Two 1917’s

Next came an anomaly. In 1917 President Woodrow Wilson decided to embroil the United States in Europe’s three-year-old war. And naturally the US armed forces were caught woefully short of all sorts of weapons. That even included handguns — not nearly enough US Model 1911’s had been made to equip all troops who needed them. So the government prevailed on both Colt and Smith & Wesson to adapt their big-frame double-action revolvers to fire .45 ACP cartridges. These revolvers were designated US Model 1917’s and may be the only time two US military firearms, with no parts interchangeable, were given the same model number. Barrel lengths were always 5½". Interestingly, between 1899 and 1944 Colt produced about 356,000 New Service revolvers. Over 150,000 of them were US Model 1917’s, made in only about a two-year period from 1917 to 1919.

Since the new army caliber used a rimless case which certainly would not function with star-type extractors, some bright light at Smith & Wesson came up with “half-moon” clips. These were merely stamped pieces of spring steel into which .45 ACP rounds were snapped at their extraction groove. The army even issued pre-loaded clips in 24-round boxes.