View Full Version : Pre WWII full size domestic semi-autos

July 1, 2009, 09:54 PM
I was watching Public Enemies tonight and I noticed something. In the entire movie I did not see a single semi-auto that was not a 1911. I know there are some foreign production semi-auto pistols and I know Colt had the poscket/vest series that was successful pre-WWI, but even those trailed off shortly after WWI ended from what I have read. I realize it would be hard for a manufacturer to beat the price or quality on a surplus 1911, but did any try? I honestly can not think of a single domestic full size production semi-auto designed during the interwar period, or even shortly thereafter.

Prove me wrong with some pics or articles PLEASE.

Jim Watson
July 1, 2009, 10:21 PM
Well there were the 1900 - 1905 Colt-Browning pistols, they did not just vanish when the 1911 came out. The .38 Autos stayed in production until Colt brought out the .38 Super in 1929. Other than that, I do not know of a domestic manufacture series production full size automatic pistol.

Savage and Remington had their own designs but hung their hat on military sales. If they had been adopted, they would surely have had commercial models as Colt did. But they did not challenge Colt in the commercial market after they were turned down by the Army and Navy.

However, the Colt Pocket Models stayed popular for a long time after WW I. They continued in production up into WW II, when they were issued to General Officers, in fact.

Savage did a pretty good business in pocket autos with Bat Masterson's endorsment. Remington sold fewer guns, but had the cachet of being one of General George Patton's hideout guns. Smith & Wesson sold some autos in the proprietary .35 S&W caliber and a very few .32s. Harrington & Richardson built some autos along the lines of the Webleys. There was even the Warner Infallible, a commercial flop, but at least an example.

July 2, 2009, 12:01 AM



July 2, 2009, 07:49 AM
Were pistol versions of the Thompson really manufactured at that point?

Jim Watson
July 2, 2009, 08:03 AM
Thompson SMG's prior to the WW II military M1-M1A had removable buttstocks and could be shot with them off. Does not make it a pistol in my book.

July 2, 2009, 08:05 AM
Even though the 1911s were great, and the American 32 autos were pretty good and plenty of European imports had made it, the market was still dominated by revolvers. Thats the key to the question. The only other early ones I could think of are not as early as the film, the S&W 39 in 1955 and there was the Browning P35 hi power which came out in 1935. The Browning was however made in Belgium. Heres a good list I stumbled upon,

July 2, 2009, 08:07 AM
In the move there were some cases where they had TSMGs without the stock on with a one point sling to their shoulder. I just assumed they sawed 'em.

I think the attention to detal for the firearms in this movie was pretty stellar. From what i kow they actually outfitted each character with the guns they actually had, not just the main character and then flood it with props. I guess they were picky about cars also. They put out ads for people with the specific cars they wanted and offered a small part in the movie as part of the compensation.

July 2, 2009, 08:18 AM
I can't think of any. By full size you mean probably pistols in the .38 ACP (not .380 ACP) or .45 ACP. I remember when I was about ten years old, going down after school to a used store owned by the Dad of one of my classmates. He would let us get in the gun display case and let us handle the pistols there. I think the large ones were all Colts. One, IIRC, was a 1902 hammer model in .38 Colt. I and my classmate decided we were going to save our money together and buy it. Alas, a month later it was bought by a scab who along with three highschool students used it to rob and kill an old fellow who ran a little store in town. IIRC there were foreign revolvers in the display case but not the pistols you describe.

July 2, 2009, 08:30 AM
I mean something that was not a compact or subcompact like the Colt pocket/vest series. If it was in 25 auto with a 30 round capacity, I guess I would count it. I doubt anything was manufactured in 25 auto full size though.

July 2, 2009, 09:59 AM
I'd say the Colt Woodsman is full size. Doesn't that count?

July 2, 2009, 10:07 AM
Well, I think not b/c it is rimfire and most would not consider a rimfire a suitable defensive weapon. I am really looking for something that is a competitor to the 1911, which I do not believe the Colt Woodsman would be.

July 2, 2009, 10:17 AM
Well, I think not b/c it is rimfire and most would not consider a rimfire a suitable defensive weapon. I am really looking for something that is a competitor to the 1911, which I do not believe the Colt Woodsman would be.Your initial post didn't say that - you just wanted to know if there were any full-size semiautomatic pistols of U.S. manufacture produced prior to World War II other than the 1911 - and the Woodsman certainly fits those criteria.

Mike Irwin
July 2, 2009, 10:44 AM
Colt was pretty much it for American-made full-sized semi-autos in the US at that time.

