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Old March 25, 2013, 12:45 PM   #76
shouldazagged
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"The difference was that the American public didn't start purchasing them in any substantial quantities until well after World War II, and the "legend" of the 1911 didn't start manifesting itself until the 1950s, when everyone and their brother started writing about how wonderful it was (apparently largely in comparison to all of the inexpensive surplus handguns that were coming int the United States at that time).

Even with all of those millions of American servicemen coming back from war, having experienced the 1911 first hand, it still didn't start outselling the simple revolver until the 1980s.... and then the Wonder 9s blasted right past both the revolver and the 1911."

I don't have the figures, but I kind of doubt that the 1911's outsold revolvers, at least not to the civilian market. Could easily be wrong. I have been once or twice in 75 years.

But honestly my impression, reading all these posts (some of them quite impassioned), is that what you consider "America's gun" finally depends a hell of a lot on what movies and TV shows you grew up watching.
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Old March 25, 2013, 12:48 PM   #77
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I think the M&P, SAA and 1911 have much in common, but I think in every important category, the 1911 shows strength, whereas the M&P and SAA lack in some important categories.

For example, as I said before, the SAA could not dominate ctg revolvers in its day, with the S&W No 3 guns being well regarded, and many felt they were better in some ways. The SAA could not achieve a sole military contract, it was issued with its adversary. Not so for the 1911, as it beat out every other design to win a US contract. Of course many revolvers were made, and issued, but it was not because they felt the revolver was a better design in the way that some soldiers felt about the SAA vs the S&W No 3.

For the M&P, it re-introduced or borrowed older technology, so to me, it was not as great as a design, since much of the work in development was done by someone else. The 1911 was more of a gamble, more of an invention, more original and while if you want play semantics (Mike), it wasn't exactly "ground breaking" but it was definitely a much more original design. It evolved from previous Browning designs, but not designs from other men or other companies. It was an upgraded design from the same man, where all of the improvements married the semi auto chambering of 45 cal to achieve a great pistol whereas the S&W M&P was the S&W version of technology introduced by other companies, notably Colt, where they knew it would have some success, no matter what, because the Colt DA revolver had achieved success. The M&P was more of a common sense move - at the S&W tool room ok guys, lets make an alternative to the colt DA revolver with a better ctg (obvious choice - the 38 colt was a let down in a lot of ways), and a smaller more durable design (obvious). Of course you have to give them credit for perfecting what Colt introduced, but perhaps the M&P would not have been as great, had the colt DA not come out 10 years before.

The 1911 was very different from most other semi autos that came before it, IE the C96, luger, C93 "borchardt", Steyr autos, etc. Then after all of that, after it arrived, and won the US contract, the 1911 went to WWI against many of these other semi auto pistols, and showed that it was much greater. Then comes WWII, and despite being against more modern designs, such as the P38, the 1911 showed it was still very formidable, very useful, very relevant, even against pistols which came about much later, from some of the greatest designers of that time. If you compare the designs, SAA vs 1911, 1911 vs M&P, you see that the 1911 was more original and stood the test of time. The 1911 was king of the hill, and it stayed that way longer.

As for the gun not being as popular civilian wise between WWI and WWII (its not appropriate to site lower civilian sales when there were wars going on, as not many civilian guns were made), this was partly because it was basically a BRAND NEW gun, up against TRIED AND TRUE revolvers. Of course people will choose a revolver, its been around longer, they're cheaper, they're very well made (Cot and S&W), etc. You forget Mike that before WWII, there was a depression, and if you didn't need the 1911, you bought a DA revolver, or something else, to save money. This was very important at the time. The 1911, when new, was IMO the glock of its day, where the old revolver guys made fun of it, and had no interest in its advantages. I believe many people back then doubted the 1911, partly because it was a new gun in many ways (not all ways). The 1911 had to win respect, where for the M&P, the DA revolver, and the revolver itself, had already won the respect of most people. Just like when revolvers were newer, IE the Paterson or Walker, they were made in much smaller numbers, than say the later SAA, or the 1889 vs the Official police, S&W 1899 vs S&W model marked 10, etc.

