TIBBETS DELTA ELITE: RANGE REPORT
Before Vic Tibbets returned my Delta, he function-tested it with about 200 rounds of 10mm factory ammo I'd sent him with the
gun. This included both FMJs and HPs. Vic did final sighting-in with Georgia Arms' 180gn Gold Dot HPs. In a note, he indicated
that it seemed to favor the Gold Dots as well as CorBon's 135gn HP load. As the pictures below indicate, the Delta did indeed
like these loads. It also shot well with GA's 155gn GDHPs, Hornady's 180gn XTPs and Winchester's STHPs. At the "full-power"
end of the 10mm's energy range (or at least as hot as you're likely to see in factory 10mm these days), the Delta shot
tightly with Texas Ammo's 200gn XTP load. It didn't care for PMC's 170gn JHPs.Many thanks again to fellow 10mm fan, NordicG3K, for his technical assistance.
ERGONOMICS: For testing multiple 10mm loads, I installed a Wolff 24lb recoil spring and a buff with the FLGR. But it
functions and shoots just fine with a 22lb variable spring, which I'll use most of the time. Comparing the Tibbets DE to the
heft and feel of my personal S&W 1076, and a S&W 1006 borrowed from a friend, the Delta is noticeably lighter than either.
While the Delta and the 1006 both have 5" slides, the Delta is slightly narrower across the top, the width there being 0.950
versus 1.11, respectively, according to my caliper. Carried IWB, it certainly feels flatter. In the hand the Delta
points easily and balances well. Between the metal relief under the trigger guard, the high BT grip safety and all the checkering,
recoil control is a nonissue. Cumulatively, this creates an elegant-handling 1911 that shoots comfortably despite the violent
energy generated by this high-performance cartridge. A Delta Elite in stock form is cool enough, but when customized this
finely it becomes the apotheosis of a 10mm pistol.
SIGHTS & TRIGGER: The trigger is a Casull match-grade, long and solid, set at 4.5lbs crisp. There is no creep and very
little take-up. While it certainly could have been set lighter, for CCW purposes this is as light as I prefer in a single-action
gun. The rear sight is Novak's relatively new "Extreme Duty" (XD) adjustable unit for 1911 pistols. Mine has the tritium dots,
and Vic mated the XD unit with a tritium dot front sight of optimum height. Novak also offers this sight in target black or
with white dots. The XD rear sight is low profile, sturdy and snag-free. I'm not a big fan of adjustable sights, but this
one combines the practical characteristics desired for CCW with the ability to adjust POA to POI, and dial-in your 10mm load
of choice. In short, it brings versatility to the package, much like the 10mm cartridge itself. For windage, Novak's XD unit
slides left and right in the dovetail, just like his fixed sight. The gun came back centered dead-on for most loads, but the
initial "sighter" shots landed high. That was easily fixed by 3 or 4 downward clicks on the large elevation screw.
ACCURACY: This Delta is inherently more accurate than I could ever hope to hold. Credit for the tight groups goes to
Vic and his outstanding fitting of the Bar-Sto barrel and bushing. Two variables, however, might have produced smaller groups.
The first is, obviously, a better shooter. The second is a lighter trigger. I'd ask Vic to set it up for a "duty/carry" weight
of 4.5lbs, which he did. For anywhere but the range, that's as light as I personally feel comfortable with. However, as of
this writing, the gun has digested about 500 rounds, and the trigger feels smoother. So it's possible I'd do better now.
RELIABILITY: With the exception of two bobbles, the Delta ran flawlessly with a variety of 10mm ammo. The magazines
used for testing consisted of several 9-rd CMCs and a few 8-rd Colt mags. The bobbles involved two failures to eject (FTEs),
which I don't feel were the gun's fault. These FTEs occurred while using the same CMC mag to shoot GA's 180gn FMJ "practice"
ammo. This is "remanufactured" ammo using previously fired brass. Possibly out-of-spec brass may have caused the FTEs, but
the 180gn FMJ stuff shot fine in other mags during sighting-in. I marked the suspect mag, laid it aside, and went on. No other
problems occurred. Magazines locked into place securely, and all rounds fed smoothly. There were no failures to feed.
