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

Two Million In Grants
Two Million In Grants

MidwayUSA Grants $2.3 Million To Help Youth Shooting Teams

The MidwayUSA Foundation recently announced the payout of more than $2.23 million in cash grants to 612 youth shooting teams.

Review: Bond Arms Roughneck

The Roughneck derringer from Bond Arms is an entry-level option in 9 mm Luger, but don’t let that fool you, as the quality of its materials and craftsmanship rival those of the company’s top-end variants.

Book Review: The US M3/M3A1 Submachine Gun

Michael Heidler, no stranger to writing about firearm history, has produced a most impressive volume on one of this author’s favorite World War II firearms, the M3 “grease gun.”

Sniping In Korea: 1950-1953

When U.S. forces rushed to stop the North Koreans from overrunning South Korea in 1950, there were almost no American snipers. As the battle lines stabilized, that would change, and the war would become ideal for the employment of well-equipped and well-trained snipers.

Preview: Archangel Mosin Nagant OPFOR

Greatly improve the ergonomics and versatility of your old Russian workhorse with the Archangel Mosin Nagant OPFOR—one of the few replacement stocks on the market compatible with most variants of the storied bolt-action.

The Armed Citizen® September 20, 2021

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

Interests



Get the best of American Rifleman delivered to your inbox.