Happy 1911 Day!
100 years ago today, the US Army adopted the Colt Automatic Pistol as the standard sidearm of the US Army. It replaced the Colt M1892 revolver, chambered in .38 Long Colt (sort of a short .38 Special), which had itself replaced the M1873 Single Action Army revolver in .45 Colt. In 1985 the M1911 was replaced with the M9 in 9mm, and today many in the Special Forces community are fielding pistols in .45 ACP instead of the 9mm M9.
So over the course of 138 years, we have gone from a .45 caliber pistol, to a .38 caliber pistol, to a .45 caliber, to a .38 caliber, to a .45 caliber. That’s Mother Army for you, never making up her mind.
The first change was precipitated by the creation of smokeless powder and double-action revolvers. However, the new revolver-cartridge combination proved disappointing in the field (read: the bad guys kept coming after we shot them, so we were pissed as hell at the jackass who thought this would be a good weapon for the field). The Moros of the Philippines, who were the recipients of the disappointing rounds, were so hopped up on their local substance of choice that they didn’t notice the pain it inflicted.
It probably occurred to some old sergeant that the good ol’ .45 SAA would do a hell of a lot better against such adversaries, and so he pulled it out of his ruck, loaded it up, and commenced to make a much more noticeable pain in the bodies of his Moro opponents. Of course, there’s no arguing with massive blood loss, but some poor Moro probably tried anyway, and ended up all the deader for it.
The Army, upon reading several reports from sergeants such as these, realized that it would be a good idea to issue a decent caliber handgun, and an even better idea if it could hold more than six rounds and load itself. But where could they find such a gun?
Only in the mind of John Moses Browning (all hail).
Browning managed to invent not only the longest-serving pistol in US Military history (the M1911) but the longest-serving weapon in US Military history, the M2 Heavy Machine Gun – but that’s a different story. The M1911 became the iconic pistol of everything American – even Humphrey Bogart used one in Casablanca to shoot Major Strasser. If you saw an American with a pistol sometime over the next three quarters of a century, odds are it was a M1911.
I would encourage you to get one, if you don’t have one. If nothing else, you will be holding a piece of history in your hands, which is more than you can say for a Glock.