Colt Martial Handguns

150 Years Of High-Quality Military Might!

Just this morning I read Colt Defense LLC is getting an order from the US Marine Corps for new 1911 .45 pistols. Funny how things change: Colt getting an order now is news, where for nearly a century and a half the word “Colt” was almost (but not totally) synonymous with American military handguns.

The following is a quick list of Colt handguns carried into combat by American servicemen. In the beginning there were cap and ball revolvers: .44 Walkers, three variations of .44 Dragoons, Model 1860 .44s and both versions of “Navy Colt .36s” which collectors call Models 1851 and 1861. Next adopted were cartridge firing single actions such as Colt’s .44 Richard’s Conversion, the ever-famous Colt Single Action Army .45. Then starting in 1892 and running to 1909 the lamentable double action .38 Colts were adopted by the US Army, Marine Corps and Navy.

Although it was a sure bet all American military forces would transition to a self-loading pistol in the early part of the 20th century, twice the US Government had to turn to Colt for stop-gap revolvers. The first time resulted in the Model 1909 .45 Colt. The government even devised a refined .45 Colt cartridge with much wider rim than used in the SAA so the ‘09’s star-type extractor would function flawlessly.

In 1917 President Woodrow Wilson decided to stick America’s nose in Europe’s horrendous war. Not nearly enough Colt Model 1911 pistols existed to equip the rapid buildup of troops. This time Colt was prevailed upon to use little spring steel “half-moon” clips devised by some bright light at Smith & Wesson so that rimless .45 Auto rounds would function in double action revolvers. This resulted in the Colt Model 1917 revolver, again based on the New Service double action. In just a couple of years the government bought over 150,000 Model 1917s from Colt.
By Mike “Duke” Venturino

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American Handgunner Jan/Feb 2013

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