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Colt introduced the world to the .45 ACP cartridge, thanks to the legendary M1911 single-action semi-automatic service pistol.

The M1911 was the standard-issue sidearm of the U.S. Armed Forces for 75 years, and it is still considered by many to be the best combat handgun ever designed.

When it came to producing a double-action auto-pistol in that enduringly popular caliber, however, Colt was slow on the draw. SIG Sauer got there first in 1975 with the P220, followed by Smith & Wesson with the Model 645 and 4506 in 1985 and 1988. 

It wasn’t until 1989 that Colt finally joined the market with the Double Eagle. 

Colt Double Eagle History and Specifications

The Double Eagle was marketed as part of Colt’s so-called Series 90 line. It was Colt’s first double-action auto-pistol in any caliber, not only the .45 ACP. As noted by gun writer Matt E. for The Firearm Blog:

“When they first started the project Colt’s main goal with the Double Eagle was to bring the 1911 into the 21st century and beyond. It was an ambitious project, changing the frame and controls while keeping the classic 1911 look. Colt really did try to revolutionize the 1911 platform with the Double Eagle, keeping the classic slide and creating a frame that works similarly to a SIG Sauer P220 or P226.”

The standard-sized Double Eagle had a 5-inch barrel and overall length of 8.5 inches, just like the M1911. At 42.51 ounces, it was 3.5 ounces heavier than its single-action ancestor. Also akin to the M1911, Colt produced compact Commander (4.25” bbl.) and subcompact Officers (3.25” bbl.) models, as well as chamberings in 9x19mm, 10mm, .38 Super, and a few rare .40 S&Ws. Standard magazine capacity was 8 rounds.

The gun was discontinued in 1997 after a mere eight years.

Okay, So What Went Wrong?

I know some people who absolutely loved the Double Eagle, including the early-1990s staff of Shooting Times, and my late friend and mentor Officer Dave Weiner of the Pasadena Police Department’s Firearms Team. Dave in particular told me, “The Double Eagle totally kicks butt!” In addition, famed gun writer Dean A. Grennell praised the pistol in his 1989 “Gun Digest Book of the .45.” The Double Eagle even graced the book’s cover. 

Other experts weren’t so complimentary. Most prominently, Massad F. Ayoob of the Lethal Force Institute wrote a decidedly unflattering review of the gun in American Handgunner. 

Travis Pike sums up quite bluntly what went wrong with the Double Eagle in an October 2022 article for Pew Pew Tactical:

“When you removed the grip panels, you exposed tiny parts that could easily fall out. One spring can leap out of the decocker when you remove the left side grip…Also, if your plastic grips broke, your gun could be disabled until you can repair them…Guns like the Beretta 92FS held almost double the capacity of Colt’s single-stack design…In addition, guns like the Smith and Wesson 4506 were very similar to the Double Eagle. The 4506 was cheaper and was arguably a better gun. This stiff competition made selling the Double Eagle difficult, and in 1997, production halted. Everything else was better and cheaper. What did Colt expect?”

Personal Shooting Impressions

I got to try a rental Double Eagle at the sadly defunct Santa Anita Firing Range in Monrovia, California, back in April 1991, when I was 15 years old. My impressions at the time were that I liked the pistol’s ergonomics and its appearance — unlike some old-school shooters who are partial toward blued finishes, I’m very fond of stainless steel for handguns.

Beretta M9A1.

Reliability was flawless in the 50 rounds of range-reloaded full metal jacket rounds I fired through the piece. As far as the trigger pull and the accuracy, the gun was, well, adequate. Not bad, but it didn’t give me the kind of fun factor that would’ve made me say, “Oh boy, I gotta get me one of these,” as was the case with, say, the Beretta M9 or the CZ-75

About the Author: 

Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.  In his spare time, he enjoys (besides shooting, obviously) dining out, cigars, Irish and British pubs, travel, USC Trojans college football, and Washington DC professional sports.