*The 1911 .45 ACP Automatic Pistol*
By: Winchester

(Substantially plagiarized from articles found at http://www.sightm1911.com)

The 1911 .45 ACP was designed by John Moses Browning. John Browning first experimented with self-loaders in 1889 when he modified a Winchester 1873 lever-action to work as an autoloader by using the action of the gases at the muzzle.

During the same time frame that John Browning was working on many of his 128 patents, a tribe of warriors, the Moro, were giving the U.S. Army a very hard time in the Philippines. To prepare for battle, the Moro would bind their limbs with leather, take narcotics, and use religious ritual to gain an altered state of consciousness, this turned them into virtual Supermen. The .38 Long Colt pistol round the U.S. soldiers had simply would not stop the Moro. Of note is the fact that the Krag rifles the U.S. issued were also barely more than useless.

Remembering the experience with the Moros and after extensive testing on animals and human cadavers, Col. John T. Thompson (inventor of the Thompson sub-machine-gun) and Col. Louis A. La Garde, of the Army Ordnance Board, determined that the Army needed a .45 caliber cartridge to provide adequate stopping power. At this time Browning was working for Colt and had already designed an autoloader pistol, around a cartridge similar in dimension to the .38 Super. Hearing of the Armys request for designs for a new handgun, Browning re-engineered this .38 autoloader to accommodate a .45" diameter cartridge that he designed and submitted the pistol to the Army for evaluation.

The process of choosing a new handgun for the United States began in 1906, several companies submitted designs, Luger, Savage and Colt among others. The two designs chosen were the Savage and Colts Browning design, but neither were able to convince the govt that they had the answer. Browning was determined his was the best design and went back to the colt factory and completely reworked the pistol and resubmited it. A new series of durability tests were conduted on March 3, 1911. Each gun had to fire 6000 rounds. The pistol would be allowed to cool for 5 minutes after each 100 rounds and cleaned and oiled after each 1000 rounds. After 600 rounds the pistol would be fed with all manner of bad ammo, too long, too short, etc. More tests were then conducted such as with acid, submersion in mud and sand, etc. The gun was changed several times during these tests, safeties added and altered the locking lugs reworked, etc. The end product was a locked-breech, single-action semi-automatic pistol chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge with a magazine capacity of seven rounds. Its weight unloaded was 39 ounces; overall length was 8.25"; the height was 5.25". Sights were fixed, although the rear sight was housed in a dovetail slot that allowed it to be drifted either left or right for windage adjustments. The pistols were finished in blue and fitted with checked wood stocks. Browning's pistols passed the whole test series with flying colors. It was the first firearm to undergo such a test, firing continuously 6000 cartridges

On March 29th, 1911, Brownings design, a Colt-produced .45 Automatic pistol, was selected as the official sidearm of the Armed Forces of U.S.A., and named Model 1911.

The Conditions of Readiness:
Jeff Cooper, a recognized expert on the .45 and a competent pistolero came up with the "Condition" system to define the state of readiness of the 1911-pattern pistol. They are:
Condition 0 - A round is in the chamber, hammer is cocked, and the safety is off.

Condition 1 - Also known as "cocked and locked," means a round is in the chamber, the hammer is cocked, and the manual thumb safety on the side of the frame is applied. Condition 2 - A round is in the chamber and the hammer is down.

Condition 3 - The chamber is empty and hammer is down with a charged magazine in the gun.

Condition 4 - The chamber is empty, hammer is down and no magazine is in the gun.

Condition One is the odds on favorite for competent and serious pistolsmiths. Condition One seems to offer the best balance of readiness and safety. It looks scary to people who are unaware of the mechanics of this particular weapon. Condition Two is very dangerous for several reasons. It is a fact that this is the source of more negligent discharges than the other conditions. Racking the slide to chamber a round in the 1911, the hammer cocks and the manual safety is off. This is totally unavoidable with the 1911 design. To lower the hammer, the trigger must be pulled and the hammer lowered slowly with the thumb. The hammer is lowered onto the firing pin!! The end of the pin is only a few millimeters away from the primer of a live round.A slip of the thumb and the will drop and fire the gun. The gun has just been fired AND the slide recoils to break the thumb that started this whole mess! This condition, a round chambered and the hammer down, also presents the problem in that the true 1911A1 does not have a firing pin block and an impact on the hammer which is resting on the firing pin could possibly cause the gun to go off, but this seldom happens. A third problem with this "condition" is that in order to fire the gun, the hammer must be cocked. In an emergency situation, this adds ample opportunity for something to go wrong and slows the acquisition of the sight picture. Condition Three would seem to be the safest, with a full magazine and no round in the chamber. In a defensive situation all that must be done is to draw the weapon, rtack the slide and then acquire the target. This draw is called "the Israeli draw" since it is taught by Israeli security and defense forces. The real expert trainers can do an Israeli draw faster than most of us can draw a condition one, but the Israeli draw involes more time and steps and just BEGS Mr Murphy to come give out lessons. Condition four needs no illustrations.

Disassembling The 1911
Before you do ANYTHING, make absolutely sure the weapon is unloaded!! Hundreds of people have been shot with unloaded guns!! Remove the magazine and rack the slide fully rearward several times, the visually check that the chamber is empty.

After safing the pistol, release the slide and let it go forward. Many experts recomend against using the slide release lever and letting the slide "slam" forward on an empty pistol. Holding the muzzle towards you, YOU DID UNLOAD THE GUN, RIGHT?!?!?!?, press the recoil spring plug in until the barrel bushing turns clockwise and completely clears the plug. BE CAREFUL, if you dont let the pressure off the plug easily it will launch itself into the next room!!

Remove the plug and spring the bushing needs to be rotated counterclockwise to just past center and it will slip right on out. Fully cock the hammer and then pull the slide to the rear until you see the slide release lever end is aligned with the small circular notch on the left side of the slide. On the right side of the slide push the axis of the release lever through the pistol, grasp it on the left side and pull the lever free.

Push the slide forward off the frame, you might want to hold the pistol upside down to prevent the recoils spring guide from falling out and getting lost. Move the barrel link forward towards the muzzle and pull the barrel from the end of the slide.

The 1911 is now field stripped.

Maintenance Schedule:
The following maintenance schedule is quoted directly from the Wilson Combat 1911 Auto Maintenance Manual by Bill Wilson.

Clean and Lube, Routine:

  • Lead bullet use every 300-500 rounds
  • Jacketed bullet use every 500-700 rounds
  • Carry pistols once a month

    Clean and Lube, Thorough:

  • Every 5,000 rounds and/or every 3 months your pistol should be completely disassembled, cleaned and lubricated.

    Spring Replacement:

  • Recoil spring every 2,000 rounds
  • Firing pin spring every 5,000 rounds
  • Hammer spring every 25,000 rounds

    Parts Replacement:

  • Firing pin stop: when cracked
  • Slide stop: when broken
  • Extractor: when hook edges become worn or fails to maintain tension

    In my next article I'll cover care and feeding, malfunctions and more.

    Substantially plagiarized from articles found at http://www.sightm1911.com

    All materials at this site not otherwise credited are Copyright 1996 - 2001 Trip Williams. All rights reserved. May be reproduced for personal use only. Use of any material contained herein is subject to stated terms or written permission.