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Monday, November 10, 2008

Colt Model of 1911

Veterans Day, formerly known as Armistice Day, is a day to honor those women and men who served in our armed forces.

Colt Model of 1911 pictured above served in the U.S. Army, although I am uncertain for how long before a soldier took it home as a cherished souvenir, or perhaps as a cherished friend.

Old 1911 pistols are becoming as rare as old soldiers from the same era are. During the 90-years since this pistol left the Colt factory (the serial number dates it to the year 1918), it has accumulated its share of blemishes consisting of dents, scratches, and pitting from corrosion. What little bluing that remains is mottled over both the slide and the frame. I doubt that the pistol was ever refinished during its time in military service, or during the years afterwards. The pistol was never “modified,” its sights are original. It has never been buffed; the lettering is still crisp. For some bizarre reason someone hogged out a bit of metal from the underside of the slide, but it does not affect function or safety.

When I first bought the pistol, I found that the barrel link was functionally the wrong size so I replaced it. The slide-stop was an ill fit, just barely engaging the slide-stop notch so I fit a new one; the slide-stop notch fortunately was only showing moderate wear from the original bad fit. The grip screws had been dished out very badly and were jammed solidly in the bushings, so they were all replaced. One of the grip bushings stripped from the frame so I replaced all four of them. Both grip panels were so dry and cracked I doubted that they would hold together during recoil, so I replaced them with new panels having the correct double diamond pattern. I installed a new recoil spring with a shock buffer, as well as a new firing pin spring. I saved all of the old parts so they could remain part of the history of the pistol, or reinstalled (if salvageable) for the sake of purity. A Wilson 7-round magazine makes the old war-horse superbly reliable. There will be no fancy beavertail grip safeties, no tricked out triggers, no match-grade barrel, and no fancy sights; it will remain just as stock as an old, well-used pistol can safely be. Arguably, nobody has ever improved what
John Moses Browning created.

This old pistol may be a good candidate for professional restoration by
Paul Lippold, but for now I like the old gun as it is, with all of the blemishes and wounds that it has earned during its 90-year existence. An old gun is a handful of history; if only this one could talk, what tales it might tell of those women and men who served our country.


Anonymous said...

The old Colt 1911 is a most interesting gun and a great weapon to own , I myself own a Colt 1911 from the year 1918 ! But in my own opinon I feel many of the automatic pistols made today are far superior , for self-defence give me a Glock in .45ACP , a double action automatic without all the extra safeties to fool around with that unfortunately you have with the older automatics .

Arthur B. Burnett said...

Greetings from Texas,
I like what you said about liking your 1911 with it's blemishes and wounds. Flawless, mint weapons are pretty. I knew a man that took great pride in the fact that none of the revolvers in his collection had been "ringed". My question is "why"?
To me dings and dents speak of the weapon's history and service. It says "I didn't spend the years in a desk drawer, or safity deposite box."
Don't miss understand me. I throw no rocks at folks to whom a flawless finish is important, but mine is a teaching and shooting collection. "Real collectors" may turn their nose up at it but I don't care. To me the beat up warriors tell a much more interesting story.