100 Years And The 1911

posted on January 12, 2011

Proctor & Gamble had just invented Crisco, King George V had just been crowned the new monarch of England and the United States Army had just adopted a new service pistol designed by a wiry, bald-headed genius. The year was 1911.

The official date of adoption of John M. Browning’s Automatic Pistol, Caliber .45, M1911was Wednesday March 29, the same month that the first U.S. troops are sent to the Mexican border to quell mayhem and violence caused by Pancho Villa and other cut-throat gangsters running amok on our southern boundary. An eventual force of 107,000 soldiers under Gen. John J. Pershing go on to clean up gangs of murderous outlaws cut from the same cloth as today’s drug cartels.

Indeed, a lot of water has passed under the M1911’s bridge. A “century of service” is flippantly easy to say, but consider what momentous events have come during the life of the big, slab-sided Automatic Pistol: women gained the vote (1920), Prohibition came and went (1919 and 1933), the Bolshevik Revolution (1917) turned Russia communist only to have President Ronald Reagan lift the Iron Curtain some 70 years later. America won two World Wars, we mass-produced the automobile, invented the computer and ushered in the Space Age.

Television invaded our living rooms while our population tripled as it shifted from rural farms to city dwellings.

The M1911 itself has undergone a number of changes during its five-score years of historical service, becoming the M1911A1, the Combat Commander, the Officers Model and dozens of other permutations: wider, thinner, smaller, bigger. Its trademark .45 Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP) cartridge has been joined by everything from a .22 LR to the .50 GI. Regardless of all other considerations, the M1911 is unquestionably the most adaptable of any handgun ever made.

To mark the centenary of Mr. Browning’s immortal design, manufacturers of M1911 pistols are issuing limited edition pistols in a variety of commemorative configurations. It might seem presumptuous for any but Colt’s Manufacturing Company to mark 100 years of production, but perhaps the most flattering tribute to the M1911 is the very fact that so many different companies manufacture a derivative of the Birthday Boy.

The Insider talked about Colt’s three commemoratives and Kimber’s run of 2590 Centennial editions in my last blog, so here is a peek at what custom pistolsmith Ed Brown has in store for the centenary celebration of Mr. Browning’s immortal design. Ed Brown Products (EBP) is producing two models, one lavishly engraved with hand-cut scroll and the other laser marked with commemorative lettering.

“Our tribute to the 100 year anniversary of the 1911 pistol includes a mainstream Centennial Edition Executive Elite, and an over-the-top Centennial Edition Classic Custom, which has beautiful hand-relief engraving. These limited editions will be offered for the year 2011 only,” Kerri Brown of EBP said.

The Classic Custom Centennial Edition includes the following:

  • • Hand-relief engraving package that includes the flats of the slide and frame, grip screws, the flats of thumb safety, grip safety, slide stop and mag release.
    • Centennial Edition 1911-2011 special laser engraving on the left-hand side of slide and Custom by Ed Brown remains on right-hand side of slide.
    • Custom rib on the top of the slide (top of slide is flattened, serrated andthen relieved on each side to give the appearance of a raised rib).
    • Tru-Ivory grips.
    • Jewelled barrel hood.
    • Special serial number starting with JMB prefix
    • Retail: $6,995.

The Executive Elite Centennial Edition includes the following:

  • • Centennial Edition 1911-2011 special laser engraving on the left-hand side of slide. Custom by Ed Brown remains on right-hand side of slide.
    • Tru-Ivory grips.
    • Solid trigger.
    • Plain black sights.
    • Jewelled barrel hood.
    • Special serial number starting with JMB prefix
    • Retail: $2,495.

Paul Liebenberg and Bill Wilson are also working on commemorative models, but even the Insider can’t pry loose any pre-SHOT Show photos, although I’ll keep trying. In the meantime, plan on squirreling away some money for one of the several 1911 commemoratives this year. A century is a long time coming.

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