History of the "1911" .45

Discussion in 'Guns - Blackpowder' started by H2O Mellon, Jan 24, 2006.

  1. H2O Mellon

    H2O Mellon New Member

    The Colt Model 1911 was the product of a very capable person, namely John Moses Browning, father of several modern firearms.

    The pistol was designed to comply with the requirements of the U.S. Army, which, during its campaign against the Moros in Philippines, had seen its trusty .38 revolver to be incapable of stopping attackers. An Ordnance Board headed by Col. John T. Thomson (inventor of the Thomson sub-machine-gun) and Col. Louis A. La Garde, had reached the conclusion that the army needed a .45" caliber cartridge, to provide adequate stopping power. In the mean time, J. Browning who was working for Colt, had already designed an autoloader pistol, around a cartridge similar to contemporary .38 Super (dimension-wise). When the Army announced its interest in a new handgun, Browning re-engineered this handgun to accommodate a .45" diameter cartridge of his own design (with a 230 gr. FMJ bullet), and submitted the pistol to the Army for evaluation.

    In the selection process, which started at 1906 with firearms submitted by Colt, Luger, Savage, Knoble, Bergmann, White-Merrill and Smith & Wesson, Browning's design was selected, together with the Savage design in 1907. However, the U.S. Army pressed for some service tests, which revealed that neither pistol (Colt's or Savage's) had reached the desired perfection. The Ordnance Department instituted a series of further tests and experiments, which eventually resulted in the appointment of a selection committee, in 1911.

    Browning was determined to prove the superiority of his handgun, so he went to Hartford to personally supervise the production of the gun. There he met Fred Moore, a young Colt employee with whom he worked in close cooperation trying to make sure that each part that was produced for the test guns was simply the best possible. The guns produced were submitted again for evaluation, to the committee. A torture test was conducted, on March 3rd, 1911. The test consisted of having each gun fire 6000 rounds. One hundred shots would be fired and the pistol would be allowed to cool for 5 minutes. After every 1000 rounds, the pistol would be cleaned and oiled. After firing those 6000 rounds, the pistol would be tested with deformed cartridges, some seated too deeply, some not seated enough, etc. The gun would then be rusted in acid or submerged in sand and mud and some more tests would then be conducted.

    Browning's pistols passed the whole test series with flying colors. It was the first firearm to undergo such a test, firing continuously 6000 cartridges, a record broken only in 1917 when Browning's recoil-operated machine gun fired a 40000 rounds test.

    The report of the evaluation committee (taken from 'The .45 Automatic, An American Rifleman Reprint', published by the National Rifle Association of America) released on the 20th of March 1911 stated :

    "Of the two pistols, the board was of the opinion
    that the Colt is superior, because it is more
    reliable, more enduring, more easily disassembled
    when there are broken parts to be replaced, and
    more accurate."

    On March 29th, 1911, the Browning-designed, Colt-produced .45 Automatic pistol, was selected as the official sidearm of the Armed Forces of U.S.A., and named Model 1911.

    That original pistol, was very similar to the pistols produced today. One easily-distinguishable external difference is the crescent-shaped cuts, behind the trigger of the contemporary pistols, which were missing from the original design and were adopted later on, and which first appeared on model M1911A1. All the differences can be seen here.

    The Colt Model 1911 was slightly improved in early 1920's when the flat mainspring housing was replaced with an arched one , a shorter hammer spur was used, a short trigger was made standard as well as a longer grip safety. The new model was named Colt M-1911 A1 Government Model. In 1929, Colt also produced a 1911 pistol, based on the new .38 Super cartridge, while in 1931 a .22 LR version of the pistol was produced, named Colt Ace.

    In this form, the gun was produced during the remaining years until WW II, when military requirements were met by production of M-1911 by several firearms manufacturers such as Ithaca, Remington-Rand, Union Switch, Singer etc. Several thousands of this firearm were produced during the war period.

    After the war, the M-1911 was adopted by several armies around the world, as the standard sidearm. Also, Colt signed contracts with some manufacturers in those countries, to produce the model.

