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Old March 23, 2013, 11:16 PM   #1
Winchester_73
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Which handgun is America's sidearm?

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.

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Old March 23, 2013, 11:35 PM   #2
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I tend to agree I suppose there are some revolvers that could stake a claim to the crown, but for me it probably is the 1911.
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Old March 23, 2013, 11:40 PM   #3
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While I personally don't like the 1911 style handguns, I agree that they probably deserve a claim to a title such as this.
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Old March 24, 2013, 12:18 AM   #4
Venom1956
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honestly there is an excerpt from the zombie survival guide that says the 'handgun' is uniquely american even more so then the automobile.

I am inclined to agree. American's have a fascination with handguns all of them. the 1911 and glock are probably the two poster childs tho.
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Old March 24, 2013, 12:37 AM   #5
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I think that its a fair assessment that "America's Sidearm" is/should be the 1911.

Recently discovered we have a Colt 1911 U.S. Navy in the family. Produced in the year of 1912. 4 digit serial number matches on slide and frame. Barrel turned out to be from 1915. It is retired now that it is known what it is, I did put a few rounds through it before we fully realized its value. The century tested design did as expected in a century old 1911 and it performed perfectly.

It is a great design, one that has been proven through more than a century of use all over the world and is still in use today with very little different about it today. It just works, has worked, and will continue to work as a reliable platform to shoot .45 acp for the foreseeable future.
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Old March 24, 2013, 12:39 AM   #6
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Which handgun is America's sidearm?

I find the 1911 an elegant, brilliant, design that is somewhat outdated for actual combat use. I can think of no gun more deserving for the title "America's handgun", though, except maybe any of a variety of Smith & Wesson .357 revolvers. After all, if we're taking into consideration the 1911s immense service life, we shouldn't forget the 60-70 years that a .38 or .357 six-shooter was the staple sidearm.
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Old March 24, 2013, 05:30 AM   #7
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Revolvers are certainly in the running, but I don't think most people would identify a particular model as being America's gun.

The 1911 however, I would think that even if you didn't know the name, most people would still recognize the gun.

From a historical stand point, the 1911 really becomes and icon that is still relevant and popular today.
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Old March 24, 2013, 06:10 AM   #8
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Which handgun is America's sidearm?

In terms of sheer numbers, the S&W k-frame revolvers are probably #1, but I think you're right about the 1911 being "America's sidearm." I sure like mine.
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Old March 24, 2013, 06:26 AM   #9
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The 1911 is it.
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Old March 24, 2013, 07:54 AM   #10
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I'd have to go with the 1911, I don't see Glock as even in the running.

Your 1943 is in better shape than my AO (as far as I can figure) late 90's - early 2000 model! It's beat up but I love it anyway



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Old March 24, 2013, 08:00 AM   #11
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Quote:
Revolvers are certainly in the running, but I don't think most people would identify a particular model as being America's gun.
1873 Colt but I'd go with the 1911.
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Old March 24, 2013, 08:01 AM   #12
Rifleman1776
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Even though I don't care for them, I have to agree, the 1911 is probably America's most iconic sidearm. An argument could be made for the SAA but I'm sure a lot more 1911s have been made and sold.
I had one when I was in high school. Didn't like the recoil. Sold it for almost nothing. That was 60 years ago.
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Old March 24, 2013, 08:05 AM   #13
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America's handgun?

The answer is somewhere between 1910 and 1912.
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Old March 24, 2013, 08:17 AM   #14
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Ruger .22 Standard, any Smith & Wesson .38 would have my vote before the 1911.
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Old March 24, 2013, 09:14 AM   #15
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I have to admit,when seeing the title,I thought of the Colt 1873 SAA,but agree with the 1911 overall, in sheer numbers and longevity.

I think worldwide, peoples first response would be our iconic American gun that won the west.

The Glock does not strike me as an American firearm,being it's from Austria.
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Old March 24, 2013, 09:58 AM   #16
Venom1956
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Quote:
The Glock does not strike me as an American firearm,being it's from Austria
Where its manufactured has little bearing on its popularity as "America's gun" its simply one of the most popular pistols for shooting sports, self defense, police sidearms, lets face it its an iconic gun. Everyone knows Glock they know it means a pistol that is black. Is it America's Gun? perhaps not but it should not be dismissed so casually.

