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Old 09-14-2005, 03:02 PM
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Location: Not Seattle, WA, USA
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(short) test of Detonics USA Combat Master

I have an original Seattle address Combat Master from '79. I bought the gun, in unfired condition, in '99, and didn't put a whole lot of rounds through it until this Spring. I've been shooting it in monthly IDPA matches, about 1000 rounds total, and have really grown to like the gun, while accepting its limitations.
I had an opportunity to briefly examine a new Detonics USA (Pendergrass, GA) Combat Master, and put a few rounds through it. The gun came via an acquaintance who gets guns for testing from manufacturers, and both he, and another person who'd tested it, claimed it "didn't work".
Externally, the gun had an even, beadblast finish, with laminated "rosewood" grips. Cosmetically, the niggles included a large gap between the mainspring housing and the frame, on the right side, and a number of smaller gaps where the mainspring housing, frame and grip plate (non-functional grip safety) come together. Other than that, the gun looked good, especially at the rear, where the slide, frame, extractor and ejector can fit unevenly and look bad. No attempt had been made to dehorn the pistol, and there were many sharp edges on the slide and frame (more about this, later). The mainspring housing appears to be stainless, so the gun weighs a couple of ounces more than the original Combat Masters, which had rubber-covered, aluminum Pachmayr mainspring housings.
While I think the distinctive appearance of the Combat Master, with its forward-set rear sight is "cool", the gun would be more useful with the sight at the back of the slide. I'd like to see a Heinie rear, and a taller front sight to match. Likewise, the abbreviated frame tangs make the gun look very compact, but in a single action auto it's the cocked hammer that dictates how compact the gun really is, so why not at least a stubby "grip safety" tang to protect the hammer and improve handling? The Phoenix-based New Detonics of the late '80s addressed both these issues, so why now revert back to the classic, but less functional configuration of the Seattle/Bellevue guns?
I field-stripped the pistol, and the inside looked very good. No noticeable tool marks, and everything fit together smoothly. It did appear dry, and I wondered if that contributed to it's reported unreliability.
The next day, I took the gun, the supplied (Metalform marked) mags, and a box of my handloads - 150 of which my own gun had just gobbled up - and decided to see if the gun indeed did not work. After a squirt of Militech lube, I loaded up a mag, racked a round in the chamber, lined-up on a bush growing out of the 30 yards' distant berm, and fired a round. I was disappointed to see a stove-pipe jam. Upon further examination, it was obvious that the slide had dragged heavily on my thumb, and I attributed the malf to operator error. I've had this problem before, of both stove-pipes and failures to feed, caused by the slide rubbing my strong-hand thumb, and I've developed a "Combat Master Grip", with my strong thumb held slightly to the outside of my weak thumb, to prevent it. I grabbed the gun more carefully, and emptied the mag. POA/POI was pretty good, even at 30 yards. I loaded another mag, and though the gun again ran without problem, I simply could not get my thumb out of the way of the slide. Blood was now gushing out of the wound inflicted by the sharp cocking serrations, so I handed the gun to someone else. Six more rounds downrange without a blip. I loaded one more mag, and squeezed them off weak-handed, to see if the gun was running on the edge of reliability, as iffy springs or grip strength can reveal, but the gun ran fine. So, only 30 rounds, but a good showing.
After bandaging my thumb, it occurred to me just how much harder than my gun this new one kicks. I have no trouble keeping my gun on target for double-taps, but this new gun really bucked in my hand and upset my grip with each shot. My gun has the older 2-spring recoil system, and it's been fitted with an EGW firing pin stop, and perhaps these differences play a part.
I'd like to think that the gun I shot was a pre-production model, and that the cosmetic problems have been corrected on guns shipping to the public. I hope so, if Detonics hopes to make a dent in the $1000 pistol market. With the noted problems corrected, the new Combat Master would be a viable carry gun or "deep concealment" piece for those who value small size over light weight.
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