This Cyotee Ain’t Ugly!


by R,K, Campbell

photography by R.K. Campbell

June 17, 2006




The 1911 pistol has served well for nearly one hundred years, and remains at the top of the heap in the hearts and minds of dedicated handgunners. Some truly need a defensive weapon, and I was once one of those. Today, that need is less apparent but I earnestly exercise my right to keep and bear arms and to be armed. I also test handguns to the Nth degree. I have to admit that the modern 1911 is a much more highly developed pistol that the one that fought in two great wars, or even the pistols that fought a decade ago. Great advancements have been made. After a considerable error in judgment, the United States Armed Forces will once more be armed with the .45 caliber pistol in the near future, almost certainly some form of 1911 pistol. This pistol may not be as tight as some commercial 1911 pistols, but then we can have a target pistol or a service pistol. The Army needs a service pistol. The piece should be field stripped by hand, not desiring a tool of any type for this chore. All the pistols should be identical, with the ability to use the others' parts without fitting. This means throw the disassembled pistols in a barrel for cleaning, put them together, and go shooting. I think perhaps the Europeans, with their pistols using carefully matched serial numbers on the major parts, just didn’t get it. And their pistols are not as reliable as ours.

But that is the deal with service pistols. When it comes to a personal pistol, tightly fitted pistols can surprise you with their accuracy, and reliability is just fine. As long as you do not drop them in a muddy creek or allow them to become clogged with vegetation you will be fine. If you do not clean the pistol it will become clogged with powder as surely as a carpetbagger gets plugged up during the Carolina pollen season. I felt perfectly secure in using a super tight lock up in the latest 1911 worked up on the bench. The pistol was assembled from parts ordered from the pages of Shotgun News, with two exceptions. The first exception is that the piece is fitted with Kim Ahrends tactical grip panels. There is nothing more subtle than a good set of grip panels. First, the 1911 allows quite a bit of leeway in accessories. The "Mister Potato Head" of pistols, the 1911 is fertile ground for modification. The slim grip panels of the original are ok in most regards, particularly when checkered. But the Ahrends grips are a development that gives ideal service. The bottom quadrant of the grips are checkered for good purchase when firing, in exactly the correct area to do the most good. But the smooth upper component allows the hand to quickly move to the checkered component or adjust the grip after the piece is in hand. If the reverse were the correct course, with the checkering on top of the grip, then Ahrends would have done just that. He did not. The present style and execution of the grip panels are ideal for all around use. They are not so raspy they may produce excess wear on clothing in concealed carry, but offer a firm hand weld when firing heavy loads. 

The second addition to the piece was added at the insistence of my friends at Cyotee Custom. This is Trijicon night sights. A fighting pistol should offer a twenty four hour sighting system, and this means self luminous iron sights. Night sights consist of a glass vial filled with radioactive tritium. These tubes are shock mounted in rubber in iron sights. The glow you see is your own personal radioactive furnace. There are quite a few configurations, but the standard three dot style is acceptable. The fitting of the sights is flawless and with the proper height ordered, the pistol was spot on when fired for regulation.

One may expect the trigger action would be light and crisp. It is actually heavy at five pounds, but I may get to that later. The news is the finish. Most shooters do not maintain their pistols properly. A high grade finish does not alleviate that responsibility, but it gives the option of having greater confidence in the pistol's ability to survive in a harsh environment. Cyotee Custom is a new player but talented. The pistol was treated to a two tone ceramic base finish. This finish is functional and has that certain look that I like if I cannot explain why. Beginning with my first sight of a red and black Buick Roadmaster, I have liked two tone paint schemes. This finish has several compelling advantages beyond the visual appeal.

The finish has high hardness. Those of us who practice rapid draws from tightly fitted leather will appreciated this low wear advantage. But the finish also has low friction. Finally, the scientific description of the finish adhesion to metal is that of ‘intimate bond’. The finish also has the corrosion resistance we demand of a space age coating.

I took the finish to the test, holstering and drawing the piece 500 times from a variety of Don Hume holsters, mostly the 721 type.  The 721 features an accessible thumb break and a speed cut in the front, making this holster among the fastest and most secure holsters for plainclothes officers. A good sharp ten draws a day is a good practice regimen, but I doubled and sometimes trebled the regimen to test the Cyotee finish. There is not wear of any type. Remember, that is five hundred in and five hundred out, plus incidental wear in daily carry.  The Cyotee finish gets high marks - and it is surprisingly affordable. 

