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The standard sidearm of American officers produced in the early 20th Century. Because of its incredible stopping power and popularity, it still remains in use by American troops. The Colt M1911A1 uses a .45 ACP cartridge, which was considered aedquate until its replacement by the Beretta 92. It serves as the primary sidearm or secondary weapon for Roman soldiers.

Early history and adaptations[edit]Edit

The M1911 pistol originated in the late 1890s as the result of a search for a suitable self-loading (or semi-automatic) pistol to replace the variety of revolvers then in service.[6] The United States was adopting new firearms at a phenomenal rate; several new pistols and two all-new service rifles (the M1892/96/98 Krag and M1895 Navy Lee), as well as a series of revolvers by Coltand Smith & Wesson for the Army and Navy, were adopted just in that decade. The next decade would see a similar pace, including the adoption of several more revolvers and an intensive search for a self-loading pistol that would culminate in official adoption of the M1911 after the turn of the decade.

Hiram S. Maxim had designed a self-loading rifle in the 1880s, but was preoccupied with machine guns. Nevertheless, the application of his principle of using bullet energy to reload led to several self-loading pistols in 1896. The designs caught the attention of various militaries, each of which began programs to find a suitable one for their forces. In the U.S., such a program would lead to a formal test at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century.[7]



[1][2]M1911 designer, John Browning

During the end of 1899 and start of 1900, a test of self-loading pistols was conducted, which included entries from Mauser (the C96 "Broomhandle"), Mannlicher (the Steyr Mannlicher M1894), and Colt (the Colt M1900).[6]

This led to a purchase of 1,000 DWM Luger pistols, chambered in 7.65 mm Luger, a bottlenecked cartridge. During field trials these ran into some problems, especially withstopping power. Other governments had made similar complaints. Consequently, DWM produced an enlarged version of the round, the 9 mm Parabellum (known in current military parlance as the 9×19 mm NATO), a necked-up version of the 7.65 mm round. Fifty of these were tested as well by the U.S. Army in 1903.[8]

American units fighting Moro guerrillas during the Philippine-American War using the then-standard Colt M1892 revolver, in .38 Long Colt, found it to be unsuitable for the rigors ofjungle 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.[9] The U.S. Army briefly reverted to using the M1873 single-action revolver in .45 Colt caliber, which had been standard during the late 19th century; the heavier bullet was found to be more effective against charging tribesmen.[10] The problems prompted the then–Chief of Ordnance, GeneralWilliam Crozier, to authorize further testing for a new service pistol.[10]

Following the 1904 Thompson-LaGarde pistol round effectiveness tests, Colonel John T. Thompson stated that the new pistol "should not be of less than .45 caliber" and would preferably be semi-automatic in operation.[10] This led to the 1906 trials of pistols from six firearms manufacturing companies (namely, ColtBergmannDeutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken (DWM),Savage Arms Company, Knoble, Webley, and White-Merril.[10]

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.[10] These three still had issues that needed correction, but only Colt and Savage resubmitted their designs. There is some debate over the reasons for DWM's withdrawal—some say they felt there was bias and that the DWM design was being used primarily as a "whipping boy" for the Savage and Colt pistols,[11] though this does not fit well with the earlier 1900 purchase of the DWM design over the Colt and Steyr entries. In any case, a series of field tests from 1907 to 1911 were held to decide between the Savage and Colt designs.[10] Both designs were improved between each testing over their initial entries, leading up to the final test before adoption.[10]

Among the areas of success for the Colt was a test at the end of 1910 attended by its designer, John Browning. Six thousand 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, while the Savage designs had 37.[10]

Service history[edit]Edit

[3][4]Comparison of government-issue M1911 and M1911A1 pistols[5][6]M15 General Officers adopted by the U.S. Army in the 1970s for issue to Generals.

Following its success in trials, the Colt pistol was formally adopted by the Army on March 29, 1911, thus gaining its designation, M1911 (Model 1911). It was adopted by the Navy and Marine Corps in 1913. Originally manufactured only by Colt, demand for the firearm in World War I saw the expansion of manufacture to the government-owned Springfield Armory.[12] The Director of Civilian Marksmanshipbegan manufacture of M1911 pistols for members of the National Rifle Association in August 1912. Approximately 100 pistols stamped "N.R.A." below the serial number were manufactured at Springfield Armory and by Colt.[13]

Battlefield experience in the First World War led to some more small external changes, completed in 1924. The new version received a modified type classification, M1911A1, in 1926 with a stipulation that M1911A1s should have serial numbers higher than 700,000 with lower serial numbers designated M1911.[14]Changes to the original design were minor and consisted of a shorter trigger, cutouts in the frame behind the trigger, an arched mainspring housing, a longer grip safety spur (to prevent hammer bite), a wider front sight, a shorter spur on the hammer, and simplified grip checkering by eliminating the "Double Diamond" reliefs.[10] Those unfamiliar with the design are often unable to tell the difference between the two versions at a glance. No significant internal changes were made, and parts remained interchangeable between the two.[10]

Working for the U.S. Ordnance Office, David Marshall Williams developed a .22 training version of the M1911 using a floating chamber to give the .22 long rifle rimfire recoil similar to the .45 version.[10] As the Colt Service Ace, this was available both as a pistol and as a conversion kit for .45 M1911 pistols.[10]

[7][8]Colt 1911 01World War II



[9][10]Diagram from the Soldier's Handbook (1940–41), showing the various components of the pistol.

