By Bob Walsh
The Gun of the Week this time around is the truly iconic Colt 1911 pistol.
There are very few pieces of machinery that are still in manufacture more than 100 years after their original manufacture in a largely unchanged form. In fact there are now a couple of dozen manufacturers of 1911 pistols, all the way from basic budget guns to high-end custom pistols.
This pistol was the issue U. S. military sidearm for 75 years and is still in use by many special ops forces. The U. S. Government bought about 2.7 million of these things over the years. (In fact in the very near future the Civilian Marksmanship Program is going to start releasing surplus pistols again. This program was stopped due to political considerations for many years.)
This pistol was designed by that genius of firearms design, John Moses Browning.
The U. S. Army began conducting tests of semi-automatic pistols in 1900. Things went along such as government procurement programs usually do, leading to the 1906 trials with pistols from Colt, Bergman, DWM, Savage, Knoble, Webley and White-Merrill. This soon got whittled down to Colt, DWM and Savage, and eventually Colt and Savage only. Each design was refined as testing progressed. Among the final tests was one in which the Colt pistol fired 6,000 rounds out of a single pistol in two days. When the gun got literally too hot to handle it was simply dunked in water and firing continued. During the final test run the Savage guns suffered 37 malfunctions. The Colt gun suffered zero.
This gun is still used by many SWAT type units in U. S. police service and is widely used in civilian competition in the U.S. and around the world. In addition to the original .45 ACP they are now commonly chambered in 10mm, .38 Super, 9mm. and .40 caliber. Small numbers have even been produced in .30 Mauser for sale in Italy. They are produced in three basic sizes, the original Government model with a 5” barrel and a full-length butt, a Commander size with a 4-4 ¼” barrel and a full-length butt, and an Officer’s size with a 3-3 ½” barrel and a somewhat shortened butt, plus a few mixtures of the above.
The pistol is still going stronger than ever more than 100 years after its introduction. I guess John Browning got it right.
Those readers with an eye for such things will notice all three pistols shown are not exactly stock. The Government Model has much better sights than the milspec ones that came on it. In addition the beavertail grip safety has a speed bump on it which makes engagement much more positive. The steel-frame Commander I bought used and had those items added to it when I bought it. The Officer’s size pistol is a Kimber and, except for the Hi-Vis front sight is in the condition it was when purchased new. All are fine pistols and function nicely.