Tuesday, March 29, 2011

100th Anniversery of the 1911 Pistol

On this day in 1911 John M. Browning's famous pistol was adopted for service by the United States Army, becoming the M1911 pistol, making this the 100th anniversary of that event. It remained the standard issue sidearm until 1985, and is still in use by Marine Force Recon and the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta (Delta Force) to this day. After 100 years of continuous production and use by civilian and military users, and despite the fact that more types of modern automatic pistols are available, the 1911 pistol is more popular than ever. Why is this the case?

Not being an expert handgun shooter, I cannot give a definitive answer based on my own experience, but I do have my opinions. The 1911 pistol is one half of a fine weapon system, the other half being the .45 ACP cartridge, the pistol existing solely to deliver .45 bullets onto the target. If one believes that big bullets making big holes is an advantage in a defensive handgun, then the .45 ACP is for you, and what better gun to use than the 1911? A proper grip being critical to reliable functioning of an automatic pistol, the 1911 grip is narrower than many modern pistols, allowing people with smaller hands, like me, to securely hold the gun. Being a single action pistol, the trigger pull is short, light, and crisp, although this can vary from model to model. Finally, while polymer frame pistol may be popular, the all steel “Government” model 1911 has enough weight to help the shooter control the recoil produced by the .45 ACP cartridge.

Historically, there are only two “American” handguns, and the other one is a Colt as well. To people like me who see value in using a historically superior firearm, then the 1911 pistol becomes the only semi-automatic pistol to use. There are many others who agree, including the Los Angeles Police Department S.W.A.T. And S.I.S. Units, the F.B.I. Hostage Recue Team and regional S.W.A.T. Teams, and the general shooting public, whose enthusiasm for the 1911 pistol has inspired ever more manufacturers to offer models of every price range and description. Here is a non-authoritative list of 191 pistol manufacturers:

Armscor/Rock Island
Les Bear
Ed Brown
Charles Daly
Ithaca Gun Company
Nighthawk Custom
Rock River Arms
Sig Sauer
Smith & Wesson
Springfield Armory
Dan Wesson
Wilson Combat

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Look at The Past: 1911 Pistol

Excerpts from an article that originally appeared in Arms and The Man on April 6, 1911, extol the recently adopted M1911 pistol and the Greatest Pistol in The World.  Many people still do, and I thought it would be good to point out past history as we run up to the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the M1911 pistol by the United States army.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Model 1911A Pistol - State of the Art in 1911, Still Competitive Today

All images on this post are sourced from the World of Guns
In the year 1911 the United States Army adopted John Browning's .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol as the Model M1911 pistol its standard side arm. It was to serve well in that capacity until 1984, nearly three quarters of a century. Still very popular almost one hundred years later, I wondered what the state of the art in semi-automatic pistols was in or about the year 1911. Was Browning's design ahead of its time, or was it evolutionary?

With this in mind, I went searching for information on pistols that existed in 1911, or in the years immediately preceding or following. A most helpful site was the World of Guns. I have listed below the pistols from that site which were in service in the year 1911 with my opinion of the worth of the pistol. All images used in this post are used with the permission of the copyright owner.

Mauser 1910 Pistol 6.35mm (.25 ACP).

This pistol is one of the more modern looking of this roundup, and unlike many European pistols it uses a box magazine instead of a stripper clip. The caliber, however is too small for defensive uses. It was not unusual at the turn of the 20
th century for automatic pistol designs to start with smaller calibers and work up to larger ones. Even John Browning started out with .25 ACP, but European designs finally settled on the 9mm Luger round, while the .45 ACP ruled the U.S. Arms market for the next 50 years.

Mauser Model 1910

Roth Steyer Model 1907/M.7 pistol 8mm Roth.

As in America, Europeans introduced many new cartridge designs along with new pistols. This pistol is a striker-fired design that used a stripper clip to load the weapon. European designers seemed to prefer the stripper clip with early designs, but I think they were inferior for defensive use as they are easily damaged and might increase the chances of dirt and debris to foul the action. This pistol bears the distinction of being the first automatic pistol to be adopted by any military service, the Austro-Hungarian cavalry. Note the lanyard ring at the butt of the grip, something shared with the Colt 1911 pistol.

