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The M1911A1 as a military sidearm.

This is a discussion on The M1911A1 as a military sidearm. within the Handguns forums, part of the Gun Forum category; I thought about adding this to the other thread about the Marines accepting a new SOCCOM pistol, but I reconsidered and figured it would be ...


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Old August 3rd, 2012, 01:09 PM   #1
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The M1911A1 as a military sidearm.

I thought about adding this to the other thread about the Marines accepting a new SOCCOM pistol, but I reconsidered and figured it would be better to start a new thread. For brevity, I often type “a .45” or “.45’s” to mean an M1911A1 type pistol. This will be an introductory post for the thread and more posts on history, use and maintenance will follow.

I worked standard M1911A1 pistols from my very first days as a standard Armorer in 1972. I built NM .45’s beginning in 1974 while undergoing the Year Long Plus OJT or Apprenticeship program. I have also built custom and semi custom .45’s for many years.

I was never a full time LE Officer, but I spent a huge amount of time in the 70’s as an armed Police Reserve. I practiced one heck of a lot more than the average Police Officer or Deputy Sheriff in those days with revolvers. I was one of only three Police Reserves who the Regular Officers WANTED riding with them in those days; because they knew how well I could shoot, take their instruction and orders and help them do any task. I used that experience to determine whether or not I wanted to pursue a career in Law Enforcement. I chose not to do so, but there is a very special place in my heart for all good LE Officers, both from those years and in all the years after.

I have also graduated Smith and Wesson’s Revolver and Automatic Pistol Armorer’s courses as well as other Police Armorers’ courses. I am also a graduate of the NRA’s Police Firearms Instructors Course. Now, I am the first to admit I do not know everything about every handgun out there. On the handguns I’m not familiar with, I seek out information from those who use them and work them, though.

I was very fortunate to have the career in the Marine Corps that I did and be able to do and learn so much. I also have what I believe some unique insights into .45’s because I worked on so many of them and was “in the right place at the right time” to find out things many people do not know. I hope to impart at least some of that knowledge and experience here.

OK, when I joined the Corps, the only pistol I had experience with was a Ruger Mark I .22 cal target pistol. I used that to hunt Racoon with and did a lot of informal target shooting and field shooting with that pistol because I wanted to hit what I was aiming at and did not want the Racoons to suffer anymore than necessary.

I was just six days beyond my 18th birthday when I reported to MCRD San Diego for Recruit Training. I REALLY looked forward to the firearms training and I was thrilled when I found out we got to shoot the .45 pistol for familiarization fire at Edson Range Pistol Range. However, the .45 pistol I was issued for Fam Fire “seemed” to have something wrong with it while I was shooting it. Now, I had no clue what the problem was at the time, but I later learned it was not unlocking properly. Now IMAGINE what a Marine Pistol Range Coach said to a young recruit when I raised my hand and reported I believed there was something wrong with my pistol?!! Grin. I was able to convince him enough to get me another pistol to shoot and it worked great. Of course I was under the extremely skeptical eye of that Range Coach AFTER he got me another pistol. Even with that pressure, I was able to shoot enough better with the second pistol that the Wrath of God did not come down upon me. Grin. I wanted to note that Sea Story as many years later, it came back to me and remarkably at Edson Range, while I was the RTE Armorer and NCOIC of the Armory there. I will refer back to it in the post on maintenance.

Now don’t get me wrong, I was NOT a great pistol shot and I wasn’t even a good pistol shot at that time. The Training they gave at the Familiarization Fire Range did involve sighting, grip, stance, etc.; but the training was highly abbreviated compared to the training we got on the Rifle as Recruits. There is only so much you can “suck up” in a one or two hour class before the first time you shoot a new “to you” firearm. We Armorers used to joke our main job on Rifle and Pistol Familarization Ranges was to fix broke guns and try to help make sure no one shot themselves. Grin. I want to point out the obvious that it is much more difficult to either learn to shoot, or train new folks to shoot, any handgun well when compared to a long gun.

