Nothing fancy about the 1911 handgun

USGI M1911 pistol
This World War II USGI M1911 pistol is nothing fancy. (Mitch Barrie photo) rOriginal Caption:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When it comes to handguns, there is just one that can be thought of as the most recognizable of them all, the 1911. There’s nothing fancy here: a profile, rather square and tough looking — maybe a bit plump, too, when compared to some of the more flashy, stylish side arms found on gun store shelves today.

But any and all 1911s are certainly attractive in their own ways.

Not fancy

Fancy wasn’t what John Browning had in mind when the renowned gun maker created the 1911 in the late 1800s, but on the scale of reliability, there was nothing comparable.

Browning had a knack for designing good arms, and one might consider his 1911 not only ahead of its time but just time.

Browning’s early 1911 wasn’t a 1911 at all. That tag came in 1911 when the U.S. Army choose the single-action, semi-automatic pistol to be its standard issue sidearm. And indeed they selected Browning’s weapon for good reason.

According to several reliable sources, Browning himself had directed a tough, two day, 6,000 round reliability test during which the impressive handgun passed with flying colors.

Accounts describing the test mention that the guns were dunked in water to cool them. The 1911, in .45 caliber, has proven itself over and over and over again in combat action in wars far and wide.

It remained the standard issue sidearm until the mid-1980s.

Not high tech

For the most part, the iconic 1911, given a variety of model prefixes, is still the same handgun, born and built for its deadly firepower, durability and consistent performance. It’s a bit square, a bit heavy, and a bit big and certainly not high tech.

Maybe that’s what the 1911 fans like about it. Indeed, it’s a handful, barks like a mean dog, and hits like it sounds.

Now more than 100 years old, the 1911 is as popular as ever — maybe more.

1911 experience

Former Marine and Ohio State Trooper shooting instructor Michael Guarnieri recalled how intimidating the .45 handgun was to novice shooters. He said that flinching in anticipation of the recoil was always a problem and so was learning how to breathe properly to steady the aim.

According to the now retired Guarnieri, he loaded 1911 magazines with a mix of live rounds and dummy blanks so that he could correct new shooters by watching how bad the flinch was even when a round was a dummy.

It would be safe to say that the 1911 is now and apparently will be for the foreseeable future, a style and a shape as much as a model.

Similar guns

Several gun makers produce handguns that closely resemble the shape and style of the original in various calibers and with special options that adapt them to any number of sporting and target uses.

While the above remarks are general in nature and simply intended to recognize John Browning’s inventive skills and the 1911’s continued success, many historically correct books can bring interested readers the whole story.


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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.



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