Since its birth, America has been driven by invention. The cotton gin, the light bulb, even the microchip. These inventions were created by master mechanics, people with an inherent need to create new technologies and machines. We’ve all been taught the importance of people like Eli Whitney, Thomas Edison, even Bill Gates. But there’s one man’s invention that was so influential, that after 100 years it is still considered the standard by which all others are measured. The man’s name was John Moses Browning, and his invention was the model 1911 automatic pistol.

What makes the 1911, what many believe to be, the perfect handgun? To begin with the recoil operation of the 1911 is widely considered the genesis for every automatic handgun found today. The slab-sided outline of the 1911 was an iconic image of the World War to America, as the Nazi battle helmet was to Germany. And as troops returned home, many of their 1911s returned with them.

For the model 1911, the action moved to Korea, and then Vietnam. The guns the U.S. military used continued to evolve. The M1 Garand gave way to the M14, and then the M16. Rifle development kept moving forward, but the 1911 remained unchanged. From the gunners in WWI, to the tunnel rats of Vietnam, the .45 continued to get the job done.

In the late 1970s, under political pressure from congress, the U.S. military, to standardize with NATO countries, began looking for a 9mm replacement for the .45 caliber 1911. On January 14, 1985, The Beretta 92F was officially adopted, ending the 1911’s 74 year run as the official sidearm of the U.S. military.

 

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