The .45 Obregon Pistol: A Mexican 1911

The .45 Obregon Pistol: A Mexican 1911

Mexico's Obregon is one of history's undeservedly forgotten pistols. Made in limited numbers, it has several innovative features.

Timing is incredibly important in the firearms business, as Mexican mechanical engineer Alejandro Obregon discovered, much to his disadvantage. I was unable to ferret out much about him. His sole claim to fame seems to rest upon his interesting .45 ACP (11.43mm) Obregon pistol.

We do know that Obregon patented his pistol in Mexico in 1934 and in the U.S. in 1938. It is surmised that between 1934 and 1938 some 800 to 1,000 were made by Fabrica de Armas Mexico in Mexico City.


With the exception of the rounded slide and the single slide stop/safety, the Obregon (right)looks much like a standard 1911A1. While the guns differ in many aspects, essentially the rear ends are just about the same.

To be fair, these figures are somewhat conjectural, and it is possible that several thousand units were actually produced. Still, the low rate of survival — especially with guns in good condition — points to limited manufacture.

While it is safe to assume that Obregon hoped to sell his pistol to the Mexican military, such was not the case — an understandable decision during peacetime and the depths of the Depression.

It did have some vogue among a smattering of officers and police officials who purchased them privately, but lucrative government contracts were not forthcoming. Production ceased after only two or three years, and the gun lapsed into obscurity.

Sights on the Obregon (above, left) are essentially the same as the Government Model with the exception that the Mexican pistol has a checkered top rib running between the front and rear.

Though the slide is wider and more rounded at the top, at first glance the Obregon pistol looks very much like the standard 1911A1 Government Model — and from the triggerguard back, that's pretty much what it is. Internally, the trigger mechanism, extended beavertail grip safety and arched mainspring housing, not to mention the seven-round magazine (which I found is interchangeable with that of the 1911), are almost identical to the American original.

The Obregon pistol's mag release is very close, but it does have a small dogleg on the magazine catch that fits into a notch on the trigger strut to lock the trigger when the magazine is not inserted in the pistol. Unlike many other magazine safeties, this one at least can be overridden by simply pushing in on the mag-release button.

The hammer retains the broad spur of the 1911 — a feature that I've always preferred over the later, narrow variation. Sights are standard military, with a fixed front semi-circular blade and drift-adjustable square-notch rear with a low matte rib running between them. Finish is blue, and grips are checkered walnut.

The back of the Obregon's magazine-release button (front) has a small dogleg that allows for an internal projection that fits into one of the trigger struts when the magazine is removed. This prevents the gun from being fired when the mag is removed, though the trigger can be pulled if the button is pushed in.

One of the main criticisms leveled at the Browning design is the swinging link feature, which has been found to fracture after extended firing. It is, in effect, probably the gun's weakest link (pardon the pun).

The Obregon pistol employs an entirely different locking system. It's still a short-recoil setup, but instead of the dropping barrel of the 1911, the gun has a rotating barrel lockup similar to that of the Austro-Hungarian Model 1912 Steyr (among others).

This is accomplished by a barrel with a diagonal stud at its base that fits into a frame-mounted collar, which has a corresponding slot milled into its topside. The collar slips onto an attenuated projection at the bottom of the frame and is held in place by the slide stop/safety post.

Comparing the internals of the Obregon (top) with those of the 1911A1, it is readily apparent that the lockup systems of the two guns are entirely different.

As the slide moves rearward, the stud/slot turns the barrel slightly clockwise to free three locking lugs from their recesses in the slide. When the slide moves forward, the barrel reassumes its original locked position, readying it for firing.

The slide stop and safety are one piece — an economical arrangement that does away with the separate controls of the Government Model, providing for ease of manufacture and disassembly — and fewer parts to go wrong. There is only one thumb catch, sited in the 1911's safety position, and two slide notches, one for safe and the other for hold-open. The slide does remain to the rear after the last shot.

The heart of the Obregon lockup system is its rotating barrel. The barrel is turned by means of a trapezoidal stud that works within a corresponding notch in a lower, frame-mounted collar. This is conceivably stronger than the Government Model's swinging link setup (inset bottom).

Unlike the 1911 with its long recoil spring and spring plug, which can pop out of the gun during fieldstripping, the Obregon pistol's recoil spring is held captive on a spring guide and, upon disassembly, is easily plucked from the gun.

Fieldstripping the Obregon pistol is a cinch and can be accomplished at least as fast as that of the Government Model. First remove the magazine and ensure the gun is unloaded.

Next, push down on the recoil guide spring button and rotate the barrel collar to the right. The recoil spring/guide can now be taken out and the collar removed from the slide. You'll note that the collar itself is much shorter than the 1911's and has four locking lugs instead of one. Now the slide can be moved back slightly and the slide stop/safety removed.

My particular example has a screw holding this in, but I believe it is an aftermarket addition, as most other Obregon pistols I've seen have a post with a plain, rounded end. Next, the slide, barrel and rotating collar can be removed forward off the frame and the barrel taken forward out of the slide by rotating it slightly clockwise to free the three locking lugs from the slide.

Reassembly is in the reverse order, though care must be taken to make sure the collar is put in the right way around so that it will allow the slide stop/safety post to pass through. The slot of the collar is fitted into the stud on the barrel and manually held in place as the slide is put back on the frame. If you put the collar on its projection first, the barrel stud will butt up against the front of the collar and not go all the way back.

One of the cleverest things about this pistol is its combination slide stop safety arrangement. This eliminates the double setup seen on the Colt 1911.

When one disassembles the gun, he can see that virtually all parts are serial numbered, including the magazine. Too, the pistol exhibits a high quality of workmanship, though I did notice the collar notch appeared to be milled a little too deeply and there was a small, ⅜-inch slit where it broke through to the central cavity. As the gun shows a considerable amount of use (as do most Mexican guns, it seems), this slight blip does not seem to have affected the piece's serviceability.

I've played with a few Obregon pistols over the years, but never really had a chance to shoot one. Our evaluation sample was obtained from Mike Krause at Krausewerk. He specializes in Lugers, Mausers and hard-to-get handguns and is a superb craftsman who can fabricate guns such as a .45 Luger or Baby Luger from scratch.

Of course, the gun had to have a proper rig, so I had John Costanza of Western Star Leather whip up some appropriate 1930s-style, Southwest-looking leather to go along with it.

I shot the Obregon pistol with both Black Hills and Federal 230-grain hardball, and there was no difference in accuracy or reliability between the two. Functioning was excellent, and while the gun feels identical to the 1911 in the hand, it definitely has a different recoil impulse from that of its Yanqui counterpart — somewhat softer with less flip.

The author found the Obregon's recoil impulse to be significantly different than that of a 1911. Photo by Rick Hacker.

Despite the fact that the bore was pretty worn from a lot of use, accuracy was about the same as that of a stock military-issue Government Model, with rested 25-yard groups coming in at around 3½ to four inches. We did have a few failures to feed, and I have absolutely no doubt they were caused by the gun. It had seen a lot of action in the past, and tolerances were just not what they were when it rolled out of the factory.

I have to admit, the Obregon pistol has a lot of things going for it. I especially liked the one-stop-shop manual safety/slide hold-open arrangement and could see no downside to the rotating barrel arrangement.

While it would take much more testing with a specimen in better condition to be sure, it's quite possible that it might be on a par with — or even better than — the original Colt 1911. It's just too bad it never had a wider audience. Bottom line: Es un gran pistola — on either side of the border.

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