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The Vault

Slow Motion: Colt All American 2000

The All-American 2000 was Colt’s attempt to compete with Glock for the military and police service pistol market. It had a polymer frame (except a few early ones with aluminum frames), a double-action-only striker firing system, double-stack magazines, and used a rotating barrel to lock. The design was originally the brainchild of C. Reed Knight and Eugene Stoner, and the production rights were sold to Colt. The Stoner/Knight prototypes worked well, but Colt made some design changes and did a poor job adapting it to mass production. The result was a huge commercial flop, as the guns were beset by accuracy and reliability problems (despite a massive whitewashing by print gun magazines at the time).

I will have a full video on the All-American in a few weeks, but figured the rotating-barrel slow motion deserved its own post and video:

54 comments to Slow Motion: Colt All American 2000

  • TRX

    Wow. Look at the pretty little belts it leaves on the fired cases… looks like the chamber has a step in it.

  • JohnD.

    Every aluminum receiver Colt All American 2000 that I shot ‘doubled’ on an irregular, but frequent, basis. Colt claimed this was due to high performance 9x19mm ammunition creating excessive slide velocities. Never could find ammunition which would not double fire at least once in every magazine load of cartridges. Gave up on this design after shooting three different pistols with about ten different varieties of ammunition each.

    Not a safe handgun.

  • ESK

    I had the opportunity to play with the original prototype and it’s the exact opposite of what Colt marketed. The prototype is the size of an HK P7, one third less weight of a P7 and a very smooth trigger pull. If Colt produced what Reed and Mr. Stoner originally developed, the 2000 would have had a better following.

  • TRX

    Looking at the disassemblies and exploded views, there doesn’t seem to be anything inherently wrong with the design.

    From a corporate aspect… internal politics can be a huge factor in how products come to market. But reading descriptions of the insides of the 2000 reminds me a lot about reports of the Remington R51. Sometimes, if they’re not able to hold dimensions to reasonable figures, it’s not just bad quality control, it’s because the machinery they’re trying to make the parts with is worn out. I’ve been in similar environments on the production side. Denial, blamestorming, more denial, relaxation of standards, quality circles, QC gets the word to let “close enough” parts through, more blame, ship product anyway and hope for the best, the kind of hope expects the bank to credit the mortgage company even though you’re overdrawn.

    “But we already *have* CNC machining centers, and these parts should be well within their capabilities!”

    “Yes, but they’re forty years old, have never been rebuilt, and haven’t been able to hold those tolerances since the Clinton administration!”

    The beancounters decide the capital expenditure required to keep scrap at a manageable level is too high to make a profit on the product, so the product is abandoned and the designers are instructed to come up with a new product that can be made with dull files and a hand-crank drill. Upper management awards itself a bonus for successfully bailing the company out of a bad situation.

    Of course, the truth could be something else entirely… but given Colt’s QA reputation at the time the 2000 was introduced, I’d lay a nice bet my guess is right.

    It’s still a nice design as far as I’m concerned, and I’m surprised Knight never managed to come up with a buyer or backer to continue production.

    • Daweo

      When the designer know the method of production and available tools then it results in design superior in terms of time-of-production and price. Note for example M1 Garand rifle.

      • Euroweasel

        That is basically how modern firearms are designed. The capabilities of the production facilities are known in the design phase, so the design can be adjusted to them. Problems arise when someone tries to resurrect an old design (the R51), or adopt a design originally made by someone not working for the company that will produce the guns, which is what happened with the gun in question. In the old days when production involved a lot of manual steps, it could be adjusted to the product, but with machines you need to design the product around their (true) capabilities.

        • Denny

          I am not sure if that’s what you mean by “manual steps”, but perhaps this is “selective fitting” of parts. This should have been overcome by modern hi-precision and CNC method of manufacture.

          Also, time-value factor should be greatly improved today since tool bits are truly amazing (providing they are off-set in holders properly for given work shift). You can cut, burnish, texture, polish very quickly with great accuracy AND repeatability.

  • preston

    and people think colt is the “bee’s knee’s” of gun manufacturers. you would think they would take more pride in a stoner designed gun.

