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GUNS Magazine March 2010 - Page 56
n looking back over the articles under my byline in these pages I for the past year or so you’ll see many of the military cartridges used in WWII have been covered. I’ve enjoyed working with and Mike “Duke” Venturino Photos: Yvonne Venturino writing about 9mm Luger, .30 Carbine, 8mm Mauser and .30-06. However, I intend to correct herein one glaring omission—the .45 ACP, the standard issue pistol and submachine gun cartridge for the American military. Furthermore, it’s not a stretch to say virtually anyone who served in our armed forces between 1911 and 1985 (and beyond) was exposed to one or another .45 ACP firearm during their time in service. No wonder it is still one of the most popular cartridges among American handgun shooters to this day. Also in looking over my growing collection of WWII firearms, I note all of the significant .45 ACPs used by our military in the 1941-1945 timeframe are there. That’s with one exception, which we’ll talk of further along. (Technically, there could be another exception, which will also be mentioned.) Mostly when someone says “.45 ACP” the instant mental picture is of a Colt US Model 1911. That’s correct but not complete. When America was drawn into WWII not enough 1911s were on hand, so the government moved in two directions. The most important one was to have more made, so contracts were given to Colt, Remington Rand (previously a typewriter manufacturer), Ithaca and Union Switch & Signal Co. Over 1,800,00 new .45 ACP pistols were made between 1941 and 1945. Interestingly, no more were ever made for the US Government before the switch to 9mm NATO in 1985. Most of us today simply use “1911” to denote this entire genre of autoloading handgun. But to be exact, the US military had two designations for them. Originally they were US Model 1911s with the majority made by Colt but with some also having been made by government-owned Springfield Armory and Remington Arms Company. In the 1920s after serial number 700,000, the government required some minor changes to the basic design. Most noteworthy was an arched mainspring housing, a longer tang on the grip safety, a bevel on both sides of the frame behind the trigger and slightly larger sights. This version, named US Model 1911A1, was the only version produced in WWII. Both 1911 and 1911A1 versions had 5" barrels and 7-round magazines. Grips started out as checkered walnut and progressed to checkered plastic during wartime production. The second path taken by the US Government to fill the void for .45 ACP handguns was to draw thousands of US Model 1917 revolvers from storage. During the First World War, .45 ACP pistols were also in short supply so double action revolvers were pressed into service. In order to accommodate the rimless .45 ACP, case engineers at Smith & Wesson developed little springsteel “half-moon” clips holding three rounds each. That gave the star-type extractors of double action revolvers something to push against during the reloading process. An incidental benefit was the half-moon clips also made reloading faster. Therefore, the government bought over 300,000 such revolvers combined from both S&W and Colt. Regardless of brand name the butts were stamped: “U.S. Model 1917.” Again, both brands of revolver have 5-1/2" barrels, 6-shot capacity and smooth walnut grips. Sights were a simple groove down the topstrap for a rear sight and a front one either machined integral with the barrel (Smith & Wesson) or silver soldered to The Reising Model 50 .45 ACP submachine gun was used by the US Marine Corps early in World War II, but was soon replaced by the Thompson. 56 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • MARCH 2010