Colt No. 5 and Savage No. 4 trials pistols , springfield armory Savage: 45 cal. utica, NY, pat. NOV 21, 1905 Colt: Hartford, CT, pat Dec 1905
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In March of 1911, Colt and Savage had emerged as the top two contenders for the next sidearm to be issued to United States soldiers. Each company submitted a gun for a 6,000-round torture test. They were the Colt with serial number 5 fired by E.G. Reising, and the Savage with serial number 4 fired by Charles Nelson.

When the dust settled, Colt appeared to be victorious. The final verdict, though, would not arrive until the end of the month.

On March 29, 1911, official notice was sent to Colt informing them that their design had “passed the prescribed tests and has been adopted” as the new military sidearm.

Colt was instructed to reply with a quote for an order of 30,262 pistols, along with “spare parts and screwdrivers” to be sent to Springfield Armory ASAP.

The rest, as they say, is history.

(Firearms courtesy of NRA Museums and Springfield Armory NHS)

Logan Metesh is a firearms historian and consultant who runs High Caliber History LLC. Click here for a free 3-page download with tips about caring for your antique and collectible firearms.

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  1. When I was in service over 4 decades ago the 1911’s that we had were made 20 years prior. They all shot shotgun style patterns not groupings, on our man sized targets.

    The 1911 style fits my hand well. But those old service weapons were pretty worn.

  2. The 1911 myth is one of the biggest laughs of all time. Even people who have never owned a gun at all can often recite one of the biggest gun writer propaganda coups of all time. It is the story that the 1911 with one shot will knock a man off his feat or spin him around like a top or make him disappear in a red puff of mist. This became known as the MORO MYTH. It just did not happen and U.S. Military records prove it. Jan Liborel the retired gun writer found not one report in the Military than verified the lurid gun writer stories that started the myth after the war was over. As a matter of fact Jan found only reports complaining about all the pistol and rifle calibers the U.S. Military used except the use of the shotgun which was stated was very deadly at close range.

    The real truth is that the 45 acp was a turd of a military cartridge and ditto for the 1911 pistol as well. It actually took the Morons in the U.S. military 34 years to actually do a penetration test in 1945 with the .45 acp and they found that it was such a turd of a cartridge the rounds actually bounced off a military helmet at only 35 yards away while the superior 9×19 penetrated it at an astonishing 125 yards and might have been able to to it farther away than that but no one could it the helmet beyond 125 yards.

    It must be remembered how small the average man was until recently in time and because of this most recruits did not have big enough hands to reach the trigger or the slide release. It was one of the reasons after WWII they put relief cuts on the sides of the frame. Nothing was done to extend the safety as it might have been just too much work to bother with. The gun kicked to hard for the average non-gun person and most people never learned to shoot it as well as lighter recoiling cartridges and it held less rounds in the magazine which in combat can very easily get you killed which is one of the reasons the military shotgun was such a failure even though when it was loaded was a deadly weapon but it does you no good when its empty and it takes forever to reload it.

    Sub machine guns that were chambered for the 9×19 and .30 tokarev were superior in full auto control and in the amount of ammo able to be carried as compared to the .45 acp caliber. Penetration was way superior with the 9mm and .30 cal pistol cartridges of the day and trajectories were much flatter making it easier to hit what you were aiming at.

    All in all there was absolutely nothing good about the .45 acp cartridge or even the 1911 pistol as their were other WWII pistols that were just as reliable, held more ammo and where often much more accurate to boot because of their superior workmanship as composed to the crude workmanship of the average WWII G.I. bucket of bolts 1911 pistol. As most soldiers laughingly said the 1911 could be relied upon to always give wash tube size accuracy at 6 feet and it was not too far from the truth. It was a turd of a gun and absolutely a turd of a cartridge.

    When the U.S. Military finally dropped the 1911 and its .45 acp cartridge it did its troops a great favor but myths die hard and the unwashed never bother to do any testing of their own so the 1911 myth lives on in the fantasies not only of the Military but the mindless brainwashed super patriots who believe every weapon the U.S. adopted was always better than other nations weapons were.

