• High Caliber History LLC

March 29, 1911: the M1911 is Adopted

By the spring of 1911, Colt and Savage had emerged as the top two contenders for the next sidearm to be issued to United States soldiers. On March 15, each company submitted a gun for a 6,000-round torture test to be completed at Springfield Armory in Massachusetts. The two guns used were the Colt with serial number 5 fired by E.G. Reising (of later M50 submachine gun fame), and the Savage with serial number 4 fired by Charles Nelson, an arms inventor with numerous patents assigned to Savage.


Colt serial number 5, the actual gun that won the pistol trials.

When the dust settled, Colt appeared to be victorious. The final verdict, though, would not arrive until the end of the month. On March 29, 1911, official notice was sent to Colt by Lt. Col. John T. Thompson (of later “Tommy Gun” fame) that informed them their design had “passed the prescribed tests and has been adopted” as the new military sidearm.


Thompson's letter informing Colt that they had won the trials.

Colt was instructed to reply with a quote for an order of 30,262 pistols, along with “spare parts and screwdrivers” to be sent to Springfield Armory ASAP.


Holding the actual two guns from the trials.

The rest, as they say, is history - and it just so happens to be history in which I've participated. In my time with the NRA, we put on a museum exhibit that displayed the actual trials guns. Holding that history in my hands was truly something special.


Here's a "Curator's Corner" episode I filmed about the guns when they were on display:



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