The M1911 Colt .45 Automatic Pistol is one of the most successful designs in the history of firearms. The M1911 and M1911A1 pistols served as the primary U.S. military sidearm for about 80 years through two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam and countless other engagements.
The commercial .45 automatic pistol was designed by John Moses Browning. It was first mass-produced by Colt, as its M1905, then adopted, in modified form,
by the U.S. Army in 1911 as the Automatic Pistol, Caliber .45, Model of 1911", chambered for the .45 cal. ACP cartridge. It won fame in WWI and was re-designated as the "Pistol, U.S. Caliber .45 Model 1911A1" in 1922 when some minor design improvements were introduced. About 150,000 were produced before World War II. Colt, Remington-Rand, Union Switch & Signal and the Ithaca Gun Company manufactured 1,800,000 pistols during WWII. Production ended in 1945 but the substantial inventories were in service for decades afterward until replaced by the M9 Beretta 9mm automatic pistol.
Automatic Pistol, Caliber .45, M-1911A1.
The classic .45 cal. Colt automatic pistol was much sought after by GIs as a personal back-up weapon. It was officially issued to officers, NCOs, demolition personnel and vehicle crews. Many other soldiers and officers obtained and carried a "45" without authorization.
The M-1 belt holster and the M-3 shoulder holster were issued for the pistol. Most Airborne soldiers carried their pistols in M-3 shoulder holsters.
Characteristics of the M1911A1 Colt Automatic Pistol
The .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol M1911A1 (a.k.a. the "Colt .45")
is a conventional semi-automatic pistol, holding seven rounds in a detachable magazine (photo, left). It is 8 ½ inches long and weights 2 ½ pounds. It has a muzzle velocity of 860 fps and uses a .45 caliber ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) cartridge. It has considerable "stopping power" in close-in fighting. Most have a lanyard loop attached to the pistol grip's base for attaching either the 1918 or 1943 lanyards.
The .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol M1911A1 is a recoil-operated hand weapon.
The magazine-fed semiautomatic weapon fires one round each time the
trigger is squeezed once the hammer is cocked by prior action of the slide or
thumb. This design is referred to as "single action only." The thumb
safety may only be activated once the pistol is cocked. The hammer remains in
the fully cocked position once the safety is activated. (Note: More modern pistol
designs of the "double action" type will allow the hammer to move
forward to an uncocked position when the thumb safety is activated.)
The M1911A1 was widely respected for its reliability and lethality. However,
its single action, cocked and locked design required the user to be very familiar
and well-trained to allow carrying the pistol in the "ready-to-fire"
mode. Consequently, M1911A1s were often prescribed to be carried without a round
in the chamber. Even with this restriction on the user, numerous unintentional
discharges were documented yearly.
Differences Between the M1911 and M1911A1 Colt Automatic Pistols
The M1911 and M1911A1 models of the .45 Automatic pistol are quite similar, with the changes in the following list the only differences:
Tang on the grip safety was lengthened to protect the shooter's hand from the hammer
Receiver is cut back on the right side behind the trigger to allow a more natural position for the shooter's trigger finger
Trigger face is cut back and ridged for better finger pressure control
Mainspring housing at the bottom, rear of the handle is arched and knurled to improve shooter's grip
Front sight top is wider to facilitate aiming
For immediate identification, the curved shape of the back of the mainspring housing indicates that the pistol is an M1911A1 as opposed to the straight housing on the M1911. Most military production of the Colt .45 Automatic pistols was of the Model M1911A1.
Replacement of the M1911A1 by the Beretta 92F
On 14 January 1985 the Pentagon announced that the Model 92F 9mm pistol manufactured by Fabbrica D' Armi Pietro Beretta S.p.A. of Italy would officially replace the M1911A1 .45 caliber pistol. The new pistol would be known as "Pistol, Automatic, Caliber 9mm, M9" to be manufactured by a Beretta subsidiary in the U.S. Actual replacement of the M1911A1 by the M9 took place from the late 1980s into the 1990s while production problems with the M9 Beretta were worked out.
