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Old March 25, 2013, 12:34 PM   #1
Bob Wright
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Some thoughts on the M1911

First of all, the pistol is an M1911 or M1911A1 only if it is US Government issue. Commercial Colt .45 Autos are known as Government Models. Having said that, I had at one time a couple of slick paperback books, one on the Luger and the other a reprint of the U.S, Army Test Trials of 1900. Some pretty interesting information was contained in those two little books, which, unfortunately, I no longer have.

Nearly all of the pistols submitted at first were rejected as being too small in caliber. It was not until 1906 that Springfield Arsenal designed two .45 Caliber cartridges, which were produced at Frankford Arsenal for the trials. One was a .45 Revolver round, the other a .45 Auto round. Both were designated as 1906, some six years after the trial board had convened. Both the Browning and Luger designs originally had been small caliber, the Browning a .38 and the Luger 7.62mm.

The Army liked the Luger, but having been stung by the .38 Revolvers, were not about to adopt a .30 caliber pistol. Luger (Through Ludwig Lowe) submitted a 9mm pistol, but the Army's insistence on a .45 caused Luger to withdraw.

The Cavalry board didn't want an auto, saying it was too dangerous for a new recruit on an unruly horse. If the Army insisted on an autoloader, then they wanted one that would automatically go to the "safe" position after each shot.

While Browning was the designer of the Colt made pistol ultimately adopted, the Army had a great deal of influence on the ultimate overall design. One thing liked about the Luger was the grip angle, and this was sort of copied in the M1911.

Minor changes made during the 'Twenties resulted in the M1911A1.

Much has been said about the Browning High Power made by FN of Belgium as being the ultimate refined version of the Colt Government Model pistol. FN had asked John Browning to design a pistol for them for European use. Browning agreed, but had to make interior changes to avoid infringing on his patents held by Colt.

So the pistol most so lovingly call a M1911 is not just a Browning design, but a combination of features thought up by then U.S. Army Ordnance, Cavalry, and Infantry branches.

Incidentally, I have in my collection one round of 9.8mm ACP for which no complete Colt auto has been uncovered. This was made by Colt for consideration of a European government.

And, before the flak starts, I am aware some newcomers are sold under the designation "M1911."

Bob Wright

Last edited by Bob Wright; March 25, 2013 at 12:41 PM.
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Old March 25, 2013, 01:42 PM   #2
RickB
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I'm usually somewhat irritated by the idea that the M1911 pistol sprang, complete and in final form, from John Browning's head in 1911. The pistol evolved over a period of five years, with Browning constantly redesigning the gun for his customer, the U.S. government.
The pistol's final form is as much a tribute to some uncharacteristic progressive thinking by the military, as it was to Browning's genius.
Luger did, of course, submit a .45 ACP gun to the military trials that resulted in adoption of the M1911, but IIRC, the Luger would run reliably only when fed the German-made ammo supplied with it; the Luger didn't like the U.S.-made ammo.
I have a book with a couple of pics of Colt prototype pistols in 9.8mm. They look very much like the Browning .22 pistol that came out a couple of years ago, downsized in every dimension from a standard 1911 for the smaller cartridge.
I seem to remember that Colt had some sort of deal with Browning, or with FN, that Colt wouldn't pursue the European market, and FN wouldn't come to the U.S., but by the 1930s, and Browning's passing, that deal may no longer have been in effect, so Colt could peddle their 9.8mm design in Europe.
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Old March 25, 2013, 01:48 PM   #3
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Bob,
Luger Submitted .45s...I think it was 1907.
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Old March 25, 2013, 03:22 PM   #4
Bob Wright
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Luger did indeed submit .45 ACP pistols. But the Army wanted 100 for field tests. Luger was not willing to make up 100 pistols without the assurance of a firm order, so withdrew from the field.

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Old March 25, 2013, 03:30 PM   #5
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I'd like to see a photo if possible of the 9.8mm Auto. the only reference I have shows a reduced size Government Model that is marked "Automatic Colt Calibre .38 Rimless Smokeless." The barrel is marked ".38/9.8mm."

This was supposedly made up in 1910 for possible acceptance of the Roumanian government, possibly for Bulgaria and Serbia.

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Old March 25, 2013, 03:32 PM   #6
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Army, as I recollect, wanted a replacement for the Colt SAA in 45 LC. Troops in one of the turn of the century US conflicts (Philippine - Am War) were finding that the smaller calibers (38 Long Colt) were not getting the job done.

Luger submitted the "American Eagle" -- 1900. I had one at one point in my collection. (Got seriously burned on this item.) The Luger was 7.65 mm, "30 cal. Luger."

Colt was producing some semi-autos -- Mod. 1903, in 32 ACP. Mod. 1908 went to .380 ACP.

Wiki has a pretty complete article --

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M1911_pistol

I carried one of these (M1911A1) around in the Army. The guns issued were not particularly closely tracked by the Armorer and Supply Room. We didn't check them in and out like the M-14. Could have very easily packed one in the duffel and taken it home on leave. Many did, and I see US military issue 1911 in drawers and attics now and then.

Army issue 1911 was notoriously loose. They rattled. "Impossible to hit the broad side of a barn with one if you were standing inside." 230 gr. FMJ ammo and sloooooooow velocity, resulting in a really loopy trajectory. Pretty much hopeless for hitting anything much beyond 50 ft.

This performance was the reason I never packed one home on leave.

But I own two of them now, Springfield. They're tight, accurate, and the ammo is much, much improved.
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Old March 25, 2013, 03:53 PM   #7
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Bob, Go to the Auctions..

http://www.rockislandauction.com/vie...id/56/lid/3554
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Old March 25, 2013, 04:02 PM   #8
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Bet that is the same one you referenced...
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Old March 25, 2013, 04:14 PM   #9
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Quote:
resulting in a really loopy trajectory. Pretty much hopeless for hitting anything much beyond 50 ft.
I've hit man-sized targets at a paced-off 115 yards. Not every time, and not the first time (it took a half-dozen rounds to determine I could hit the target in the "belt" by aiming at the head), but not impossible. Figure-in a gun that was 40+ years old, with untold thousands of rounds through it, and the hitting would probably be more difficult, but, of course, the gun wasn't intended to hit anything at that distance. Ballistics is almost never the reason why someone misses with a handgun. Lots of people can't hit anything even fifty feet away, so there's no need for a service pistol that's capable of fine accuracy at distances much greater than that.

Quote:
This was supposedly made up in 1910 for possible acceptance of the Roumanian government
The pics that I saw were definitely post-WWI, as the guns had M1911A1-style features, with arched mainspring housing and relief cuts at the rear of the trigger guard. One gun was an unfinished prototype, but the other was a completely finished gun. I think the pics are in Goddard's The Government Models.
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Old March 25, 2013, 05:58 PM   #10
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Thanks Bob, It adds a bit more to my knowledge bank.

It is always a great day when you learn something new.
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Old March 25, 2013, 08:16 PM   #11
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"It is always a great day when you learn something new."

Call me a sentimental old fool, but I also think it's a great day when I read a post by someone who knows the word is spelled "flak", not "flack".

Thanks, Bob.
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Old March 26, 2013, 04:55 AM   #12
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Rattle Battle

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Army issue 1911 was notoriously loose. They rattled.
Another myth with no basis in fact, largely perpetrated by those who've never handled one that wasn't nearly worn out.

I have in my possession, a "Black Army" Colt manufactured in March 1919. Either it was issued to a high-ranking officer and rarely fired, or it was liberated early on. There is no rattle. When the pistol is dry, pulling hard on the slide reveals a barely discernible amount of play. With oil in the rails, it disappears. As nearly as I can determine, the pistol is original/correct except for the springs that I replaced.

From the bags, the pistol will keep all its shots inside a 4-inch circle at 50 yards with factory hardball, and it'll break 3 inches with my 200-grain cast SWCs and 4 grains of Bullseye...and it'll feed'em as readily and as reliably as it will feed hardball....and it'll do it from the original/correct magazine....also with a new spring. Hollowpoints are also no problem for the old girl.

I also have a 1945 production Remington Rand that was as near-new as any USGI pistol I've seen. Its fit and accuracy is on par with the 1919 Colt...including the reliability with cast SWC and hollowpoints.