  • W. Fleetwood

    Lord have mercy. I owned one of those things and I’d almost managed to forget it. To be fair I put over 500 rounds through mine and never had any reliability problems. Also the grip felt good in your hand and it “pointed” quite nicely. The problem was that one couldn’t hit anything more than, oh, say, one yard away with it. The Colt 2000 had the worst trigger I have ever encountered on any firearm in my entire life. Bar none. When I contacted Colt I was told that the trigger pull would “smooth out” after “a few hundred rounds”(??). 500 and a few rounds later The trigger pull had not changed one lick. Looking back I should have kept the beast as an investment since it was a Colt and they damn sure weren’t going to make any more of them. Oh well, never mind, that was long ago and far away, thankfully.

  • snmp

    The triger is base on the French DAO pistol Lefrançais (from 1914)

  • Doc

    I had one of those abominations as well. Stupid me, I even ponied up extra for one of the aluminum framed “Limited Editions.” It’s one of the few pistols I didn’t regret getting rid of. Grouped like a shotgun pattern at 25 yards. To be fair to the designers, Colt’s quality control was in the pits back then. I stayed away from new Colt products ever since (anything post ’70s), except for AR 15s.

  • Denny

    There is video by someone; it does not look too bad and it is even hitting the gong:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpLSHiEx1E0#t=87

    I believe this gun had a straight-line pull trigger and there were some binding issues.

    • Doc

      The trigger was a straight line on roller bearings, IIRC. Mine was decent, but the real problem wasn’t so much the design as the inconsistent quality control in Colt’s production line. I’m convinced that the barrel on mine was out of spec, so I traded it back to the dealer for a Glock 17L and a bunch of mags. I still have the Glock. Anybody remember the Double Eagle or the Pocket Nine? All were products of the same era of Colt “innovation.” It’s taken the company many years to live down these stinkers. Their current products seem nice, but nothing like my ’60s era Pythons, SAAs, and 1911s.

      • Denny

        There seem to be period of innovation stagnation in case of this particular maker and so is probably with others too. As some mentioned and this is quite well known, Colt had severe labor related issues and that probably hurt quality of output. They have gone thru some pain and apparently took lesson that “less (inventiveness) is more (savings)”.

      • Cloud

        I also heard a debate when the FN was awarded a public market for M4/M16 upgrade & replacement that Colt lost.
        Some were furious it goes to an oversea based firm, other complained about Colt quality decrease (almost a swindling according to some person) and found rather understandable to let the FN do the job with better results.

      • Chris Morton

        “Anybody remember the Double Eagle”
        If I’m not mistaken, they’re making it again, for want of anything else “new”.

        What Colt needs to do is get the hell out of Connecticut and move some place like Mississippi or Alabama where their labor costs and regulations are more reasonable, so that they can actually invest in something new and different. Sometimes they remind me of the North Koreans with their copy of the Browning M1900. I suspect that if there weren’t monstrous potential product liability issues, Colt would start making the .38acp M1900 again… that is if they still had the original tooling.

  • Cloud

    At least marketing teams hard tried to bet on product’s image : naming a gun this way for that market could not have failed !

  • I appreciate seeing this in extreme slo mo. I had thought this pistol’s unlock operation likely too fast, but now I see it is only half assed half fast.

    I’ve been looking at these slo mos and wondering whether the gun designers responsible would be surprised at what their guns were actually doing. Sort of like the Schwarzlose, barely working for more than a hundred years.

    If something doesn’t look right and feel right it probably isn’t.

    • Euroweasel

      As for the Schwarzlose: I don’t think it’s any worse in principle than any blowback pistol. The whole idea of simple blowback is that it “barely works”. The point being that even if “barely”, it still does work.

    • Keith

      I think the designers did have a pretty good idea of what was going on, even though they couldn’t really see it. If they had really wanted to know, there were techniques akin to the indicators invented by James Watt, for steam engines, for measuring pressures, displacements and accellerations to compare with calculations from simple Newtonian mechanics

      I think the problem that they had was simply one of paradigm.

      The starting points for the early designs appear to have been lever action and bolt action rifles (or even Martini Henry in the case of a Madsen).

      Taking a Luger as an example, the ancestry of the design was:

      Toggle locked Winchester lever action> Maxim toggle locked machinegun> Borchardt pistol> two generations of Luger (leaf recoil spring and coil recoil spring)

      The whole way through that design evolution, the solid joining of the barrel and receiver and the short recoil travel of that barrel receiver assembly persists. By happy chance, the toggle works as an accelerator, transferring some of the energy from the recoiling barrel and extension to the unlocking toggle and bolt.

      You can see the same thing, perhaps more bolt action inspired, with early gabbet fairfax Mars (ok, the Mars was probably partly artillery inspired), early Schwarzlose, Feederle/Mauser C96, Bergmann and on through to the middle of the twentieth century with the likes of Lahti L35/M40, and even to the 1970s automag (variously with and without accelerators)

      It took J M Browning to step back from trying to make a lever action or a bolt action work as an automatic pistol, and to realize that the slide and bolt needed to be one heavy piece of metal which travelled all of the way together: no loss like a Mauser C96 barrel and slide stopping and bouncing too a fro, no need for very high speeds like the C96, Luger or Lahti bolts, just lots of momentum to do the job nice and steady.

  • Mike Gordon

    Back in the early nineties I was a salesman with a Colt distributor that was also supplying handgun grips to Colt. This was during the Colt All American 2000 era. We had piles of the All American 2000s to sell but seldom received the much coveted Anacondas. According to my boss, Colt was in such poor condition at the time that they paid their vendors like us in guns, which if they weren’t the horrible All American 2000s we could quickly turned into cash. I was also told that when Mr. Knight could not be paid for his designs, instead he was paid in collectible Colt pistols that came from a factory collection. I don’t know how true the last story was,my boss could be a story teller at times. BTW every 2000 we received had an aluminum frame.

  • Mike Gordon:

    Colt did a lot of things wrong. Call me crazy, but the Ruger Blackhawk was, and is, a better gun than the SAA, and the Standard Auto than the Woodsman, and I could not buy an Anaconda. A Ruger Redhawk was on every gun store shelf. That is what happens when one company listens to its customers, another to its managers.

    • Daweo

      “Ruger Blackhawk was, and is, a better gun than the SAA”
      Note that the SAA was designed around 1873 and Blackhawk around 1955, i.e. there are 82 years of difference.

      • Euroweasel

        The Colt SAA has been an obsolete design since the late 19th century. People buy them or their clones because of Wild West mythology and everything associated with it. There is of course nothing wrong with that at all, but basically it’s the same kind of hobby as black powder shooting or historical swordplay. The only difference is that with a modern SAA you don’t necessarily have to go all the way and actually use black powder, and you don’t appear quite as nerdy as you would swinging your replica longsword on your backyard :-D

    • Jacob Morgan

      Ruger was not a gun designer that manufactured guns, it was a mannufacturer that designed guns. Bill Ruger started out as a manufacturing engineer and the company invented manufacturing methods to make traditional-looking firearms affordable.

      The Colt woodsman was all machined and is a typical clever John Browning design. All that maching was expensive. Ruger’s .22 was less expensive to make, it used a stamping instead of a machined forging and used more round stock instead of bar stock. The way Colt responded was to cut the quality of the Woodsman line (the Huntsman, etc.) Given the choice of a mint pre-war Woodsman or a Ruger, I’d take the Colt. But in today’s prices one could buy several Rugers to one Colt if Colt made them and made them to that level of quality.

      On the single action, the Ruger is cast (and bulkier) and has more safety features (hence a more complex mechanisim). The Colt is desirable to some experts (e.g.,the late Bob Munden) in that it uses a simpler mechanisim and is more easily tuned up and can be durable when ran hard. A flat mainspring is easier to tweak than a coil spring, etc. But again, one could buy two or three Rugers for one Colt.

      Another problem at Colt was the political climate at the time. Manufacturer’s were being bullied by the government. Colt went a little schizophrenic. It made gobs of cash making AR15′s and pocket guns for civilians, but was sort of embarressed about it and the board member types apparently did not like it. The 2000 was likely an attempt to go after socially acceptable law enforcement sales. Colt used to dominate the law enforcement market, then lost market share to S&W in the revolver era and then missed the boat when law enforcement went to sem-autos. Colt had been the only game in town for decades for the 1911 and shooters put up with sending newly purchased guns off to a gunsmith to be made reliable–that did not work for a gun for law enforcement in a crowded field.

