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A New Look Old Classic– Charles Daly’s M-5 Government Model

by Scott E. Mayer   |  January 3rd, 2011 1

With the M-5 Charles Daly has generally duplicated the weight and proportions of the venerable 1911 but with more firepower and the corrosion resistance of polymer–at a price point that gets your attention.


The sky’s the limit for some shooters when they’re in the market for a 1911-style pistol. There is no feature too insignificant or any price tag too high for compromise. Not everyone is so fortunate that cost is not a factor, and for budget-conscious shooters, it’s important to do their homework before putting hard-earned dollars down for a mid-priced 1911. Impulse buying in the mid-priced category can result in the purchase of a piece of junk while carefully researched buying can end with you being a very satisfied customer.

One of the current mid-priced 1911s is imported by Charles Daly, Dept. ST, P.O. Box 6625, Harrisburg, PA 17112; 866-325-9486; www.charlesdaly.com.

Shotguns imported by Daly are fairly well known, and a decent little history of the company can be found by going to www.shootingtimes.com and clicking on the KBI Inc. link. The bulk of current Daly over-under and side-by-side shotguns are from Italy, and the more recent semiautomatics and pump shotguns are from Turkey. The Italian-made guns have proven their worth over time; the Turkish guns are still earning their reputation, but so far I’m impressed.

Charles Daly’s Polymer-Frame 1911
The majority of Daly 1911-style pistols are made in the Philippines, with one exception being the M-5 Government made by BUL Transmark Ltd. in Tel Aviv, Israel. Some readers may recall BUL as the source Kimber turned to for frames when first offering polymer-framed pistols. That relationship has since changed, and Kimber is now using U.S.-made 1911 polymer frames. BUL pistols were also imported recently by International Security Academy (ISA) in Los Angeles, California, and before that by All America Sales
Inc. in Memphis, Tennessee. Clearly, polymer-framed 1911s are not foreign to American shooters. Others include Wilson’s KZ-45, which started as a South African product but is now imported in raw state and finished enough over here to be considered U.S. made. There is also the hybrid from STI to take into consideration when recalling polymer-frame 1911s.


SPECS
Charles Daly M-5 Government 1911
.45 ACP SA Semiautomatic Pistol
IMPORTER: KBI INC.
P.O. Box 6625
Harrisburg, PA 17112
MODEL: M-5 Government 1911
OPERATION: Recoil-operated SA autoloader
CALIBER: .45 ACP
BARREL LENGTH: 5.0 inches
OVERALL LENGTH: 8.5 inches
WEIGHT, EMPTY: 33.5 ounces
HEIGHT: 5.5 inches
SAFETY: Extended manual thumb safety, beavertail grip safety
SIGHTS: Drift adjustable
STOCKS: Integral polymer grip frame
MAGAZINE CAPACITY: 10 rounds
FINISH: Blued steel, black polymer
PRICE: $699

Daly’s entry into the polymer category combines a steel frame insert with the polymer grip frame. This is not in hybrid fashion like the STI, but rather the two are molded together with the frame rails machined into the insert. Together, the arrangement offers the strength and durability of a steel frame with the weight of an alloy. At two pounds, four ounces unloaded, the polymer-frame Daly M-5 Government is four ounces lighter than my stainless-steel 1911 but offers two additional rounds of capacity. Ironically, those two rounds weigh about four ounces, so there really is no weight savings with a fully loaded polymer Daly over a fully loaded steel 1911. Those two extra shots, though, might be justification enough to go poly. There is also the added corrosion resistance of polymer over steel–whether stainless or chrome-moly–which might be a consideration if you’re located near the shore or want a boat gun.

Something Daly has done with its M-5 that I like is to spec a round trigger guard so the M-5 fits standard 1911 gear. Helping in that respect is that the pistol grip is only 1.26 inches wide even though the Daly has a staggered 10-round magazine. That’s a smidgen smaller than my single-stack 1911, which is 1.30 inches wide. What that means to a shooter is that you don’t have to find special holsters for the Daly, and it feels like a 1911 in your hand in both weight and proportion.

Features specific to the Daly M-5 frame that bear mentioning include a proprietary beavertail safety. It’s cut deep at the top, so the gun sits low in the hand and has a hump to ensure that it’s depressed. A lot of other 1911s have that hump, too, but Daly goes a little further and cuts grooves across it for better purchase even with a compromised grip. A generous “tail” ensures shooters are safe from “hammerbite,” even shooters with large hands. With the slide off, it’s apparent that there’s no Series 80 firing pin safety.