World War II and the years leading up to it created a great demand. During the war, about 1.9 million units were procured by the U.S. Government for all forces, production being undertaken by several manufacturers, including Remington Rand(900,000 produced), Colt (400,000), Ithaca Gun Company (400,000), Union Switch & Signal (50,000), and Singer (500). So many were produced that after 1945 the government did not order any new pistols, and simply used existing parts inventories to "arsenal refinish" guns when necessary. This pistol was favored by US military personnel.[15] Singer produced pistols in particular are highly prized collectibles, commanding high prices even in poor condition.[16]

Before World War II, a small number of the original M1911 pattern pistols were produced under license at the Norwegian weapon factory Kongsberg Vaapenfabrikk, which were designated "Pistol M/1914" and unofficially known as "Kongsberg Colt". During the German occupation of Norway the production continued. Norway never updated the design to the M1911A1 standard. These pistols are highly regarded by modern collectors, with the 920 examples stamped with Nazi Waffenamt codes and the unknown number of unmarked examples assembled by the Norwegian resistance movement (the "Matpakke-Colt" or "Lunch Box Colt") being the most sought after. German forces also used captured M1911A1 pistols, using the designation "Pistole 660(a)".[17] The M1911 pattern formed the basis for the Argentine Ballester-Molina and certain SpanishStar and Llama pistols made after 1922.

General Officer's Model[edit]Edit

From 1943 to 1945 a fine-grade russet-leather M1916 pistol belt set was issued to some generals in the US Army. It was composed of a leather belt, leather enclosed flap-holster with braided leather tie-down leg strap, leather two-pocket magazine pouch, and a rope neck lanyard. The metal buckle and fittings were in gilded brass. The buckle had the seal of the United States on the center (or "male") piece and a laurel wreath on the circular (or "female") piece. The pistol was a standard-issue M1911A1 that came with a cleaning kit and three magazines.

From 1972 to 1981 a modified M1911A1 called the RIA M15 General Officer's Model was issued to General Officers in the US Army and US Air Force. From 1982 to 1986 the regular M1911A1 was issued. Both came with a black leather belt, open holster with retaining strap, and a two-pocket magazine pouch. The metal buckle and fittings were similar to the M1916 General Officer's Model except it came in gold metal for the Army and in silver metal for the Air Force.

In 1986, the M15 and M1911A1 were replaced with the Beretta M9, which is the current sidearm issued to General Officers in the Army and Air Force.

Replacement for most uses[edit]Edit

After World War II, the M1911 continued to be a mainstay of the United States Armed Forces in the Korean War and theVietnam War. It was used during Desert Storm in specialized U.S. Army units and U.S. Navy Mobile Construction Battalions (Seabees), and has seen service in both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, with U.S. Army Special Forces Groups and Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance Companies.[18]

However, by the late 1970s the M1911A1 was acknowledged to be showing its age. Under political pressure from Congress to standardize on a single modern pistol design, the U.S. Air Force ran a Joint Service Small Arms Program to select a new semi-automatic pistol using the NATO-standard 9 mm Parabellum pistol cartridge. After trials, the Beretta 92S-1 was chosen. The Army contested this result and subsequently ran its own competition in 1981, the XM9 trials, eventually leading to the official adoption of the Beretta 92F on January 14, 1985. By the later 1980s production was ramping up despite a controversial XM9 retrial and a separate XM10 reconfirmation that was boycotted by some entrants of the original trials, cracks in the frames of some pre-M9 Beretta-produced pistols, and despite a problem with slide separation using higher-than-specified-pressure rounds that resulted in injuries to some U.S. Navy special operations operatives. This last issue resulted in an updated model that includes additional protection for the user, the 92FS, and updates to the ammunition used.[19]

By the early 1990s, most M1911A1s had been replaced by the M9, though a limited number remain in use by special units. TheU.S. Marine Corps (USMC) in particular were noted for continuing the use of M1911 pistols for selected personnel in MEU(SOC) and reconnaissance units (though the USMC also purchased over 50,000 M9 pistols). For its part, the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) issued a requirement for a .45 ACP pistol in the Offensive Handgun Weapon System (OHWS) trials. This resulted in the Heckler & Koch OHWS becoming the MK23 Mod 0 Offensive Handgun Weapon System (itself being heavily based on the 1911's basic field strip), beating the Colt OHWS, a much modified M1911. Dissatisfaction with the stopping power of the 9 mm Parabellum cartridge used in the Beretta M9 has actually promoted re-adoption of pistols based on the .45 ACP cartridge such as the M1911 design, along with other pistols, among USSOCOM units in recent years, though the M9 remains predominant both within SOCOM and in the U.S. military in general.[18]