Roth Steyer Model 1907

Steyer Hahn M1912 Pistol 9mm X 23 Steyer.
An evolution of the above model, this pistol was also loaded via a stripper clip. This boxy looking pistol is a step along the road to the modern semiautomatic pistol, but consider that the 1911 pistol was adopted the year before, and one can see that this was not an innovative design. Browning designs had been using the slide for over ten years.

Steyer Hahn M1912

FN Browning Model 1910, .32 ACP and .380 ACP
Compare the above pistol to this one: John Browning's Model 1910 pistol from FN Herstal. Introduced two years before the Styer Hahn, this pistol uses a box magazine and is clearly a development of the Browning pistol design philosophy: simple design and multiple safeties: grip safety, magazine disconnect, and thumb safety. Unlike many other pistols in this post, this one was also produced for quite a long time, until around 1983. Millions of these are still in use today.

FN Browning Model 1910

Webley Scott Model 1910 Pistol (.38 ACP)
I may have never seen an uglier pistol, but it is one with modern mechanisms: box magazine, recoil operated, internal hammer, and, in this one model, a grip safety. Only used in WW I, it was declared obsolete and relegated to civilian and police use.

Webley Scott Model 1910

Frommer M1912 Stop pistol, 7.65x17 Browning / .32 ACP or 9x17 Browning Short / .380 ACP
It may look ugly, but it seems that this pistol was a decent design. Recoil operated, feed with box magazines, this gun was quite reliable and was used until the end of WW II. It did have complicated maintenance procedures, however, and like many European pistols, used an under powered cartridge.

Frommer M1912

Bergman Bayard Model 1910 pistol, 9mm Largo
This pistol seems to be a throwback, considering that FN had been producing modern Browning designs for ten years by the time, but unlike the Mouser C-96, this pistol uses either box magazines, or stripper clips to recharge the magazine. Only a limited success, it was used only by Denmark. I think all pistols of this basic design must be very unbalanced with the weight of the ammunition forward of the trigger guard.

Bergman Bayard Model 1910

Mauser C-96 pistol,  7.63x25mm Mauser (.30 Mauser); also 9x19mm Luger/Parabellum and 9x25mm Mauser (rare).
This pistol is included because I was in service in 1911, but it is definitely an obsolete design. The internal magazine was loaded by stripper clips, and the forward position of the magazine must have made this pistol unbalanced. While it was one of the first practical automatic pistols, it was only used by the German Army in WW I when P-08 Luger pistols could not be obtained.

Mauser C96

Luger 'Parabellum' 7.65mm Luger/Para, 9x19mm Luger/Para
Here we have the only pistol in the round up that can give the M1911 a run for the money. Chambered in the credible 9mm X 19 Parabellum cartridge, the Luger is a thoroughly modern firearm. Lugers used a locked breech, recoil operated mechanism, and are striker fired and loaded using box magazines. First adopted in 1900, these served at least until the end of WW II. While ergonomic and accurate, they were subject to fouling and expensive to produce.


Campo Giro pistol, 1913
This gun is the predecessor to the Astra Model 400, but it does not save this gun from being one of the ugliest guns of this roundup. Given that it was introduced after the FM Model 1910, the Colt M1911, and the German P-08 Luger, it does seem to be an inferior pistol. While it used a box magazine, it was still a blowback operated pistol, which limits the maximum caliber for which the gun can be chambered. While accurate, it was difficult to disassemble.

Campo Giro

Colt 1911, .45 ACP

Saving the best for last, compare this pistol to all other preceding it, and then realize that this pistol was designed in 1906, and that essentially the same pistol is still in use by civilians, police departments, and military organizations (including some U.S. Units), and one can see that this was an outstanding pistol that set the state of the art in the year 1911, as well as setting a standard that few pistols can beat even in the 21st century.

First, let me admit that I am not unbiased. I love this pistol, and I am inclined to think that it is the best close quarters combat pistol ever designed. It is chambered for the hard hitting .45 ACP cartridge, following the American philosophy that bigger holes in a target are better. Why is this pistol still in use today, while most of the others in this article are not? It is because the Colt 1911 combined John Browning's pistol design innovations that he had been developing for the previous ten years in a single pistol that was to prove revolutionary. The important innovations are:
  • The slide. John Browning was the first pistol designer to use a slide that completely enclosed the barrel, that contained the cartridge case extractor and recoil spring, and that locked the barrel securely.

