By Sean Axe.
The 1911, for over a century this iconic pistol has been both loved and hated by Americans. But what about it has caused this divide? Let’s take an in-depth dive into the design and history behind this great piece of American gun history that still holds relevance even to this day in age, even with all of the modern pistol options we have at our disposal.
For this first installment, let’s go over why the military came to the realization that it was time for a new standard issue sidearm.
During the Spanish American war in the late 1890’s after the sinking of the USS Maine, US troops were fighting in Cuba and the jungles of the south pacific. They routed the defending Spanish troops in a clear and decisive victory in the Manila Bay. Then after overthrowing the local spanish government they then went on to occupy the Philippines. The Moro tribesmen of the southern islands who had up until that point had been fighting the Spanish now turned their sights on the american troops, starting a long bloody guerrilla warfare campaign that would last into the new century. They would ambush american troops bursting out suddenly attacking them with long knives called kris knives. The defending american troops would return fire with their weapons, and while the rifles they were using would inflict heavy damage. The attacker would be able to take multiple shots from .38 double-action revolvers the soldiers had been issued at close quarters, yet keep on attacking as if nothing had happened.This had the devastating effect of destroying the morale of the troops, leading to the army bringing out old .45 Model 1873 Colt revolvers from retirement and back to the front lines. These pistols showed the dominance of the .45 round at stopping a target with just one well placed shot. It was at this point that the military decided it was time to upgrade its sidearms to meet a higher standard.
The army then put out a call to Americas preeminent gun manufacturers to come up with a pistol that would fit all their needs. This then led to the Thompson-LeGarde tests. In these tests the army went and tested all of the various cartridges in use by militaries at that time. These tests included stopping power, penetration, and energy transfer. After a verity of test that were conducted the army came up with a recommendation “…that a bullet, which will have the shock effect and stopping effect at short ranges necessary for a military pistol or revolver, should have a caliber not less than .45.”