Before anybody develops a case of the vapors over my firing these collectibles...they haven't been fired much. Mostly to determine functionality and for testing.
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Old March 26, 2013, 05:00 AM   #13
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By Design

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So the pistol most so lovingly call a M1911 is not just a Browning design, but a combination of features thought up by then U.S. Army Ordnance, Cavalry, and Infantry branches.
Let's not forget the unsung heroes in the story. The guys who did a lot of the grunt work.

Browning had at his disposal, a team of Colt's top engineers who were with him on the project.
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Old March 26, 2013, 05:19 AM   #14
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Quote:
Let's not forget the unsung heroes in the story. The guys who did a lot of the grunt work.

Browning had at his disposal, a team of Colt's top engineers who were with him on the project.
It's this logical argument that always falters anyone who wants to assert the supremacy of the 1911 design over all else--that it's not the singular vision of one man but a result of a lengthy testing and engineering process.

It is interesting, however, how a "modern" 1911 is so similar to those made over 100 years ago and can outshoot most guns designed in the last 30 years.
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Old March 26, 2013, 05:54 AM   #15
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Quote:
it's not the singular vision of one man
Indeed...as so few things truly are. Browning borrowed ideas from other people, the same as others have drawn on his.

What is the Model 92/94 carbine except Christian Sharps' falling block action with a sliding breechbolt added?

Glock's striker-fired pistol? Go back. Way back to the Grande Rendement...and even further to the Luger...and then back to the Borchardt.

Nothing new under the sun, it seems.
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Old March 26, 2013, 06:52 AM   #16
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The US Military wanted features in the gun, John Browning designed and delivered a gun that met and exceeded their specifications.

Browning's genius was not only in designing guns, he knew well how to deliver a product to his customer's total satisfaction.
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Old March 26, 2013, 07:19 AM   #17
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Quote:
The US Military wanted features in the gun, John Browning designed and delivered a gun that met and exceeded their specifications.
Sure, after 40+ changes and modifications. The M1911 that went into production really differed considerably from what Browning originally submitted for tested. The "genius of JMB" in the 1911 was really a communal effort.
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Old March 26, 2013, 09:26 AM   #18
Bob Wright
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I certainly didn't mean to demean John M. Brtowning's genius in the design. His design was of the locked breech and pivoting link. The entire concept was Browning's, the final pistol was the effort of their combined efforts.

Browning designed many arms without the assistance (hindrance?) of the U.S. Army.

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Old March 26, 2013, 09:29 AM   #19
Bob Wright
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Qwiksdraw:Browning's genius was not only in designing guns, he knew well how to deliver a product to his customer's total satisfaction.
That was exactly Ludwig Lowe's and DWM's downfall. They chose to withdraw rather than continue to provide test models in quantity.

Browning/Colt took the attitude "what the Army wants, the Army gets." Apparently that worked.

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Old March 26, 2013, 10:16 AM   #20
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Excellent post, thank you.
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Old March 26, 2013, 12:07 PM   #21
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Clunker

Quote:
Until the modern improvements were made
ie, the bigger sights, the ducktail grip safety, the speed lever on the thumb safety, roughened forestrap, enlarged ejection port, altered feed ramp, and so on, the thing was a clunk.
In your opinion...maybe...but the 1911 pistol wasn't designed for quick-draw and playing games of "Let's pretend that we're in a gunfight" on Sunday afternoons. It's been pressed into that role, and it's done well...but the modifications and improvements that you've set such great store in came about as a result of competition.

And...

With every gain from an improvement brings a loss of something else.

The upswept ducktail grip safety...for instance...makes te pistol more user-friendly for those who burn up 500 rounds in a single range session, but you lose the spot-weld that the standard tang provides. This means that you have to get just the right grip...and a very firm grip...on the pistol to maintain stability and keep it from shifting in your hand under recoil.


Try firing rapidly and transitioning targets with one hand with both designs, and you'll better understand the function of that spot weld.

Then, remember what, and for whom the 1911 pistol was designed. i.e primarily the horse-mounted trooper who would be firing at an enemy that was doing his level best to kill him...with the pistol in one hand.