I don't think revolvers qualify anymore thoughts have changed in newer shooters and revolvers are 'old guns' maybe 30 or 40 years ago that would be a different story.
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Old March 24, 2013, 10:04 AM   #17
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An argument can be made for the Beretta 92/M9, as it is current issue U.S. military, and also very popular with U.S. civilians. The M9 is also made in the U.S. not that it really matters, but I think it does help the argument. However, I will stick with my first choice, which is the 1911.
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Old March 24, 2013, 10:14 AM   #18
Winchester_73
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I knew that some people would mention the SAA because of its success as a design in its time, and how there are many imitators. However, it had a much shorter service life, and technology wise, it was more on the obsolete side, much sooner than the 1911. The US army attempted to replace it with the early DA colts such as the 1889 and 1892. The design was decent, but the ctg lacked the power our military wanted. Then in 1909, the New Service (the Colt large frame pre war DA) was made in 45 colt for the Army. Then two years later, the 1911 came out.

The 1911 IMO is more relevant in more ways today. You have the USMC ordering new ones, people shoot them competitively, people still carry the 1911, probably some places in the world, the 1911 is still issued. There have been leaps forward since the 1911 including the DA semi auto pistol, double stack magazine, but if you look at the entire picture, the 1911 is still relevant today in many ways. The SAA is more nostalgic than useful, although some people are really damn good with them, and they prefer them, and that is fine. Despite that, I doubt that any military still issues a SA revolver, and I doubt the USMC will be ordering SAAs for combat use. Just my opinion...

Also, I am a little surprised that so many are in agreement, but I guess when you present the 1911s story and history, its a little hard to debate. Had someone else started this thread, I think I would have had to agree.

I started the thread as "America's sidearm" but I have to admit "America's pistol" sounds better, but I didn't want a tangent in my thread about the single chamber of a "pistol" vs the multiple chambers of a revolver.
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Old March 24, 2013, 10:28 AM   #19
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the only one that can dethrone the 1911 to me is perhaps the colt SAA, the peacemaker.
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Old March 24, 2013, 10:59 AM   #20
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I'd go with the 1911A1 or its predecessor as well, Winchester 73. Like the looks of the one you posted. Here's mine...Remington-Rand '43 vintage if memory serves...and far more accurate than most WWll guns. It's surprised some of the Whiz Kids with their space gun .45's on a public range....a gee whiz gun is no substitute for the ability to "hard hold". And how 'bout this little rhyme,

For wide open spaces, the rifle's all right,
Where there's time, space and distance, and plenty of light,
But for work on the instant, when shooting is tight,
You can't get the slant with a rifle.

So I'll say that at times, it is all very well,
But for devilry, death, or the raising of hell
The Colt 45 is unusually swell,
And will go where you can't with a rifle.

You can spatter a dollar at seventy feet,
With a stunning precision that's pleasing and neat,
So I'll still make the claim that the Colt can't be beat
And will do what you can't with a rifle.

So when something is crashing the alders ahead,
And it's death to the brute or you in its stead,
Let the Colt automat, the fist-filling gat, the chunky blue cat,
Chuck its competent lead!


Rod

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Old March 24, 2013, 11:01 AM   #21
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1911

Fabbrica d'Armi Pietro Beretta, founded in 1526 in Brescia Italy. Hardly an American gun.
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Old March 24, 2013, 11:25 AM   #22
loltraktor1918
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I think it comes down to either the Colt SA revolvers or the 1911. I am having a hard time choosing between the too. I probably go with the 1911, although I prefer the looks of the Colt SA Army(at least that is what it is called on the Colt website.)
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Old March 24, 2013, 11:39 AM   #23
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"the 1911 would not even be close, popularity wise, to the Glock"

We're not talking about popularity, we're talking about the gun that comes to mind when you think of American spirit and will. That is without a doubt not a Glock.
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Old March 24, 2013, 11:41 AM   #24
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For me it's got to be the 1911. Yes, the Beretta is current military issue for routine (if you'll pardon the expression) combat and rear echelon units, but the real high-speed. low-drag outfits still use 1911s. On the civilian side, while there are Beretta lovers, the Beretta has nowhere near the number of devotees that the 1911 does. Glock? Hardly "America's sidearm." No matter how many are in use, they are Austrian, not American, and they are regarded by many who use them as a commodity, just something to be used because it's there and it's affordable (or because the department issues it). There is really nothing about the Glock to qualify it as "America's sidearm."
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Old March 24, 2013, 12:11 PM   #25
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Going by Internet forums if you did not know about the history of American firearms you would think that Glock won the west. I think john Wayne carried one didn't he. I would vote for the .45 1911.
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