      If Colt had stayed committed to civilian self-defence sales it would have done well when the CCW era ramped up, with Mustangs and Detective Specials. If it would have focused on quality it could still dominate 1911 sales.

  • strongarm

    A pistol having high barrel axis, cumbersome takedown with vital parts to spread around, and long trigger pull, can not be a rival for others having opposite of those features. From that point of view, Colt 2000 may be thought as a dead project from the start. Added manufacturing faults would make the worse to go worst. Take the trigger connection for instance. What rises a need to make the trigger bar straight guided. Striker release is made by descending guided trigger bar at rear and resetting needs striker connection piece ascending against to the guided, unswingable trigger bar at the front. If that trigger bar catches the sear connecting piece at rear by cause of wrong manufacturing tolerances, pistol will go doubling of course. Nearly eight decades of old La Francais is more better since having a swinging trigger bar. It should also be noted that, striker and trigger bar connection of that pistol is located at the side like HK P7, but taking no advantage of its its unique “Barrel Axis Lowering” feature through this engagement.

    • Denny

      Combination of “swing trigger bar” and linear trigger plus striker without adding any other piece is not a problem and perfectly doable. This is providing that the mentioned bar travel is controlled on its way down and swings up again after slipping under forward stationed (discharged) striker. This looks trivial to me.

      Also, it is not difficult to understand notion of linear trigger for DAO pistol. Conventional swing-type trigger requires very long finger portion movement with lesser gain on top side. This is obviously necessary to charge striker (unless pre-cocking is used). The linear trigger goes around this rather neatly. The remaining part is proper tolerancing (some people call it “quality control” which it is not) and production reliability/ repeatability. No magic there.

      • strongarm

        The term “Swinging” was used for free , at least one way free elevating mean. As you know, Colt 2000 has a linear acting trigger bar to be cammed via a fixed guide at rear for striker release and the striker has an upwardly swinging connection piece at side for catching trigger bar engagement for next shot, only at the front. This might be thought to get a clear resetting distance free from stratches but having two unstable parts subject to disorder in case of loose tolerances. Striker connection piece might be formed as fixed and resetting might be made through a small swinging of trigger bar at suitable distance as being present on some other actions and sidewardly trigger bar connection might be used to gain height to lower the barrel axis as being on HK P7 solely carrying the trigger bar placement from vertical to lateral plane. Besides, rotating barrel lock may sound good but it seems that nothing changed from the time of Joseph Nickle’s. If it were some twinkle, it might be changed as been made on the Slovakian K100 pistol. Colt All American 2000 seems dull, even archaic to me.

  • Denny

    Another video…. and here the good fellow also disassemble the piece which is kind or rare. I must admit I like it.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erYxBLS0Qus

    Also worth of note is that (at 4:45 of running time) he states “this is good quality gun”. So now – you tell me!

    • Doc

      Inconsistent quality is more like it. He got lucky with his. The pistol had a lot of potential, but it didn’t translate into the final product. I wish it had worked out for Colt, as I hate to see a great old company so steeped in history go down the tubes. I do have several AR 15s of various vintages and configurations, and I haven’t had problems with those. The pistols, on the other hand…(although I have been eyeing a new Delta Gold Cup at my LGS!)

      • Denny

        They are not chin up – as yet. They have 2 ex-generals on board of directors. Just repeating what they have takes them safely to middle of century (in spite of cheese marketing techniques).

        • Keith

          Ah the career path of military procurement people – a well paid seat on the board as thanks for placing orders.

          I would suspect that the machines and tooling for the AR15 were new – either funded by gubbmint grant or a nice cheap bank loan on the strength of having the contract.

          By contrast the commercial side of the company’s machines were likely long overdue a rebuild. There’s a cartoon in Connoley’s “machine tool reconditioning” showing an old operator’s machine with all sorts of bits of shim and packing stuffed in, so that he could get still get it to produce accurate work despite severe wear – but no one else knew how to get it to perform.

