The 1911 .45 Centennial

By Massad Ayoob Posted: 26 Mar 2011

On March 29, 1911, the United States Government adopted the Colt .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol as its standard issue military sidearm. The instrument has served with distinction ever since. Though replaced as general standard in the mid-1980s with the 9mm Beretta M9, the 1911 .45 has remained in service with military pistol teams across the services – and with the Army’s Delta Force and the Marine Expeditionary Unit/Special Operations Command (MEU-SOC) – for the duration.

The Utah legislature just approved the 1911 as the official “state pistol,” since it was conceived by a son of Utah. The great firearms genius John M. Browning lived in Ogden, where his home still stands, recently put up for sale as mentioned a few months ago in this blog.

I got my first 1911, a military surplus Colt, for Christmas at the age of 12. The year was 1960. That makes the pistol’s hundredth anniversary also my fiftieth with it.  So, this week I set aside the puissant polymer pistols I’ve been carrying of late, and strapped on a 1911 .45.

I still love the feel of this gun. Before the term “ergonomics” was in common parlance, John Browning understood the concept. The reach of finger to trigger is easy and natural. The gun affords a controllable trigger pull for every shot. It’s remarkably slim for its power level: easy and comfortable to carry holstered inside the waistband for maximum discretion. The .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) cartridge has very controllable recoil due to its low pressure, but hits with legendary authority. JMB fitted it with a manual (thumb) safety and a grip safety, and the ones I carry today are also drop-safe, either via passive firing pin safeties or the combination of lightweight firing pin and heavy duty firing pin spring. The one I’m carrying today, an Ed Brown Signature Model, can put five shots out of five into about an inch at 25 yards with the ammunition it likes best.

It’s history. It’s Americana. It’s American ingenuity at its best, and it’s a timelessly functional tool.

On the 29th of this month, the official day of its Centennial, I can’t imagine myself wearing anything else on my hip.

The Ed Brown Signature Model .45 I’m carrying today, with five shots (3 in one hole) it printed from 25 yard bench rest using Remington Golden Saber 230 grain ammo. Yes, 1911 .45s can deliver accuracy.

And, if you know how to shoot them, .45 1911s are controllable, too. This SIG 1911 TacOps has put a triple tap of spent casings in the air with full power 230 grain “hardball, is still locked on the target at the base of the berm.


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