The Legendary Colt 1911

When gun enthusiasts hear the phrase “45”, some think of Trump, but most think of the legendary Colt 45. But how did this gun, and its equally famous ammunition, get this loyal following?

The legendary Colt 1911

It all began in 1901 with America’s first “foreign” war, the Philippine-American war, one you probably never learned about in history class. But this was the first entanglement for America as a world power. In the Philippines, the Americans were confronted by a group of tribesmen, known as the Moro, from the southern islands. The Moro had amazing physical stamina and endurance, and savage fighting ability. The Moro engaged the Americans with guerilla tactics, which often included close quarters combat. The Moro were armed with long, Kris wavy blades, which were lethal in these close engagements. At that time, the Americans carried the Colt M1892 revolver as their designated sidearm. The revolver’s .38 caliber Colt Long cartridge was inadequate for staving off and incapacitating these Moro tribesmen. Even when the Moro lost limbs in combat, they often simply tied off bleeding limbs to prevent blood loss, and continued fighting, even after being shot several times. It was during these violent encounters with the Moro tribesmen that the U.S. Army realized they needed a more powerful and heavier round with more stopping power.

Moro Tribesmen

So, in 1906, the U.S. Army began testing various pistol designs and cartridges for combat use. The clear winner due to power, weight, capacity and auto-loading configuration was John Browning’s .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol), just in time for World War 1. It was named the Colt 1911, for the year it entered service. The 1911 was the “go to” handgun of the military from that initial acceptance up to 1985, when the military replaced it with the Beretta M9. Thus, it served the military well for 74 years, through two World Wars, Korea and Vietnam.

And because of its longevity in combat and nostalgia overall, it never really fell out of favor. In fact, there is a huge following for this firearm, despite increases in firearms technology, for three major reasons.

First, major stopping power. The 1911 combined with the .45 ACP cartridge, has some serious stopping power. This is due in part to the relatively slow velocity (about 900 FPS at the muzzle), and the large and heavy bullet. That size projectile creates some serious kinetic energy which hits deep and hard, leaving a pretty large wound channel.

Second, for its caliber, the recoil is relatively lame. The size of the gun does indeed absorb some of that felt recoil.

Third, it is a great carry weapon. While that sounds contradictory, it is not. The government-issued 1911 measures 9 inches and weighs 3 pounds, the slide is actually very slim. At only .9 inches wide, it is slimmer than a Glock 17 at 1.26 inches. Comparing it to the Glock 21, which is also chambered in .45 ACP, the 1911 is even slimmer. That slender profile makes it easy to carry if you have a belt which can handle the weight.