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GUNS Magazine Digital May 2011 - Page 54

AmericA’s Pistol: the militAry 1911 J Mike “Duke” Venturino Photos: Yvonne venturino ust as the Colt Single Action Army .45 revolver nearly four decades before it, the Colt .45 Automatic was designed primarily for horse cavalry use. Indeed the US Army adopted it with that purpose in mind, with the designation US Model 1911. now a full century later, even though it has not been “standard issue” for 25 years, American special operations troops are still using .45 autos in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. M1 .30 Carbine was adopted in 1941 was to replace handguns altogether. Training troops to proficiently fire the Model 1911 .45 was considered difficult. The logic was, a hit from a relatively weak .30 Carbine was better than a complete miss from a .45 handgun. That makes sense but the intended result never occurred. In WWII, both M1 .30 Carbines and M1911 .45 pistols were issued to American troops by the millions. When Duke manages to steal some free time for fun pistol shooting, his US Model 1911 .45 is one of his favorite choices. Think about this for a moment. Go back 100 years before 1911 and what type of handguns did the American military have? They were singleshot muzzleloaders firing roundballs powered by black powder, ignited by a piece of rock (flint). Then go forward 100 years from 1911 and the US Model 1911 is still considered one of the finest fighting handguns ever developed. Many firearms experts consider it a major mistake that the US military dropped the .45 in 1985 in favor of a 9mm. However, 1985 wasn’t the first time American military thinkers tried to discard the 1911. The very reason the Cavalry Use Being intended for horseback combat is one of the reasons John M. Browning put several safety The M1911 .45 pistol came first (top, middle) but many other American .45 ACP military weapons followed, such as the M1911A1 (middle, second), Colt Model 1917 .45 revolver (middle, third) and Smith & Wesson Model 1917 .45 revolver (middle, bottom). At left is the US M1 Thompson submachine gun and (right) the US M3 submachine gun. 54 systems on America’s first military autoloader. The primary one is a thumb-actuated lever on the left rear of the slide. However, it can only be engaged when the pistol’s hammer is fully cocked. The hammer has a halfcock notch that could be considered a safety but a not overly effective one. The other is a grip safety. Located in the rear of the grip, it prevents the pistol from firing unless it is depressed when the shooter’s hand grasps the pistol. Be that as it may, accidents still happened. In my younger years I was acquainted with a gent who trained with the US “horse cavalry" as late as 1940. He said he remembered at least two incidents where troopers shot their own horses in the head during training. The US Government officially adopted the Browning/Colt collaboration on April 21, 1911. Contracted price per pistol was $14.25 including a spare magazine for each. During the next 19 months the Colt factory delivered 72,570 pistols to the government. These new US Model 1911 .45s were quickly deployed to Army fighting units. Their first recorded combat came in the Philippines in June 1913. When the US Cavalry chased Pancho Villa and his revolutionaries in northern Mexico in 1916 every horse soldier carried a .45 Model 1911 sidearm. Continued on pg 56 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • MAY 2011

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