The pistol has been around hundreds of years but never had a huge place on the conventional battlefield until John M. Browning revolutionized handguns when he invented the Colt Model 1911. A major advantage to the new Colt Model 1911 is its semi-automatic, making it easier and faster to reload compared to the revolver previously in use by the U.S. Army. The magazine held seven rounds (Askins28). This allowed shooters to put a higher volume of fire downrange or more importantly reload less in a gunfight. Although the Colt model 1911 was not the first semi-auto pistol it was the first to be produced in large quantities. The first semi-auto pistol ever made was the Borchardt C93, made by a German named Hugo Borchardt (Askins54). It was mostly used for target practice. The Borchardt C93 was never produced in large numbers, most likely because it was too fragile and bulky to have any military use.
The U.S. Army was looking for a new sidearm after its .38 caliber revolver proved incapable of stopping attackers in there campaign against the Moros in the Philippines. After a few years of testing the military choose the Colt model 1911. The Colt model 1911 met the criteria of the army because of its large .45 caliber bullet. Also the Colt 1911 was semi-auto allowing for quick reload times in the chaos of battle but, it still didn’t meet the quality requirements of the Army so John Browning went back and fine tuned each part. Upon returning the pistol to the Army for testing it passed the quality tests. Due to these advantages the Colt model 1911 was adopted as the official sidearm of the U.S. Armed Forces on March 29th 1911(Askins28).
The .45 caliber semi-auto pistol M1911A1 is a recoil operated hand gun (Sheldon 57). The magazine fed semiautomatic weapon 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. This meant that the pistol was fully ready to shoot when holstered except for the thumb safety. Because of this the pistol was sometimes accidentally discharged, sometimes causing injury or death. Due to the safety hazard it was prescribed that the pistol be carried with no round in the chamber. Although this safety precaution helped there were still a number of unintentional discharges. Despite the fact that it had safety problems the 1911’s appeal didn’t wane.
The Colt model 1911 replaced the Colt .38 caliber revolver that was used by the military previously. All revolvers are cylinder-loaded, exposed-hammer, selective double-action, hand weapons (Askins29). The revolving cylinder with 6 chambers permits firing 6 shots without reloading. The action of cocking the hammer causes the cylinder to rotate and align the next chamber with the barrel. At the full cocked position, the revolver is ready to fire in the single action mode by a light squeeze on the trigger. If the hammer is not in the full cocked position, the revolver may be fired double action by a longer, heavier squeeze on the trigger. The double action made it more difficult to be accurate then the single action, especially while firing a string of bullets. During combat a soldier would not have time to cock the hammer making it single action. This meant that the heavier longer pull of the double action would have to be used, causing less accuracy. There were some advantages to the Colt .38 caliber revolver. Its ammunition being smaller also meant that it would cost less to supply large numbers that were needed to keep the troops stocked up. The revolver also weighed less, most likely due to the handle being made of wood. Its lighter weight and smaller caliber size meant that it was easier for smaller soldiers to use because of its less powerful recoil. The Colt model 1911 saw a lot of combat in several wars...
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