The 1911, or M1911, or the M1911A1 likely places first in a competition of the world’s most popular pistol. It served the United States from 1911 to 1985. Along the way, it fought in two world wars, a conflict in Korea, that communist hunt in Vietnam, and still chugged along with spec ops into the war on terror. So what do you know about the M1911? Well, after this article, you’ll know it all.

The Basics of the M1911

The M1911 is a semi-automatic, single-action-only pistol that operates off of a short recoil system. It utilizes the 45 ACP round and feeds from a single stack magazine. Over time the pistol’s popularity has seen it become chambered in dozens of different calibers, from 22LR to 50 G.I.

The M1911 series of pistols is renowned for its ergonomics. The svelte grip provided by the single stack magazine makes it easy to grip. The manual safety is placed perfectly for easy access, and the grip angle is superb.

The single-action-only design provides a crisp trigger in even the cheapest 1911 configurations. The popularity of the M1911 has generated a massive aftermarket to fit the weapon for lefties, to accommodate red dot sights, suppressors, and modern sighting systems. This aftermarket has kept the old warhorse in action long beyond any other firearm that came out of the year 1911.

To know everything about the 1911, you need to know its roots. Those roots begin in 1900 with the predictably named Colt 1900.

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Origins of the M1911 – The 1900

John Browning designed the 1911 under contract for Colt. The M1911 traces its lineage back to the original Colt 1900, which was an early semi-automatic pistol chambered in the now-forgotten 38 ACP. The original Colt 1900 faced off against a Mauser and Mannlicher design when the Army when searching for a new service pistol.

Colt Model 1902

While the Colt 1900 performed admirably, the Army did what the Army does and drug its feet. It adopted S&W and Colt revolvers in the interim and slowly experimented with automatic pistols. Colt continued to produce the 1900, and later it became the 1902, and the 1902 became the 1905 when the Army decided it wanted a 45 caliber projectile.

Why the M1911 Chambered 45 ACP

When the military fought the Tausug Guerillas during the Moro rebellion, it found the 38 Colt cartridge weak and anemic. So a colonel and a major began shooting cadavers with various calibers to see what did the most damage. The results of this test led the Army to require their next pistol to fire a projectile .45 inches in diameter.

The 1905 chambered the 45 ACP cartridge. After testing the pistol, the Army kept making suggestions and necessary fixes. Soon we had the Colt Model 1907, and then, after the calvary wanted a manual safety, we got the M1910.

The 1911 Is Born

Finally, the M1910 gained favor, and the pistol was adopted in 1911. This is why the gun gained its famous moniker. Soon, the illustrious M1911 went to war. World War I saw the M1911’s baptism by fire.

Of course, the production of the pistol was slow. Not many factories were tooled up to produce the gun, but contracts went out, and companies like Remington began pumping out 1911s. To supplement these guns, Smith and Wesson and Colt utilized their revolver tooling to produce M1917 revolvers chambered in 45 ACP.

The M1911A1 Comes to Be

The interwar years saw some small changes made to the M1911A1. The Army shortened the trigger and added cutouts to the frame. Sn arched mainspring housing was added, a longer grip safety spur installed, a wider front sight was chosen, as well as a shortened hammer spur and simplified grip checkering.

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In World War II, the M1911A1 went on to fight across the world once more. This time the M1911 was produced in such great quantities that the United States military canceled contracts for them after the war. Instead, they had enough lying around to repair and replace for decades to come. All those spare M1911s kept the gun in working order during the Korean and Vietnam wars without issue.

The 80s Baby

In 1985 the United States wanted a more modern handgun to standardize with the 9mm NATO round. After extensive testing, the M1911 was replaced with Beretta’s M9. However, the M1911 wouldn’t fade away just yet.

The M1911 found its way to the First Gulf War. Delta Force and the USMC’s Force Recon preferred the M1911 design and continued to use it well after the adoption of the Beretta M9.

In Modern Service

M1911 use by spec ops continued, but these weren’t your momma’s 1911s. These guns were often modernized, sported rails, lights, lasers, and more. Colt designed the M45A1 CQB for Force Recon, and this modernized 1911 had a rail, more controls, and an improved design.

Elite police forces like the LAPD SWAT teams and the FBI’s Hostage Rescue team continued to use M1911 in various configurations until very recently. Now, most Force Recon bubbas, Delta Force commandos, and other spec ops troops have turned to the Glock 17 and Glock 19 pistols for duty use.

General Miller, a former Delta dude, carried an M1911 as late as 2019 before swapping to a Glock 17 earlier this year. The 110-year-old M1911 might finally see its retirement from the world of professional gunslingers.

I’m Too Old for This….

While the M1911 might be retiring from the professional sphere, it’s still been massively popular everywhere else. As such, we’ve seen the proven Browning design perform at an extremely high level in the competitive arena, and the 1911 likely arms thousands of concealed carriers.

Individual companies have added their own both external and internal changes to the gun made to improve performance in ergonomics, reliability, and accuracy. M1911s can be built for any task, from concealed carry to bull’s eye shooting. It’s a firearm that can be honed for near any pistol task, and it will conquer it.

It’s a gun that’s likely to never die and fade from our consciousness. What are your thoughts on the 1911? Let us know below.