Object Title

Colt Model of 1911 pistol

Colt Model of 1911 pistol


The story of the Colt Model 1911 (or 'Government Model') must begin with its inventor John Moses Browning (1855-1926). Born in Utah, Browning designed a number of guns for Winchester, however disagreements with the company led Browning to move to Belgium, finding success designing for Fabrique Nationale (FN). Prior to his departure for Europe, Colt purchased a number of his designs for self-loading pistols in 1896. These early patents were designed for use with a .38 ACP round, the first high velocity, small calibre used by the US army. However, by 1906 the US military concluded that they required more stopping power from their sidearm. Over the next five years experiments with human cadavers, live animals and a military contract version of the Colt Model 1905 (M1905), led to the military adoption of the M1911 in .45 ACP.

The M1911 was essentially an upgraded model of the M1905. Still with its short recoil operation, modifications included a grip safety device, a feature not typically used in Browing's pistol designs. The design also featured a strengthened magazine to accommodate the increased bullet weight of the round from 200-230 grains. The pistol itself was also strengthened to account for this, most notably by improving the slide stops.

Over 1,000,000 M1911 were manufactured prior to the War. Manufacturers of the pistol included Colt, Savage, Remington and the Springfield Armory. Manufacturing rights were also sold internationally. Countries such as Norway and Argentina also produced this pistol.

Use and effect

Officially the sidearm of the US military, British and Canadian officers also made use of the M1911 through private purchase. It proved a popular choice amongst soldiers in the harsh conditions of the trenches, as it rarely misfired. Compared to the precision engineering of the German Luger, the M1911 was more robust and adapted well to the dirt and mud of the Western Front. The pistol was championed for its 'stopping power' due to the substantial size and weight of the .45 ACP round. This was an advantage in close quarter combat. Over greater distance however, low velocity of the .45 ACP round resulted in reduced penetrative power compared to the 9mm Parabellum of the Luger.

Redesigned in 1921, the final incarnation of the M1911 was the M1911A1. Changes included an arched grip shape, altered trigger guard and an easier to use safety guard.AA54 In 1985, the M1911A1 was finally replaced by the US armed forces with the Italian Beretta M9 in 9x19mm Parabellum. However, different versions of the M1911 are still used today in different military and law enforcement agencies worldwide. It is also still a popular civilian choice due to a greater perceived stopping power.


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Colt Model of 1911 pistol being loaded and fired into ballistic soap target.


Action / Operating system Recoil
Barrel length 12.8 cm (5 in)
Calibre / Bore 11.43 mm (.45 ACP)
Capacity (rounds) 7
Country of manufacture USA
Date entered service 1911
Effective range 40 m (44 yd)
Feed Box magazine
Manufacturer Colt
Manufacturer Remington
Manufacturer Savage
Manufacturer Springfield Armory
Muzzle velocity 251 m/s (825 fps)
Other operators Argentina
Other operators Norway
Overall length 21.6 cm (8.5 in)
Primary operator USA
Weight 1.08 kg (2 lb 6 oz)


Lisa Traynor