Reader Mike in Texas writes:
A few years ago, I inherited a John M. Browning special (thanks Dad!). Once I recognized its significance, I really only enjoyed it for a few short days before passing it along to my son, Logan. I think there are some things that simply need to be inherited far sooner than later. Logan and I then started searching for information on this representative sample of the greatest handgun ever designed . . .
If you’re older than 45, then you already know I’m talking about the venerable 1911 in .45 ACP. As a young Army Ranger I was issued one in my early assignment as a machine gunner (using the M60). My squad leader shared with me the story of how the Moro tribesman in the Philippines helped make ‘Moses’ the legend he is today.
The Moro tribesmen of the Philippines were warriors of the first order and when our American fighting men went to clean up the leftover Spaniards from the Philippines back in 1898, they ran into these people who didn’t like anyone on their islands. They were quite territorial and tended tended to go into battle with wicked long-bladed Kris knives while medicated with a local opiate they ginned up. The American soldiers’ rifles would stop them, but their .38 revolvers only really served to piss them off. Many reports were filed of Moro tribesman shot multiple times with .38 slugs while they continued hacking away at Americans with their “Berserker Swords”.
That experience led the Army to look for something a little more powerful. After a lot of testing and some recent advances in everything from metallurgy to ballistics to engineering, a new gun took shape. During testing, the gun fired 6000 rounds without a single malfunction (damn government lies). The Army just LOVED the new gun and signed a contract to have Colt produce them in, well, 1911 (though the first production models didn’t run until the following year). Colt turned out both military and civilian versions at the same time. This is what came off the line in the first week of the production run:
My son and I just call her, “C107”. The “C” indicates that it’s a commercial version of the gun. In every way, she’s exactly what was made for the military contract – even the deep, shiny bluing. The Army was actually a little torqued off about that shiny bluing and made Colt stop that after the first 200 were made.
C107 was birthed on March 10, 1912 but didn’t start travelling until November 11 of that year when she and 49 of her sisters trekked all the way down to Quintana Bros. in Mexico City. She was purchased there by a general in the Mexican Army who must have had a man-crush on an American admiral ‘cause he gave the gun to him as a gift. If I knew admirals got that kinda swag, I would have joined the Navy.
The Admiral was later deployed back to the US and after more than a few decades in a box in a closet, he gave C107 to an enlisted sailor who did some work for him on the side after he’d retirement. I don’t know the sailor, but my dad did. All I have is the sailor’s handle: “Indian.” Indian and my dad were tight buddies. Indian probably didn’t know what he had, but it looked great and it caught my dad’s eye.
Indian sold the pistol to my father in 1966 for a whopping $60 (at a time when he was getting paid about $182 per month). Dad gave it to me the year before he passed on to meet Jesus on Heaven’s Shooting Range. In fact when he handed it to me, I think I may have uttered Jesus’ name a few times. Hartford, Mexico City, San Diego, Mena (Arkansas) and now Boerne (Texas). We might be missing a few stops and a few details, but there she is. That’s the story I was told and now you’ve heard it as well.
She is in original condition in every regard and though some of you may think me daft, my son and I have shot her. It’s a piece of blue steel beauty. And if they could make a .45 out of butter and silk, C107 is what it would feel like when you shoot it.
I think the spring is a little less springy than it should be, but it’s still enough to cycle just fine. The accuracy is good, but honestly, I wasn’t paying that much attention. We shot steel rather than paper. We hit it and it was *sigh* Nirvana.
A few cool peculiarities: The serial number is on the “wrong” side. It has all the patents actually stamped on the slide. The front sight is the original oval (super-prone to bending) and the grips are the originals. It’s missing a lanyard loop on the magazine well and it was re-blued in the 70s, but the re-bluing was consistent with the original finish.
I have had a few experts look at it for authenticity and used Colt’s archive service to learn about its birth. We also researched its value. I had some gun idiot post that it was worth about a thousand dollars. Looking at how they go at auction — sometimes in poorer condition and usually in the 400-600 serial number series — we guess it’s worth upwards of $80,000. My son has been asked what he wants for it and his answer has always been the right one: “No money, it’s priceless.”
I only owned that thing for about a week and passed it on to a great man.