfield 1911A1

Benelli Nova

Ballistics Chart

NAA Guardian

The AB-10

Misc Gun Stuff
3Gun Match Setup

Mongo and I

Shooting Pics

SIG Pistols

HK Weapons


More Gun Stuff
Gunsmith Directory

Manufactures List

BreakFree CLP


The Guns of the Matrix

The Guns of HEAT

The Guns of RONIN

The Guns of Equilibrium


Beretta Mini Cougar .45

Detonics Combat Master MK I


Have you ever watched a movie where the character on the screen is laying in his death bed and says “I have no regrets”?   There is a lot of envy over here when I hear that, because I have regrets… I have lots of regrets.  I regret not sending my wife flowers last Valentines Day.  I regret trading my Mustang for a Subaru.  I regret selling a 1941 German Mauser rifle.  I regret a lot of things and invent new regrets daily… but the one that just got under my skin was when I sold off a stainless Detonics Combat Master.  In my defense it was to a friend, who needed it, and I needed the cash, but for years since I have kicked myself mercilessly.


A couple months ago when the opportunity came up to acquire a different Detonics Combat Master, I jumped on it.  This was redemption.  This was a second chance.  I had to have it and I couldn’t waste time.  So I purchased it sight unseen from someone selling it out in the Blue Grass state.  I was very excited to get my new Combat Master and the wait for Fed Ex shipping was like a visit to a dental office.  When it finally arrived, I felt like Ralphie on Christmas morning. 


The first time I took it out, I was just plinking with it and pretty much just running ammo through it to make sure it was reliable.  Indeed it was.  I didn’t encounter a single jam or failure of any sort.  I was even able to make hits on the targets I was plinking at.  Since that time, the little Combat Master has been a constant companion.


You hear a lot of gun writers talk about how the 1911 is their first choice when it comes to an automatic pistol.  There are good reasons for that, but I’m not going to go into those here.  Let’s just say that the 1911 carries with it a great many admirable qualities that experts prefer.  The only problem with the 1911 is that it is a large handgun.  Custom gunsmiths used to do good business in chopping down 1911’s for under cover work.  Detonics capitalized on that trend when they rolled out the Combat Master.


Few things make me geek out like a compact .45, and nothing geeks me out more than the Combat Master.  Back when the original Detonics Combat Masters came out in the mid 70’s they were available in four calibers:  .45 ACP, .451 Detonics Magnum, .38 Super, and 9MM Parabellum.  Detonics was well ahead of their time. 


Had they been able to hold on through the Wonder Nine hype, they would have been able to reap the rewards of the reawakening that the shooting community experienced after the Crime Bill was passed and magazines were limited to a maximum of only ten rounds.  After that, all of the sudden people loved powerful compact guns.  Unfortunately, too many people had forgotten about the then defunct little company.  Those that had Combat Masters cherished them.  Few used examples are seen on the market. 


Detonics offered two things to the shooting community that is only now being appreciated.  First was offering a chopped and channeled 1911 as a production gun.  Something no one else was doing outside of one off custom jobs.  Now, Para Ordinance, Springfield, Kimber, STI and others now make them.


Second, they had their .451 Detonics Magnum which was at the time cutting edge.  Flash forward in time to this date and you have everyone offering subcompact 1911’s and then we have .45 Super and .45 SMC, or .460 Roland… all doing what was done back in the day with the .451 Detonics.


Let’s look at what these guns are all about here.  They were designed as an advanced, concealable, fighting gun.  The CIA picked up a load of them for their field agents.  You think James Bond was cool with his little .32 caliber Walther PPK?  Our Spooks were packing good old .45’s in the slickest compact automatic on the planet.  And here you probably thought they only used suppressed .22’s.  These little guns were picked up by people who needed serious power in a concealable package.  Law enforcement all across the country carried them… Federal Agents, Detectives, Private Investigators, you name it.  They were carried undercover and close to the body for all these years.  These guns were never meant to be safe queens and few ever were.  They were the gun of choice by the elite and those in the know.  They were on duty all the time.  This one was no exception, and it shows.


            These little Combat Masters even enjoyed some lime light.  If you were a fan of either Magnum PI or Miami Vice, you may have seen one.  Sonny Crocket carried his Detonics in an ankle rig, while Magnum carried his cross draw under his flowered shirts.  (How did Magnum pull off looking tough in a flowered shirt? That’s what I want to know.) They have also appeared in “The Survivalist” novels by Jerry Ahern. 