  • Tilting barrel. John Browning was the first to tilt the breech of the barrel down, in this case using the pivoting link mechanism.
Every modern semi-automatic pistol, including Glock, evolved from this basic design. Everything else, like double column magazines, striker firing mechanisms, polymer frames, decocking levers, are all evolutionary refinements that do not alter the basic format of the slide/tilting barrel combination.

The Colt 1911 pistol was so advanced in it's day that it has defined what a semi-automatic pistol should look like, which is why it still looks modern in the 21st Century.

Colt 1911

UPDATE: 3/24/2011

Edited the size of the photographs to more better fit within the text column.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Well, This Didn't Take long

The Arab League did a quick about face today, condemning the air attacks designed to implement the no-fly zone they approved of just 48 hours ago:
Moussa said the Arab League’s approval of a no-fly zone on March 12 was based on a desire to prevent Moammar Gaddafi’s air force from attacking civilians and was not designed to endorse the intense bombing and missile attacks — including on Tripoli, the capital, and on Libyan ground forces — whose images have filled Arab television screens for two days.
What the Hell did the Arab League think was going to happen.  Defense Secretary Robert Gates indicated from the start that bombings and missile attacks to suppress Libyan air defense would be a first step in any no-fly zone effort.  Arab League support was instrumental in moving opinion in both the White House and in the United Nations. So what happened?

Perhaps the Arab League punked Obama into bombing another Arab nation?

Obama's War

Here we stand at the cusp of United States third concurrent war in the Middle East.  This one is different, though: this one is Obama's War.

Yes, the Weather-Vane-in-Chief has decided to authorize the use of United States air forces to help enforce a U.N.-sanctioned no fly zone to support Libyan rebels, who have been getting their asses kicked by Gaddafi forces for the last two weeks.   It sounds good, "no-fly zone", but make no mistake about it, it is a war.  How big of a war nobody knows.

It also may be ineffective.  If all this effort does is prevent Gaddafi's aircraft from flying, then it may not help the rebels that much.  Gaddafi has an overwhelming advantage in conventional heavy weapons, and an adequate logistics organization to keep his army in the field.  Any effort to help the rebels MUST target these assets, not just Gaddafi's aircraft.  That means that the U.S. and our allies will become the tactical strike arm of the Libyan rebels.

Do we want to do that?  Reports indicate that it has already begun. But destroying four tanks does not do as much good as destroying four supply trucks carrying fuel and ammunition for the tanks. We will be posing an existential threat to Gaddafi at that point, so he will resist to the best of his ability.  He will also play the "colonialism" card, bemoaning how the United States is trying to dominate North Africa, like we have dominated the Persian Gulf.  How long until al-Jazeera shows crowds of protesters burning President Obama in effigy?

If I was Gaddafi, this no-fly zone would tempt me to speed up my attacks on the rebels.  If he can destroy them quick enough, then U.N. actions won't matter.  Take Benghazi and then as fast as possible Tobruk, and the rebels will have nothing left but a big sand pile near the Egyptian border.  Reports indicate that this is just what Gaddafi is attempting.

Just wait for all the downsides to this to start appearing.  We have gotten into another war, this one with only the slightest of notions about what we want to accomplish, and very little clear ideas about who we are helping, all in the name of avoiding a humanitarian catastrophe.

I guess the Africans living in the Darfur, or in Ivory Coast just don't count to that much.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Oral Arguments in Richards v. Prieto Today

Oral arguments will be heard in the case Richards v. Prieto today at 2 PM, Courtroom 7 of the Eastern District Federal Court in Sacramento.  This case concerns "carry" of firearms in public, and weather "carry" is a right protected by the 2nd Amendment.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Libyan Rebels - No Decisive Capabilities

As I read the reports from major news sources about the Libyan fighting, I am struck by a disparity: Gaddafi's forces are cited as having tactical strike aircraft, helicopters, and heavy artillery.  Libyan rebels seem to have no aircraft, no helicopters, no heavy artillery.  They also seem to have no organized supply, medical evacuation, and personnel replacement system.