This pistol features a 18.5 pound WC Wolff recoil spring, a Clark Custom Guns guide rod, and a Wilson Combat Shock Buff. (Do not fit a shock buff to an original GI type intended for defense use. The pistol will not allow the slide to be racked sufficiently to the rear to clear a dud cartridge in case of a malfunction. The slide window is large enough to eject spent cases, but when travel is proscribed by the shock buff, the piece cannot fully eject a loaded round without dropping the magazine and angling the cartridge down. ) I have fired the piece with a number of very interesting loads, all with perfect function. Among the outstanding loads tested are the near .45 Super loads from Buffalo Bore. Featuring the Gold Dot bullet, these loadings bridge the narrow gap between +P .45 ACP loadings and standard .45 Super loads. They are perfectly acceptable in a properly set up 1911. The Cyotee custom pistol performed quite well, largely due to a tight lock up and excellent sights. The Buffalo Bore 185 grain +P load not only broke well over 1170 fps, but five shots from a careful bench rest into a group measuring one and one quarter inch from center to center of the most widely dispersed bullet holes. While the pistol is quite well made and tightly put together, not every manufacturer’s ammunition will equal these results. The 230 grain JHP was practically as accurate, with a bit more of a smack in the palm of the hand.

Moving to personal handloads, I elected to use a load that has proven mighty accurate in good tight 1911s. This is a maximum load, using 7.2 (Seven point two/seven and two tenths) grains of Alliant Unique powder. The projectile is the Hornady XTP, a bullet that features a long bearing surface. Well balanced and accurate, the XTP is a good choice for a heavy duty loading. This loading breaks 920 fps from the Cyotee custom pistol according to the Competition Electronics chronograph. Accuracy was good, about one and three quarters inch at seventy five feet for five rounds. My favorite heavy duty handload, it gives up little in performance to the Buffalo Bore load. But, I will admit a high grade custom maker has done a better job than I in producing top end ammunition. Buffalo Bore offers first class products.

Handloading is time consuming and high end custom ammunition comparatively expensive, so we wish to isolate an inexpensive loading that gives good results in practice. Wolf Ammunition has recently introduced both brass cased and polymer coated brass case loads. Performance has been good, with no misfires. The ammunition is designed with feed reliability first in mind. I tested a number of the new 185 grain JHP load with good results. Five shot twenty five yard groups are about three inches to a little less, about what I expect from my bulk handloads using FMJ bullets. This is a good resource, especially for combat practice at moderate range. At twenty one feet, average combat range, this load will cut one ragged hole. I was a little surprised the milder 185 grain load functioned with one hundred per cent reliability, but this is a bonus. The heavy springs reduce wear with the 230 grain hardball load but allow the use of a standard 185 grain JHP as well - and function fine with the Buffalo Bore loads. The combination of a Clark Guide rod and WC Wolff spring is a good one.

During the test program I used a variety of magazines. Some were chosen for economy and others for performance. The Wilson Combat magazine presents the bullet nose more into the chamber than onto the feed ramp, enhancing feed reliability with both older style pistols and the newest custom pistol. I am certain the Wilson Combat magazines were a significant contribution to the overall reliability of the pistol.

I am well pleased with every aspect of this pistol. I may address the trigger action at a later date. I can wrestle a heavy trigger off the bench but in off hand fire I am certain a smoother trigger would be more manageable.

This is a fine 1911, with good sights and other good features, but the finish is the big story. Cyotee Custom is a new operation but the finish is professional, with attention to detail that shows. The sight installation by this job is flawless. Overall, good work and attention to detail on a custom pistol. More than just a custom pistol, this is a  personal pistol. The pistol was pretty ugly before, although it was assembled and fitted properly.  This is a case of Grandma getting a facelift and new teeth as well. It is dynamite on good looks and long wear. We all need a little show, but this pistol isn’t like your high school girlfriend, all show and no go. It will get down with the best of them. I have been brash enough for fire over 1,000 rounds of full power ammunition in the piece without cleaning. The finish requires at best a good wipe and it is good to go.

Overall, a good example of the 1911 and a well turned out pistol.

Cyotee's web site will be up soon at, or you can Email them at

R.K. Campbell

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Click pictures for a larger version.


This shot was a lot of fun- Casey says green guns are OK. This is another space age pistol.



This Cyotee aint ugly and there is nothing that brings a smile to the face of a grizzled oldster more than a young lady who can actually shot straight. Female shooters - but all are welcome - may wish to see Casey on the cover of the latest issue of "Women and Guns".



The Cyotee Custom piece is simply first class in all regards.



A major advantage of this pistol is the comfort and tactical application of Ahrends grips.



Unobtrusive and snag free, Trijicon sights are a good addition to any combat handgun.



Wolf ammunition has given good results in the author’s 1911s, offering real economy and good performance.



Wolf’s new 185 grain JHP delivered good performance. We will investigate its self defense potential at a later date.



Good gear compliments each other – the Cyotee Custom pistol with an EK Commando knife.