Before I end this post and go on to type posts, I think it would be well to point out some things about a military pistol vs other pistols. First, the best pistol for the military may not be and often is not the best pistol for LE Officers or civilians. In the military, the pistol often fulfills the role of an OFFENSIVE sidearm and that is not common in the civilian world. The closest thing to that in the civilian world is the average street Cop or Deputy Sheriff and some other officers are also often forced to use their handgun as an offensive firearm; but IF they can get to them in time - shotguns or carbines/rifles are issued for real offensive work. LE Officers also have TONS of regulations governing the use of deadly force that the military does not have nearly as much (for the most part) and especially not when the military is in an operational or combat areas. Politicians and bean counters also do things to LE Officers due to liability and other concerns. My hat is definitely off to LE Officers doing the job they do with the restrictions they have on them, nowadays. However, with certainly some very important exceptions, LE Officers do not usually go out to “seek out and destroy” the bad guys as the military does and that is a hugely important difference. LE Officers generally “shoot to stop” and the Military “shoots to destroy or kill.”

Another huge difference between the Military and LE Officers or Civilians is the fact the Military is stuck with ammo that complies to the Geneva Accords. The Military is almost never allowed to use what I like to call “magic bullets” that are much better made for damage that will cause someone to more quickly “stop hostile or dangerously aggressive” actions. (It is a DARN good thing LE Officers can use “magic bullets,” because they are not normally allowed to shoot to “destroy or kill.”) So the Military is stuck using FMJ rounds that are not nearly as effective. In modern times, that has meant .45 Ball or 9mm Ball. (Yeah, I appreciate the morbid irony that we can drop a 1,000 pound bomb, or a 155mm Artillery Projectile, or a missile or smart bomb, or a 12 inch Naval Rifle Projectile on an enemy but we “Dasn’t use those nasty/inhumane Dum Dum pistol bullets.” The Military doesn’t make the rules, they just have to live by them. Sigh.)

OK, I think this is a good place to stop and allow me time to write some history for the next post.

Thanks from CAVman, bj1126, M21guy and 11 others

Last edited by Gus Fisher; August 3rd, 2012 at 09:26 PM.
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Old August 3rd, 2012, 02:43 PM   #2
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The .45 wasn't really new to me when I enlisted because I'd owned a Remington Rand previously and was at least familiar with the weapon. Boot camp training with the M-1 and .45 was quite good but I didn't get serious about shooting the .45 until I reported to my first air wing duty station. We had some good shooters in the MAG and we all improved our skills. At that time we had an abundance of WWII Staff NCO's and officers and most of these were critical of the .45 and voiced doubts about its accuracy. One Gunny even told me that in his opinion, putting sights on one was a waste of time. Tactfully stating that it was highly accurate got me nowhere, so all I can deduce is that their pistol training during the "Big One" wasn't nearly as comprehensive as ours had been. Team shooters were issued one hardball with Bomar sights, one wadcutter with Micros, a High Standard 102(?) and a S&W 4" Victory. All came with a green wooden case with spotting scope. These had typical WWII GI slides, so I'm guessing they were still "soft." The .45 is still my favorite.

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Old August 3rd, 2012, 09:02 PM   #3
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Gus I am considering purchasing a .45. Just looking for a good GI type 1911A1 service type of gun. I dont want anything fancy. I want a gun that looks and shoots as if I would of had it on my hip as a soldier 50 years ago. Not going to use those nasty Dum Dums or anything. It is not going to be for carry. I just want to add a .45 to my collection. And i would like it to work.
I have been reading all the recent posts on .45s and i am not any closer to choosing one.
I think any firearm weather it is to be used in combat or carried by an LEO should have one quality above all others. Reliability. Simple reliable and forgiving. The main reason .38 revolvers were still carried by LEO's many years after the .45 was issued to troops was the perception of reliability and training.
Gus by the way i spent many weeks in 84 and 85 at the Smith & Wesson Academy taking classes on the Law Enforcement side. I used to peek in the classroom and see all you guys puting guns together while were on our way out to the range. I was in the indoor range when they were torture testing their new .45. I think it was the 645 and they had barrels filled with bullets and magazines firing away.