Being every bit as ruggedly handsome as Tom Selleck and as dashing as Don Johnson, I went out this morning to shoot some groups with it. Things didn’t go so well.  Talk about a bad day.  Out off all the shooting I did, I was only able to shoot one decent shot group.  (And this was with cheap CCI Blazer ammunition) My frustrations only compounded when the wood grips decided to split like kindling in my hand.


As far as 1911’s go, this one has the worst trigger I have ever felt.  And that includes a rusted out Norinco.  The hammer is getting wear marks on one side.  The brass ejection is all over the place.  The finish is flaking off.  The linkage under the barrel is worn to the point that it shakes, rattles, and rolls.  The take down pin/slide stop can just about fall out if you turn the gun sideways.  The slide to frame fit is, well, let’s just say the slide doesn’t quite fall off the frame… yet.  In all honesty, this Combat Master is worn down and out.


This specific example isn’t a gun that I would want to recommend to anyone that I cared for.  It just has too many miles on it.  Most Combat Masters that I have seen are all pretty much in the same condition.  I was at a gunshop in Salt Lake City and they had a Combat Master under the glass.  When I asked to see it, the firing pin shot out and hit me in the chest.  After 20 years of hard duty, these old war horses are due for either retirement or extensive restoration by artisan gunsmiths.


So why am I reviewing this gun for Concealed Carry Magazine?    Because here is some good news - Detonics is coming back.  New management, new factory, and they are going to be making the Combat Masters like they used to, and this is a good thing.


One of the interesting features about the Combat Master is the rear sight.  This is something people tend to pick up on right off the bat because it is very different.   The reason for this goes back to the gun fighting days before Jeff Cooper’s Modern Technique caught on.  Back then you fired from the hip not even using the sights.  You basically held it out in front of you at about belt level with one hand.  (Thank you Jeff Cooper for putting that to rest!)  It was also popular to carry the 1911 in condition two where you had to cock the hammer manually.  The Detonics was the ideal little gun for that kind of fighting.  With the rear sight moved forward and the deck contoured down, it allowed for the shooter to “fan” the hammer back just like they did in the old west.  It was a very fast method for the time.  Of course, we now recognize the advantages that John Moses Browning built into the 1911 with its ability to be properly carried in condition one.   The old gunfighter days are best left to the western movies.


The Combat Master also used a captive recoil spring and a bushingless cone barrel.  These two features are common now, even on a 1911 clone, but back in the day that was cutting edge stuff.  Another interesting feature that sets a Detonics apart from the others is the scalloping that they did to the ejection port.  This MK I example has it as you can see in the picture.  This exposes the extractor a bit and allows for a free ejection as is common on all other automatics that use an external extractor.  Chalk that up to another “before its time” item.  Now we see external extractors on all sorts of 1911’s.  Wilson Combat and Kimber are two, just to name a couple off the top of my head. Another advantage of this is that you can actually see the rim of the cartridge if the chamber is loaded.  No need for a loaded chamber indicator or other gimmick.   There is of course no need to press check either; you can see it. 


Jeff Cooper wrote in Guns and Ammo: “This remarkable pistol is the smallest, lowest recoil single action .45 caliber semi-automatic in the world. The Detonics .45 is a premium quality professional tool for the serious handgun expert and combat shooter. It is capable of providing the brute force stopping power of the standard-sized .45 in a size no larger than a snub-nosed .38, or "pocket" 9mm auto. The Detonics .45 has an advanced mechanism which reduces the apparent recoil remarkably below the full-sized .45. This awesomely powerful pistol is smaller, more easily concealed, and has greater short/medium range rapid fire accuracy than any single action .45 weapon available today. This masterpiece of combat design is gaining recognition as the finest defensive handgun in the world today.”


            There are probably a lot of guys like me who appreciate what the Combat Master was, and are very much looking forward to the new ones -   especially when the guy leading the new Detonics charge is none other than Jerry Ahern.  These new Detonics guns should be just as good if not better than the old, and if that is the case, I would recommend getting one at the first opportunity.


            Now I have to decide what to do with this Combat Master.  Retire it, or restore it?  Considering this little gun’s history and how well it carries concealed, I’m thinking it deserves a trip to a good gunsmith so it can pull its duty for another 20 years.



29 Ounces, 6.75 inches long, 4.5 inches height.  Sight radius is 4 inches. Barrel Length is 3.5 inches.  Trigger Pull: 2/16th take up followed by a 3/16th inch pull the 6 pound break.  Reach to the trigger is customizable, this one is .6 rounds in the magazine, and any 1911 type mag can work but will extend past the grips.


