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I have said that a man in the Unit has free rein on the armament and combat kit that he carries. I must conclude that I don’t know if or how that applied to our secondary firearm, the Browning M-1911 .45 ACP (Colt) pistol. The fact is, NEVER in my 10-year tenure did I know of anyone or any situation in which a man decided he wanted to carry a different pistol than the venerable 1911. Dare I dismiss the notion by way of the function of “unwritten rule?”

I’ll tell you that it was widely acceptable to use a 1911 that was not a Colt build — such as Caspian — but to carry an M9 Beretta or a Sig Sauer… though they are weapons in the government inventory — was simply NOT seen in Delta. I’ll venture so far as to insist that a conversation of that topic never once fell on my ears.

I resign to the explanation that the 1911 is the matter-of-fact trademark of the Unit and its Operators. There is no argument that the 1911 is a comparatively difficult pistol to master, but the knockdown power is indisputable. The weapon’s reputation has -even been recognized by pipe-hitters in MARSOC where it was selected over the M9 Beretta as the Operator’s secondary combat arm.

John Moses Browning’s M-1911-(A1) .45 ACP Colt-builds semi-automatic pistols.

My 1911s in Delta were tooled to match grade standards prior to their issue. I had elective modifications to my pistol such as a raised magazine and slide release buttons that were more conducive to operations while wearing our standard-issue Nomex Pilots flight gloves. I had an ambidextrous thumb safety and a beveled magazine well that lent itself well to quicker magazine changes. The trigger was no more than a two-pound pull.

Other modifications and Unit provisions are better left to nationally-renown gunsmith/M-1911 expert and former Delta Force Operator Larry Allen Vickers for a comprehensive explanation. Larry and I go back to the newly-formed 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) where Larry, with his massive armament insight, assisted the new organization by serving temporarily as the Battalion Armor. We remain friends with a mutually respectful relationship to this day.

The imminent Larry Allen Vickers, nationally renowned gunsmith/M-1911 expert and former Delta Force Operator.

Dismiss what one may say about the weapon: it is an absolute hammer. Hammer was a nickname, along with “gat,” that some men used to refer to their sidearm M-1911. It occurred to me one day that a person actually could hammer nails with the gun and the gun would probably be alright in spite of it, though this author shuns the notion that you should vet that theory with your own pistol.

The author firing an M-1911 in Alaska during his Green Beret years. Note the horrifyingly weak left-hand grip!

I can relay my own testament to the pistol’s brawn, having inadvertently subjected my 1911 to an impromptu drop test. My hammer took a lofty plunge as I summited the fifth floor of a five-story building during an urban combat mission. My primary (Winchester) went out of ammunition while firing on targets on the roof of the building. I attempted to transition to my secondary (M-1911) but drew only a handful of air, whereby my dry primary suddenly became a hickory Louisville Slugger that I cracked across the base of the neck of my target.