A Brief History of the Colt M1911 .45 ACP Pistol

The original Colt .45 ACP was the 1905 pistol that featured a “spur” type hammer and short grip. The slide was locked by a pin near the muzzle end of the gun, just above the frame. The Model 1911, an improvement on the 1905 design, incorporated a longer, more angled grip and a grip safety. The pinned slide was replaced by the barrel bushing system.

In 1913, John Browning patented an improved M1911 that required fewer parts and did away with the need for tools to disassemble the pistol. From the 1920’s on, subtle changes were made to the basic M1911 design. Changes such as the spur on the safety grip being extended and the use of Patridge sights are immediately noticeable. Civilian models of the M1911 have serial numbers starting with the letter “C”, up until 1950.

During World War I and World War II, the demand for the M1911 was so large that Colt could not fulfill all the government orders. The company licensed the manufacture of the pistol to other companies. They were: Remington Arms Co., Remington Rand Co., North American Arms Co. Ltd. (Quebec, Ontario, Canada), Ithaca Gun Co., Singer Sewing Machine Co., Union Switch & Signal Co., and Springfield Armory Govt. Arsenal.

Over 2-1/2 million M1911 pistols were ordered for World War I. They usually sported a blued finish. The ones that you might find now of that era with parkerized finishes are the ones that were refinished at one of the government arsenals after the war. The 1911 model pistols produced just prior to and for World War II were designated as the Model 1911A1. Over million and a half military Model 1911A1 pistols were produced from 1924 to 1945.

In the early 1930’s, Colt offered a target version of the basic civilian Model 1911. This National Match pistol first appeared in 1933. These pistols differed from the standard grade because they incorporated a match barrel, checked trigger, checked arched grip, walnut stocks and the innards were hand honed. Also included on later versions were a ramp front sight and an adjustable rear sight. These models were marked “NATIONAL MATCH COLT Automatic Calibre .45” on the left side of the slide. During World War II, the National Match Model was discontinued, but resumed in 1957. This newer version was referred to as the “Gold Cup National Match.”

The MKIV Series 70 Government Model Colt pistols were manufactured from 1970 to 1983 and have “70G” as a prefix in the serial numbers on the models made from 1970 to 1976. The models made from 1976 to 1980 have “G70” suffixes. Models made from 1979-1981 have “B70” suffixes and models made form 1981 to 1983 have “70B” prefixes. The Series 70 had in addition to the Government model a Series 70 Combat Commander, Series 70 Lightweight Commander, and Series 70 Combat Government. The Series 70 featured an accurizor barrel bushing for improved accuracy.

In 1983, Colt presented the MKIV Series 80 pistol. It was a single action with 5″ barrel. It was offered with checkered walnut grips and rubber combat style grips. This model had a firing pin safety incorporated.

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