(Left) Charles Daly’s entry into the polymer 1911 category combines a steel frame insert with a polymer grip frame. The two pieces are molded together with the frame rails machined into the insert. (Right) Features specific to the Daly M-5 1911 include a proprietary beavertail grip safety that is cut so the gun sits deeper in your hand and that has a grooved hump for positive activation even with a compromised grip.

The magazine release and its hole are manufactured to be a right-hand-only proposition; the thumb safety is extended, as is currently the fashion; and the trigger stirrup is proportionally enlarged to go around both sides of the 0.94-inch-wide steel magazine. For comparison, standard 1911 magazines I measured averaged .054 inch wide. The magazine well is widened to the point of being a gaping maw that when combined with the tapered profile of the staggered magazine makes it seem impossible for someone with any degree of dexterity to perform anything short of a near perfect magazine change.

I’ve found there are two sticking points when making a high-capacity pistol magazine. One is having a spring lithe enough that the top round can be stripped from the magazine (much less loaded into), yet strong enough to lift all of those cartridges, including the last one, in time for the slide to pick them up during cycling. The other sticking point is having a follower that presents every cartridge from the first to the last at the proper angle to the feedramp for reliable feeding.


(Left) The M-5′s barrel is coned at the muzzle where there is no barrel bushing. (Right) The pistol’s ejection port is lowered and flared to increase reliability.

Regarding the spring tension, I didn’t encounter any timing problems with the one magazine supplied with the sample Daly. There were no problems loading the stick, though getting that last round in is a little tough on the thumb. As for the cartridge presentation to the feedramp, there were no feeding problems that occurred during shooting, and part of the credit for that may be due to the high polish given to the barrel’s feedramp.

The feedramp on the M-5 is integral with the bull barrel instead of the frame. The barrel is coned at the muzzle, where there is no barrel bushing, and is locked along with the slide via a swinging link in typical 1911 fashion. Inside the slide is a full-length guide rod. It requires a simple tool, such as a paperclip, to remove. Serrations at the front and rear of the side provide a little cosmetic pizzazz and an additional grasping surface for working the slide. The ejection port is lowered and flared to increase reliability, and the large hook extractor is the standard internal type in contrast to the current trend toward external or Para-Ordnance’s PXT unit. Sights are low profile and dovetailed into the slide with the rear drift-adjustable for windage and serrated on its face to reduce glare.

Tightness of lockup is typically a pretty good indicator of accuracy potential for a 1911. One of the classic tests is to press down on the barrel hood with the slide closed. Movement indicates slop at the link, which can degrade accuracy. Likewise, if you can twist, tip, or rock the slide to any degree when it’s closed, it indicates poor fit between slide and frame, which can also degrade accuracy. That said, in the mid-price 1911 market, you can expect a little movement in both areas and is why I wasn’t surprised to find a little looseness in the Daly M-5. Judging from the powder fouling inside the sample I received, it was clear that the gun had been fired several times, so with the slide off I took the opportunity to check the wear between it and the frame as it came from the company. Wear was uneven–it being more on the rear of the right slide rail and the front of the left slide rail. Taken all together–the looseness and uneven wear–I wasn’t optimistic about match-grade accuracy, but I was hopeful for average accuracy, which, again, is what you’re buying in this price range.

The M-5 Gets High Marks
Range testing of the Daly began with a series of draw-and-fire drills to break the gun in and get a feel for how it handles compared to a steel 1911. For the most part I started by drawing and firing at Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C targets and then switched to some failure drills at IDPA targets from seven yards.


When fully loaded, the polymer M-5 has a solid feel and dull “thud” for recoil. As the magazine empties, handling transitions to a more nimble gun with a snappier kick.

Winter’s low humidity had dried out my hands, making the polymer frame a little slick to hold when drawing and firing under the pressure of a PACT timer. Despite the checkering on the gun’s frontstrap, backstrap, and the grip’s side panels, shooters with consistently dry or sweaty hands might want to consider sharpening the molded-in checkering on the side panels by chasing it using a checkering tool.


Even with the accuracy- robbing potential of some barrel and slide looseness, the Daly M-5 Government still managed to wring out some surprisingly tight groups at 25 yards.