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Old August 3rd, 2012, 09:21 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by willriskit View Post
The .45 wasn't really new to me when I enlisted because I'd owned a Remington Rand previously and was at least familiar with the weapon. Boot camp training with the M-1 and .45 was quite good but I didn't get serious about shooting the .45 until I reported to my first air wing duty station. We had some good shooters in the MAG and we all improved our skills. At that time we had an abundance of WWII Staff NCO's and officers and most of these were critical of the .45 and voiced doubts about its accuracy. One Gunny even told me that in his opinion, putting sights on one was a waste of time. Tactfully stating that it was highly accurate got me nowhere, so all I can deduce is that their pistol training during the "Big One" wasn't nearly as comprehensive as ours had been. Team shooters were issued one hardball with Bomar sights, one wadcutter with Micros, a High Standard 102(?) and a S&W 4" Victory. All came with a green wooden case with spotting scope. These had typical WWII GI slides, so I'm guessing they were still "soft." The .45 is still my favorite.
I think you will enjoy the upcoming post/posts on the loss of accuracy of the .45 over the years due to not properly funding and supporting the maintenance of the .45.

As a young Marine in the early 70's, I also heard some grizzled SNCO's complain about the general accuracy of even good condition .45's. However, my time as a Range Armorer showed me WHY they complained and it was not the fault of the pistol in almost every case. Some of it was the fault the training could and should have been better. MOST of the fault was the SNCO's who complained the most were the ones doing the poorest job at even the basics of marksmanship. When there is a freshly promoted Corporal with less than 1 1/2 years in the Corps teaching SSgt.s and GySgts. the basics of pistol marksmanship, that should tell everyone that something went badly astray.

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Old August 3rd, 2012, 09:43 PM   #5
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I have to laugh because I remember being shocked and frustrated I was at my marksmanship with the Edson range .45s, now I know why! After shooting expert with the rifle, shooting marksman (toilet bowl) with the pistol was a real dissappointment.

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Old August 3rd, 2012, 10:45 PM   #6
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I shot the 1911 while on active duty and I like the weapon. I currently have a compact model that I carry off duty. The M1911A1 will serve our military personnel well. Just like any other piece of equipment, it needs to be properly maintained to function well.

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Old August 3rd, 2012, 10:53 PM   #7
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At the time M1911A1 was adopted as a military sidearm over 100 years ago, it was very much “High Tech” at the time for the U.S. Military. It can be said it started the “high capacity race” for handguns in the U.S. military because it not only could hold TWO more rounds than a revolver, but it was much easier to make a fast reload.

The thing I have never been able to understand completely, though, is WHY they chose such dinky small front and rear sights.

There is an old myth about the Cavalry Board, that first accepted and adopted the M1911, did it “on purpose” because they wanted to use the pistol like a short carbine out to 100 yards and the “finer sights” allowed them to shoot more accurately at long range for a pistol. Well, that just does not “fly” or even stand up to the historical record, folks. The Cavalry already had Carbines for medium to long range work and the revolvers they were issued prior to the M1911 had HUGE front sights and larger rear sight notches, compared to the M1911. The size of those sights was mainly so it was harder for the sights to be broken off, but they did allow for fast target acquisition with a handgun.

I believe the stories about the “finer sights for more accurate long range shooting” was nothing more than hype to “sell” the much smaller sights on the M1911 or something that arose later on. Part of the reason the front sights were so small is they were held onto the slide by peening them on from inside the slide. The part of the sight that goes into the slide and is peened over, is almost as large as the front sight that sticks out of the slide. That is a pretty simple, cheap and somewhat inexpensive way to ensure the front sight could be mounted and replaced with the technology of the time. However, dovetails had been around in woodworking for hundreds of years by that point. Dovetailed and soldered front sights go back to the P1730 Brown Bess Muskets, so it was not like it had not been done before and no one ever heard of them. However and for whatever reason, they chose to use a front and rear sight that I believe many folks knew was too small even when the pistol was first adopted. I very much agree this is a valid criticism of the M1911A1 that it originally should have had larger sights or that should have been changed with the modifications that made the Pistol the M1911A1. The pistol could have been upgraded with better sights over the long history of use of the .45, but lack of money and lack of knowledge stopped it.

Unless people know the history of single and double action revolvers prior to the adoption of the .45, some folks may be surprised it was felt a single action semi auto pistol was a great leap forward for a Military Pistol because of the single action feature. It was much easier to hit a target with a trigger pull of only 5 to 6 ½ lbs vs the double action trigger pull of 10 to 12 lbs or more with a Double Action and they saved a lot of parts and maintenance costs by not trying to make the .45 a double action. However and this is hugely important to know, pistols were not issued out to NEAR the number of troops in those days outside the Cavalry. Normally a pistol was ONLY carried by Officers outside the Cavalry and they were EXPECTED to become proficient in the use of the pistol and more training was given to that for them or they had to do it themselves.

