Recently I began contemplating something - what would the gun owning community overall agree on is deserving of the title "America's sidearm"? I ask this because recently I got a couple more 1911s, Colt make, and I really appreciate everything about them. My appreciation for the 1911 was a little slower than most other people's, partly because I don't easily get a comfortable grip on them, and partly because they are popular, which I don't care to get things which are popular, but rather things that I like, regardless of the next guy. As a first born child, I have always been a leader in my choices, and only a follower if I agreed with the basic principle at hand.
Anyways, I thought a lot about the 1911 aka "government model": its unique history IE how it was developed in this country by an American, who was quite possibly the greatest gun designer of all time - John Moses Browning. In addition, it was more or less our country's reaction to the Luger, which in of itself, was also a ground breaking pistol and probably the most advanced at its introduction. Despite all of the genius involved in the Luger's conception, I think most people would agree that the 1911 was a far better design BUT the luger was first, and was around over 10 years before the 1911. The reputation of the 1911 is American too. Just like the American spirit, the 1911 can be abused, stepped on, and be dunked in a mud puddle, but it still perseveres. It will come through, rest assured, and never bet against it! After all, it beat out all of the other submitted 45 acp pistols of its time in a torture test in 1907. These peers that it beat out came from some of the other premier designers of its time, basically like an all star team and yet the 1911 still won out. The caliber is also very American - the 45 acp. The 45 cal pistol ctg (45 Colt, 45 Schofield, 45 S&W, etc) was the pistol cartridge that largely won the west, and when the new DA revolvers with swing out cylinders came out in 1889 (introduced by Colt), many people felt that the calibers, such as 38 colt, were too weak, and that a DA revolver would be needed in 45 colt, which married the most effective handgun cartridge with the latest handgun design. At the same time, Browning was getting closer and closer to finally introducing the world to the 1911. His pistol designs began with the 1900, and the many prototypes before it. Many of which were in 38 auto (basically a shorter, less powerful 38 super). Eventually, sometime before 1905, there was a call to modify his design so that it would chamber a 45 cal round, and be semi auto, which had to match the 45 colt's performance. Browning knew that the 38 auto may not be the best thing going, just as luger had to come up with something better than the 7.65mm luger round. Browning at one time had a few semi pistols in 41 auto, showing that he had the clairvoyance in firearms design that few people are blessed with. He knew that he had something, but he needed it to be in the right caliber to in order to be super successful. Browning altered his 1902 pistol design to accept the 45 acp ctg, and with some other modifications, the end result was Browning's model 1905 45 acp. These were made by Colt, in a civilian and military version, and either version is rarely seen today. This pistol had its shortcomings, but it was the important predecessor to his final 45 acp design, the 1911. I think the fact that the 1911 very often 45 acp is American in another way - how we as Americans often think bigger is better, whether it is or not. We like XL pizzas and big dinner buffets, super size at the drive through, big trucks, big wheels, big homes, big V8 engines, etc. We like our men to be big guys, our rifles to be large bores, and when we hunt, we want the biggest animal we can get. We also like big pistol cartridges which are very effective, and with the 45 acp being just under 1/2 inch in diameter, coupled with its velocity (not super fast, but fast enough given its bullet weight) it fits the bill very well of what Americans like in a pistol - perfectly. Americans are also largely safety conscious, seat belts and air bags in our cars, helmets for our athletes, we have the FDA to monitor our rx drugs, and we are also big on safe gun designs. The 1911 having a manual safety WITH a grip safety makes for a very safe design. The design also is very durable meaning that it is unlikely to have a mechanical failure make it unsafe. I think most people feel very safe carrying a 1911, even in condition 1, due to its design.
The 1911 would end up serving in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam and even after. It did have some slight design modifications to become the 1911a1 in 1924. Since its beginning, the pistol was carried by countless agencies and PDs. Licensed copies were made by Norway and Argentina, as their military sidearm, because they saw no reason to attempt to develop something better than the Browning design. Despite the basic design being introduced in 1911, the pistol was not replaced in our country's army until 1985. Its important to remember that our country at the time (and still today) had the greatest military in the world, and yet used a pistol which was developed in 1911. Of course we had the 1924 modified version 1911a1, but still, that is simply amazing. The marines in 2012 placed an order for approx 12k of the 1911a1 pistols from Colt, since the USMC feels that even the designs POST 1911 are not any better for their purposes. When you think about that choice of the USMC, its mind boggling in a way. Something mechanical, despite all of the knowledge today, could still be one of the best in its field. Nothing else with very little modification from 1911 is even close to being as useful today as the 1911 pistol.
The 1911 pistol since its inception has been made at more factories than possibly any other pistol design, ever. Today if you tell someone you want a 1911, you have narrowed down your pistol desire to 1000s of different choices. There are many flavors, sizes, new calibers other than 45, many makers, and just like cars, there is a 1911 for every budget.
I landed my first basic 45 acp government model this year. Before 2013, I had a commander, a long slide AMT, and two 38 special wadcutter 1911a1 national match pistols. I also carry a Colt mustang pocketlite. My first 1911 this year was a Colt made 1911a1 from 1943, which is all original. Its not in perfect shape, but its nice considering it served in WWII and is 70 years old. I then located a 1961 government model with a series 70 slide and a HS barrel at a local gun shop. I sold the slide and barrel, and bought the correct slide and barrel, and ended up with a Colt government model in great shape for less than $700 when the deal was completed.
Given everything above, plus the inherent popularity of the 1911/1911a1 in today's world, it is my opinion that it is America's sidearm. I know some of you may disagree, and that is ok, because I am posting this to start a discussion, not to spoon feed my opinion to others. The only other handgun that comes to mind as "America's sidearm" IMO is the S&W M&P revolver aka model 10. Aside from those two, I'm not sure any other handgun could be in the conversation.
What say you about "America's sidearm" ?
My 1911a1 1943 vintage. The slide serial numbers to the frame.
1961 Government model - micro sights, trigger shoe, match target grips. I have not shot it yet, but I anticipate it being a great shooter. Its sure a good looker as well.
My AMT long slide in original box. Are you Sara Connor?
My Colt 1911s and variants. Upper left, 1962 38 special Wadcutter MKIII National match, upper row, center - 1943 1911a1, upper right - 1961 government model, middle, far left - Mustang pocketlite, lower left - Colt combat commander in satin nickel (unfired, ANIB), bottom center, Colt 1920 government model, lower right, 1971 38 special Wadcutter MKIII National match.