    • What a phenomenal amount of ridiculous bullshit. Really, pat yourself on the back for that one. That much pure unadulterated bullshit hasn’t been seen in a single comment in a long time. We should give out a prize.
      The first penetration tests on the 45ACP were completed in 1905. They began after the failure of penetration tests from the 38, not just myths and stories. Oh, by the way, the second round of test was 1906, and then again in 1910 and then again and again and again as different bullets were developed.
      Google and Wikipedia. Just spend a little time there.

      • There is an extreme amount of inaccuracies (to put it mildly) in the posting above. Thx for pointing to some of the most eggregious ones. There are quite a few well-written commentaries on the Internet about old weapons, which tear to pieces the popular opinion. However, I have found none on the 1911 pistol. It is still being manufactured today by many a company, with little substantial change, if any. John Browning’s design has been spot-on then and is still spot-on today. With better materials the 1911 is quite a bit more reliable now. That is the main “change” and it was obviously for the better.

  3. Your full of beans, the relief cuts were after WW1, as were all the m0ds to the 1911, I think it was 1935 it became the 1911A1. Sgt.James Carter U.S. Marines Guadalcanal had nothing but good to say of his Thompson and the way it knocked the Japs on their ass. Nothing good about the .45 ACP? I’ve used all three that you’ve mentioned, if I want it one shot knock down dead it’s .45 . Yes with modern bullet technology the 9 is comparable to a 45… comparable. Have a nice day

  4. The first .45 I ever fired was a 5″ Kimber 1911, with almost all of my shooting having been various 9 mm pistols. As a range gun, it was well broken in. The experience was so good I just had to have one. The recoil (shooting 230 gr ball) was a push, not a snap, and easily controlled. The accuracy was excellent. It was easy to keep rounds on target at 10 yards, and I was an inexperienced shooter at the time.

    I don’t get the bit about soldiers not being able to reach the safety. I mean, it is right there next to one’s thumb, extended or not. The mag release is easy for me as well, and I have only medium sized hands.

    So much fail.

    • Mark. Cisco is a paid troll. He tries to, once in a while, act like he’s a ‘good guy’ gun owner down with ubc’s etc. So he tries to write about guns as though he’d ever owned one.

      Read his long winded ‘opinions’ about guns and it becomes obvious he has never touched a gun.

      • Cisco’s comments serve as an excellent foil, revealing the depth of knowledge and wealth of real world experience that resides in TTAG comments. Possibly, without Cisco the numerous comments would otherwise be less informative.

  5. I recommend everyone do their homework on the trials where the 1911 was accepted as the final contender vs. the Savage 1907 and the Luger. The 1911 won based on reliability, period.

    The Savage had the advantage of being able to be disassembled without a screwdriver. It was less tolerant of dirt, and had more parts breakages.

    The Luger was the least tolerant of dirt, but the most accurate in the tests. Today, if you can find one of those .45 ACP Lugers, you have a truly collectable handgun.

    The 1911’s accuracy was measured by the Army during the trials, and found to be a bit less than 2.5″ at 25 yards. The Luger had achieved a group of 1.3″ or so at 25 yards. The 1911’s accuracy wasn’t beating other pistols of its era, but it was in the expected average group size of early pistols. Even some very spendy modern target pistols print five-round groups of 1.3+” at 25 yards. Perhaps one of the most accurate handguns ever made, the S&W Model 52, was tested by S&W to have 2″ maximum groups in five rounds at 50 yards before it was shipped out of the factory.

    For a combat handgun, the 1911’s accuracy was more than acceptable.

    The one pistol that was evaluated by the US military as being superior to the 1911 was the Remington Model 53. It was evaluated by the US Navy after WWI, found superior in most regards (especially in fewer parts and easier stripping), but by then the US War Department and Army were ramping up their buys of the 1911, and there was no appetite to qualify another handgun when the 1911 was doing a more than acceptable job already.


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