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Historic Firearms - M1911

Updated on January 14, 2015
Springfield M1911
Springfield M1911


Caliber - .45 ACP(Automatic Colt Pistol)

Length - 8 1/4 inches

Weight - 2.44 lbs

Magazine - 7-round detachable box

Muzzle Velocity - 825 feet per second

Action - Short Recoil Operation

Development and Design

Designed by John Browning, the M1911 was an answer to the call for a semi-automatic handgun to replace the several revolver designs currently employed by the U.S. military. Trials began in 1906 between six competing designs, three of which were quickly eliminated and one shortly after withdrew, leaving the Colt model (which would become the 1911) and Savage models. One of the more impressive tests took place in late 1910, in which 10,000 rounds were fired through each pistol over a two-day period. The handguns were cooled when necessary by being dunked in water. The Colt model passed the test without a single malfunction to the Savage's 37.

Finally, on March 29, 1911, the Colt was adopted by the U.S. Army, gaining it's designation Model 1911. The Navy and Marine Corps followed two years later.

Exploded breakdown of the M1911
Exploded breakdown of the M1911 | Source

Military Use

Widespread use of the M1911 began with World War I (though it did see action near the end of the Philippine-American War.) Testing and battlefield reports of functionality resulted in some adjustments in manufacturing such as a shortened trigger, modification to the grip safety, and some other minor external changes. Still, in 1926 the updated model was given the designation M1911A1. The weapon continued to serve through Korea and Vietnam until 1986 when it was officially replaced with the M9 Beretta as the standard-issue sidearm of the U.S. Military.

Colt M1911
Colt M1911 | Source


Originally manufactured by Colt, World War I saw an increase in the demand for the 1911 and Springfield Armory began to produce the pistol as well. World War II saw about 1.9 million units in use by military personnel, manufactured primarily by Colt, Springfield, Remington-Rand, and Ithaca. Following World War II, Colt made a 4 1/2 inch variant on the M1911 design, the first instance of an aluminum frame in a firearm, called the Commander. Though not technically an M1911 model, the Commander series borrows heavily from Browning's original design.

M1911 in Action

.45 ACP Cartidge

The .45 Colt Automatic Pistol cartridge was developed by John Browning in 1904 for eventual use in the M1911 at the request of the U.S. military following a series of cartridge-effectiveness trials. It is a low-velocity round famed for it's effectiveness against live targets thanks to it's large diameter, which creates a larger potential wound cavity. The standard grain-load for military use is 230 grain.

Continued Use

Though no longer standard issue for most of the U.S. military, variants of the M1911 remain in use today by such organizations as SFOD-D (Delta Force), MEU-SOC (Force Recon), and a number of law enforcement agencies throughout the country as well as being an exceedingly popular civilian firearm. In fact, the Marine Corp placed an order for 12,000 M1911 variant handguns in 2012 and the Army Special Marksmanship Unit continues trials and testing to develop a new, updated version of the M1911A1.

The civilian market is where the M1911 has really shined since it's replacement in the 1980s. It has become one of the most popular handgun models available for everything from competition shooting to home defense, and there are innumerable variations by a wide variety of manufacturers. Still, the classic Colt design remains a staple in the shooting community, and probably will for many years to come.

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