M1911 & M1911A1

by
posted on February 20, 2013
wiley-clapp.jpg (2)

To a handgun specialist, the 1911 is a familiar pattern. For Americans, the handgun of the 20th century is Colt’s Model of 1911, caliber .45. The majority of competitive handgun manufacturers offer some variation of this classic design, so gun reviewers deal with the terminology frequently. Not surprisingly, they have become a little sloppy about differentiating between the 1911 pistol and the 1911A1 variant thereof. So let’s review this classic handgun information once again for those who came in late.

Officially adopted on March 29, 1911, the Colt-designed and produced .45 Government Model .45 pistol saw active service with the U.S. Cavalry almost immediately. When the Great War began in 1914, some of the guns were in the hands of British officers, and when we entered the war in 1917, it was the established and proven choice of the U.S. military. Made by several makers during the war years, the pistol was proven in the trench warfare of the 1917 and 1918 period. Relatively minor deficiencies in the design were noted by Army Ordnance and those who used the gun for its intended purpose. In the early 1920s, the Army and Colt Firearms set about developing a series of modifications that eventually were used. In effect, these changes to an already proven handgun design differentiated the original 1911 pistol from the 1911A1.

There were five major visible changes to the .45, as well as many other and less obvious ones. They are as follows:

1. Sights, both front and rear, were increased in size to allow for a wider and more immediately visible sighting notch with a square bottom. Early sights were hard to find and align under stress.
2. The tang, or rearmost extension, of the grip safety was extended rearward over the web of the shooter’s hand. The original design was prone to bite the shooter’s hand when skin rolled up over the short tang and was pinched by the pivoting hammer.
3. Semi-circular relief cuts were installed at the rear edge of the trigger guard on both sides of the frame. This effectively shortened the trigger reach and made the pistol easier to handle for soldiers with smaller hands.
4. The trigger was shortened in its front-to-back dimension and the trigger face was checkered. This was another effort to make the pistol usable in a variety of hands. It created the terminology “long” trigger and “short” trigger.
5. The mainspring housing in the lower rear corner was arched and checkered. This tended to correct the tendency to shoot low when pointed and fired. In fact, it did just the opposite when the gun was raised to eye level and aimed.

Pistols, both commercial and military were designated Models of 1911A1. The modifications did not happen overnight and in fact took several years to accomplish. Also, there a number of other specifications that changed. Interestingly enough, the modern Colt pistol that evolved from the early days of both 1911 and 1911A1 designs has many of the early features, but also some completely new ones. Most shooters want the 1911 (flat) mainspring housing and (long) trigger, but also prefer the 1911A1 trigger relief cuts. Their sights are huge and sometimes include tritium inserts for low-light work. The extended tang grip safety was morphed into today’s widened “beavertail” types.

Latest

TangoDown Light Portal Front Sight
TangoDown Light Portal Front Sight

Preview: TangoDown Light Portal Front Sight

Due to their location on the gun, most front iron sights preclude the placement of a tactical light forward on a defensive carbine’s 12-o’clock rail, as they typically obstruct the light’s beam.

Holiday Gift Guide: Specialty Knives, Hand Axes & Multi-Tools

While smaller blades can be plenty helpful for everyday carry, sometimes bigger blades and tools are necessary. Here are a few larger specialty knives, hand axes, and multi-tools worth keeping in mind as the holiday season approaches.

NRA Gun Of The Week: KelTec P15

Watch American Rifleman staff on the range this week with the KelTec P15, the company’s first striker-fired handgun and also one of the thinnest 9 mm Luger concealed-carry pistols to ever hit the market.

The Armed Citizen® Nov. 25, 2022

Read today's "The Armed Citizen" entry for real stories of law-abiding citizens, past and present, who used their firearms to save lives.

Hodgdon Powder Celebrates 75 Years

This year, Hodgdon Powder celebrates its 75th year in business, having grown from humble origins in 1947.

Handloads: Hunting With The .375 Winchester

Although it is often difficult to find components for reloading the .375 Winchester cartridge, this lever-action round is deserving of customization for hunting in today's game fields.

Interests



Get the best of American Rifleman delivered to your inbox.