The new Detonics USA website:


Salt Lake City, Utah has a nice quiet little boutique mall over on the east side called Trolley Square. When I lived in the Sugar House area of SLC on 700 East, my family and I used to go there on an almost regular basis. We were just down the street. It was a favorite of my wife's. My boys liked it because of the arcade upstairs, and I liked it because of the Brazilian grill. There used to be a neat little celtic shop there with music and art and jewelry. My wife loved that store.

I was planning on going out there to buy my wife some of that jewelry for a special occasion. I was gassed up and ready to head out when I learned that the little shop was no longer there. I had mentioned going there to a couple friends. One of them asked me to pick something up for them... the other said “I don't think that store is there anymore.” Well, crap. So much for that, time to go to a plan B and got my wife something else.

About 3 hours later the news reported something dreadful... a shooting right there at Trolley Square. That is about as long as it would have taken me to get there, about 3 hours driving a tick above the speed limit like I do. Had I gone, I would have been there right when the peace and calmness of Trolley Square was blasted apart by a maniac with a shotgun. I would have been in the thick of it. I always park in the corner parking lot where the maniac fired at people. He entered the mall at the entrance where my destination used to be and where I would have entered. Had I gone, I'd have very likely come face to face with this monster... and it would not have ended well. The gun hidden on my hip was a compact 9MM. The gun the maniac wielded was a pump action 12 gauge. Those are not odds I would want to roll the dice on. I am glad I made the last minute decision not to go.
An off duty police officer from Ogden, about an hour's drive north of Salt Lake, did go. He packed his trusty .45 and went on his way not expecting an ugly event, but was prepared for it. Not just with hardware, but with mental conditioning. When the shooting started this man, this hero, kept his head. He identified himself to responding uniform police, he coordinated with them, and when they made the move, he had the self confidence and self control to focus on what had to be done to save the lives of hundred of people.

My mind boggles at possible outcomes of what would have happened if I had gone. It shook me up a bit and taught me a good hard lesson. Don't think that your part of the world is immune to ugliness and violence. Don't think “it can't happen here”. At the same time we can't live in fear, we are not a paranoid people expecting goblins to spring upon us at any given second. But we have to be prepared for it, just in case. This is way we carry concealed weapons. This is why you are reading this magazine. This is why we try to learn and improve the skills that could save our lives and the lives of our loved ones. My 13 year old son would have been with me. He would have been in the line of fire just like I would have been. It haunts me to my core the thought that I might have let him down. What if I was taken by surprise or my reaction was too slow or my aim was off, or my shot ineffective? I kid you not, I wasn't able to sleep for weeks. I've made an oath to myself... I will strive harder to better prepare myself for such dark hours. I will train harder. Practice harder. And should the time come that I be tested again, I will hit harder. I'm even trying to get myself back into fighting shape. I'm at 50 push ups on the Army PT test. Used to be able to do 75, but I'm working on getting that back. I've been out for a long time now... but at least I'm doing something. What are you doing?

I am not the only person to have such thoughts. Since the Trolley Square shooting I've been selling a lot of compact handguns. A good portion of those have been concealable .45's. Most of those have been made by Kimber, the rumored brand of our Ogden hero. (I don't use that word lightly) People are wanting guns that can disappear in polite company while delivering as much firepower as possible should the need arise. Big boom taking up little room.

This is where the Detonics Combat Master comes in. The king of the compact .45 pistols. Imitated but never duplicated. I've reviewed the Detonics Combat Master before. Long time readers will remember my review of the Combat Master from the old Detonics company... remember the one with the wood grips that split in my hand when firing test shots? Good times, that. Detonics, as a company, is not a Cinderella story. It's more like the mythological story of the Pheonix. It lives for a time, burns up and dies, then rises again from the ashes. I will not go into the history of the company. If you want to read that, go to and read it there.

I've always believed that Detonics was ahead of the game, ahead of its time. Look at everything Detonics developed for the 1911 type pistol that is now the norm. Bushingless barrels, captive recoil springs, multiple recoil springs together, lowered ejection ports, 3 dot sights... this is just the short list. Pretty much all the best things we enjoy on our 1911's. Heck, Detonics was even able to fix the problem of galling in stainless steel guns. Jerry “I liked it so much I bought the company” Ahern is not a guy to let things coast along. The guy is an Idea Man. He's a writer. He's made his living coming up with new things. I'm looking forward to seeing what is coming next from these mad scientists.

Even though the gun is so small, it shoots very well. The sight radius is short and even more abbreviated thanks to the DCM's unique profile. This makes accurate shooting more of a challenge to the under-practiced. If you apply yourself, you can make good hits with it. With a smidgen of dedication, making hits becomes instinctual. Recoil is perfectly manageable thanks to the well engineered recoil springs. It recoils less than a Kimber Ultra Carry. The only gun of this type that has less recoil is the Springfield V-10, which sports 5 compensating ports on each side of the top of the barrel but it is longer by half an inch.

