Stopping Power, Staying Power: The 1911/ Government Model Pistol
Developed at the start of the 20th Century, the Colt Government Model Pistol has entered into the public mindset as one of the quintessential icons of history, as much an icon as the covered wagons of the westward expansion, the sailing ships that brought the first colonists to the shore of the New World, the castles and knights of Medieval Europe, or the Samurai of Japan. Of those examples, most were undone by progress; the castle, knight and samurai were all forced to change beyond recognition or be eliminated by the development of gunpowder, sail gave way to steam and the wagons soon had the railroads to compete with. In 100 years, what has changed for the Colt? Like the great white shark, few changes have occurred because few were needed; progress in metallurgy haven’t displaced hardened steel, and the ergonomics of the piece had little need for improvement. None of these changes have altered the manual of arms of the weapon, to the point where one could pick up an Army training manual from the 1910s, and except for the instructions for firing from horseback, find that most of the lessons still apply to the pistols in production today. While the 1911 has remained essentially the same at it’s core, the world has changed greatly around it. Since its introduction, many technologies, styles, governments and even political systems have come and gone.
Born into an era where radio and vinyl records were still emerging technologies, the 1911 has been witness to the birth and growth of the film industry, the apex and decline of vinyl, and the entire lifespans of cassette tapes, 8-tracks and a number of other formats. During this time, the analog computer was replaced with the earliest digital computers, which wouldn’t be capable of actually being programmed for almost 25 years after the 1911s invention, and has gone through so many changes and iterations that comparing machines even 10 years apart is like comparing gliders to fighter jets.
In the field of global politics, it predated and outlived the Soviet Union, and with it the rise and fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, the Warsaw Pact, and several nations. In Central Europe, it saw the fall of the German Empire and the subsequent ascensions and declines of the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich, and the division and reunification of East and West Germany. Meanwhile, Spain and Italy both went through their Fascist phase and Japan went from an expansionist empire, to a occupied nation, to a major player in world politics and economics.
In the martial realm, the 1911 has survived a large amount of upheaval. Rifles have seen the relegation of the bolt action from mainline infantry arm to a specialist weapon, the rise and fall of the intermediate cartridge battle rifle, the emergence and dominance of the 5.56mm automatic as the chief weapon of war, and introduction of the Personal Defense Weapon as a possible replacement. The field of pistols has seen the double action automatic, the European-style “Wonder 9” high capacity, and the acceptance of plastic, titanium and other new materials as weight saving measures. Combat shotguns, seeing relatively little development between World War One and the 1990s, have seen a large number of changes in recent years, from the adoption of polymer stocks up to the development of drum fed monsters such as the Russian Saiga-12 or the American AA-12, with the latter being capable of fully automatic fire. Other technologies, now seen as essentials on the modern battlefield, experienced their entire development cycle during the 1911’s reign, including soft body armor, man portable night vision equipment and radios, and virtually the entire field of combat aviation, including the very concepts of fighter and bomber aircraft, air superiority and drones.
In spite of all these changes, the 1911 remains a viable sidearm. Though passed up in favor of the M9 for the U.S. Armed Forces, the 1911 remained in the hands of the United States Marines and American Special Forces units, in some cases using the very same pistols that had been issued for service during the Second World War. In the Law Enforcement field, a similar pattern has occurred, with the .45 being chosen by SWAT and Hostage Rescue units while the 9mm is adopted overall. Among civilian shooters, the 1911 still remains a standard for both competitive and defense shooting, providing the accuracy and reliability that are needed in both situations, and the knockdown power the latter demands.
This auction features a wide variety of Government Model pistols, including a number of Military 1911A1s, Argentine 1927s and Norwegian 1914s, a number of customized arms, later production Colt Mark IVs, Officers Models, at least one Kit Gun and a few National Match pistols.
View all 1911's in the July Regional Sale: