In the course of researching my new acquisition, I learned a few things I’ll pass on here.
Firstly, some–especially those new to the 1911, like me–might be curious, “what is the difference between a 1911 and a 1911A1?”
In short, not much. Most of the changes are ergonomic. A beavertail was added to the A1 to minimize getting the webbing between your thumb and forefinger pinched by the hammer spur while the slide is cycling back after each shot. The hammer spur is longer on the A1, too. The trigger is shorter on the A1, the front sight is thicker, and the spring housing on the back of the grip is arched on the A1, as opposed to being flat on the original 1911.
But the internal arrangements–barrel & link, bushing, action, magazines, and so on, are the same, unchanged for over a century.
What about the history of this particular piece? The serial number on the frame was in the low 204,000 range, which, according to various sites that keep track of serial numbers, including Colt, put my piece among a production run from 1917.
1917–that was the year we entered into the Great War. By then, the Model 1911 had been formally adopted as the standard sidearm by the Army, Navy, and the Marines. Because of the war, production of this pistol ramped up, involving a few different manufacturers in addition to Colt and Springfield (like Remington-UMC and North American Arms of Quebec).
This one was a Colt original, though. As far as its service record goes, that could be anyone’s guess. However, I don’t think it went to war. It lacks the “Property of US Government” stamp featured on a lot of USGI pistols.
However, it was most certainly used. Part of the wooden grips showed signs of wear, and the barrel looked very well worn, which probably helps explain one notation on the pistol’s bill of sale that Dad held onto when he inherited from Granddad.
According to the bill of sale, Granddad bought it in 1960, from the US government, much like you’re able to today with imported M1 Garands. Granddad had done this a time or two before; I remember Dad telling me how his dad bought a World War I-vintage Springfield 1903A3, and reworked it into a firearm suitable for hunting.
The price paid was a princely seventeen dollars, or about 135 of today’s dollars; still, a steal any way you look at it.
The notation in question was a single word: “unserviceable.” But, upon field-stripping the pistol and examining it myself, the only thing I could find that really needed replacing was the barrel, which was just a mess on the inside, and had next to no rifling in it.
The slide was sticky, but that was due to the old grease that had been smeared on the inside of it. Cleaning it out, lubing it, and function-checking it, again, I found nothing apart from the barrel that needed serious addressing.
A couple of friends came over to examine it. One, whose class I attended to get my Alaska Concealed Weapons Permit, remarked that I might be surprised at the groups I’d get with that barrel. Another also encouraged me to send a few rounds through it.
Do I dare, though?
Post Script: I did. Watch for a video I did on it later this week.