The story of the 1911 pistol began in 1898, when John Moses Browning submitted drawings for a patent on an auto-loading pistol mechanism. Around the same time the U.S. Army, was discovering that their recently adopted .38 Long Colt cartridge was not doing its job against fanatical Moro warriors in the Philippines.
Those battles led to calls for a modern auto-loading pistol in .45 caliber. Meanwhile Browning's drawings led to a series of designs culminating in the pistol that Colt submitted to the Army.
The two stories converged at the U.S. Army pistol trials in 1910 where Browning's design showed its superiority over its two closest competitors.
The pistol, later designated the M1911, fired six thousand rounds over two days with zero malfunctions. On March 29, 1911, the United States Army formally adopted the pistol, followed by the Navy and Marines two years later.
Currently produced by dozens of commercial gun makers (try to find a gun manufacturer that doesn't make one), the gun is more popular than ever. Even Colt, the original manufacturer, still makes the gun 105 years after the first ones were produced in the old Hartford Connecticut plant.
This month we celebrate the 1911, including some of the more strange 1911 pistols built.
This first one is the gun that started the legend, serial # 1, the gun used in the military trials.
One of the first ads for the 1911
The next one is a pair of pistols built by the Cabot Gun Company, they call them the Big Bang Pistol Set. Besides displaying the superior craftsmanship typical of Cabot's guns, these were made from special metal, some of the oldest metal on the planet, perhaps even the universe.....
from their website:
After billions of years of travel, a meteorite hurtled to earth in Gibeon, Namibia during earth’s pre-historic times. Unknown to western civilization until the early 1800’s, pieces were used by the ancient Nama people in the construction of tools and weapons. In 2015, its destiny not yet fulfilled, the hands of Cabot Guns’ master craftsman wrapped around a 77-pound piece of unshapen material and so began a transformation. We too, like the men of yore, saw in it the potential to shape earthly perfection from materials of the cosmos.
A piece of the source material....
On the list of most valuable 1911s would be M1911 serial number 25468, it is the one used by Sgt. Alvin York to silence some machine gun nests and capture 132 German POWs during WWI.
Unfortunately his pistol went missing on his trip back home, serial # 25468 is hopefully still out there in someone's collection (we pray it didn't fall victim to some leftists gun buy back/meltdown program).
this is what the gun should look like....
The Safari Arms Matchmaster 1911:
They were unique in that they featured a finger groove and squared off trigger guard. This one is a long slide version.
a modified version of the gun was wielded by Angelina Jolie in the movie Wanted.
This gun, was used by Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme on September 15th, 1975 in an attempt to kill President Ford. She was unable to work the hammer and/or safety before being tackled by the Secret Service.
The pistol, serial number 94854 is on display at the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum. Lynette Fromme was released on parole, after 34 years in 2009.
Possibly the most unique 1911 pistol is the AF2011-A1 from Arsenal Firearms of Italy. It is essentially two 1911 pistols married together.
After WWII the U.S. Army investigated the possibility of making the M1911 pistol from stamped steel components (ala the M3 Grease Gun), thank God they gave up on that idea.
This 1911, from famous motorcycle builder-turned gunsmith Jesse James, was built using pieces of steel from the Statue of Liberty. You may remember that in the mid-80's Lady Liberty underwent a major renovation. Well someone involved in the renovation was able to "secure" some pieces of a handrail from around the torch.
The source material, the rails are being split so they can be flattened and then hammer forged with other steel to form the damascus
This bulbous looking thing is actually a Nomar 40 round magazine/arm brace
source: Forgotten Weapons
The all stainless AMT Hardballer long slide 1911. Two shorter versions were used by Agent 47 in the video game (and subsequent movie) Hitman
The M1911 below was removed from the waistband of Clyde Barrow after he and Bonnie Parker were gunned down by a posse in Louisiana.
With the Colt is a notarized letter from former Special Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, Jr., dated December 18, 1973 in which he states that this pistol, #164070, was removed from the “waistband of Clyde Barrow’s trousers the morning that he and Bonnie Parker were killed by my father in Louisiana.
Just one of many 1911s that have been gold plated over the years.
This mildly customized, two tone 1911 pistol was the daily carry gun for one retired Marine Colonel John Dean "Jeff" Cooper. Cooper, who is at least partially responsible for rejuvenating the popularity of the 1911, he often expounded on the virtues of Browning's design.
There are many pictures of him shooting the pistol. The grips are no doubt African Ivory as Jeff had been on Safari to the dark continent numerous times throughout his life.
Cabot guns is one of the few arms makers to produce a left handed version of the M1911A1 Commander. Upon first glance it appears someone "reversed the negative".
A right and left handed set
This 1911s story is pretty amazing....the gun was on the hip of a Marine on Iwo Jima, when a Japanese sniper hit the holster carrying the gun. You can see where the bullet penetrated the holster and inserted itself into the pistol's slide.
M1911 with butt stock and main spring housing adapter
An early version of the Detonics Combat Master compact 1911. The prototypes and first production models were built by cutting and welding surplus M1911A1 pistols.
On the opposite end of the scale, literally, is the scaled up 1911 known as the L.A.R. Grizzly. The guns were chambered in revolver cartridges like the .357 & .44 Magnum, standard pistol cartridges like the 45 ACP and 10mm as well as auto magnum rounds such as the .50 Action Express, 9mm Winchester Magnum and the .45 Winchester Magnum. The pistol was in production from 1983 to 1999.
This full auto .38 super 1911 is said to have been used by George "Baby Face" Nelson in the Little Bohemia Raid on April 23, 1934. Fellow gang member John Dillinger had a similar gun made by the same Texas Gunsmith.
I am not entirely sure that John Browning would recognize some of the pistols being made by Infinity Firearms....they take the design to the limits
In 1932, the Research Section of Springfield Armory decided to investigate the possibility of using die castings for the frame and slide of the 1911A1 pistol. A small number of samples were prepared from a high tensile bronze alloy nicknamed "Brastil". They were further machined and fitted. The assembled test pistols were given an endurance trial of 5,000 rounds and the trial report contains a statement that the "performance looked promising."
Browning introduced a scaled down 1911 pistol in .22 LR a few years back, the gun is 85% the size of the original government model
source: Browning Arms
here it is next to a full size Kimber 1911
An M1911 cut-away training tool
Coonan Arms makes a modified 1911 pistol chambered in .357 Mag/.38 Special. Their advertisements tell you that if you are looking for your first pistol, "this isn't it"
Here is a handmade copy of a 1911 pistol, made during the Vietnam War by a member of the VietCong
How about this for an extended magazine?
It was only a matter of time before someone decided to apply polymer technology to the 1911 platform. Companies like European American Armory (EAA), American Tactical Imports (ATI) and Rock River Arms have polymer 1911s in their catalogs. Below is the offering from Rock River Arms, the most traditional looking of the three
When this picture surfaced on the internet people believed that Glock had produced a 1911 model, but it was a ruse, someone savvy with Photoshop created a virtual Glock 1911
and the original picture
One of the rarest of all 1911s is the North American Arms pistols made in Quebec, Canada during the waning days of WWI. The contract was cancelled due to the war's ending, but not before 100 pistols were manufactured and of those only 16 are known to exist ....making them exceedingly rare and expensive, this one sold for $30,000
Some of the most beautiful 1911 pistols currently being made come from Turnbull Manufacturing of Bloomfield, NY
This month we will be focusing on the 1911 pistol, stay tuned....