In August 2005, the DoD issued specifications for the Military Forces Joint Combat Pistol (JCP), a possible replacement for the M9 Pistol. The specification requires the JCP to be chambered for .45 ACP ammunition. The JCP procurement was postponed in 2006, but it seemed clear that the days of the M9 9mm pistol were coming to an end and that its successor may return to the reliable .45 ACP cartridge.
MEU (SOC) and M45 Close Quarter Battle Pistol
The M1911A1 had been the standard handgun issued to Marines for many decades. Selected weapons were modified in the 1980s to meet the requirements of the Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations capable) or MEU (SOC) in lieu of arming them with the M9 9mm pistol. 500 pistols were selected and modified.
Weapon modifications were designed in 1986 to meet the requirements of the MEU (SOC). Each pistol is hand-built by specially trained armorers at the Rifle Team Equipment (RTE) shop, Quantico, Virginia. The weapon is a modified M1911A1
.45 caliber pistol sometimes referred to as "near match" or "combat
accuratized." The MEU (SOC) Pistol is the designated backup weapon of Marines armed with the 9mm MP5-N Close Quarters Battle weapon. The M1911A1 was chosen for this role (and its modifications generated) because of its inherent reliability and lethality, and because the MEU(SOC) modifications make the M1911A1 design more "user friendly."
The unique characteristics of the MEU (SOC) pistol are:
Commercial/competition grade ambidextrous safety
Rubber coated grips
Rounded hammer spur
High profile combat sights
In addition, an extra-wide grip safety provides for increased comfort and controllability (which aids in a quick follow-up second shot). The issue magazines are replaced with stainless steel competition-grade magazines with rounded plastic follower and extended floor plate.
In 2005, the Corps bought 150 MEU (SOC) pistols from Springfield Armory in Geneseo, IL. In October 2010, the USMC sought a vendor for up to 12,000 of the MEU(SOC) .45 cal. pistols, now designated the M45 Close Quarter Battle Pistol, for issue to Marine Forces Special Operations Command and Force Recon. The USMC FY2013 budget submitted in February 2012 included $3 million for the M45 CQBP, citing a doubling of requirements due to the formation of MARSOC and the reconstitution of the Force Reconnaissance Company in each MEF.
X2693614-X2693665 Renumbered Raritan Arsenal X2693666-X2693785 Renumbered
RIA X2693786-X2693885 Renumbered Ord. in Tokyo Arsenal X2693886-X2694996
Renumbered several U.S. Arsenals X2694997-X2694998 Renumbered RIA 1954-1955
X2694999-X2695198 Renumbered Ord. in Tokyo Arsenal 1955 X2695199-X2695201
Renumbered Raritan Arsenal 1955 X2695202-X2695210 Renumbered RIA 1955-1956
X2695211-X2695212 Renumbered Minn. Mil. Dist. Arsenal 1957 Total: 4985
Total all sources 1912-1965 - 2,769,094
RUSSIAN CONTRACT 1915-1916-C50000-C84000 (These pistols were selected
at random from the above serial numbers and marked ANGLO ZAKAZIVAT.)
NORWEGIAN CONTRACT 1912-C10000-C13000
BRITISH CONTRACT .445 CALIBER 1915-1916-W83001-W111000 (The majority of these guns were issued to the Royal Navy. In 1942, they were reissued
to the Royal Air Force. At this time they were handstamped on the frame
R.A.F. or RAF.
Colt M1911A1 pistols with serial numbers beginning with WK or WMK are commemorative reproductions, not original military production.
REMINGTON U.M.C. Major E.E. Chapman, Inspector Lt. Arthur E. Evans, Sub-inspector Lt. Paul M. Buzby, Sub-inspector
COLT F.B. Austin Lt. R.W. Chandler T.L. Childs E.H. Dewey Col. Guy
H. Drewry Andrew H. Forsythe F.L. Hosmer Lt. Charles G. Howe A.L. Hallstrom
Cpt. Walter T. Gorton K.S. Morse Maj. W.G. Penfield Charles F. Rogers
W.E. Strong D.A. Turner Col. Robert Sears
REMINGTON RAND Col. Frank J. Atwood LTC Harrison Shaler
ITHACA Col. Frank J. Atwood
UNION SWITCH & SIGNAL Col. Frank J. Atwood LTC R.C. Downie
SINGER LTC John K. Christmas
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