Arms and The Man
While searching through back issues, AmericanRifleman.org found the very first advertisement for a 1911 pistol to ever run in an NRA publication. Even then, the 1911 held a fascination as one of the first reliable semi-auto handguns to be offered to the public.
Colt No. 39
This Colt 1911 was one of the first to come off the assembly line. In fact, according to its serial number, this 1911 .45 was No. 39. Notice the Double-Diamond checkering on the grips, which was a characteristic of the M1911.
The M1911 served the needs of American soldiers and Marines during World War I, but battlefield experience led to some modifications, and in 1924 a new version was classified as the M1911A1.
The minor differences between the M1911 and the M1911A1 consisted of a shorter trigger, shorter hammer spur, wider front sight, arched mainspring housing, longer grip-safety spur and elimination of the Double-Diamond relief checkering. Many of the parts are interchangeable between the two guns.
During World War II, the U.S. Government contracted the production of the M1911A1 pistols to multiple companies including Remington-Rand, which produced almost a million pistols for the war effort. Remington-Rand 1911s are not easy to find, but are not as rare as other manufacturers’ 1911s.
Union Switch & Signal
Many U.S. companies stepped up to produce guns and other needed equipment for the war effort, including a manufacturer founded as a railway signal company in 1881. Union Switch & Signal produced approximately 50,000 M1911A1 pistols during World War II.
Best known as a sewing machine maker, Singer produced a small number of M1911A1s (approximately 500) during World War II. Singer Manufacturer Company 1911s are very rare and command a premium price with collectors.
Colt Government Mk. IV Series 70
The first significant design change of the 1911 came about in 1971 when Colt changed the barrel bushing from a solid cylindrical type to a collet style with four flexible fingers that centered the barrel with the slide to make the gun more accurate.
Colt Government Mk. IV Series 80
In 1983, another changed was made to the 1911, creating the Series 80. The change was a new firing pin safety system, which included a plunger inside the slide to prevent the firing pin from moving if the gun was dropped. Later, it was determined that the collet bushing system was no longer needed as CNC machining allowed for tighter tolerances with the older cylindrical bushing system.
When Kimber started building 1911s, they created quite a stir in the handgun world by offering custom features on mass-produced pistols at affordable prices. Kimber continues that tradition by providing high-end 1911s in a variety of lengths, styles and calibers.
With models ranging from basic GI to high-end Custom, Springfield produces some of the best 1911 pistols for both police and civilian markets.
Before the onset of today’s semi-custom 1911s, Wilson Combat was building fully customized versions of America’s favorite pistol. While these guns are not cheap, Wilson Combat is known for building some of the best, and most beautiful, 1911 pistols in the world.