My pinky swings freely under the magazine floor plate. This used to be annoying to me and is probably annoying to most shooters. After examining and shooting small handguns on a regular basis, I've grown used to this. It's not that I am going to start holding up my pinky while sipping tea or anything, but when I fire a handgun that has the room for a full hand grip, it feels like I'm driving a luxury car... like a new Cadillac STS. Still, with only a two fingered grip and firing full power .45 loads such as the Winchester SXT round, the DCM remains fully controllable and confidence inspiring.

When I showed the DCM to a group of shooters, I was asked how much the DCM retails for. I answered “Twelve hundred”. You would have thought I said “The keys to your house” by the reactions. Really, twelve is not that bad considering what you are getting. A solid stainless custom featured compact 1911 with no MIM parts. MIM means “metal injection molded” and that means the parts are made by squirting liquid metal into a mold the same way plastic parts are made. The upshot to this is that the parts can be made cheaper and faster. The downside is that they can contain voids internally that you don't know about until the parts break. MIM parts are also a touch more prone to shearing and breaking that other metal parts. I know thousands of MIM parts are in thousands of guns that get shot ever day and are just fine. Yet, I've seen several MIM parts that look like they just cracked and crumbled. While you should be just fine... I'd rather not have MIM parts in my handguns. My youngest son's toy gun, fine. My gun that I might one day have to use to defend my boy's life with? No thank you. I've had gunsmiths replace the MIM parts in my other 1911's... it is nice to not to have to do that on this one. I don't mind paying a premium for this. I feel like I am getting a better gun for my money.

The DCM really has only one peer at this level in the game and that is the Kimber CDP. The Detonics brings to the game a long historically interesting pedigree while the CDP brings with it a snappy two tone finish and night sights. Really the only advantage the CDP has is those night sights. Luckily tritium is not reserved for Kimber alone. Both pistols have a similar MSRP. The CDP is $1255 while the DCM is a straight up $1200. The CDP is also longer gripped and that much more difficult to conceal.

Yes, these are more than many production 1911 type guns... but so what? Are you going to cheap out on your parachute or are you going to buy the one most likely to keep you from getting splattered? To me, in something like this, price is not a consideration. Firearms are one of those things that you do really get what you pay for. Save your money on cheap mayonnaise and ketchup... but get a good defensive firearm. Many gun shops have a layaway program. Save your spare change. Start a swear jar... whatever you do. But please, don't cheap out on your personal defensive weapon.

While I don't paying extra for a nice gun, I do feel that the Combat Master could use some upgrades. Back in the 80's no one had night sights... this is now a new century and a gun with this purpose needs night sights. It could also use a carry bevel or “melt” job done to it to slick up all the edges. That has become a common trait of upper end CCW guns, and should be standard here. The Combat Master started all this, it should be the final word... one should want for nothing with this pistol. Yet without these things, the gun remains fantastic. Just another thing that might work out very well on the DCM, an LDA type trigger. Such as Para's Light Double Action. I know several shooters who love the DCM but would never buy one or carry one because it is a single action only that doesn't have a grip safety. Yes, I remind them of the Browning High Power, but they are not convinced. They remain turned off by the lack of a grip safety or the fact that you carry this with the hammer down on a hot chamber. That is too “old school” for them. Maybe the DCM isn't for everyone. That's fine. There is no accounting for taste. But Detonics as a company might want to look at addressing these issues to bring in new customers who do not remember the 80's. More customers couldn't hurt.

I've not mentioned the grips yet. For such small pieces of lumber, these grips are gorgeous. The photos do not do justice. The deep red tones and flawless checkering... man. The clean lines of the stainless steel with these red wood grips... sexy. Forgive me for sounding crass, but this is like a hot blond in a little red dress. It makes the Combat Master look like it was named wrong. This is like Scarlett Johanson winning an Ultimate Fighter Championship. It is a shame that such a good looking handgun has to be worn concealed. I wish society was still like the 1800's and we could walk around town with open holsters to show off guns like this.

In shooting the gun, I am reminded just how good such a small gun can be... it is perfectly reliable with all ammunition fired and easy on the hands. Jerry warned me that the new DCM is not fully reliable with the old DCM magazines. I heeded his warning for only a little while and of course ended up using an old one too. Still didn't jam on me. I fired what I thought was a nice shot group. Ben then turned around and fired an even better one. No, he didn't have a flier to ruin his group like I did, but I've still shown my group.