The question of whether the military should have gone to the .45 vs staying with a revolver was laid to rest during WWI. 300,000 excellent and robust M1917 revolvers were purchased because they could not make enough .45’s quick enough. The .45 was just as reliable as the revolvers, if not more so, in the trench warfare of WWI. They did find there needed to be improvements as the result of using the .45 in WWI and in 1924, they came out with the modifications that became the M1911A1. Of course the sights were not improved and with certain exceptions, GOOD sights were not added to even rather small quantities of .45’s in the Corps until we built the MEUSOC pistols in the 1980’s. My personal opinion it took WAY too long to “reinvent the wheel” and put good non adjustable sights on the .45 that had been on revolvers in the last part of the 19th century.

The inherent accuracy of the .45 as a combat pistol was never in doubt WHEN the pistols were in good condition and properly maintained. This was proven to me personally when I attended the NRA Law Enforcement Instructors Course in the mid 1980’s. MANY Marines told me I was crazy to use an issue .45 straight out of the Armory for the course, because you HAVE to shoot at least a 90 percent score or you won’t pass the course. Most of the SNCO’s and Officers who had previously graduated the course at WTBn, Quantico; did so with NM .45 or a personal .45 that had better sighs mounted and some even used revolvers due to the far superior rear sights. They had also used much more modern belt holsters that were available.

I wanted to use an issue .45 and I used my personally owned copy of a G.I. flap holster with the swivel and leg strap that was originally issued for some Cavalry and Motorcycle troops. I caught a LOT of crap about that even from the Course Instructor who made comments that I looked like a “Bandito” and other things I can’t mention on a family forum. However, I replied that this was NOT the best pistol and holster I owned but RATHER it was the BEST pistol and holster I was authorized to use and carry on active duty. I also asked the Chief Instructor that wasn’t it better I use the ACTUAL pistol I was issued and the best holster I allowed to use to use to pass the course to demonstrate my proficiency? The course was designed with the thought in mind that if you could not shoot at least a 90 percent score, then you could not effectively TEACH the firearm you used. Now, I was not and am not a NM shooter and I’m not a great handgun shooter or competition shooter. I almost bit off more than I could chew by doing that.

We had Trainers and Agents from the FBI, DEA, CIA and other Law Enforcement Agencies in our class. Many of them were better handgun shooters than I was and they used handguns with much better sights and much better holsters. I will admit I thought I may have limited myself too much for what the course allowed. However, I did manage to shoot a 92 percent with the pistol and thus qualified, but it was not nearly as easy had I used my personally owned/modified .45 and leather. Even the Chief Instructor begrudgingly admitted he was impressed I had done it with a GI .45 and a “Frito Bandito Holster Rig.”

I do want to say something about that course and how much it helped me personally. I had built NM rifles and pistols for 12 years and shot a lot of rounds from handguns before I took that course. Even though I had been around some of the best NM pistol shooters in the country for years, and one might think I would have picked up more from osmosis if nothing else, that course REALLY turned the lights on for me about handgun shooting and instructing. I was a MUCH better handgun shooter after the course and I was able to far better train my Marines in shooting handguns after the course. Considering how that was only a five day course and we spent as much time in the class room as on the range and shot shotguns as well as handguns, it really imprinted on me the importance of good handgun training.

In the next post I will cover things that most folks don’t know about maintenance on GI .45’s and will explain some things many folks in the service did not know. Lack of funding and good maintenance training hurt the GI .45 more than most people have a clue about.

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Old August 3rd, 2012, 10:54 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by str8shooter View Post
I have to laugh because I remember being shocked and frustrated I was at my marksmanship with the Edson range .45s, now I know why! After shooting expert with the rifle, shooting marksman (toilet bowl) with the pistol was a real dissappointment.
Wait till you read my post/s on maintenance for a real eye opener.