In another respect, the 1911 was carried by people who were going to war, where shooting the enemy WILL take place, whereas when a PD issued the M&P, it was more of a *if* you need it. There was a chance that the Officer would shoot someone who had a knife, or perhaps was unarmed (say the guy resisted arrest) where as the 1911 was issued to soldiers, where they had to go up against enemy soldiers, who will almost always have a weapon of their own. They had to have something that quick, effective, dependable, something where it was hard to argue for an upgrade. A police officer in the US did not need the 1911, but a soldier, who had to shoot or be shot, needed an advanced (for its time) arm. This is one reason why the M&P IMO is not the top dog.
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Old March 25, 2013, 01:27 PM   #78
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Honestly

I just got to go 50/50:

1911 & SAA
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Old March 25, 2013, 03:30 PM   #79
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I'm going to go out on a limb and say COLT is "America's firearm company," since it looks like the majority chooses one of two Colts for "America's firearm."
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Old March 25, 2013, 03:50 PM   #80
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Smith & Wesson K Frame -- 38 Spl. Needs to be in the running because it was the standard US police sidearm for decades. But I like the idea of the SAA too. Back in the day, when I was a kid and the Saturday Matinee was about 25 cents, the Colt SAA in 45 LC was the icon, the only pistol you ever saw a cowboy use. (And of course the rifle was a Winchester 1894).

The cap pistols I owned were all copies of the Colt SAA.

-- But if you watch the vintage detective movies, the revolver is a Smith, and under-cover it's a Smith Snubby.

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Old March 25, 2013, 06:41 PM   #81
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Hands down a Colt Python, or S&W 27!
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Old March 25, 2013, 06:58 PM   #82
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Im a huge fan of the 1911. What speaks and breaths the "Wild American" has got to be one of the wild west guns.
Colt Peacemaker
1851 Navy
Something along those lines. For a rifle in the same argument it has to be a Henry or Winchester lever.
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Old March 25, 2013, 07:02 PM   #83
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This has somewhat degenerated into the "My Favorite Pistol" theme

I'll have to agree with the Government Model.

It isn't the most common encountered, nor is it the best selling. It is, however, the single pistol that embodies the idea of "American". At least currently. The SAA has to be a close second or third and the 'police revolver' (either a S&W Hand Ejector or a Colt Police Positive) would be the other close second or third.

Interesting; the Colt SAA was not the best selling handgun of the 'frontier' era. There were far more S&W break tops in various models than Colts. I think I recall reading there were more S&W rimfire revolvers sold than SAA revolvers. (I could be wrong, but it sounds right.)

The police in the U. S. were staunchly revolver users from when revolvers were available until the middle 1980s or so. Yes, there were some departments and more individuals who carried an autopistol of some sort, but the vast majority were revolvers; largely Colt (which cost a bit less and brought up memories of the SAA) and S&W (which cost more and had a longer service life.)

And during the period from the end of the Civil War until the 1940s or so, were outsold in quantity by Iver-Johnson and Harrington & Richardson break tops. They were both cheaper and served well for the purpose at hand.

But I'll go with the Government Model. It is just 'American'.
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Old March 25, 2013, 07:48 PM   #84
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Ok there are so many post on this subject that i browsed a few an saw one reference to the colt revolver from the 1800's.

I have to say that the 1911 was updated just as the Colt Peacemaker. They both set the stage for their respective handgun types and every American revolver and semi-auto followed.

To me you have to separate revolver from semi-auto and if not, can anyone not argue that the Peacemaker is as much the American sidearm of its time?

There is no way that the 1911 is number one and anything other than the peacemaker number two!

While we are at it, would Glock be known as number three? Whether it was the first or not, it was the first successful and most well known polymer handgun setting yet another stage for many to follow!
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Old March 25, 2013, 09:10 PM   #85
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My vote is for the Colt Single Action Army. It's the culmination of a series of handguns that played a very prominent role in history. A very close second would be the 1911.
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Old March 26, 2013, 04:49 AM   #86
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The SAA and the Colt & S&W revolvers come close but are not as recognizable without close inspection. One glance and you know it's a 1911
That - or the fact that I disagree with that - is why I went with the SAA.

