Assembled on 28 December 1911, this U.S. Contract Colt Model 1911 pistol, serial number 21, is one of the earliest we have ever had the pleasure of offering at here at Rock Island Auction Company, topped only by serial number 14 in our September 2021 Premier Auction. Only the first 51 of these iconic pistols were produced in the year for which they are named, making this example a "true" Model of 1911. This pistol was also included in the very first shipment of 50 pistols sent to Springfield Armory on 4 January 1912. The pistol was then subsequently shipped on 12 July 1912 to Lieutenant Arnold Heinrich of the U.S. Coastal Artillery Corps. Heinrich was born in Hungary on 18 February 1882, and at the time of being issued this pistol, serial number 21, he was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Coastal Artillery. By 1918 Heinrich is listed as a captain and it appears likely his unit served with the American Expeditionary Force in Europe operating railway artillery during World War I. The pistol itself bears all the extremely early features one would expect to see on an example with a serial number this low. The left side of the slide has the two-line, two-block patent dates and address, with the address in a slightly larger font as seen on pistols only below serial number 83. The left side of the frame has the large size "UNITED STATES PROPERTY" marking, which was switched to a smaller font at serial number 100. Walter G. Penfield's "WGP" monogram inspector's mark is also on the left of the frame in its early 90 degree clockwise rotated format, which was seen on only the first 100 Model 1911's produced. The serial number is in the early "No.21" format and forward location on the right of the frame which were changed at serial numbers 4501 and 7501 respectively. The right side of the slide is marked with the iconic "MODEL OF 1911. U.S. ARMY". The pistol shows the early lustrous, high polish, mirror-like blue finish and fiery nitre blue small parts. It is fitted with fixed blade and round top notch rear sights, the early hand-checkered slide stop and thumb safety which were only seen on the first 150 pistols, the "dimpled" magazine catch which was seen on pistols up to serial number 3189, wide checkered hammer, short grip safety, smooth flat mainspring housing with a lanyard loop, a pair of double-diamond pattern checkered walnut grips, and an early two-tone "exposed baseplate" magazine with a lanyard loop, as issued with only the first 4,500 pistols. The barrel and bushing are unmarked polished replacements. The included factory letter confirms the current configuration (grips not listed) when shipped to the Commanding Officer at Springfield Armory on 4 January 1912 in a 50 gun shipment. The second shipment to Lt. Arnold Heinrich is listed on p. 524 of "U.S. Military Automatic Pistols 1894-1920" by Meadows. Provenance: The Dr. Robert Azar Collection
Exceptionally fine, retains 80% plus of the bright original high polish blue finish and 60% of the original nitre blue with the balance having thinned to mostly a smooth grey patina, primarily on edges and the grip straps. The right top of the frame exhibits a noticeable spot of cold blue touch up above the trigger. The grip screws are refinished replacements. The replacement grips are fine with a few scattered light handling marks and crisp recut checkering overall. Mechanically excellent.
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