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Old August 3rd, 2012, 11:08 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by angelonm View Post
Gus I am considering purchasing a .45. Just looking for a good GI type 1911A1 service type of gun. I dont want anything fancy. I want a gun that looks and shoots as if I would of had it on my hip as a soldier 50 years ago. Not going to use those nasty Dum Dums or anything. It is not going to be for carry. I just want to add a .45 to my collection. And i would like it to work.
I have been reading all the recent posts on .45s and i am not any closer to choosing one.
I think any firearm weather it is to be used in combat or carried by an LEO should have one quality above all others. Reliability. Simple reliable and forgiving. The main reason .38 revolvers were still carried by LEO's many years after the .45 was issued to troops was the perception of reliability and training.
Gus by the way i spent many weeks in 84 and 85 at the Smith & Wesson Academy taking classes on the Law Enforcement side. I used to peek in the classroom and see all you guys puting guns together while were on our way out to the range. I was in the indoor range when they were torture testing their new .45. I think it was the 645 and they had barrels filled with bullets and magazines firing away.
I just wanted to reply that I will offer some advice on choosing a pistol, but not before I have a chance to write more posts I wanted to include in this thread first. So please have patience.

I was first at the S&W Academy in March 1984. I think it was the third day that 14 inches of snow got dumped in less than two hours and they sent us home a little early in the afternoon. Since it was so hard to get sent there, I told the Marine who went with me to the course, that we would leave 1 1/2 hours early the next morning to get to class on time because we were staying at Westover AFB. It stopped snowing by 1900 the night before, but we were told Westover was closed down due to the snow the next morning. I told my Sergeant that we WERE going to get to class and drove over anyway. Well, we did get there 20 minutes before class was due to begin, BUT there was over 4 1/1 feet of snow in the parking lot for the Academy. There was one "tunnel" that had been shoveled out to get inside the Academy, though, so we walked up to the gate. A security guard stopped us and told us the Academy was closed due to the snow for that day. I told him I was surprised about that because since they deal with snow all the time, I thought it would have been open. He asked me where we came from and when I said, Virginia, he was shocked we had made it from Westover. I told him it was so difficult to get to come to the Academy that we would do whatever it took to get to class.

The next morning, I joked in class the only ones who made it to class on time the dav before were us Southron Boys and how come the Yankee's had not made it? They shot right back with "We know enough when NOT to even try driving in that much snow." Grin.

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Old August 4th, 2012, 01:09 AM   #10
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Service related/Self induced problems maintenance problems on the .45 pistol.

I am not sure if I can get this in one post, but here goes.

When I first became an Armorer in 1972, the NEWEST .45 pistols we had were made in 1945 at the end of WWII, 27 years earlier. I later learned we still had some frames on our pistols that dated back to or shortly after WWI. So NONE of our pistols were new or nearly new even in those days. That is important to remember for most of us who served in the military with the .45.

After I made Meritorious LCpl, I was assigned to run the “Weapons Issue Cage” in the 3rd Echelon Infantry Weapons Repair Shop at Las Pulgas on Camp Pendleton. Officially there was a GySgt in charge of the cage, but I ran it most of the time with a PFC to help me. Any weapon that was in for maintenance and had not been fixed and accepted by the Final Inspection Cage, was stored in “my” cage. We were also in charge of daily issue and recovery of a lot of the special tools and gages used by the Armorers in the shop.

One day I was digging through some stuff in the storage area when I “found” a complete set of gages for the .45 and I was thrilled. I had read about the gages in the Technical Manuals, but I did not know we were authorized to have or that we actually had the gages. When we were not doing other things, we often worked .45 pistols in that cage. GREAT!! So I pulled them out along with the Tech Manual and began using the gages. I quickly saw a pattern that many of the barrel bushings were too loose on the barrels and/or too loose in the slides as well as other things that affect the .45’s accuracy. I was happy that we would be getting the pistols “really up to snuff” for accuracy and began filling out the Yellow Tags with all sorts of parts we needed to get them up to snuff. Well, that was until a Sergeant told me we were no longer allowed to USE the gages.

OK, that shocked me and I asked why we were not allowed to use the gages that helped ensure the best accuracy of the pistols. Well, the Sergeant did not really know, so I left the cage and hunted down the Gunny. With no little amount of disgust, he informed me the reason they no longer allowed us to use the gages was there was not enough MONEY to properly fix all the .45’s along with all the other weapons we worked on. Since we had such limited maintenance funds in those days, Marines a LOT higher up than we had decided to stop using the gages and thereby not have to spend as much on repair parts. In later years I spoke with Army Armorers who said they had gone through much the same thing during that time period.

