Colt M1911

Colt M1911 and M1911A1, automatic pistol of the US Army from 1911 to 1985.
History, development, specifications, statistics, pictures and 3D model.

Colt M1911A1
Colt M1911A1

Pistol automatic .45 (Colt M1911 and M1911A1).
Type: Automatic pistol.


The Colt M1911 competes with the Browning HP as one of the most successful pistol designs ever built. Millions have been built of the gun and it is still in use all over the world since it was accepted for the US Army in 1911.

The design had its origins long before that, however, as the weapon was based on the Colt Browning Model 1900, which was used as the starting point for a new service weapon required by the US Army for the new 0.45in (11.43 mm) bullet. The 0.38in (9.65 mm) standard caliber was considered too light by many soldiers to stop a charging enemy.

In 1907 and 1908 a number of experiments were carried out. The Colt models by John Browning, Savage and the Luger Parabellum 1908 proved to be the most promising. The Colt was then slightly revised to meet the Army’s requirements for simplicity, robustness and safety. As a result, the Colt was taken over by the US Army in 1911 as the Pistol Automatic Caliber .45 M1911.

Colt M1911
Colt M1911

While many contemporary pistol designs used a receiver stop to arrest the backward movement of the receiver sled, the M1911 had a locking system which provided a firmer arrest. The barrel had lugs built into its outer surface that fitted into the corresponding grooves on the latch.

When the pistol was fired, the barrel and slide were moved backwards a short distance, but these lugs did not yet engage. At the end of the distance, this movement was stopped by a swinging link that swung around and pulls the barrel lugs out of the receiver slide. This allowed it to move even further, ejecting the used cartridge and restarting the loading process.

This robust system, combined with a positive safety latch with outside cock and a secure grip, made the Colt M1911 and later the M1911A1 very safe weapons under operational conditions.

Initially production was low, but by 1917 it had been sufficient to equip parts of the rapidly expanding US Army for their deployment in France. This probably also because already in 1915 and 1916 a lot of the M1911 pistols for the Royal Navy and the Royal Flying Corps were manufactured, whereby the chamber was changed for the cartridge of the automatic pistol bullet .455 Webley & Scott.
Until the end of World War One the US Army, US Navy and the US Marines received a total of 592,981 units, which were mainly manufactured by Colt in Hartford. Finally, the arms’ factory in Springfield and the company Remington were also involved in the production.

In France, the new pistol worked well, but experience during the First World War showed the need for some minor changes. The contour of the piston was changed to better fit the hand. The trigger was shortened and the front edge of the piston was cut away to give the trigger finger a better grip. Finally, the hammer spur was shortened.

Colt M1911 and M1911A1
Colt M1911 (left) and Colt M1911A1 (right).

Overall, these changes were not extensive and made little difference to the use in the field. The basic mechanism remained the same and this was one of the most stable ever used on a pistol.
With these changes the gun became the Colt M1911A1 and this version dates back to 1922.


With a 230 grain (14.9 gram) bullet at 860 feet (ca. 262 m) projectile speed per second, the M1911A1 was the most powerful military pistol in use since the end of the .455 Webley revolver in the 1920s.
To stop an attacker, the weapon is unparalleled and the effect of over 300 foot-pounds (400 Newton meters) on any part of the body puts any man out of action. On the other hand, it is not easy to shoot precisely with such a powerful weapon without much practice.

The Colt M1911 and M1911A1 was widely used in the US Army until 1985. The pistol was not only carried by non-commissioned officers, but was also the personal armament for heavy weapon crews, including heavy machine guns and mortars.
However, due to complaints about its uselessness in use over long ranges, it was largely replaced by the US Carbine cal .30 M1 or the M3 Grease Gun sub-machine gun after 1942, especially among heavy weapon crews.

There is no doubt that it was the most widely used of all combat pistols, probably because Americans traditionally tend to use handguns. In addition, there are countless stories about the effectiveness of the Colt pistol in combat use.
The biggest of all Colt stories took place on October 8, 1918, when Corporal Alvin York, after shooting a machine gun crew with his rifle, 132 German soldiers surrendered to him and only with the help of his Colt M1911 brought them back to the own lines into captivity.

User: US Army (and other allies in World War II).

3D model pistol Colt Model 1911A1

Specifications Colt M1911A1


Colt M1911A1 specification
Typeautomatic self-loading pistol
Caliber .45 ball M1911 (.45 ACP) = 11.43mm
Length 8.6in (21.7-21.9cm)
Weight 2lb 7.5oz (1.06-1.10kg); loaded 3lb (1.36kg)
Barrel 5.03in (12.8cm); 6 grooves, left hand twist
Feed system 7-round detachable box magazine
System of operation Recoil; Browning link
Muzzle velocity 825 ft per second (252 m/sec)

Service statistics:

Colt M1911A1 Figures
Manufactures in WWII Colts Patent Firearms Mfg.Co. (Hartford, Connecticut); Remington Arms-UMC (Bridgeport, Connecticut); Springfield-Armory (Springfield, Massachusetts); Union Switch & Signal Co. (Swissvale, Pennsylvania); Ithacu Gun Co. (Ithaca, New York); Remington-Rand Inc. (Syracuse, New York)
Production delivery 1911
Service delivery 1917 (in bigger numbers); M1911A1 after 1922
Final delivery after Second World War (used by US Army until 1985)
Production figure 592.981 (M1911) end of WW I; over 2 millions during WWII
Price per unit unknown

References and literature

The Encyclopedia of Infantry Weapons of World War II (Ian V.Hogg)
Infanterie im 2. Weltkrieg (J.B.King, John Batchelor)
Illustriertes Lexikon der Waffen im 1. und 2. Weltkrieg (V. Dolinek, V. Francev, J. Sach)
The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II (Chris Bishop)

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