The classic automatic pistol designed by John Moses Browning. Adopted by the US Military in 1911, the M1911 served with distinction in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and beyond.
Defined as a blow-back operated magazine-fed semi-automatic pistol, the M1911 is fed by a seven-round box magazine, with the A1's getting an extra round by virtue of better spring technology allowing a spare round to be crammed in the same size magazine. Chambering the potent .45 Automatic Colt Pistol round, the weapon was designed as a cavalry sidearm intended for stopping horses and not Phillipino tribesmen. This also explains the grip safety not present on most semi-automatic pistols.
The old war-horse recieved a makeover after the first world war, adding among other things an arched mainspring housing (base of the grip), and a long trigger (other was short).
The M1911 was replaced as the official US miltiary sidearm with Beretta's M92FS, renamed the 'M9'. Reasons for this replacement were the 'Wonder-Nine' fad of the 80's and 90's where 9mm high-capacity pistols were thought to be just as good as the larger-caliber weapons when using ball-type (military-style full metal jacket) ammuniton.
Relibility and accuracy issues were also cited, but this was because the guns in question had been in service since the first world war and were simply worn out.
The M1911 is known for its durability, accuracy, reliability, and effectiveness. Since the adoption of the M9 by US forces, US special operations forces have tried to stick with the 1911, especially elite Marine Expeditionary Unit Special Operations Capable (MEU-SOC) and the elite Combat Applications Group, more simply known as 'Delta Force'. The weapon is favored for its superior reliability over the M9, as well as better stopping power by virtue of its larger .45 caliber round. Magazine capacity is a secondary problem as most reports from military and law enforcement personnel cite up to eight rounds being needed to subdue a target when shot center-mass when 9mm's were used. Targets struck with .45 ACP ammo were sat down quickly with one to two rounds. Over-penetration was also an issue, with the 9mm able to penetrate an unarmored human and drywall while retaining enough energy to still maim and kill bystanders.
This issue was solved with the use of hollow-point ammunition on the law enforcement side. The military, however, is required to stick with 'ball' ammo, which is ineffective in a 9mm format. Hence, US SOCOM put forth a set of requirements for a high-capacity .45 ACP pistol to replace the M9 in the future. Civilians benefit from a plethora of new hi-cap .45 designs flooding the market in the recent year, intended as weapons to submit to the pistol trials at an unconfirmed date.
Several elite law enforcement agencies have also adopted it as their issue weapon of choice over other such 'wonder-nines'. These include LAPD Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), LAPD SIS (Special Investigation Section), the FBI's HRT (Hostage Rescue Team), and several less high-profile agencies throughout the country.
In the civilan world, the 1911 is the most widely manufactured pistol on the market, with every major maker with the exception of Heckler and Koch (H&K) having one or many variations. 1911's also form the bulk of the 'race gun' or competitive pistol choices for some of the biggest names in the sport, followed by Glock. There are few M9-type pistols seen in such competitions. Modern competitive pistols like those from STI and Para-Ordnance are also double-stack or 'high capacity' style weapons, having magazine capacities of 14 rounds of .45 ACP, which makes all other arguements about the M9 being superior a moot point.
The 1911 has two safety features:
1. Grip safety: Unless you hold the pistol in your hand, the trigger refuses to move. 'Memory bump' versions are now popular, since shooting 'thumbs high' wouldn't always disengage this feature. It is also considered unneeded by most experts.
2. Manual safety: A thumb safety prevents the slide from moving and the trigger from working. Useful when carrying the pistol in the 'cocked and locked' position with the hammer back and a round chambered.
The modern 1911 comes in five formats:
Six-inch-barrel or 'Longslide':
A full size frame topped with an extended six-inch barrel and slide makes this version a popular hunting arm for wild boar as well as a great choice for bowling-pin matches where the increased velocity is useful.
Full-size or 'Government':
Characterized by a five-inch barrel and full-size (eight round) frame, this is the original incarnation of the piece. Competition guns and service guns are all of this type, and either single or double-stack styles.
Compact or 'Commander':
A shorter four-inch barrel and full-size frame (originally aluminum) make this a popular concealed carry weapon. This was also the first use of the 'ring' hammer instead of the 'spur' hammer. The 'Commander' style hammer is now standard on most M1911's made in the modern day.
Curtis E. LeMay or 'Hybrid':
This combination of the smaller 'Officers' frame and 'Commander' four-inch barrel make what some call the ideal concealed carry pistol.
Sub-Compact or 'Officers':
A three-inch barrel and shorter frame make this version a popular carry gun as well, but it suffers from a lack of muzzle velocity and increased recoil when compared to the larger versions.
The modern M1911 also comes in an array of calibers:
For a weapon wrongfully phased out by the US military, the M1911 remains one of the most popular firearms ever built, and is one of the most highly customizeable, with entire shops and manufacturers built around making custom parts and entire custom weapons to order.
This hybrid M1911 is the tits for packing concealed...
The M1911/M1911A1 kicks the shit out of the M9...