The rebels seem to be a semi-organized mob with small arms, while the Gaddafi forces seem to be more heavily equipped and more professionally trained.

This apparent disparity in force and capabilities convinces me that even if a no-fly zone is established, the Libyan rebels are going to loose if they keep this thing a military contest and don't marshal political and diplomatic influence to get Gaddafi to leave the country voluntarily.  Even if the U.N. or the U.S. enforces a no-fly zone over the country, that will not prevent Gaddafi artillery from smashing rebel positions, not will it prevent the Libyan army from bring superior firepower to bear on ill-trained and equipped rebel forces which, without re-supply, will run out of ammunition, food, medicine, weapons, and fighters as some point.

The rebels must win via diplomacy, or they will lose.


This article on Real Clear World underscores the military situation in Libya and the possible futility of a no-fly zone:
The more important question is what exactly a no-fly zone would achieve. Certainly, it would ground Gadhafi’s air force, but it would not come close to ending the fighting nor erode Gadhafi’s other substantial advantages. His forces appear to be better organized and trained than his opponents, who are politically divided and far less organized. Not long ago, Gadhafi largely was written off, but he has more than held his own — and he has held his own through the employment of ground combat forces. What remains of his air force has been used for limited harassment, so the imposition of a no-fly zone would not change the military situation on the ground. Even with a no-fly zone, Gadhafi would still be difficult for the rebels to defeat, and Gadhafi might still defeat the rebels.
 I believe that President Obama would do well to heed this message.

UPDATE:  3/10/2011

Here is one effect of sanctions against Libya:
On Monday, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said an arms embargo included in the U.N. resolution meant that "it's a violation for any country to provide arms to anyone in Libya," including the rebels.
 But without a source of weapons and ammunition, either from within or from outside the country, the Libyan rebels are going to lose, and lose in a very bloody manner.  President Obama's Libya policy, if not changed, is going to result in the destruction of the Libyan rebels, and the preservation of Gaddafi's regime.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Impressions on Libya Fighting

Muammar Gaddafi is beginning to use his air power to some effect.  Will it help hm defeat the rebels?  That depends.  Air power is decisive in land combat provided he can use it at certain times and places to isolate sections of the battlefield, allowing his ground forces to attain an overwhelming advantage and so defeat the rebels in detail.  Air power can also be used to protect his lines of supply while degrading those of the rebels.

If he instead uses air power independently of his ground forces, the rebels may yet prevail.  The rebels need either their own planes, or the capability to deny air power to Gaddafi.  The longer Gaddafi holds out, the poorer the rebels chances become.

Friday, March 4, 2011

University of Arizona - Old Fashioned Bigots?

Here is a new policy being floated by the Regents of the University of Arizona:

“We affirm that no student should be obligated to be in the presence of a Negro faculty or staff member, and no faculty or staff member should be obligated to be in the presence of an Negro student on the university campuses of Arizona. In the event that SB 1467 is enacted into law, we request action by the Arizona Board of Regents to segregate the campuses into Negro and Negro-free communities. When such segregation cannot be enforced, protective action should include the provision of police protection, the substitution of electronic communication for personal interaction, and the cancellation of classes as a last resort.”
 WTF!!  Can this really be coming out of a state university, a bastion of diversity and tolerance?  Actually, I just punked you, my dear readers.  It is a policy in response to SB 1467, a bill authorizing concealed weapon permit holders to carry on University campuses in Arizona.  I simply replaced the word "armed" with the word "Negro" to emphasize the discriminatory nature of the policy.  Here is the correct wording:

“Gun Safety Charter: We affirm that no student should be obligated to be in the presence of an armed faculty or staff member, and no faculty or staff member should be obligated to be in the presence of an armed student on the university campuses of Arizona. In the event that SB 1467 is enacted into law, we request action by the Arizona Board of Regents to segregate the campuses into armed and weapons-free communities. When such segregation cannot be enforced, protective action should include the provision of police protection, the substitution of electronic communication for personal interaction, and the cancelation of classes as a last resort.”
 But I guess that segregation and discrimination are laudable sometimes, but not at other times.  I guess it take a university professor to figure out when.