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M1911A1 .45 Caliber Pistol

In 1892 the Army began to replace the .45-caliber, single-action revolvers it had used since 1873 with a more modern .38-caliber, double-action weapon. During the Philippine campaigns, a series of bloody encounters with highly motivated Moro tribesmen in the close country of Mindanao showed that the lighter weapon's stopping power was insufficient. A series of tests using commercially available ammunition against live and cadaver animals by the Ordnance Department in 1904 led to a specification for a .45-caliber pistol firing a 230-grain bullet at 800 feet per second. Manufacturers submitted nine pistols (six semi-automatic models, two conventional double-action revolvers, and the unique Webley-Fosbery automatic revolver) for ordnance testing in early 1907. A redesigned version of the winning pistol, John M. Browning's Colt Model 1906 semiautomatic, was adopted in 1911 and served with only minor modifications as the Army's main handgun until 1985.

The M1911 was the United State's first military semi-automatic sidearm. A semi-automatic firearm is one that fires one shot every time the trigger is pulled. While this may seem slow to the average citizen, the ability to pull the trigger as fast as possible and get as many shots is as deadly as a machine gun.

The M1911A1 .45 cal. pistol was the standard personal defense weapon carried by officers of all services during World War I, World War II, and Korea. It has a rich military heritage, was very reliable, and the weapon of choice for use in close quarters. The M1911A1 pistol has been replaced by the more modern M9 9mm pistol. The M1911A1 had been the standard handgun issued to Marines for many decades. Selected weapons were modified in the 1980s to meet the requirements of the MEU(SOC) in lieu of arming them with the M9 9mm pistol.

The .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol M1911A1 is a recoil-operated hand weapon. It is a magazine-fed semiautomatic weapon, which fires one round each time the trigger is squeezed once the hammer is cocked by prior action of the slide or thumb. This design is referred to as "single action only." The thumb safety may only be activated once the pistol is cocked. The hammer remains in the fully cocked position once the safety is activated. (Note: More modern pistol designs of the "double action" type will allow the hammer to move forward to an uncocked position when the thumb safety is activated).

The M1911A1 was widely respected for its reliability and lethality. However, its single action/cocked and locked design required the user to be very familiar and well-trained to allow carrying the pistol in the "ready-to-fire" mode. Consequently, M1911A1s were often prescribed to be carried without a round in the chamber. Even with this restriction on the user, numerous unintentional discharges were documented yearly.

Although commercial pistols were purchased and issued to General Officers, some standard Army issue pistols were specially modified for use by General Officers, including the Pistol, Cal. .45, Semi-automatic, M1911A1, General Officer's.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:45:36 ZULU