The United States Army on March 29, 1911, adopted arguably the greatest combat pistol in history. The M1911 is a single-action, semi-automatic, magazine-fed, recoil-operated pistol chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge. 

The ubiquitous M1911 served as the standard-issue sidearm for the United States Armed Forces for over 75 years, from 1911 to 1986. The pistol, commonly known by GIs as the “45” served in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Global War on Terror — indeed, some Special Operations units still carry the 1911

The government purchased about 2.7 million M1911/M1911A1 .45 pistols during its lifetime as the official sidearm of the military. It was eventually replaced by the Beretta M9, 9mm pistol. However, some specialized military and law enforcement units still carry either the M1911A1 or a variant of it. 

General Austin “Scott” Miller speaks with Afghan troops while carrying a 1911. General Miller is the Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan as well as former Delta Force commander. During the Black Hawk Down battle in Somalia in 1993, he was the Ground Force Commander.

The Army, in the early 1900s, was using the M1892 Colt revolver that was chambered for .38 Long Colt. During the insurrection in the Philippines, the Army found two fatal flaws with the revolver: Firstly, it wasn’t suited for jungle warfare; secondly, it had poor stopping power. 

Army troops in the Philippines facing Moro tribesmen hopped up on drugs before entering battle, found that the old black powder .38 Long Colt revolvers would not stop charging tribesmen. The Army dusted off the older M1873 revolver in the .45 Colt which was standard during the times of the cavalry in the West. That had sufficient stopping power and the army decided that a change was needed. They called for a new service pistol that should be chambered for the .45 cartridge. 

The army narrowed the testing to six pistols and eventually, the choices came down to just two, one from Colt and one from Savage. The Colt pistol, chambered in the new .45 ACP cartridge, was designed by John Browning. The simple short-recoil design by Browning proved to be a sturdy, reliable sidearm and during the two-day test, a single Colt fired six thousand rounds through it without a single malfunction. When the handgun would grow too hot, it would simply be immersed in water to cool it down. The Savage pistol, however, had 37 different malfunctions during the tests. The army had its new sidearm.