  • DocAV

    A reasonably Good design ruined by the Bean-counters…and BTW, the Rotating Barrel design is nearly 100 years old at the time of the Ideation of the “Colt 2000….” It was used successfully in the Steyr-Hahn M1911 Auto Pistol (9x23Steyr), but with two provisos: It was All-Steel Manufacture, and most importantly, it was “Old Style” machine-tool gunmaking, by Quality Gunmakers (OEWG Styer, of Pre-WW I Austro-Hungarian Empire, where “Quality (Like Cleanliness), was akin to Godliness”)

    IN fact,( in the 1990s) when Steyr tried making an new, Rotating Barrel Auto (the SPP) with a Polymer Body, Problems arose ( in both the Full Auto and Semi Auto versions).

    Yes, CNC has its place, in the Economics of Gunmaking, BUT only if the machines are well-maintained and correctly set up for Quality manufacture. ( Look at the Beretta CNC Set-up in Gardone VT (Saw it in 2005)…Turns out Pistol parts the equivalent in Quality to the Shotguns they build ( Mostly by Hand). And the QA is “Machine/Computer done” ( if a Part is not in Specification Tolerance, it is discarded, and the QA Inspector is alerted immediately to discover the “problem”)

    A Gunmaking Company must have a Firm Company Ethic of Quality…

    Doc AV
    Appreciator of Fine Engineering (in Guns and Railroad Locomotives)
    Down Under

    • Denny

      Rotating barrel lock up is underappreciated and yet, from loading point of view (distribution of reaction typically in concentric manner) makes most sense. I find it ‘gun-professional’; term for it used back in Central Europe known as “fortel” (expertise). There are couple up-to-date guns of that concept in manufacture most notably Chinese service pistol.

      The CNC multi-axis manufacture coupled with SPC (statistic process control) is not just the best but necessary way to do parts, not just for firearms. Its advantage is captured in the fact that there is minimum number of set-up changes. Otherwise, with every next setup (in old-fashioned single-operation way) there is chance to pick up deviation from intended dimension. As such minute items as presence of chips on locating surface or non-uniform clamp force play role – in negative way.

      • Daweo

        In more recent times the rotating-barrel Russian GSh-18 (ГШ-18) pistol was designed and put into production. So far I don’t know about any reliability issues concerning this design.

        • strongarm

          Today’s trend of rotating barrel lock mostly are based upon Joseph Nickle’s separate and dismountable camming block construction. Steyr 1911′s way was cumbersome and never repeated again. Russian GSh18, can be second to change Nickle’s concept since retaining the camming element over the receiver during take down and though can be accepted one of the best in field service use, it has again, cumbersome field stripping needing breechbolt take out for barrel separation from the slide as resulting very vital parts spreading around which can not be accepted good for a service pistol. Its way of very short of barrel rotation also needs the locking lugs to go out of slide on every reciprocal movement as needing the front of the same open leaving free enterance for dust and dirt, and though this not a serious defect by cause of pistol’s sufficient lay out, it does not sound good.

          • Denny

            GSh-18 might have been ingenious, however today is supplanted by Strike One/ Strizh (just read about it on TAG). That thing is damn slick. I would not call Nickel’s attempt as the best since Czechs redesigned it (mostly for mfg. purposes) twice to come up with manageable service pistol. (This should have been used as base for new after-war pistol, not CZ52.)

            If I assign a design with this operating principle mark “praiseworthy” it would be Beretta Cougar, now Stoeger. But, it still (and because of its utmost dedication to cost cut) looks to me kind of crude. I’d know about a better way.

    • strongarm

      jaroslav Kuracina, a Slovakian designer began a rotating barrel lock pistol nearly at same times(1992) with Colt 2000′s and finished after four years. This pistol, GP K100, with its plastics body can be accepted as citadel of rotating barrel lock kinds and deserves some carefull study about what a good design should be. It, even uses a screw on suppressor successfully which accepted the main defect of service pistols of that kind by cause the momentum of rotated barrel making the carriage to be screwn off.

      Today, CNC machining finds its way in pistol manufacturing on main parts like slide and barrel. The other parts are subject to new methods like investment cast, MIM, screw machines, press cut and forming by the enterance of plastic injection as primary way to build pistol frames. However, there are some companies like HK
      disliking some methods like MIM by cause of huge amount of shrinking at the last stage of forming, whereas presenting others like Walther producing the barrel with separate locking shoulders made by MIM and joined thereafter.

