The year 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of Colt’s M1911 pistol. A design which is still in use in one form or another with various military units, police departments, and civilian shooters throughout the world.
The M1911 pistol was developed in response to problems encountered by American military units fighting Moro guerrillas during the Philippine-American War, the issued revolvers, in .38 Long Colt, was found to be unsuitable for the rigors of jungle warfare, particularly in terms of stopping power, as the Moros had very high battle morale and frequently used drugs to inhibit the sensation of pain. The U.S. Army briefly reverted to using the 1873 Colt single-action army revolver in .45 Colt caliber, which had been standard during the last decades of the 19th century as the heavier bullet was found to be more effective against charging tribesmen.
In turn it prompted the Army to begin looking for a new service pistol. This led to the 1906 trials of pistols from six firearms manufacturing companies (namely, Colt, Bergmann, Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken (DWM), Savage Arms Company, Knoble, Webley, and White-Merril). Of the six designs submitted, three were eliminated early on, leaving only the Savage, Colt, and DWM designs chambered in the new .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) cartridge.
These three still had issues that needed correction, but only Colt and Savage resubmitted their designs. A series of field tests from 1907 to 1911 were held to decide between the Savage and Colt designs. Both designs were improved between each testing over their initial entries, leading up to the final test before adoption. Among the areas of success for the Colt was a test at the end of 1910 attended by its designer, John Browning. 6,000 rounds were fired from a single pistol over the course of two days. When the gun began to grow hot, it was simply immersed in water to cool it. The Colt gun passed with no reported malfunctions.
The US military adopted the pistol in 1911 and it has remained in continuous use ever since, with some minor modifications along the way. Most recently by the USMC for use by MEU(SOC) Marine Expeditionary Units (Special Operations Capable) in the War on Terror.
Since its inception, the M1911 has lent itself to easy customization. Replacement sights, grips, and other aftermarket accessories are the most commonly offered parts. Since the 1950s and the rise of competitive pistol shooting, many companies have been offering the M1911 as a base model for major customization. These modifications can range from changing the external finish, checkering the frame, and hand fitting custom hammers, triggers, and sears. Some modifications include installing compensators and the addition of accessories such as tactical lights and even holographic sights.
The M1911 is still manufactured by Colt, Springfield Armory, Wilson Combat, Ed Brown, Nighthawk, Remington, Taurus, and now Ruger. Not usually reccomended as a pistol for the novice, the 1911 is best compared to a Classic Car, such as a Corvette, as the user may often have to perform more than simple maintenence. The M1911 makes a good choice for concealed carry as the profile is very flat and when used in conjunction with a proper holster such as a Milt Sparks Summer Special, the gun can be worn with a minimal amount of printing. With an 8-round magazine containg 230-grain hollowpoint bullets, it is still a proven design and highly accurate in the right hands.
Happy Birthday M1911, hope you’ll still be seeing service in another 100 years!