    Recent History and Sizes

    The same gun was produced after the war, with almost no changes in the original Browning's design. Soon after the war, Colt introduced a new gun, based on the M-1911 A1 "Government" design, which was a shortened version of the M-1911 A1 pistol. This new gun featured a 4.25" barrel, (compared to the 5" of its prodecessor) and had an aluminum frame (for the first time this material was used in a handgun frame). The gun was called "Commander" (and not "Lightweight Commander" which was adopted later by Colt for this pistol) and was very well received by the public. In the years to come, Colt also produced the same pistol but with a steel frame, named "Combat Commander", and the term "Commander" has been used ever since to denote guns with 4.25" barrels. Still later on, Colt introduced a pistol with an even shorter barrel (3.75"), targeting the concealed carry users, called "Officer's", which also had a shorter frame, thus using 6 round magazines. Again, this model name, is used today to denote the smallest model versions, with shorter barrel and frames.

    In the 1980's Colt introduced a new series of all their models, with an additional safety device, namely a firing pin safety, which didn't allow the pistol to fire if the trigger wasn't pulled to the end of its travel. The guns produced there after, are called Colt MKIV - Series 80. This safety system , although it was deemed necessary in today's world of lawsuits, it is rumoured to have a bad effect on trigger pull. For this reason, it was never widely accepted by expert shooters who want a decent trigger pull on their firearms.

    During the nineties Colt announced their "Enhanced Series" of M-1911s, which were basically the Series 80 guns, with several modifications that most shooters would do on their pistols. Such modifications were a beavertail grip safety, beveled magazine well, flared ejection port, and a cut underneat the rear of the trigger guard, which allowed the pistol to sit lower in one's hand.

    Of course, during the last two decades, several other manufacturers started producing M-1911 pistols. Some of them, just follow the traditional lines, while others are state-of-the-art, based on polymer frames etc. One thing is clear, John Browning's design is still alive and doing extremely well, after more than eight decades from its initial conception.
  2. fwmud

    fwmud New Member

    Wilson's Mills,nc
    Bryan, singing the praises of the 1911A1 to me is similar to preaching to the choir. I carried one as a secondary weapon and the pistol never failed me when needed. Although she was older than me by a few years at the time, she preformed without hesitation or flaw. She rattled like a matchbox full of BB's but would put all 7 rounds inside a silver dollar sized space. (If ya knew that she pulled low and to the right.
    This little girl saved my bacon on more than one occasion. I tried with all I had to also release her from service when I left but to no avail. The powers that be decided that that girly 9 MM was a better choice. BLAH! What a load of cow dung!
    Besides, shooting a 9 MM, is like holding a .22. (yes I shot one once on a dare,but don't tell)

  3. H2O Mellon

    H2O Mellon New Member

    Before reading that atricle I did not realize that Savage almost got the government contract. That would have been different. Something seems hard about saying "Savage 1911" rather than "Colt 1911". :rolleyes:
  4. DaveR

    DaveR New Member

    Columbus, Ohio
    Bryan, thank you for the for the awsome tutorial on the greatest ever created.

  5. H2O Mellon

    H2O Mellon New Member

    I agree Dave, the best handgun ever made. Darn near 100 years & they still cant top it! Kepp your HK's, Glocks, & Berettas...... give me a Colt 1911!
  6. okiecop

    okiecop New Member

    Grove, OK
    those old military colt's are hard to beat. most of them rattle and shake so much it is alomst scary. I was on active duty when they changed from the colts to the baretta's. In my mind those baretta's are good for fishing weights and thats it.

    I still won't give up my S & W sigma .40 to carry off duty. it fits my hand and i feel more comfortable with it. Glocks to me tend to be over rated.

    I have shot over 1000 rounds thru my sigma w/o any malfunction what so ever. but the same can be said for any good 1911. I won't knock anyone for carrying or using a 1911. i just prefer the sigma for the above mentioned reason.

    I do however recognize the 1911 as one of the greatest firearms to ever be produced.
  7. triggerhappy

    triggerhappy New Member

    I reciently bought a remington 11 (which is the browning A5 design). I always knew that these things were the (insert manly metaphor subject here) of shotguns. The 1911 is the equivalent of the pistol world. I've never taken one apart or had the pleasure to become aquainted with one....but after relfecting that the same man who designed my A5 was also resonsible for the 1911 he reached god-like status.

    I will own 1911 sometime in my life...and it will have a special place beside my 11. Call it my personal shrine to Mr. John Browning.
  8. N2Ducks

    N2Ducks New Member

    John Browning was the greatest gun designer of all time. I love seeing poeple giving him the praise that he deserves. My brother-in-law owns a 1911 and it is by far the best shooting gun ever. Awsome post mellon.
  9. Desperado

    Desperado Active Member

    Pataskala, Ohio
    Thanks for the great post Brian!!! I want one of those 1911's I have shot several of them and love them.