On March 29, AD 1911 the U.S. Army officially adopted the Colt 1911 pistol as its official sidearm. The 1911 was originally issued in an era where the Army still had cavalry and was not too far removed from the days when a single action Colt revolver with a 7 inch barrel had been their primary sidearm. When the Colt SAA was replaced in the late 1800s with a double action revolver in .38 Long Colt, there were many who felt that such a decision was the wrong one. During the Philippine-American War, the .38 Long Colt proved ineffective at “bad-breath” fight distances, prompting the Army to seek a replacement. John Moses Browning, who is likely the greatest gun designer ever scaled up his .38 ACP pistol to a .45 caliber cartridge of his design and submitted that pistol to the military trials.
The 1911 wasn’t really born in 1911, though. The pistol trials that it competed in started in 1906, where the Browning design competed against a .45 ACP Luger and the Savage .45 ACP. The Browning designed “1911” eventually won the trials and was selected as the Army’s new service pistol, officially adopted on March 29th, 1911. The 1911 served in World War I and various other conflicts, including notably in the hands of Medal of Honor recipient Herman Hanneken, who used a 1911 to kill a rebel leader during the US occupation of Haiti.
In 1924, the 1911 received some minor design changes; this resulted in the new designation of 1911A1. The 1911A1 pistols continued to serve the US military until the 1980s, when it was officially phased out in favor of the Beretta M9. But the design would not go quietly into the night remaining in service in the US military with Special Forces, Force Recon Marines, and other specialized units. The modern 1911 continues to serve to this day; the Sig Sauer 1911 Tactical Operations at right is an excellent example of what the 1911 has become. The sights are much better than the original sights, the features a rail for attaching lights and other accessories, and hammer bite has been eliminated. John Moses Browning’s great design continues to serve with LAPD SWAT, FBI regional SWAT teams, and even in the holsters of local law enforcement agencies that desire the ergonomics and shootability of the classic design. 100 years later, the 1911 is going strong, with no indication that it won’t still be around in another 100 years. I’m wearing one as I type this, and I wonder how many people are going to be wearing one while they read this post.