Tainwanese manufacturer Kein Well Toy Industrial Co. Ltd (KWC) make several blowback replicas based on the Colt 1911 in both 4.5 and 6mm form. They sell two of these directly, but KWC are also the OEM for 1911 replicas sold by a number of other well-known companies. In fact, if you buy a blowback 1911 replica, there’s a good chance that it’s manufactured by KWC whatever it may say on the box. Fortunately these are very good replicas of the Colt 1911 and whichever version you buy will be about as close to the 1911 experience as it’s possible to get without the smell of gunpowder.
When I was a kid, I had a toy Colt 1911 (not that I knew what it was back then) which fired rubber-tipped darts. It was my favourite pistol. To my childish eyes, it looked just the way a gun should look- squat, no-nonsense, chunky and somehow menacing. I also liked my die-cast, cap-firing Luger, but despite the cachet of this being a “baddie” gun (which is of course wildly cool when you’re ten years old), my preferred sidearm was always the Colt, especially when I was fighting off the relentless attacks of Stormtrooper Action Man from the top of the stairs.
My replicas are a little more sophisticated now, and if I owned a Stormtrooper Action Man, it would be a collectible far too precious and expensive to be shot at. But the 1911 still looks to me like a “proper” semi-auto pistol to me – the standard against which other are judged. I wasn’t interested in airsoft pistols back in 2010 and though there were some 4.5mm replicas of the 1911 around, none were fully functional. Until Cybergun announced the release of the Tanfoglio Witness in 2011. This was a branded version of the 4.5mm KWC 1911 and I can’t remember when I was last so excited about the release of a replica pistol. And then of course they sold out almost as soon as they were released in the UK and I wasn’t able to find a new one. I ended up paying more than I should for a barely used second-hand example. And I loved it. In fact, I liked it so much that I ended up buying two more over the next twelve months.
So, you’ll understand that this isn’t an entirely dispassionate review. I had to sell my collection what I moved away from the UK, and those Witnesses are amongst the replicas I still miss most. Given that the 4.5mm Tanfoglio Witness is the KWC 1911 replica that I’m most familiar with, that’s what I’ll mainly be talking about here, but other versions are very similar. If you’d like to know more about the development of the Colt 1911, you’ll find a link at the end of this review to an article about the handguns of John Moses Browning, designer of the Colt 1911.
The KWC Colt 1911
KWC makes two versions of the Colt 1911 in blowback form: one based on the Colt M1911A1 and a modern railed 1911 style pistol. Both are available in 4.5mm and 6mm form and these are sold both as KWC products and with other branding and markings from several distributors including Cybergun S. A. Several finishes are offered including a very good reproduction of a Parkerised finish in addition to black, blued and weathered finishes.
One of the earliest version of the KWC 1911 available in 4.5mm was this Cybergun Tanfoglio Witness 1911
All versions are CO2 powered, blowback replicas with 4.3 inch smoothbore barrels and with the CO2 contained in a full-size drop-out magazine, though in order to fit a standard CO2 cartridge in the slim 1911 magazine the sides are cut away. All versions are of mainly metal (zinc alloy) construction with plastic used only for some internal parts and the grips. All versions are, like the original, single action only.
Packaging and presentation 3/5
The packaging in which you’ll find your KWC 1911 depends on whether it is a KWC branded product or sold by a distributor. The packaging shown below is from one of my Cybergun Tanfoglio Witnesses. This was a sturdy cardboard box with a expanded polystyrene insert cut-out to fit the pistol and accessories. The pistol came a magazine, a ¼” allen key for tightening/piercing the CO2 and a small box of Cybergun steel BBs.
Oddly, the box and instruction sheet claimed that the Witness had Spin-Up, the Cybergun proprietary hop-up adjustment. This is incorrect – no adjustable hop up is provided on the 4.5mm version of the KWC 1911 though hop-up is provided on 6mm versions.
Visual accuracy 7/10
All versions of the KWC M1911A1 and the railed 1911 are extremely accurate visual replicas of the original. Every contour of the frame and slide and every detail of the trigger and hammer are accurately replicated – even small details like the checkering on the front of the trigger and on the top surface of the hammer are present on the M1911A1. Overall, this is a very, very good visual replica indeed.
