Colt 1911 Government Model: How the 1911 Shaped the 20th Century

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The Colt 1911 Government model is the first repeating pistol to become a standard-issue sidearm in the United States military. Before…

The Colt 1911 Government model is the first repeating pistol to become a standard-issue sidearm in the United States military. Before the debut of the Colt 1911, Colt is a leading manufacturer in revolvers, like the Colt Single Action Army. But, by the turn of the 20th century, the changing state of warfare dictates a new style of firearm.

Learn about the history behind the Colt 1911 Government pistol and how it helped to shape 20th-century warfare. Find out what makes the 1911 the most legendary and widely used pistol to this day. 


The Colt 1911 Government Model: A New .45-Caliber for a New Century

By the time Colt manufactures the 1911 Government pistol, it is already a kingpin in the American gun-making industry. After conquering the American West, with “The Peacemaker,” Colt is established as a leading handgun manufacturer.

But the 1911 model was different than the revolvers Colt was famous for producing. So, Colt consults, none other, than John Browning.  

The Colt 1911 is a semi-automatic, recoil-operating, single-action pistol. Ammunition feeds into the chamber through a magazine. It is, by far, the Colt pistol that receives the award, for Most Reproductions. And, for good reason, too. 

When the firearm debuts, the Colt 1911 Government model uses a firing system that is revolutionary. The pistol implements a short-recoil operating system, which becomes the most widely copied in history. 

Over the past 100 years, the design for the short recoil system remains the same. Many pistols tout improvement on the short-recoil operating system. But, to this day, pistols still operate atop John Browning’s original basic design for the Colt 1911. 

Thanks to its longevity of Military service, the 1911 holds special renown for gun collectors. It is, by far, the most prominent pistol in the history of 20th-century warfare. 


History of the .45 Auto M1911

The Model 1911, or M1911 is Colts’ answer to a world that is entering into the industrial revolution, and a new age of global warfare. New and more efficient manufacturing processes are transforming the world at the turn of the century. And, at the head of the pack, for the firearms industry, is John Browning.

The first iteration of the Colt 1911 chambers .35-caliber rounds. Eventually, the Army works with Browning on chambering the 1911 Government in .45-caliber. By the United States entry into World War I, the M1911 is in the holster of almost every Allied soldier.

In 1911 the United States military adopts the M1911 as its standard sidearm. The M1911 remains the official US military sidearm until 1986, when the military begins to introduce the M9 pistol. 

Of all John Brownings firearm designs, the model 1911 is the most reliable, firing over 6,000 rounds without a malfunction during field tests. 

By 1924, the 1911 goes through several model improvements, leading to the introduction of the M1911A1. The update introduces a shorter trigger, arching mainspring housing, simple grip checkering, and a wider rear sight – among others. The M1911A1 design remains in production to this day.

The M1911A1 becomes a popular .45-caliber sidearm for soldiers in WWII, the first and second Korean Wars, and the War in Vietnam. For the better part of a century, the M1911 is the firearm that the United States trusts in battle. 


Final Thoughts on the Colt 1911 Government Model Pistol

No other pistol has as much battlefield tried-and-true experience as the Colt 1911 Government. This essential collector item signifies America’s military history, since the first World War, through Vietnam. And, the M1911A1 remains in use by special forces units today. 

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