The M1911 is a single-action, semi-automatic, magazine-fed, recoil-operated pistol chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge, which served as the standard-issue sidearm for the United States Armed Forces from 1911 to 1985. It was first used in later stages of the Philippine-American War, and was widely used in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
Designed by John Browning, the M1911 is the best-known of his designs to use the short recoil principle in its basic design.
American units fighting Moro guerrillas during the Philippine-American War using the then-standard Colt M1892 revolver, in .38 Long Colt, found it to be unsuitable for the rigors of jungle warfare, particularly in terms of stopping power, as the Moros had very high battle morale and had a higher tolerance to pain than most of the “enemies” encountered by US servicemen. The U.S. Army briefly reverted to using the M1873 single-action revolver in .45 Colt caliber, which had been standard during the late 19th century; the heavier bullet was found to be more effective against charging moro warriors The problems prompted the then–Chief of Ordnance, General William Crozier, to authorize further testing for a new service pistol.
Following the 1904 Thompson-LaGarde pistol round effectiveness tests, Colonel John T. Thompson stated that the new pistol “should not be of less than .45 caliber” and would preferably be semi-automatic in operation”.
John Browning’s design proved to be the best. Six thousand rounds were fired from a single pistol over the course of two days. When the gun began to grow hot, it was simply immersed in water to cool it. The Colt gun passed with no reported malfunctions. Its nearest competitor had 37 issues.
The M1911 is still carried by some U.S. forces. Its formal designation as of 1940 was Automatic Pistol, Caliber .45, M1911 for the original Model of 1911 or Automatic Pistol, Caliber .45, M1911A1 for the M1911A1 adopted in 1924. The designation changed to Pistol, Caliber .45, Automatic, M1911A1 in the Vietnam era. In total, the United States procured around 2.7 million M1911 and M1911A1 pistols in nd military contracts during its service life.
Sgt. Alvin York during World War I was one of those soldiers who put the M1911 pistol to good use when he shot 6 German Infantry men charging towards him. Colt M1911 .45-caliber service pistol and opened up on them:
“I teched off the sixth man first; then the fifth; then the fourth; then the third; and so on. That’s the way we shoot wild turkeys at home. You see we don’t want the front ones to know that we’re getting the back ones, and then they keep on coming until we get them all. I knowed, too, that if the front ones wavered, or if I stopped them the rear ones would drop down and pump a volley into me and get me.”
In the Philippines, During the Battle of Bataan, Sgt. Narciso Ortillano did the same feat when he killed a squad of Japanese. He was firing his machine gun, mowing down Japanese Infantrymen as they charged towards his position. When his machine gun jammed, the Japanese found their chance and sent forth another wave of soldiers. Sgt. Ortillano took out his sidearm, a M1911 and shot down six soldiers, the seventh Jap was killed with a bayonet from his own Arisaka rifle that Sgt. Ortillano was able to grab from him; with the captured Arisaka rifle in hand, Sgt. Ortillano was able to shoot the last Japanese
Today, the M1911 is considered a relic of the past, and yet it still is one of the best pistols for defense.