STILL GOING STRONG
Consider for a moment that the 1911 handgun, like the Thompson submachine gun, is technically an antique. Yet it’s a darned good antique that, like the Thompson, can still do what it was always capable of doing—takin’ care of business.
With all of the excellent pistols on the market these days, it’s extraordinary that “Olde Ugly,” a design that’s more than 100 years old, is still among the very best.
Here’s a look back at its history along with some perspective on how it stacks up against today’s modern designs and why it’s still among the top handguns for concealed carry.
HOW IT STARTED
March 29, 1911, dawned like any other day. People rose, had breakfast and coffee, and then went to work. No one thought of it as a special day; they didn’t expect that anything exceptional would happen as they went about their business.
But they were wrong. March 29, 1911, saw the adoption of what was to become the most well-known fighting handgun in history—the Colt M1911 .45 ACP.
At the conclusion of trials lasting from 1900 to 1910, it had emerged victorious over the few competitors that had survived to the final test. Interestingly enough, the test itself was simple: shoot, shoot, shoot until the gun completed the test, malfunctioned or broke. When it got hot, they simply dunked it in water to cool it and then resumed shooting it. After 6,000 rounds were fired without a single stoppage, the M1911 was declared the winner, its only rival having experienced a whopping 37 malfunctions.
By 1917, 68,553 M1911s had been delivered to U.S. military forces, but production didn’t stop there. The gun proved so popular during World War I that Colt couldn’t keep up with the demand. After the war, it saw minor modifications to improve its already excellent performance, and by 1924, the “new” M1911 was ready for its new designator, which it received in 1926: M1911A1.
The “A1” package included a longer grip safety and frame tang, short trigger, clearance cuts behind the trigger guard, an arched mainspring housing and more visible sights. By the mid- dle 1930s, it was also being Parkerized and its wooden stocks replaced with plastic ones.
01. The Browning-designed Model of 1905 shown here evolved into the M1911 and after exhaustive testing, was adopted by the U.S. Army on March 29, 1911. The U.S. Marines and Navy followed in 1913.
02. Since the appearance of the Commander, other manufacturers have seen the value of a more compact M1911 and offered Commander-sized versions. This Springfield Armory “Operator” .45 ACP is a good example.
03. The custom M1911 market also continues to flourish. Here is Taylor’s answer to the M45A1, what he calls the M1911A2, built by Glenn Stolle of Sabre River Gunsmithing in Chino Valley, Ariz.
Bottom: World War I hero Alvin York used a M1911 to kill an entire German patrol trying tao rush him with bayonets fixed after his rifle ran out of ammunition. Many regard the event as one of the greatest feats of arms in history. U.S. Army photo