      In fact, we expect to come to an end of mechanical locking methods for pressure control on pistol manufacture since it seems there are various ways to achive this in less cost which is the main target of today’s industrial approach.

  • strongarm

    Hımm.. It seems, have spoken very much.

  • Chris Morton

    A friend bought one when they first came out. It had BAR NONE the WORST trigger pull of ANY semi-auto handgun I’ve ever handled.

    You just squeezed, and squeezed, and squeezed, the trigger stacking more and more, the farther you pulled, until you thought the trigger was going to break before it went off.

    My buddy finally threw in the towel and bought a Glock 22.

    If I’m not mistaken, it was also the basis for Colt’s laughable “smart gun” which they were pushing.

    • Denny

      I have in my notes…. to fire 9mm Para with Berdan primer you need weight of 7oz falling from 5.5 in. This translates (friction omitted) to about force of 20N at 10-12mm. In most cases, we see something like that on striker fired pistols. Therefore, this must have been failure of large proportion.

  • Keith

    There are 3 patents which show up for the gun – all dealing with the trigger safety and striker arrangements.

    All of the patents give a pretty good indication of the arrangement of the locking system.

    The diagrams seem to be pretty much common to all three patents and show a much more compact gun than Colt came up with. The boreline to grip also appears to be lower for the prototype than the Colt product, although it still takes much less advantage of the absence of a hammer mechanism in the backstrap to lower the bore axis than for example Glocks do.

    http://worldwide.espacenet.com/searchResults?DB=EPODOC&IN=reed+stoner&ST=advanced&bcId=1&compact=false&locale=en_EP&page=0&return=true

    • Denny

      Keith, as usual with you – excellent job on your part. Picture in patent no.3 was sort of legible and I copied that for myself. It is hard to pass judgement from this limited information as far as where the fault might have been. Over all, the problem comes with every push type linkage and this one is no different; designer has to take care of where force application is and where is resistance to it to avoid snag. Certainly, if chance is given somewhere, it will show up.

      The design appears to have few parts and there in no visible evidence of outright quirks. Maybe with more development might have been fine.

      • Keith

        I’ve just taken another look through Ian’s Roth Steyr video.

        The striker safety forming the basis for one of the Reed & Stoner patents is almost identical to a striker safety in the Roth Steyr. The progression from one to the other, although not as straight forward and obvious as say between Metford’s segmental rifling and H&K’s polygonal rifling, is still pretty obvious.

        I wonder whether Ian has done a disassembly vid of the Colt – to see whether Colt incorporated that safety in the production gun?

  • Keith

    Hi Denny,
    I agree, it’s not as if striker firing with double action was an untried concept. there was approximately 90 years of precedent experience to draw upon.

    Even in terms of Browning pistol designs, there were reliable striker fired pistols. I can’t remember, Did colt ever make the .25 Baby Brownings?

    It strikes me (pun intended) that it would be relatively simple to run a second bar back from the trigger and offer the option of some variation of a single action trigger too, for customers who wanted it.

    I’m increasingly tending to think of the Roth Steyr / Glock striker release, not so much as a double action, but as a more exaggerate form of what every safe single action trigger has to do:

    every safe single action trigger must cam the striker or hammer back a short distance in order to release it – as it is necessary for the striker or hammer to be able to reverse that process to cam a partly squeezed trigger back into full engagement if it is released. All a Roth Steyr or a Glock does is to exaggerate that movement.

    • Denny

      I did some search and found this picture of Trigger with bar https://www.gunpartscorp.com/ad/704580.htm

      If you look at the image in patent, there is a link between trigger and the bar. This is apparently new/ next design which suggests, there was motion in place to upgrade it.

    • Denny

      I go back to your sentence: “Even in terms of Browning pistol designs, there were reliable striker fired pistols.”

      Yes. that is true and they were using push type trigger. For one, the 1911 has exactly that and no one has reason to question it.

  • Josh Fox

    An interesting firearm design. I’d love to see a Range Fire and Disassembly video of this Pistol one day.
    Thank you :)

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