IMO the SAA is far more instantly identifiable than the M1911.
The M1911 (the original government model) looks a lot like the BHP, the Star line, and other semi's of the period. They look so much like other guns in fact, that they're frequently used interchangeably in movies and the general public doesn't notice. Sure, people who are very into guns can tell the difference, but to non-enthusiasts the basic M1911 just looks like a gun.

The SAA on the other hand is instantly recognizable, and - because personal firearms weren't popular outside of the US during the time period - is more inherently "American". Other countries didn't really have "cowboy guns".

I'll give you that Hollywood has exaggerated it's popularity in the old west, but as I once heard in a western "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend".
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Old March 26, 2013, 05:57 AM   #87
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The 1911 might be the "Iconic" American gun, but if you are just looking at it from a standpoint of what gun you are most likely to see on a day to day basis TODAY it would be the Glock.
The same can be said for Toyota but who would ever think of calling a Camry an iconic American car?

The Colt SAA (and its predecessors) were used by thousands of American soldiers on both sides of the Civil War, carried for protection by an unending stream of citizens moving westward to settle a continent as well as the soldiers sent to protect them. Consider also the Western, no matter who the good guys and villains were you can be sure they'd blast away (without reloading) at each other with the good old SAA. As a final note it continues to be found in plastic form with an orange tip in the aisle of any store where toys may be found.

I don't think Glock's resume even comes close.
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Old March 26, 2013, 06:31 AM   #88
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The 1911 is lame. Antiquated tool that barely served its purpose. Period 38spl were more accurate and reliable.
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Old March 26, 2013, 10:22 AM   #89
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The same can be said for Toyota but who would ever think of calling a Camry an iconic American car?

The Colt SAA (and its predecessors) were used by thousands of American soldiers on both sides of the Civil War, carried for protection by an unending stream of citizens moving westward to settle a continent as well as the soldiers sent to protect them. Consider also the Western, no matter who the good guys and villains were you can be sure they'd blast away (without reloading) at each other with the good old SAA. As a final note it continues to be found in plastic form with an orange tip in the aisle of any store where toys may be found.

I don't think Glock's resume even comes close.
I am speaking of Modern firearms only as I pointed out.
If you want to look at historical guns I would agree the Colt SAA is probably "The" American sidearm. The same way that the Winchester 1894 or the M1 Garand very well may be "The" American rifle.

Looking just at firearms in common use today, I stand by my comments on the Glock. It is almost as recognizable as a 1911 and it is in far higher rates of circulation amongst LEO's and the public. Think about it, the Glock is a hard working immigrant. It is cheap, reliable, proven, accurate enough and easy to get ahold of. There are not too many thrills about it or tricks to using it.
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Old March 26, 2013, 10:38 AM   #90
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I'm not sure why the SAA, from 1872, is not considered "modern", while the 1911, originating in the late 1890's, would be. Both have been and are in production, both have been and are reasonably common, both had and have numerous modifications, versions, generations.
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Old March 26, 2013, 12:40 PM   #91
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The 1911 is still in common use as a SD/HD/Combat firearm. Some LEO's and Military types still use variants of the 1911. It continues to be upgraded as a service weapon to this date.

The colt SAA, while a great pistol with a long history throughout American conflicts has not been used commonly by American troops or law enforcement in many many many decades. I would imagine the last LEO agencies larger than a couple of guys stopped using it as their primary firearm sometime in the 20's or 30's at the very latest.

The AR-15 as an example, the basic design started as the AR-10 about 60 years ago. Throughout that time the AR-15 has evolved, been upgraded and continuously improved. The “Guts” remain pretty much the same but the gun perseveres. Sometimes an old product continues to evolve, sometimes like in the case of the Colt SAA a better mouse trap comes along or they run out of innovations.

