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While the 1911 pistol passed its centennial more than two years ago, it’s probably safe to say it is even more popular today than at any time in its history. Many years ago, an engineer from one of America’s premier gun manufacturers quoted me a little pearl of wisdom: “John Moses Browning didn’t design any #$%.” And he wasn’t kidding. The U.S. Army began trials for a suitable automatic pistol early in the 20th century, testing several Browning-designed .38 caliber Colt pistols. But with the lessons of the ongoing Moro Rebellion in the Philippines foremost in their minds, it was decided that any future handgun must fire a .45 caliber cartridge. Browning, under the auspices of Colt, began work on such a handgun in 1905. By 1910 it had more or less taken on the shape that has become familiar to most handgun enthusiasts. Tested against other designs (Luger, Savage and so forth), Browning’s pistol came out on top after being the only one to survive the 6,000-round endurance test. On March 29, 1911, the pistol was adopted by the U.S. Army as the Automatic Pistol, Caliber .45, Model 1911.

The 1911 first saw combat in the Philippines and, later on the U.S.–Mexico border from 1914 to 1916. During WWI, the pistol handled the brutal conditions of trench warfare with aplomb, but wartime service showed the need for several minor modifications, which were adopted in 1926. These included an arched mainspring housing, a shorter trigger, a longer grip safety and scalloping of the frame behind the trigger. The modified pistol, the Automatic Pistol, .45 Caliber, Model 1911A1, was adopted as standard issue, although many original M1911s saw service with the U.S. Army through the end of the Korean War…

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