The 1911A1 and I have a long and happy relationship. My experience with it spans nearly 37 years. The lion’s share of it was with the gun used for duty or daily carry, although there was some informal LE competition, Practical Shooting in its most primitive state and a little game shooting as well. As I have written before, the basic gun with an arched MSH, short GI trigger and diamond checkered wood grips is like the handshake of an old friend to me. I’ve got decades of immersion in that platform and everything about it is second nature for me. I’ve actually shot night-fire (not) using the GI sights and gotten consistent, solid hits well past 15 yards. I simply can’t bring myself to change from something that works so well- for me.
During that time, I’ve learned a lot about the design and function of the 1911A1. Early on, I determined to accumulate the knowledge and skills to do my own armorer-level gunsmithing on it. There was a lot of trial and error along the way. For those of you similarly motivated, I can offer no better advice than to obtain “The Colt .45 Automatic: A Shop Manual Volume 1” by Jerry Kuhnhausen. When I finally read it I was pleased to discover that a lot of what I’d learned, through trial and error, was supported by this manual. You could save yourself some trouble by reading it first.
I’ll apologize in advance for the length of some of my articles, which are technical and diagnostic in nature. They are long by necessity, but they’ll give you a look at several current versions of the basic 1911A1 including their assets, liabilities and what it takes to optimize them for general use. But enough about me… let’s take a look at this wonderful old pistol.
The Colt 1911 may well be the most ‘timeless’ handgun design in history. While it could be argued that the Colt Single Action Army (a fine handgun in its own right) deserves that title, the fact remains that the 1911 is still much in demand for its original purpose- while the SAA is not. The fact that both these superb handguns were the product of American genius and ingenuity is something which we, as Americans, can be uniquely proud of.
The 1911 still performs its intended duties as well or better than anything offered since- a full hundred years after the machine chips from the early prototypes hit the toolroom floor. There are very few inventions of any kind that can make that claim- but John Browning’s masterpiece of handgun design can. Not only is it a superb fighting handgun, but with a little work it can compete, and win, on any field of conventional handgun competition. It makes no difference whether the objective is punching two-inch X-rings at 50 yards, or slapping down steel targets so fast that the first hasn’t settled before the third one is hit. The old 1911 can do it all.
This is the same handgun that pursued Villa into Mexico, fought across the trenches and diverse battlefields of two World Wars, in the frozen wastelands of Korea and in the jungles of Vietnam. By exemplary performance under the worst wartime conditions imaginable, the 1911 became the envy of armies worldwide. In a fit of insanity, the DOD abandoned it; but the crucible of battle called this old soldier out of retirement. In the sands of the Mid-East, 101 years after its introduction, the Old Warhorse charges on! Its service has spanned a century because the 1911A1 excels wherever good men need a powerful, accurate and reliable sidearm to keep them alive.