I guess in my mind the cutoff between "Modern" and "Not Modern" are weapons still in common use amongst "professionals" and in common use for Home/Self Defense. The 1911 fits that bill, while some of you guys might have a Colt SAA I don't think it is your "go to gun" in the event a bad guy kicks in your door, or you are a LEO pulling someone over on a dark country road.
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Old March 26, 2013, 12:48 PM   #92
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I'm not sure why the SAA, from 1872, is not considered "modern", while the 1911, originating in the late 1890's, would be. Both have been and are in production, both have been and are reasonably common, both had and have numerous modifications, versions, generations.
Must be that the term "modern" is subjective. Could also be whether in context it is referring to design or application. I think of neither as "modern" firearms, but as "classics". But then, that is highly subjective also.
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Old March 26, 2013, 12:52 PM   #93
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I would say the Government Model qualifies as modern because of it being a semi-automatic, magazine fed design.
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Old March 26, 2013, 01:44 PM   #94
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It is almost as recognizable as a 1911...
If it's in someone's hands, it is easily confused with a dozen other "modern" polymer autos.


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The colt SAA, while a great pistol with a long history throughout American conflicts has not been used commonly by American troops or law enforcement in many many many decades.
Who cares??? When you get right down to it, how relevant are the sidearms used by police and military??? Most are chosen due to cost and/or political reasons. Just because a local, state or federal government chooses something does not lend it any more credibility. If anything, it should make us question it. Most of us don't trust the government so why would we trust their choice of sidearm??? Law abiding gun owners vastly outnumber them anyway.
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Old March 26, 2013, 05:06 PM   #95
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Who cares??? When you get right down to it, how relevant are the sidearms used by police and military???
I see what you're saying here, but I don't think the 1911 won the pistol trials to become the US army sidearm because of "politics" a "cover up" or some other conspiracy. I believe it won because it was flat out better. It was one of the best designs at the time, and it went on to serve admirably. I can appreciate the argument for the SAA, as I can for the S&W M&P. Its all a matter of opinion but it sure has been an interesting thread thus far, IMO.
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Old March 26, 2013, 06:03 PM   #96
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I don't think the 1911 won the pistol trials to become the US army sidearm because of "politics" a "cover up" or some other conspiracy.
Me either and that wasn't a jab at the 1911. IMHO the 1911 is one of three viable choices. I would put the S&W hand ejector at a distant third. It has only ever been produced by one maker. They sell very few new ones. Yet the 1911 has been around almost as long, is produced by dozens of manufacturers and they still can't make them fast enough to keep up with demand. Same for the SAA, although in fewer numbers. Bearing in mind that virtually every single action revolver on the market today is based on it, including Ruger.

It was a jab at the Beretta M9 and the Glock. We all know what a questionable decision it was to issue the M9 and how many units are going back to .45's. How many agencies chose their weapons because they were the cheapest? Or even free??? Was the person making the decision even qualified to do so? What were the criteria?
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Old March 27, 2013, 07:13 AM   #97
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Revolver1:

"The 1911 is lame. Antiquated tool that barely served its purpose. Period 38spl were more accurate and reliable."

We get it, you like revolvers and the 1911 being lame, is your opinion. It is certainly not my opinion or that many others.
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Old March 27, 2013, 09:51 AM   #98
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The 1911 is lame.
That's why dozens of manufacturers sell all they can make.
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Old March 27, 2013, 10:22 AM   #99
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Its all a matter of opinion but it sure has been an interesting thread thus far, IMO.

Yes it has.

Guns are like Bird Dogs, Motorcycles and women, we all have an opinion of which one is "best".....or in this case, which one should be "America's sidearm". Just like with Bird Dogs, Motorcycles and Women, we should not trash other's choices but respect that choice while we cherish and enjoy our own.
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Old March 27, 2013, 11:51 AM   #100
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I think a leather holstered 1911, SAA, or S&W double action (all blued of course) would look equally as well next to a 336 or M94 resting close to a campfire, or in a bunk house.
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