As John Browning’s masterpiece 1911 design approaches its centennial, the classic shows no sign of losing popularity among every shooter—from law enforcement SWAT to military special operations and just about anyone who wants the ultimate in reliable combat handgun stopping power. Before some sharp-eyed reader takes me to task about the date of the pistol’s centennial, the 1911 design was finalized in 1910 but wasn’t adopted by the Army until the following year, thus 2010 is the actual centennial of the pistol’s design.
When one reflects on the handguns that were the 1911’s contemporaries or even includes those that were designed decades later, few are still serious contenders for serious defense purposes. At the time the 1911 was adopted by the US Army, one of the most popular pistols for military use was the German Pistole 08, better known as the Luger. Needless to say, the Luger is no longer seriously considered as a combat handgun but a relic of the past, more properly a firearms curio. The same can be said of the Russian TT-30/TT-33 Tokarev, which “borrowed” much of Browning’s design. The Luger’s replacement, the P38, soldiered on in modified form into the 1970s with the German military service, but the gun was hardly used anywhere else and has now been replaced by more “modern” handguns. Meanwhile the 1911 rides in the holsters of just about anyone serious about using a pistol to defend oneself. Even Browning’s final handgun design, the P35, is far less popular than the older 1911, despite holding 13 rounds of 9mm. From military special operations units to law enforcement SWAT teams, the 1911 reigns supreme and shows no signs of being replaced by a more recent handgun design.
Even though officially “replaced” by the 9mm Beretta M9 (92FS) in US military service, the 1911 continues as the handgun of choice among knowledgeable military and law enforcement professionals. The reasons for this are pretty straightforward. The 1911 carried in Condition One, “cocked and locked,” is arguably the fastest system to get into action and to get lead on target, besides being one of the safest.