View Full Version : M1911 history

Jim V
November 22, 2002, 11:04 PM
We all know when the pistol was adopted by the US Military after a long testing period. We know that the first production pistols started reaching the troops in early 1912, other than the Cavalry units that had been involved in the testing. But do you know where and where the first major battle involving the M1911 pistol took place?

The American forces were lead by Brig. Gen. John (Black Jack) Pershing at Bagsac Mountain in the Philippines against the Moros in a battle that lasted from 11 - 15 June 1913. Prior to that battle there had to have been several smaller actions and individual combat involving the 1911 in the Philippines since the Moros would attack when and where they could.

Bagsac Mountain (http://www-cgsc.army.mil/milrev/english/MarApr02/turbiville.asp)

Painting (http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/art/P-P/USAIA/Moros.htm)

Brian D.
November 23, 2002, 12:18 AM
So much so that I won't ask where you are in that painting. :D Don't I remember reading about an early use of the 1911--maybe pre-WWI, maybe not--during a little border skirmish down on the Mexican line? Was this the one involving Lt. Patton, or perhaps that was later. Pretty sure one or more little flare-ups occured there, even before the official "Punitive Expedition" to hunt down Villa was authorized. Though I don't think that killing Villa was listed as our objective. Hmm, sounds like some parts of "official" military protocol haven't changed much, eh? About the painting, when was that style of hat first issued in our military? I have occasionally worn one at Cowboy Action matches, and get a bit of grief as to whether it is "period" dress of the 1880s, 90s or later. Sorry if I meandered a bit off topic, but at least I'm coming to class and staying awake!

Jim V
November 23, 2002, 08:53 AM
Well, Brian, there were combat uses of the 1911 along the border prior to the battle at Bagsak Mountain, but that was the first MAJOR battle. Just as there were squad or individual combat use of the 1911 in the Philippines prior to 11 June 1913, there was the same type of combat use along the Mexican border.

The trip into Mexico, lead by General Pershing (with Lt. Patton in tow), IIRC, took place in '14 or so.

Old Fuff
November 23, 2002, 08:46 PM
I'm not sure you're right about the 1911 pistols being at Bagsak Mountain because Colt was sending large quantities of model 1909 New Service revolvers direct to the Philippines. In fact almost 99 percent of the production went there. I'll have to double-check this, but I believe it was around 1914 before they started shipping 1911 pistols to the Philippines via. Springfield Armory. The first major battle might have been when Pancho Villa's forces invaded the United States at Columbus, NM.

Jim V
November 23, 2002, 11:31 PM
Old Fluff, perhaps you are right, I'm going by what I read in THE M1911A1 AUTOMATIC PISTOL: PROUD AMERICAN LEGEND published by The American Historical Foundation in 1985. The painting shown is from the Congressional Medal of Honor web site and is supposedly a depiction of part of the battle. The painting shows '03 Springfields and at least one 1911.

James K
November 24, 2002, 10:47 PM
Hi Jim V and guys,

While real battle photos are of great value, battle paintings are often more inspiring than accurate. In most cases, the painter was not there, and was most likely not a military man. I have no doubt that 1911's were in use in the Philippines at that time, and if contemporary records say they were used in that battle, there is no doubt they were. But the pistol in the painting is not clear enough to be sure it is a 1911, and even the rifles show "artistic license" in details.

A note even on photos, especially newsreels. Crude motion picture cameras were around for the Spanish American war, and there are genuine movies of the period. But the battle scenes often seen were re-enactments, staged after the battles by U.S. troops playing both American and Spanish soldiers.

Many "newsreels" of WWI were acted out in New Jersey so that movie goers could see the battles they were reading about long before actual films could have been received in the U.S. Of course, Hollywood contributed to "history" as well, notably with scenes of Pearl Harbor being attacked by U.S. planes loaned by the Navy.

Just for information, take a look at the site listed below for some real and fascinating films from the 1897-1898 era.



Old Fuff
November 28, 2002, 04:11 PM
Jim V.

I don’t claim to know everything (or hardly anything) about the use of 1911 Government Model pistols in the Philippine Campaign(s) - following the Spanish-American War in 1898 to our entry into World War One during February, 1917. This period is argumentally one of the least researched eras in American history. While some sources seem to disagree the following is approximately correct to the best of my knowledge.

As part of a Peace Treaty following the 1898 war the United States obtained the Philippine Islands, which had been a Spanish Colony. The new acquisition soon proved to be a tar baby. The Philippine people didn’t care to exchange one imperial government for another. They wanted full independence. To further complicate matters, a Muslim population who wanted to set up a separate Islamic state inhabited some of the islands. Open warfare soon broke out and became serious. We soon learned that Muslim warriors (called “Moro’s”) refused to stop and drop dead simply because they had absorbed a cylinder full of .38 revolver bullets. This led to an emergency shipment of old 1873 models in .45 Colt which proved to be much more satisfactory in the “stopping” department. The Ordinance Department was ordered to investigate, and did so resulting in the famous “Thompson-LaGarde Tests” of 1903-04 that determined that a .45 caliber cartridge was much better then the currently used .38 Long Colt.

Consequently the Colt Company and John Browning who had been working on a .38 were ordered to switch and develop a new .45 caliber pistol. By 1908 the Ordinance Department was faced with a quandary. The development of a .45 caliber magazine pistol was proceeding at Colt, but had not reached the point where the Army was ready to purchase anything more then test lots. While most of the military services were satisfied with .38 revolvers, those in the Philippine Islands were screaming for more .45’s, preferably something newer then the old Single Action. As a consequence between 1909 through 1911 (and perhaps a little later) the War Department purchased 19,503 Colt New Service revolvers chambered in .45 Colt with 5 ½” barrels, blue finish, and plain walnut grips made slightly smaller then usual. (These was named the “Model 1909”). Of the 19,503 total 19,153 were shipped directly to the Manila Ordnance Depot in 1000 gun shipments. Additional revolvers were purchased for the Navy and Marine Corps.

Now 19,000 + six-shooters is a lot, and should have taken care of the men in the Philippine Islands for a while. It would appear that the Model 1909 did not see wide distribution outside of the Philippines – at least before World War One. After that, whatever remained were apparently sold as military surplus.

The first recorded shipment of Model 1911 pistols I have going to the Manila Ordnance Depot is 1000 pistols on April 18, 1917. This is not to suggest that 45 pistols were not being used. I would expect that units being rotated from the United States to the Philippine Islands would (might?) have brought 1911 pistols with them. I do know that some of the officers at Columbus, NM following the Pancho Villa raid had Model 1909 revolvers (from contemporary photographs) but I have seen none in the hands of enlisted personnel. As I said in the beginning, a lot more research needs to be done before any positive conclusions are drawn.