Less than an hour after I laid hands on the Cabot Guns S103 Commander I was putting lead on targets. After my previous experience with their Black Diamond’s reliability (eventually and completely rectified), I wasn’t going to waste my time if the S103 wasn’t totally reliable straight out of the box.
Over the next two days, I shot 500 rounds through the S103 without any kind of malfunction, with all kinds of ammunition, various brands of magazines, and zero cleaning or maintenance of any kind.
That settled that. But not everything . . .
I had one complaint. The frame near the S103’s grip safety had a relatively sharp angle that was uncomfortable when depressed, becoming noticeable when firing long strings. It wasn’t a manufacturing blemish — Cabots don’t have manufacturing blemishes. It was down to how the frame was cut.
Seeing as how I was still able to ram 500 rounds through the S103 Commander in two days of shooting, it wasn’t a big deal. But even at this lower price point (for a Cabot), I expected perfection.
So I mentioned it to Cabot CEO Rob Bianchin. He said he’d never heard that objection before, and asked me to return the gun. They rounded the S103’s edge and declared their intention to do so with future firearms.
I asked Rob how much the folks at Cabot go out and pound on these beautiful, high-end 1911s. I challenged him to bring some Indiana Cabots to Austin, Texas, to see what their high-end handguns can do. In short, I asked him to put his money where his mouth is. Surrender some $4000 to $12,000 guns for TTAG’s team to hammer on.
Challenge made. Challenge accepted.
With several members of TTAG staff and extended firearms family in tow, Cabot Chief of Operations Mike Hebor journeyed to Best of the West Shooting Sports with 10 Cabots. Mr. Hebor brought the S103, an American Joe, a Jones Delux, an S100, a true left-handed Government model, and a few more.
TTAG brought a couple thousand rounds of Blazer and American Eagle .45ACP — target rounds that probably aren’t what owners normally run through their Cabots. Though presented with a smorgasbord of some of the most beautiful guns you’ll ever see, all I wanted to do was to put that S103 through its paces again. I wanted Mr. Hebor to see first-hand what I expected a 1911 to do.
For the first rounds out of the gun, I used my EDC 1911 magazines and the spare mags I carry in my truck. I’d filled those six mags with my 185gr Hornady XTP hand loads, Remington’s 185gr Golden Sabers, and SIG SAUER’s 200gr V-Crown JHPs. While everyone was loading the Federal and Blazer FMJ’s into still more mags, I emptied mine onto a series of Action Targets. The results: zero failures. Forty-six mixed self-defense rounds ringing steel. Lead flying. Hope in the air.
What happened next can only be described as a firearms feeding frenzy. As a shooter or two would go on the line and fire, everyone else loaded magazines. Simply put, the firing never stopped. In about an hour, we blew through a thousand rounds of .45. I asked the S103 to bring it and, oh, it brought it.
I put 358 rounds through that pistol in 23 minutes. Just for starters.
I gave the S103 a brief respite when the slide got too hot to touch. Then we got back at it. All in all, for both tests, our team put around 900 rounds through the S103, half of those at break neck speed. I seriously doubt anyone at Cabot has ever seen one of their guns worked so hard.
Through all of this I had only one failure to fully eject at around round 180: a stovepipe. To be fair, the Blazer round felt wrong when I shot it. As soon as I pulled the trigger I knew something was different. It was the only malfunction of any kind I experienced, and was almost certainly due to an undercharged round.
We fed the gun using magazines from STI, Wilson Combat and Cabot Guns. We had one issue with one Wilson mag — until we realized that it didn’t work in any gun other than RF’s Officer-framed 1911. It wouldn’t fully seat in any of the Cabots, my STI or my Colt — a mag issue, not a gun problem.
Folks, you can complain about the Cabot’s price. You can complain about the stars in the trigger (which I dig). But you can’t complain about the S103’s reliability. What we did that day would have been a good amount of shooting for an AR-15. For a four-inch commander-framed .45? Go out and try it with your EDC and let me know how far you get in 23 minutes.
What about accuracy?
During my first test with this pistol, using the supplied 185gr ASYM HPs, my five-round groups were an average of 1.4”. I shot those groups for 84 rounds, and the deviation was never more than .2”. Not bad at all.
What about when I wasn’t feeding the S103 Commander the very nice and expensive ASYM rounds and the gun was still hot to the touch?
I didn’t have a proper bench set-up and no bags, so I paced off 25 yards and laid down in the prone. Using garden variety American Eagle 230gr FMJ’s, the gun still shot extremely well, printing a 1¾” seven-shot group. Note: that’s without cleaning or lubing of the gun after the initial shots of the day, while the frame was still hot from shooting.
The S series is an “entry level” Cabot. As such, the S103 Commander doesn’t wear the deep lustrous finish of the higher end Cabot models. The S103’s finish is pure satin, done exceptionally well. As you’d expect, there were no blemishes, tool marks, errors or mistakes anywhere on the gun. None.