I expected handling to change dramatically as the magazine emptied. Ten 230-grain .45 ACP cartridges weigh nearly a half-pound, so it’s not unreasonable to expect increased muzzle flip and recoil. My experience was that as the gun empties handling transitions from a full gun with a solid feel and dull “thud” for recoil to a more nimble gun with a sharper kick. Recoil remains perfectly manageable, even with stout 230-grain loads.

For function testing, I used an extensive mixture of factory fodder and handloads. Whenever I accuracy test a pistol and have a few cartridges left over, I put them in a bag and eventually end up with an assortment of various hollowpoint, flatpoint, roundnose, and semiwadcutter bullet loads. Loaded randomly in a magazine, they’re a tough function test that makes it easy to try several different bullet styles for reliability and to single out any that hang up consistently for more extensive evaluation. I was pleased to experience no malfunctions with the mixed ammunition in the M-5. Feeding was excellent, even with the “flying ashtray” style hollowpoints. There were no extraction problems, and ejection was robust with cases thrown almost exactly to the right about two feet.

Accuracy was determined by firing from a Ransom Rest using grip inserts originally made for a McCormick 1911. Fit of the inserts to the Daly was darn near perfect, giving me great confidence in the accuracy results for the groups I fired. All I had to do to accommodate the Daly in the Ransom Rest was tape down the grip safety because the wide body of the double-stack magazine separated the inserts too far to depress it. I gave the Daly a Blue Wonder Armadillo treatment to make clean up easier and applied the slightest hint of thin oil to the contact surfaces between the slide and frame and to locking points on the barrel. Armadillo is a dry lube that goes on like an automotive paste wax. I like it when usi
ng guns in the Ransom Rest because within the limitations of a single range session, it generally reduces the need for oil, which helps keep the Ransom Rest and gun clean during shooting. Final clean up is easy because powder fouling literally wipes right off treated surfaces, including the feedramp and breechface.

Even with the accuracy-robbing potential of the barrel and slide movement, the Daly M-5 Government still managed to wring out some surprisingly tight groups at 25 yards. The factory Ball load and my Lyman cast bullet Ball equivalent turned in identical average velocity and accuracy. They were also the most accurate loads in the variety I used. Overall, the Daly showed a clear preference for 230-grain bullets regardless of style, and all loads printed nice, round groups. Sights came regulated to point of impact for 230-grain bullets.


SHOOTING CHARLES DALY’S .45 ACP M-5 GOVERNMENT 1911
BULLET POWDER CASE PRIMER MUZZLE VELOCITY (fps) 25-YARD ACCURACY (inches)
(Type) (Grs.)
Hornady 200-gr. XTP HS-6 9.5 Hornady WLP 1032 2.80
Sierra 200-gr. JFP AA No. 5 9.2 Starline WLP 967 2.28
Lyman No. 452374 228-gr. RNL True Blue 6.6 Win. WLP 848 1.64
Federal Classic 185-gr. JHP FACTORY LOAD 970 2.38
Black Hills 230-gr. JHP FACTORY LOAD 853 2.06
Federal American Eagle 230-gr. FMJ FACTORY LOAD 848 1.64
Winchester Supreme 230-gr. SXT FACTORY LOAD 868 1.98
NOTES: Accuracy is the average of five-shot groups from a Ransom Rest at 25 yards. Velocity is the average of five rounds measured 15 feet from the gun’s muzzle.

I give Daly high marks for the M-5 Government. It’s no Bullseye gun, but it offers accuracy right up there with what I’ve come to expect from mid-priced 1911 pistols–and noticeably better accuracy than I’ve experienced from value-priced defensive pistols. As far as its fit and finish are concerned, externally it’s a well-done gun with none of the tool marks or blueing blemishes characteristics of inexpensive arms. There are a few shortfalls in the slide-to-frame fit and the barrel lockup but not so much as to handicap accuracy or reliability. With the polymer frame, Daly has generally duplicated the weight and proportions of the venerable 1911 but added at least two more rounds of firepower and the corrosion resistance of polymer while maintaining the strength of steel. Best of all, Daly has combined all these features into a product at a price point that gets your attention. If you’re forced to choose between new shoes for the kids or a new pistol for yourself, get the kids shoes. But if you’re in a position to negotiate the brand of shoe with the kids and still have enough left over to afford a Daly, provided my sample is representative of the product, you’ll end up with a pistol well worth the negotiation.

  • Allen Krook

    I have a kimber bul m5 polymer framed 1911 and while reading a post on a gun forum it was stated that the Charles daily and kimber took the same 10 rd mags. If this is correct where can I find spare mags for my kimber? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks Al!

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