Now for those who don’t know, a large part of the accuracy of a GI .45 comes from a good barrel of course, but the barrel bushing is a lot more important than most people know. Barrel bushings did not fit the slides near as tight as on NM pistols, but if they are as loose as many of our bushings were at the time, that really hurt accuracy. (This is why Colt came out with the collet bushings when they released the Series 70 pistols. That REALLY tightened the fit of the bushing to the slide in those pistols and part of the reason for the excellent accuracy of Series 70 pistols.) Many of the slides during that time were too loose for the barrel bushings as well and they just could not afford to replace all the loose slides. Finally, the fit of the bushing to the barrel is also very important to accuracy. Barrel bushings did not fit as tight on GI .45’s as NM or IPSC pistols when they passed the gage inspections, but they were a LOT looser than even the GI gages allowed. From building NM and other custom pistols, I later learned that a barrel bushing that is only .001” to .002” larger than the barrel diameter is completely reliable and really makes the pistol shoot more accurately.

Now I have already mentioned the way too loose fit of the slides for the barrel bushings, but way too many of those slides were really worn too loose for the frames. What may surprise some folks is that a GI .45 will shoot very accurately with a somewhat loose slide to frame fit AS LONG AS the bushing fits the barrel and slide well. However, most of the slides on our pistols in the early 70’s were worn much too loose. That caused accuracy loss and sometimes it caused functioning problems. However, since we just did not have the money to replace those worn slides, we were stuck using them.

Another very important gage for GI .45’s was the gage that measured the diameter of the slide stop pin. Now that pin does not have much to do with accuracy in a GI 45 but it is HUGELY important for FUNCTION of the pistols as it helps control the unlocking of the barrel. When that pin is either too small when made or worn too small in use, it doesn’t allow the barrel to unlock correctly after firing. The MINIMUM that does is cause more to much more felt recoil when you shoot the pistol. It will also cause the barrel lugs to sheer off and damage to the slide and top barrel lugs in more severe cases of the barrel not unlocking properly. So we were NOT allowed to use the gage that would have stopped some unlocking problems with GI .45’s. So what does that do when you shoot a pistol?

Well, when a pistol does not unlock properly it will cause more felt recoil. Have you ever heard some veterans say that the .45 pistol “kicked like a mule?” Well, I used to think that was nothing more than exaggeration in my early years UNTIL I began building NM pistols and was trained to ensure a pistol DID unlock properly. I fired a couple of NM pistols that really did not unlock well and they DID kick like a mule. So in an effort to save money on maintenance costs by not using the gage to inspect slide stops, they actually INDUCED more maintenance problems later on. NOT a smart move.

Another thing that caused unlocking problems on G.I. .45’s was the barrel link. Some folks may find this very surprising, but in the 60’s and 70’s, when a barrel was found to be unserviceable, you ordered a replacement barrel, BUT you took the barrel link and pin OFF the unserviceable barrel and put it on the new barrel “to save money.” It probably cost more in labor and tool costs to do that then have the new barrels supplied with new links and pins, but that’s what we had to do. The problem is that the barrel link has even MORE to do with barrel unlocking than the slide stop pin does. When a barrel link is too worn and you don’t have a way to gage or measure it to replace it, it will cause unlocking problems outlined above.

We had a noticeable number of problems with .45 pistols sheering off barrel lugs and destroying slides in the lug areas due to the pistols not unlocking correctly. We even replaced some barrels in pistols and the new barrels were beat to trash within months because of unlocking problems. It really took too way too long to figure out the reasons because they kept counting on the fact we were going to buy new pistols. However, the tale of unlocking problems is not complete until we add one more thing.

In early 1989 when I was the NCOIC of the Edson Range Armory, I got a call from guy who worked at Picatinney Arsenal. I knew of him well because he was a prior Marine MOS 2112 RTE Armorer before he went to work for Picatinney and he helped us a lot with support from Picatinney. He told me Rock Island had paid for a program to determine why all the pistols the Services used were having so many problems. He got tasked as the lead guy on it and he was checking Armories all over the country that had and used large quantities of GI .45 pistols. For the Marine Armories, he was also looking for Armories that had us 2112’s assigned because he had found out some information that we knew about because we worked on NM .45’s. He asked me if I could have three or four extra of the “sticks” we used to check unlocking on NM .45 barrels and I went out and bought a 3/8” dowel rod and cut it into four sticks for that purpose.