In WW2 and subsequent actions, the role of the pistol changed greatly. It was no longer taking an active role on the battlefield, but would still very likely be fired with one hand. There was no reason to change it until it became the darling of the IDPA/USPSA set.
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Old March 26, 2013, 12:23 PM   #22
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"Until the modern improvements were made"
Really?The magazine funnel cleverly called "magwell" would be one of them.
Trouble loading your pistol?
Here's the thing,a little humility never hurt anyone and recognizing that John
Browning was a master gunsmith,inventor and industrial engineer who worked
for a living and did not live in a bubble couldn't either.Attempting to put the man down while his accomplishments are still here alive and well over a
hundred years later is counterproductive,if you don't like M1911's at least show
that you know and understand why.
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Old March 26, 2013, 12:29 PM   #23
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Also, if I can point out...

Can you imagine the Luger getting the nod and having WWI break out a few years later. I have to wonder if the US Army deciclded it best to keep the manufacturer stateside in case of a conflict.
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Old March 26, 2013, 12:41 PM   #24
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I remember an old American Rifleman article on the 9.8mm Colt.
There were three known of then, I don't recall if that inclued the post war parts gun. Supposedly Eugene Reising was demonstrating one in the Balkans when he got a cablegram to drop the sales pitch, Colt had the US Army contract (again) and did not need foreign sales.
The parts gun was made up when some wacko dug up enough pieces for one and submitted it to the BoD for consideration again after WW I. He had to make a .38 ACP barrel for it, all the 9.8 had long since been shot up.
The top brass was not interested.

I have seen one picture of the FN Grand Browning 9.65mm of the same reduced 1911 design. I have wondered if it were really the same thing, just different designations for the same round.
9.65mm = .380"
9.8 mm = .386"
So is that bore and groove of the same round or were they a smidgen different across the pond? Either way, a true, full .38.
Cartridge collectors say they were so near the same as to make no difference. The only picture I have seen of both is not good enough to scale off of and the two rounds had different bullets. The American a roundnose, the Belgian a truncated cone.

Any road, I think one would be a neat package today in 9mm and .40.
Now if Springfield will do a "full size" version of the EMP with 4.5" barrel and enough butt for 10 rounds, we would have it.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tuner's description of those loose old army surplus guns agrees with mine.
My 1918 AA rework and Argie are not sloppy, inaccurate, or unreliable.
So why do we get major name brand guns that we are told to "break in" before using seriously? Some are just flat too tight to bear. Others too rough. Others departing from specifications for cost containment or makers just too smart not to improve on a proven design.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Colt and Browning were serious about their business.
I have no doubt, even without proof, that Colt management got wind of the Thompson LaGarde tests that "proved" we needed another .45; gave up working on the .41 ACP, and mocked up a .45 on a .38 frame while Mr Browning reworked the design to produce the 1905 model.
So when the word came down from the Army that they wanted to test 200 .45 sidearms, Savage struggled to build 200 special order Searles, the aristocrats in Germany turned their noses up and graciously deigned to send two Lugers, while, as one author put it, Colt just delivered from warehouse inventory.

Of course the design was tweaked a lot from then until final acceptance, but they got it done in five years. Can you imagine the government approving and buying anything new in five years now?

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Quote:
What is the Model 92/94 carbine except Christian Sharps' falling block action with a sliding breechbolt added?
You can get closer than that. Winchester unabashedly advertised the 1885 "Highwall" as the strong Sharps breechblock brought up to date with central hung hammer, self cocking. Of course by then Sharps had folded and Winchester could be magnanamous.

Last edited by Jim Watson; March 26, 2013 at 12:47 PM.
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Old March 26, 2013, 03:24 PM   #25
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Sharps

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You can get closer than that. Winchester unabashedly advertised the 1885 "Highwall" as the strong Sharps breechblock brought up to date with central hung hammer, self cocking.
Yep. I wanted to use a "modern" repeater to illustrate that some things that are borrowed aren't readily apparent on first inspection.

And we can fast-forward to Ruger's falling block single shots to see how "modern" some designs truly are...or aren't.
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