The S103’s slide itself is marked only at the rear with the CG star logo. There’s no roll mark forward of the rear cocking serrations. It puts the focus on the gun’s clean lines and great design, a much appreciated departure from other high-end manufacturers. The S103 exudes class and quality.
The top of the S103 has been finished to perfection. The flattened top of the slide is serrated, with the angles matching those of the flat front of the rear site to the point of the front sight. The rear sight is a matte black, non-adjustable ramp sight. It’s the optional front sight that really sets this gun apart, though.
This gun has a wide brass bead front sight, similar to those on my best hunting revolvers. The sight absolutely shines in the light, and works beautifully in fast fire. Beyond its purely functional appeal, the front sight also punctuates the style of the pistol.
Cabot offers a few options to make the pistol you buy your own. Chief amongst them: the finish, the grips and the sights. If you wanted to seriously pretty-up this already attractive gun, you could go with their fancy walnut grips, checkered or carved with lines from the Golden Mean. Cabot also offers a satin black finish, but it would be hard for me to choose anything other than the brushed steel of the model I reviewed.
[Southpaws take special note: for $350 more, this gun can be made in a true left hand configuration, including the ejection port.]
The main Cabot line uses a computer machining process to create repeatable tolerances well beyond what the human eye, or hand, can accomplish. The S103’s manufacturing process is more traditional, requiring hand fitting of the frame to the slide. But that doesn’t mean the gun is just another 1911 Commander.
The original Colt Commander doesn’t feel like the Government model when the gun cycles. Those Commanders feel snappier, and that’s not just due to the reduced the weight. To get a Commander to cycle reliably, Colt reduced the length of the recoil stroke of the slide with shorter rails.
The Colt Government slide rails measure 5.766” and frame rails are at 3.539”. A traditional Colt Commander measures 5.566” for the slide rails and 3.439” for the frame rails.
Cabot wanted their Commander-length slide to feel like a Government-length slide. So they changed the design of the barrel, bushing, and recoil system to maintain the same length of the slide and frame rails. The S103’s slide and rails are the same length as a Colt Government’s.
Cabot calls this “Full Cycle Technology” and it accounts for the improved feel as the gun cycles and returns to battery.
The first time I shot this gun, it was full-on Texas summer, with heat over the century mark. That’s where the execution of the grip of the Cabot S103 was much appreciated. Both the front and back straps of the frame are firmly checkered, and they dig right into my fingers. The scales are black scalloped G10 with the Cabot shield medallion in the center. The small cut on the left scale gives me easy access to the magazine release, which is large and well textured.
Cabot’s reputation took a serious ding when I reviewed their Black Diamond a while back. Again, the company went out of its way to correct the gun and their manufacturing and quality control processes. In fact, they moved their entire operation to a dedicated facility and hired new staff to improve their product. Seriously.
Cabot Guns’ ability to produce fully functional, exquisitely beautiful, perfectly finished 1911’s is now beyond reproach. The “entry-level” S103 proved this to my complete satisfaction.
Specifications: Cabot Guns S103 Commander 1911
Caliber: .45 ACP
Barrel: 4.25-inch national match grade
Finish: matte stainless or optional black nitride
Hand polished feed ramp
Front strap rhombus checkering, 24 LPI
RH thumb safety from billet
Beveled and chamfered magwell
Hand polished end on guide rod
Sights: Low mount fixed rear (Optional Adjustable), brass bead front
Beaver Tail Grip Safety from billet
Grips: G-10 or optional walnut
Cabot 8-round magazine
Ratings (out of five stars):
Appearance and Style * * * * *
No shock there, Cabot has always nailed the style game. This one has a more subdued elegance, imparting a particular sense of class on a gun I’d be proud to make my EDC.
Accuracy * * * * *
Sub two-inch groups both times I shot it. 1¾” seven-round group at 25 yards with an impromptu set-up and cheap range ammo when the gun is dirty at hot? Yeah, that’s five stars.
Reliability * * * * *
Mr. Hebor admitted that he’d never seen one of their guns put through a test like that. Three hundred fifty-eight rounds in 23 minutes isn’t normal. Heck, it took teamwork to get it done. But the gun ran and ran and ran.
Overall * * * * *
I’ve written before than Cabot’s customer service is on a different level, but their willingness to accept my challenge showed more: a true faith in their products. The company didn’t know what ammo I’d use, what magazines, how I’d shoot the pistol, or what I expected. A lot could have gone wrong here.
The Cabot S103 Commander thrived in the fastest torture test I’ve ever inflicted on a 1911, taking everything I threw at it. And it’s a beautiful gun to boot. The S103 is one of the rare times that a high-end 1911 outperforms the hype. It’s simply an exceptional pistol.