When he showed up, he and I showed my Armorers how to check for unlocking with those unlocking sticks. He did not want me to do it because part of the test was to see if standard Armorers could easily be trained to test for it and of course it was easy. My jaw dropped when they reported over 70 percent of our standard .45 pistols had unlocking problems of varying degrees. TWO pistols we had you almost could not unlock them without the stick in the pistol barrel. When I asked my Armorers WHY they had not brought them to my attention, they told me there was “nothing wrong” with the pistols by the Technical Manual and there was nothing they knew to fix them, so they just didn’t issue those pistols for use. OK, so I had to do bit of on the spot training and counseling to ensure that never happened again, but there’s more to the story.

The Picatinney representative THEN told me something I had never heard before. Some time in the mid 70’s, someone at Rock Island Arsenal asked, “Why are we stocking FOUR sizes of barrel links for .45 pistols?” That is a good question BUT no one informed him the REASON we had four sizes. The basic size was for GI .45’s and the other three were ONLY for NM pistols. The other three were marked 13, 17 and 21 on one side. That meant they were that many thousandths of an inch MORE than regular barrel links than for a GI .45. They were/are used with NM pistols that have longer barrel lugs and you have to have longer links for many NM barrels. HOWEVER, if you put longer links in standard issue pistols with standard issue barrels, you are going to have mild to severe unlocking problems. Well, by NOT correctly answering the question, that started a HUGE maintenance problem for all the Armed Forces with our G.I. .45’s and no one realized it for years.

What happened was the guy who asked the question on why we had four sizes of links was ALSO the guy at Rock Island Arsenal who was in charge of ordering and stocking parts for GI .45’s for ALL the Armed Forces. Since no one properly informed him why we have four sizes he decided to drop all but one size for future parts orders as a cost savings measure. Now there were plenty of the longer NM links in stock, so NM Armorers never realized it and NM Armorers of any service would have been the first to catch such a problem. Had the guy chosen the standard size link to order, all would have been fine. However, he chose one of the NM links and as a further cost savings measure, DROPPED the stamping that would let people know the links were too long. So after that in the late 70’s onward, when you ordered a replacement barrel link, you got one that was too long and CAUSED barrel unlocking problems. To make matters worse, they finally decided it was nonsense to have us take used barrel links and pins off the old barrels and put them on new replacement barrels in the late 70’s, so they sent out new replacement barrels with “get this,” the barrel links that were too long. So new barrels with those links would have unlocking problems from the first day they were used.

After the Picatinney Arsenal guy told me these things, I just happened to think back to the time I familiarization fired the .45 as a recruit and I mentioned earlier in this thread. It finally dawned on me, over 17 years later, that the pistol had an unlocking problem. When we came up with a figure of over 70 percent of our pistols having varying degrees of unlocking problems, I was shocked but he was hardly surprised. He had seen it in Armory after Armory as he had checked Army, Marine and some Navy Armories. Ours was one of the highest percentages, but he said that was due to the fact I KNEW how to check a barrel for unlocking as a RTE Armorer, so I was able to better train my Armorers for how to check for it. He speculated the other Armories would have had higher percentages of unlocking problems if the supervising NCO’s and SNCO’s knew how to check the barrels for unlocking before he showed up.

OK, while this is not all the self induced problems due to maintenance, it is the majority of the major ones. So I will end this post now and write more later and in the meahwhile go to bed. Grin.

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Old August 4th, 2012, 03:28 AM   #11
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As usual, you done good old timer. Keep it up.
This is my baby. Pre WWI C- Prefix. Ammo in photo was produced in 1914. Pistol came with 3 mags full of the old stuff. An old devil dog friend bought it before deployment in 1918. Carried it in europe. When he returned, it hung in his attic in a holster on pistol belt with a Collins machete. After he went to the happy hunting ground it was given to me by his daughter. She said that dad wanted me to have it. It now lives most of its time wrapped in my Ollie for President t shirt in one of my safes. This is the best fitted 45 I have ever held. Smoother than a sow's ear.