Current users in US[edit]Edit

Many military and law enforcement organizations in the United States and other countries continue to use (often modified) M1911A1 pistols including Marine Corps Special Operations CommandLos Angeles Police Department SWAT. and L.A.P.D. S.I.S., the FBI Hostage Rescue Team, F.B.I. regional S.W.A.T. teams, and 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment—Delta (Delta Force). The Tacoma, Washington Police Department selected the Kimber Pro Carry II or Pro Carry II HD as optional, department supplied weapons available to its officers.[20]



[11][12]A basic version of Smith & Wesson's SW1911 with user-installed Pachmayr grips.[13][14]M1911 by Springfield Armory, Inc.(contemporary remake of the World War II G.I. Model, parkerized).

The M1911A1 is popular among the general public in the United States for practical and recreational purposes. The pistol is commonly used for concealed carry thanks in part to a single-stack magazine (which makes for a thinner pistol that is therefore easier to conceal), personal defense, target shooting, and competition. Numerous aftermarket accessories allow users to customize the pistol to their liking. There are a growing number of manufacturers of M1911-type pistols and the model continues to be quite popular for its reliability, simplicity, and patriotic appeal. Various tactical, target, and compact models are available. Price ranges from a low end of around $400 for basic pistols imported from the Philippines or Turkey (ArmscorTisasRock Island ArmoryGirsanSTI Spartan) to more than $4,000 for the best competition or tactical versions (Wilson Combat, Ed Brown, Les BaerNighthawk Custom, and STI International.[21]).

Due to an increased demand for M1911 pistols among Army Special Operations units, who are known to field a variety of M1911 pistols, the Army Marksmanship Unit began looking to develop a new generation of M1911s and launched the M1911-A2 project in late 2004.[2] The goal was to produce a minimum of seven variants with various sights, internal and external extractors, flat and arched mainspring housings, integral and add-on magazine wells, a variety of finishes and other options, with the idea of providing the end-user a selection from which to select the features that best fit their missions.[2] The AMU performed a well received demonstration of the first group of pistols to the Marine Corps at Quantico and various Special Operations units at Ft. Bragg and other locations.[2] The project provided a feasibility study with insight into future projects.[2] Models were loaned to various Special Operations units, the results of which are classified. An RFP was issued for a Joint Combat Pistol but it was ultimately canceled.[2] Currently units are experimenting with an M1911 platform in .40 which will incorporate lessons learned from the A2 project. Ultimately, the M1911A2 project provided a test bed for improving existing M1911s. An improved M1911 variant becoming available in the future is a possibility.[2]

The Springfield Custom Professional Model 1911A1 pistol is produced under contract by Springfield Armory for the FBI regional SWAT teams and the Hostage Rescue Team.[22] This pistol is made in batches on a regular basis by the Springfield Custom Shop, and a few examples from most runs are made available for sale to the general public at a selling price of approximately US$2,700 each.

MEU(SOC) pistol[edit]Edit

Main article: MEU(SOC) pistol

Marine Expeditionary Units formerly issued M1911s to Force Recon units.[23] Hand-selected Colt M1911A1 frames were gutted, deburred, and prepared for additional use by the USMC Precision Weapon Section (PWS) at Marine Corps Base Quantico.[23]They were then assembled with after-market grip safeties, ambidextrous thumb safeties, triggers, improved high-visibility sights, accurized barrels, grips, and improved Wilson magazines.[24] These hand-made pistols were tuned to specifications and preferences of end users.[25]

In the late 1980s, the Marines laid out a series of specifications and improvements to make Browning's design ready for 21st century combat, many of which have been included in MEU (SOC) pistol designs, but design and supply time was limited.[25]Discovering that the Los Angeles Police Department was pleased with their special Kimber M1911 pistols, a single source request was issued to Kimber for just such a pistol despite the imminent release of their TLE/RLII models.[26] Kimber shortly began producing a limited number of what would be later termed the Interim Close Quarters Battle pistol (ICQB). Maintaining the simple recoil assembly, 5-inch barrel (though using a stainless steel match grade barrel), and internal extractor, the ICQB is not much different from Browning's original design.[26]


In late July 2012, the U.S. Marines placed a $22.5 million order for 12,000 M1911 pistols for MEU(SOC) forces.[4] The new 1911 was designated M45A1 or "Close Quarters Battle Pistol" CQBP. The M45A1 features a dual recoil spring assembly, Picatinny rails and is cerakoted tan in color.

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