Markings are another matter. The slide of the Tanfoglio Witness is marred by bright, white lettering – on the left this reads “Tanfoglio Witness 1911” which is just about acceptable (though this marking isn’t used on the slide of the real Witness), but on the right of some examples is a whole paragraph of white safety text. To me, this really spoils the look of the right side of this pistol. However, this safety text doesn’t appear on every example – I have owned three Tanfoglio Witnesses. Two had the white safety lettering on the right of the slide while the third had just “Made in Taiwan Witness” on the right, though all three came in similar packaging. KWC still offer this replica, but without any markings at all. If you buy one of the branded examples, markings vary depending on whether the distributor has a licensing agreement with Colt. Some versions have authentic markings, some don’t.
Right side of one of my Witnesses with (inset) the block of safety text seen on right side of slide on some examples.
Overall, this is a very good visual replica of the Colt 1911, though some versions are somewhat spoiled by garish and unnecessary markings. If you can find a version of the KWC 1911 which includes authentic markings, this becomes a very close visual replica indeed.
Functional accuracy 14/15
The KWC 1911faithfully replicates every aspect of the operation of the original. The slide travels through a full range of movement and locks and releases as it should. The manual safety, slide release and magazine release all operate as per the original weapon and the KWC 1911 can be field stripped correctly. The sliding trigger and internal mechanism are also very close in function to the original and even the removable barrel bushing is correctly modelled. All versions shoot in single action only and the weight of this replica is close to that of the original.
The KWC 1911 also replicates the function of the grip safety on the original 1911. The grip safety is a moveable section on the upper part of the backstrap. Regardless of the position of the manual safety, the pistol will not fire unless this is depressed, as it is naturally when you grip the pistol. One minor irritation is that this means you need two hands to de-cock the pistol – there is no de-cocker provided, and the only way to de-cock is to pull the trigger and gently lower the hammer. However, this can only be done while the grip safety is depressed.
This replica will even allow you to experience one of the nastier features of the real 1911 – a tendency to bite. Unless you hold a 1911 correctly, it’s possible to experience “hammer bite” – a very painful nipping of the web of skin that runs from the thumb to the forefinger and which can be caught between the hammer and grip safety spur as the recoiling slide cocks the hammer (this was a particular problem on early models, and was one reason why the A1 version had a longer grip safety spur). The KWC 1911 replicates this precisely. Perhaps not with quite the force of the original, but sufficient to draw blood if you’re unlucky.
Engaging the manual thumb safety on the left side of the frame locks the slide and disengages the trigger. Grips from a real 1911 can be fitted to the KWC 1911 with a little modification, making it simple to customise.
Overall, this is a very good functional replica of the Colt 1911.
On all versions, CO2 is loaded into the magazine, and tightened and pierced using the ¼” allen key provided. Generally this is done cleanly and without major leaks, though one of my Witnesses leaked at the main CO2 seal from new. Up to 17, 4.5mm BBs (or 14 BBs on the 6mm version) can be loaded into the magazine, though many users have noted that loading the magazine fully can cause problems with misfeeds and jamming – generally it seems better to load one or two less than full capacity. The magazine follower does not lock down, so you have to hold it in place while loading.
The sides of the slim 1911 magazine are cut away to allow a Co2 cartridge to fit inside
With the magazine inserted, the slide must be racked to move the first BB into the chamber and to cock the hammer. On pulling the trigger, you’ll initially notice two things – the KWC 1911 is loud for a replica pistol and the recoil is very strong indeed. Both make this pistol seem more powerful than it really is – KWC claim 328fps for the 4.5mm version, but I found 290 – 310fps more realistic in the chilly North of Scotland.
Take-up on the trigger is short and light and the release point is clear and consistent. When you start shooting, the next thing you’ll probably notice is that your shots aren’t grouping particularly closely. Accuracy was variable – of my three Witnesses, one was notably more accurate than the others, and all seemed sensitive to BB selection. I found best accuracy was achieved with Blaster steel BBs. Generally, I was getting groups of around 2″ at six yards, though this reduced to less than 1½” with the best of my Witnesses. When the magazine is empty, the slide locks back.
