Gas Pains

Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.

Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.

John Browning's Legacy

Colt Model 1911, Firearms, GI .45, John Browning, Military History, Springfield Armory

Do children still play with toy guns?

As a kid I sure did.  Every boy on the block had at least a couple.  My pal Timmy even had a Johnny Reb field artillery piece.   Armed to the teeth we would regularly form squads to engage in childhood war games. 

I recently stumbled across this while rummaging through a trunk full of accumulated stuff.

This was one of my favorite toys as a youngster.  At one time it was capable of firing caps.  You know - those perforated rolls of paper that had explosive dots on them.  A cap gun was a prized kid weapon back then.  Nowadays the firing mechanism no longer works and aside from a  few busted appendages (probably from use as a hammer) this old toy pistol, with original leather holster, has probably become a collectors item.  I think I'll hang on to it awhile longer.

The centennial of one of the most renowned of modern firearms is approaching. 

This was the product of  John Moses Browning – the father of many well known firearms. 

The upcoming anniversary I speak of is that of the Colt Model 1911.

I own several Browning arms.  My favorite pheasant gun is a 12 gauge my first wife purchased for me decades ago.  It's a lightweight semi-auto model.  You can walk all day afield and your arms shall not tire as quickly.

I digress.

As the story goes it was during the Philippine insurrection that US Army troops quickly discovered that the standard issue .38 Colt lacked the necessary power to stop a charging Moro tribesman.  It was concluded that the army needed something more powerful - namely a .45 caliber cartridge - to provide for adequate stopping power.

Browning, who was working for Colt, had already designed an auto loading pistol chambered for .38 caliber cartridges.  Learning of the Army’s interest in a new design he modified his pistol to accommodate a .45 cartridge of his own design. 

One with a hefty 230 gr. FMJ bullet.

Beginning in 1906 - firearms submitted by Colt, Luger, Savage, Knoble, Bergmann, White-Merrill and Smith & Wesson were submitted for preliminary testing.

By 1907 the Browning-designed Colt and the Savage prototypes had survived the initial cut and advanced for further testing.

Early in 1911 final designs were submitted for evaluation.  The testing protocol required each pistol to fire 6000 rounds.  100 rounds were fired and the weapon was allowed to cool for 5 minutes.  After 1000 rounds the weapons were cleaned and oiled.  

Following 6000 rounds the pistols were tested with deformed cartridges.  The firearm was then corroded in acid or submerged in sand and mud and fired again.

Browning's design completed the entire series of tests and performed flawlessly.

It was the first firearm to continuously fire 6000 cartridges. 

This record remained unbroken until 1917 when Browning's recoil-operated machine gun successfully fired 40,000 continuous rounds during testing.

On March 29th, 1911, the Browning-designed, Colt-produced, .45 Automatic Pistol was selected as the sidearm of the United States Armed Forces.  It was named Model 1911.  This was the mainstay pistol through World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam.

The fella in the top row, left corner, is my pop just before he shipped-out for England and the invasion of Northern Europe.  If you look carefully he is sporting a M1911 on his right hip.

More Congressional Medals of Honor have been won with M1911 pistols than any other side arm.

Nonetheless, beginning in the mid-1980s the venerable Model 1911 was phased-out in favor of the Beretta pistol; chambered for the NATO-standard 9mm Parabellum cartridge.

Oddly enough, the M1911 remains the sidearm of choice for the Army’s elite Delta Force and Marine Recon Force as well as FBI Hostage and SWAT Teams and numerous police forces.  It is also a favorite of shooting enthusiasts and collectors for its reliability, durability and historical appeal.  

For a long, long time I've had an itch to own one of these.  Maybe it's rooted in the influence of that toy .45 from fifty years ago.

Who knows.

What I know for sure is that it is really easy to spend $1000, $2000 or as much as $4000 for a tricked-out, match-grade M1911 nowadays.

Yet, for a hundred years, Browning’s original design has remained essentially unchanged. 

And affordable.

Even for new manufacture weapons.

I settled on a Springfield Armory GI .45. 

As Springfield describes it  - This is the bread and butter version of Browning’s design. 

It features a forged frame, low profile military sights, titanium firing pin, standard magazine well, spur hammer and ejection port.  The vertical slide serrations and lanyard loop are authentic.  Parkerized finish with US engraved hardwood grips are standard too.

The web belt and accessories are authentic GI.  Stuff collected over the years and dug out of the trunk.

I had to get on a waiting list for that pistol – but it was worth the wait to scratch that itch.

John Browning may perhaps hold the singular distinction of being the most inventive gunmaker the world has ever known.

This coming weekend I suspect a toast will be raised in his name at Schuetzenfest.

Happy Anniversary!

Sources: and others.

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