There would have been a few Savage .45s floating around, but not many at all. I'm not sure, but I don't think that Remington ever released any of it's .45s to the general public.

As for full-sized foreign guns available in the US, I'd say the most common, both through importation and trophys from WW I, would have been the Luger.

Maybe a few Webley & Scott military model semi-autos, and some other, more arcane European stuff.

July 2, 2009, 10:47 AM
a few Savage .45s floating around
First website I found about them claims there are less than ten in existence. Guess i won't be picking one of those up...

James K
July 2, 2009, 08:00 PM
The Savage .45's even then were collectors items. As to the Remington .45, IT is still in the Remington museum and not for sale. (I am talking about the Pedersen design pistol, not the M1911 pistols made by Remington-UMC or the WWII M1911A1's made by Remington Rand.)

There were Lugers in some quantity and some Mauser C96's, but AFAIK the BHP was not being imported since, by agreement, North America was Colt territory.

So for full size centerfire autoloaders, Colt was about it.


July 2, 2009, 08:28 PM
Don't forget about the Browning Highpower!

Jim Watson
July 2, 2009, 10:53 PM
John Dillinger died the year before the Browning was adopted by the Belgian army. And it is not the domestic pistol the OP is looking for.

July 3, 2009, 01:34 AM
.....that for auto pistols it would of pretty much been limited to 1911's in .45 and .38 Super with an ocasional Luger not being completely out of the picture. But how many people could afford a new auto during the depression and especially when revolvers had been common for several decades and could be aquired on the second hand market for probably a lot less cash? Without military contracts the 1911 pistol would likely never have happened.

James K
July 3, 2009, 12:09 PM
The gangsters didn't worry overmuch about cost, since they got a lot of their guns the old-fashioned way - they stole them. National Guard armories were a prime target, having little security and often being somewhat isolated.


Larry D.
July 3, 2009, 01:56 PM
Didn't Dillinger himself write a letter to Colt lauding the virtues of the .38 Super?

July 8, 2009, 08:17 PM
the common autos were lugers,broomhandle both in 30cal and 9mm.also colt
1903 and 5s.the 1911s were scarce.and were in 45 and 38 super.
what was very common were many revolvers in the $1.00 class.many Iver Johnson and H&R both solid and break action.1911s were about $ 30.and wages in early 40s were 35 cents an hour.very little discresonary money after expenses.I know as my first job was in National Radio in the machine shop at 35 cents hr. what you have now is so much more you cant conceave of the early times.:rolleyes:

July 8, 2009, 09:10 PM
The early 1900s were the heyday of the large-framed double-action revolvers. Colt New Service, Colt Official Police, S&W Hand Ejector and N Frames pretty much dominated the market. Colt was extremely agressive in marketing their pistols (often selling the pistols for cost just to hold onto trained workers after the end of WWI) and defending against patent infringement. Also, most police departments did not allow semi-auto pistols until well into the 1950 or early 1960s. Even in the 1980s, a S&W K Frame or Colt Trooper were standard in most places.

T. O'Heir
July 12, 2009, 01:03 AM
American made movies tend to use American rented props. Dillinger used a Colt .380 among other firearms. http://www.fbi.gov/libref/historic/famcases/dillinger/dillinger.htm

July 12, 2009, 10:31 AM
The 38 super is just the chambering, the Colt pistol it was used in were 1911s, right?

Mike Irwin
July 12, 2009, 01:23 PM
"The 38 super is just the chambering, the Colt pistol it was used in were 1911s, right?"


July 12, 2009, 05:51 PM
Weren't Bonny and Clyde running around with BARs in the same era has these guys?

July 12, 2009, 08:48 PM
I guess I did not explicitly say it, but I was thinking more pistols. There were a number of semi-automatic and automatic rifles at the time.

James K
July 13, 2009, 12:27 PM
Prior to 1934, auto weapons could be purchased with no problem, just like ordinary rifles. But they were expensive and, while Capone and others bought them from crooked dealers, small time punks stole them, mainly, as I noted, from NG armories, along with .45 pistols and revolvers.

A nitpick and losing battle: Model 1911 and Model 1911A1 are the military nomenclature. There is no such thing as a Model 1911 in .38 Super, since the military never used that caliber. The Colt Government Model (its commercial name) was made in both .45 ACP and .38 Super (as well as 9mm P later), and Colt made Government Models for foreign governments, but the Model 1911 and Model 1911A1 were made by or for the U.S. Government only.

If folks want to describe similar guns, how about calling them "1911 types" rather than Model 1911's.