Q. I recently acquired a Colt U.S. M1911, serial number 138574. According to my books, this was manufactured in early 1917. On the right-hand side “N.R.A.” is stamped along with “Model 1911 U.S. Army.” On the left-hand side is “Patented Apr. 20, 1897, Sept. 9, 1902, Dec. 19, 1905, Feb. 14, 1911, Aug. 19, 1913.” It appears the “United States Property” mark has been ground off. There is a Colt marking at the rear of the slide and a “GHS” stamp rear of the trigger. I judge the condition of the pistol to be about 70 percent, with the exception of the stocks and the “United States Property” removal.
My research indicates that approximately 100 pistols of this vintage were provided to the NRA for Life members. Can you give me any more information regarding the group of 100 or so NRA-marked guns?
A. Prior to America’s entry into World War I, the government did sell some standard U.S. M1911 .45 ACP service pistols to civilian entities. During this period, some 100 M1911 pistols, both Colt and Springfield Armory production, were sold via the NRA to members of NRA-affiliated gun clubs and to Life members for $16 each.
The guns were marked “N.R.A.” below the serial number like the example depicted on the gun in your photographs. The “GHS” represents Maj. Gilbert H. Stewart who was an inspector of ordnance at Colt from Sept. 30, 1914, until Jan. 12, 1918.
Such civilian sales were halted before the United States entered World War I. Genuine examples of NRA-marked M1911 pistols are valued collectibles, especially if accompanied by the original sale documents confirming their provenance.
-Bruce N. Canfield
Originally published October, 2006