The 4.5mm Cybergun Blackwater 1911 is a branded version of the KWC railed 1911
CO2 consumption is reasonable for a blowback pistol – I generally got around 50 – 60 full power shots per CO2 cartridge. Be aware however that some well-used examples have a tendency to fire full-auto bursts when the CO2 pressure gets low!
The loudness and strong recoil make this a very satisfying replica to shoot, though accuracy is no better than average for a BB pistol. The slim profile and good balance inherited from the original 1911 make this a natural pointer and a pistol which simply feels good in the hand.
Quality and reliability 11/15
All version of the KWC 1911 are reasonably well made. The slide fits well without rattles and racks smoothly and cleanly – which is more than can be said for many real 1911s! The finish is generally well applied and the Parkerised finish in particular seems more durable than the finish on some replicas. However, it appears that quality control may be variable. Some KWC 1911s seem to go on shooting almost indefinitely without any problems. Others seem to give problems from the start. This doesn’t seem to be confined to a single batch, model or production run, it seems to be almost random. Of my three Witnesses, two performed very well indeed, shooting reliably and powerfully and without any issues. The third seemed to have a whole range of niggly problems with BB feeding, jamming, inconsistent power and variable accuracy. I don’t have figures to back this up, but anecdotally from talking to other owners, my impression is that most KWC 1911s are reliable with only a small number giving problems.
This is model KMB-76AHN, the Parkerised finish 4.5mm Colt M1911A1 currently offered by KWC.
It’s also notable that filling the magazine to capacity does seem to cause problems with misfeeds and jamming – it seems better to load fewer than the full capacity whether you have a 4.5mm or 6mm version.
Overall Impression 14/15
I love the Colt 1911. It’s a testament to the longevity of basically sound design. It’s also a well balanced, slim pistol which is very satisfying to shoot. So, no surprise that I also like the KWC 1911 a great deal. In fact, I’d say that it’s about as close to the experience of shooting a real 1911 as it’s possible to get without using gunpowder. For me, this is how replicas should be – heavy, loud with strong recoil and tough to shoot consistently, but wonderfully satisfying when you do.
Modifying the KWC 1911
The KWC 1911 has proved to be a very popular platform for modification. Partly this is due to its low cost, but also because the zinc alloy used is of sufficient quality to facilitate stripping and re-coating, painting or polishing. Real 1911 grips can also be fitted with very little modification.
KWC 1911 with hydraprinted slide, Duracoated frame and controls, modified trigger, Madbull airsoft suppressor and pearl grips. Picture courtesy Freeballer74.
Stripped, mirror polished KWC 1911 with vented slide, nickel plated trigger, hammer, slide release and thumb safety and white resin grips. Stunning! Picture from Black Dog Pistols
It’s really very simple – if you have any interest in replicas of historic pistols, you need to have a KWC 1911 in your collection. The Colt 1911 is one of the most significant handguns ever made and this (in my opinion) is the best replica to date. It looks, weighs, handles and shoots just like a real 1911. It also appears to be generally well made, it shoots reasonably well and it’s inexpensive. There does seem to be a question mark over reliability however – there seem to be distinctly good and bad examples and if you are unlucky enough to get a bad one, it may take some fettling to get it right. However, that this replica is also a great basis for modification and customisation is an added bonus.
This is model KMB-77AHN, the railed 4.5mm version of the 1911 currently offered by KWC
Whether you are interested in an original M1911A1 or a more modern railed 1911, you can find what you what from KWC. So, if you don’t already own a KWC 1911 – you need to get one now. If you already own one, why not get another, strip off the paint, polish it and fit pearl grips? You know it makes sense!
Total score: 81/100
Modifying the Tanfoglio Witness:
Magic9 Design in the UK offer a range of replacement parts for the KWC 1911 ranging from upgraded firing valves to a replacement stainless steel guide rod.
Colt M1911A1 with Parkerised finish on the KWC website
Railed 1911 on the KWC website