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Discussion Starter · #1 ·

I'm new to the forum but after spending some time browsing the threads I must say you have the most civil and intelligent discussions that I've seen on any of the gun-related forums. I'm a collector of pre-1946 1911's, both military and commercial and below I've summarized a little history of the early Government Models. You guys have probably forgotten more than I know about these fascinating weapons but please indulge me.

Colt started assembling M1911 pistols for the Ordnance Department in December 1911 and by March 1912 they were also producing the “Colt Government Model Automatic Pistol, Calibre .45.” It was a huge success and was manufactured exactly like the Model 1911 pistols except for markings, hammers and bluing. The mirror-like finish and fire-blue small parts of the early commercial pistols are incredible.

The pistols evolved with the M1911 service model but commercial pistols were not manufactured or shipped in numerical sequence. This fact, coupled with overlap of old practices and transition periods, leads to confusion about when changes to small parts, finish, markings and other features were actually implemented.

From the very beginning, other countries were as interested in the big Colt as the U.S. military was and many countries bought Government Models for their own troops and officers. Some, such as Norway and Argentina, purchased licenses to manufacture their 1911 pistols. Great Britain commissioned a version of the pistol in its standard calibre—.455 Webley. A surprising fact that isn’t appreciated by many collectors is that more Government Models were shipped overseas than stayed in the U.S. From 1912 to 1919 there were 110,696 Government Models produced and 80,978, or 73%, were shipped to other countries. Another 26,532 were manufactured between 1919 and 1924, of which 3,648 went overseas. In the period of February 1924 to May 1942 foreign sales accounted for 49,033 pistols and 6,575 were transferred to U.S. contracts, leaving only 48,779 for commercial sales in the U.S. So, in total, about 133,000 pistols went to fill foreign contracts out of a total of 238,000 made before June 1942.

Sources: Charles W. Clawson, Colt .45 Government Models (Commercial Series)
Williams H.D. Goddard, The Government Models
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