Saturday, February 13, 2010

A short essay on the 1911 .45

Ah, the M1911 .45 Automatic pistol. Proof that God loves us and wants us to be safe.

Designed by American firearms genius John Moses Browning and adopted by the US Army as it's primary sidearm in 1911 (hence the original formal designation: US Pistol, .45, Model of 1911.), this pistol fired the then-new .45 ACP cartridge which, in it's final form, sent a 230 grain bullet downrange at around 850 feet per second and gave our soldiers reliable stopping power in a handgun for the first time in American military history. The US Navy and Marine Corps. followed suit and adopted it in 1913, and from those dates onward, these simple, powerful and very effective pistols served American forces worldwide until they were finally withdrawn in 1985 due to the age of these pistols (production stopped at the end of World War Two and existing pistols were just rebuild as needed) and in response to pressure from our NATO allies to adopt a 9mm pistol in order to standardize with everyone else. It was replaced by the rather bulky, heavy and lackluster Beretta M9.

Over 2.7 million of these guns were produced, originally by Colt Firearms, for whom John Browning was working at the time. When World War One came along, production also took place at the government's arsenal at Springfield Armory. Come World War Two, still more were needed so production was spread out to the other government arsenal at Rock Island and also contracted out to private companies Remington Rand, Ithaca Gun Company, Union Switch and Signal Co., and even the Singer Sewing Machine Company. 1926 saw a few cosmetic changes made to the pistol, resulting in it's re-designation as the 1911A1, but the changes were trifling and 1911's and 1911A1's soldiered on together right up through Korea and Vietnam and every other US military deployment around the world. And even though the military has officially phased them out, some still solider on with our Special Operations troops, notably the Marine Corps' Force Recon and the US Army's Delta Force. It's also a favorite of several police SWAT units around the country, including that of the Los Angeles Police Department and the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team. Serious operators appreciate it's reliability and accuracy and prefer the no-nonsense knockdown power of the 230-grain .45 cartridge.

Now as for me, I've owned one since the day I turned 21. I bought the gun from a then little-known gunsmith by the name of Patrick Sweeney when he was still working behind the counter of my local gun shop. He's since gone on to become a notable author and instructor on all things 1911 and AR-15 but I'll always be grateful to him for talking me out of what I went in there to buy and convincing me to leave with a brand new Springfield Armory, Inc. 1911A1.

I have fired thousands of rounds through it, and I still have it today, only with new sights, ambidextrous controls, and a trigger job that was done by Pat when I complained about it's out-of-the-box trigger pull that was roughly fifteen pounds when measured. It's accompanied me on numerous travels and camping trips and it was the first gun that I ever fired in anger when I used it to return fire against some knucklehead who took a few shots at me back when I worked as an armed response officer for a burglar alarm company. I don't think I hit him but it was enough to make him stop shooting at me, so that counts as a “save” in my book.

Some time later, a second 1911 caught my eye, again in the shop where Pat worked. This one was an old Colt military model, US Property marked, with a serial number that indicated it was made in 1917. I admit that I thought I was getting ripped off a bit by the $300.00 price, but every time I see what genuine World War One 1911's today are selling for, I have to smile.

I've owned a couple of other 1911's over time, but those two have remained with me and probably always will. And as of yesterday, the Argentine Model 1927 joined them as my latest project gun, and if it turns out well, it may well stick around, too. Here are the three of them together:Note that the "pimp grips" on the Argentine pistol (center) have been replaced with proper military checkered grips.

Over the years, I have helped many other people buy guns. Sometimes it's been their first gun, and sometimes it's just been a better gun. I do this because I like these people and want them to be safe. But those that I really care about, I set them up with 1911's.


  1. Without question, my favorite handgun.

  2. I don't currently own one, but have had two of them during my lifetime. I think it's time to get a third, since 2011 will be the centennial of the adoption of this pistol by the US Army.

  3. 1911s and ARs, a man can never have too many.