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Thanks from cowpoke
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Old August 4th, 2012, 05:17 AM   #12
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Very good read,I've been a 1911 fan all most as long as a single action army.I have a few series 80's being afraid of the (weak bushing) in the 70.A few years ago after getting to the bottom of the problem of the first run having the fingers on the bushing being machined to long and bumping ,cracking against the frame,I picked up a 1979 Gov mod. safe queen. It will really put them in there if I do my part. A guy I was shooting with thought he was going to put it on me shooting a Novak inhanced combat commander,couldn't believe he couldn't shoot better groups at 25 yds.Very happy and looking for number 2.

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Old August 4th, 2012, 05:53 AM   #13
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Very first pistol I ever bought was in 1980, a Colt Government model, been through many over the years but still have that one, all hail the 1911

Good stuff Gus.....
I always hang on every word you write, thank you

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Old August 4th, 2012, 06:29 AM   #14
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Gus,
Thanks for the informative posts. What a great read so far, I can't wait for more.

My first handling of a .45 was when I was 14, and bought a replica pistol from Collector's Armoury. What a cool item. It couldn't load any ammo, other than their proprietary dummy rounds, and it would not accept any magazine other than theirs as well, BUT...It intrigued me to the point where I was bitten by the bug and hoped that someday I would own a "real" one.
The M14, was a similar story in that I was 14 years old, when I discovered the rifle, but that story is for another post.

Fast Fwd to 20 years old, and Now, I was trying to decide on a real handgun to own. I was already involved in a Special Police unit, looking to make law enforcement a career, and was leaning towards the S&Ws due to their popularity around NY.

For the past 19 years, I have owned many handguns. I have shot thousands of rounds in training alone, which doesn't include my off-duty range time. (although all range time is training)
:)

Now, well established in my career, and with extra money to buy a few toys, an old colleague of mine and I kept talking about the 1911 pistols. He made the jump first and bought a Springfield. I was long for the purchase still as I was so well trained in the DAO pistols and revolvers, it was hard to transition to a different system.

As it happened, I finally took the plunge this year, and bought my first Colt 1911A1, and couldn't be happier. I wish I had years ago, but you have to start somewhere.

Gus, it was interesting what you wrote about the barrel bushings, takedown pins, and barrel pins. Never having served in the Military, I wouldn't experience a .45, but at my age I never would have, since the M9 would have been well established by then.

With my new, 2012 Colt Mk IV/ Series 70, the bbl Bushing, is now solid, doing away with the problems of old, and the machining techniques have much tighter tolerances, to wit; my pistol is tight, and crisp. Plus the fit and finish is quite beautiful. I never liked blued handguns and have owned almost only Stainless. Until now that is. WOW!

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Old August 4th, 2012, 08:06 AM   #15
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Thumbs up

I had bought myself an old used Colt Gold Cup NM as my first 1911 many years ago. It was a series 80 ultimate stainless. It was pretty, but it bucked like a mule, so much in fact my second 1911 was a brand new Delta 10mm and it was a dream to shoot vs that 45. That GCNM had issues and I spent a good amount of money trying to get it right. Gus, I bet that thing had unlocking problems after ready your posts. Now that I think about it anyway.

Currently I run a Colt Rail Gun. It has been to Colt's Custom Shop for a complete tune along with other enhancements. It runs Colt's NM barrel like the GCNM did, but it has a vastly improved barrel throat. The gun feeds everything and anything, where as the GCNM did not. Anyway the CCS fitted everything for me. It's the tightest smoothest 1911 I've ever had. I'm sure the lock up is just right because it feels about like a weak 9mm to me shooting it with full power duty loads. The gun is simply amazing.

Back in the day not knowing anything with that GCNM I had the thing ported just to tame the recoil of it. I was shooting bulls-eye and wanted to shoot half way civil. Even still them older gents with their finely tuned S70 Colts seemed impossible to beat because even with the porting it was never as smooth as theirs shot. If I had the my current Rail Gun back then with all the training and improvement to my skill level I have now, I'd wager to say I'd beat 'em.

Awesome read Gus. Thank-you for sharing your vast knowledge.

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