The Ed Brown tactical mag button, a slightly extended unit, permitted positive ejection of the magazines without grip-shifting.
And except for the two FTEs noted, brass was ejected vigorously.
SHOTS FIRED: Shooting was done at an outdoor range, over a few days, due to inclement weather and having to share the
firing line with others. Targets consisted of 2-inch black squares on a white cardboard background. The black squares are
Birchwood-Casey's "Shoot-N-Cs" that change to a greenish-yellow color when struck. I shot the Delta with as many kinds of
factory 10mm as I could get my hands on. Familiarization firing, from about 15 yards, was done using Blazer's 200gn FMJs and
GA's 180gn FMJs. I then moved back to 20 yards (60ft), where the serious shooting was done off-hand. No cushy benchrest,
no sissy sandbags, no burly guys bracing my elbows. Just me. Frankly, I'm not that good of a pistol shot, but practical
accuracy is what I'm after. How a pistol shoots from a rested position really doesn't interest me, because it doesn't show
the gun's likely accuracy in my hands, factoring me into the equation. Off-hand shooting was done from a Weaver
type stance, using a two-hand high-hold, with attention paid to the fundamentals most are familiar with: sight picture, breath-control
and proper trigger manipulation. Most strings consisted of 7-9 sequential shots. No rapid-fire "combat shooting" was done.
All flyers were my fault, and were called with a manly "Aw sh*t!" (In the pictures below, flyers are circled in red.)
|The Tibbets Delta Elite is range ready. Ammo shown is Georgia Arms
10mm/155gn Gold Dot HPs.
|Targets were 2" black "Shoot-N-Cs" on white cardboard. Shooting was
done off-hand from 20 yards (60ft).
|10mm ammo used: (top) Hornady 180gn "full-load" & Federal 190gn "X"
load; (2nd row) Winchester 175gn, CorBon 135gn & PMC 170gn; (3rd row) TAC 200gn XTPs & 200gn FMJs; (bottom) GA 155gn GDHPs
& 180gn GDHPs.
|GA 155gn GDs. From 20yds, this 9-shot group went under 1.5". (See
|Caliper measures 1.4" for 9-shots of 155gn Gold Dots.
|CorBon 135gn JHPs. The Delta liked these screamers. This 7-shot group
is 1.9". Excluding the flyer, the remaining 6 shots are under 1 inch. 4 went thru one ragged hole. (See next photo.)
|6 shots of CorBon 10mm/135gn HPs are covered by 1 inch square.
|PMC 170gn HPs. This 8-shot group opened up to 2.5".
|GA 180gn GDHPs. Excluding the circled flyer in this 8-shot group,
remaining 7 shots went into 1.25". Flyer increases the group to 1.75".
|Who says "heavy & fast" can't be accurate? 9-shot group is TAC 200gn
load using Hornady XTP-HPs @ 1250fps. With the flyer, it measures 2.5". But 8-shots went into 1.7".
|TAC 200gn FMJ-FP @ 1250fps. This 8-shot group opened up to 2.5".
At this velocity the DE prefered the XTPs.
|Hornady's own "full-power" 180gn XTPs @ 1180fps. This 5-shot group
|8 shots of Winchester 175gn STHPs. Excluding the circled flyer, 7
shots went into 1.75".
|Federal's 190gn "X" load produced this 8-shot group. It measures
1.75", with the upper 6-shot cluster going into .90". Topped with "felon-stopper" HPs, Federal's "X" load (#XM1003A) was used
by the FBI in its S&W 1076s.
|Good enough for government work? Firing from 25yds off-hand, 7 shots
of Federal's 190gn "X" load produced this stringy 2.5" group.