In my previous review, I said “These new Detonics guns should be just as good if not better than the old, and if that is the case, I would recommend getting one at the first opportunity.” Guys, there is no question about this any more. The new ones are every bit as good if not better than the older ones. Better yet, Detonics also makes a bunch of other 1911 type guns if the Combat Master is just not your thing. The line forms to the right.

Calibers: .45 ACP, .40 S&W, .357 SIG, .38 Super, 9mm Para (9x19)

Length: 7”

Barrel: 3.5”

Height: 4.75”

Width: 1.25”

Weight: 34 ounces

Capacity: 6 +1 (.45 ACP)

MSRP: $1200 USD

UPDATE:  Flight of the Phoenix: The latest version of Detonics has flamed out again. I am told that Jerry Ahern had been given the boot and that shortly there after the company totally went under yet again. While some folks have had personality issues with Jerry, I'll be honest... I liked him. And I was happy to see him pick Detonics up out of the ashes. It's too bad that the company failed again... but I can see why. First off, the bread and butter gun was Combat Master. They didn't quite make it just like the older Combat Masters were. The artistic scalloping to the ejection port wasn't there, instead it has a beveled relief cut. Some of the edges were sharp and unforgiving when they should have been rounded and softened. My first review of the new Combat Master was positive, but after living with it for an unintentional extended period... I've grown less tolerant of the character flaws. For one, the gun is made of cast parts, cast frame, cast slide... I don't care how tough casting can be, for a 1200 dollar gun the damn thing should be milled from forged billets blessed by the Gods. It should have night sights. The only real competitors are the couple small STI's out there and the Kimber Ultra CDP... The Kimber Ultra CDP kicks the Detonics' trash on multiple levels for the same amount of scratch. Looking at the two side by side, I can't see why anyone would opt for the Combat Master. Then there is the weight issue. The Combat Master is freaking heavy. For a Concealed Carry Gun, it needs to be smoother, softer, and lighter. Not heavy, coarse, and unrefined... you don't want to put this down your pants. You would rather have a Rosie O'Donald going down your pants, or a Kate Beckensale? You decide. The last thing about the Detonics that needed to be addressed, the trademarked chopped rear portion of the slide. This is an outdated styling feature that does give the gun some character, but ends up reducing the effectiveness for no useful purpose. If The Ogre was to buy Detonics and put it into operation, I would do it easily... I'd farm out to Smith & Wesson for the frames and slides. They would all be light weight Officer sized frames, not specially shortened so they require special mags because they are just too damn short frames. I'd put night sights on, and leave the profile alone. Everyone wants Novak style rear sights – I'd give them Novak style rear sights with tritium inserts. To give the gun a “Detonics” kind of look, I'd leave out the characteristic 1911 style muzzle end milling and make it with a full length dust cover. Some versions would have a rail that would accept the Springfield XML light. Only then would I have the balls to call my little 1911 mutant a “Combat Master”. Next size up would be a straight up Officer's model, then a Commander sized pistol, and then the regular 5” Government Model. Stainless slides on top of light weight alloy frames, full melt jobs and all ready to roll with widened mag wells and good safety levers. Why would I want to make my 1911's like this? Because these are the 1911's that are selling. 1911's with features like these are what the market wants – and if you are not making 1911's that has these – then you are not going to be selling many guns. If you are not selling them, then you are going to crash and burn like Detonics has been doing. If they are going to try to make another come back – then they are going to have to do it right. Sure the 1911 market is a crowded one, but there is room at the table if you are doing it right. Grasping on to 1970's/80's nostalgia only works so far, and then again, it could only be a fad at best. The original company had vision and made some great innovations... the company was truly ahead of its time... but the later incarnations have all been “Remember how cool we used to be?” That act reminds me of the father from Married with Children when he talked about high school football. It really sucks that Detonics had to learn that lesson the hard way. Again. I don't expect this company to rise out of the ashes again... I think this one has closed the chapter on the company for good. I mean, you take Detonics' biggest fan, put him in charge, and then still drive it all into the ground. The problem might not be in the CEO, but in the board. What did the board do to ruin the guy's enthusiasm? What did they not allow him to do? Interesting questions, eh?





Donate to via PayPal to support, or God will kill a kitten.

Copyright G H Hill 1999-2012

The 4 Rules of Firearms Safety:

1.  Handle all firearms as if they were loaded.

2.  Never point the gun at anything you're not willing to destroy.

3.  Keep your finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard until you have made the decision to fire the weapon.

4.  Know your target, and know what is beyond the target.

Firearms News