Tag Archives: colt 1911

Warship Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021: The Story of an Unsinkable Carrierman, and his .45

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021: The Story of an Unsinkable Carrierman and his .45

With this month marking the Navy’s 246th Birthday, the 79th anniversary of the loss of USS Hornet (CV-8) at the Battle of Santa Cruz (a ship commissioned 80 years ago today), and the 77th anniversary of the loss of USS Princeton (CVL-22) in the Philippine Sea, I’m breaking from our typical Warship Wednesday format to bring you the story of a Colt Government model in the Navy’s archives and the resilient young officer who carried it.

The below pistol itself at first glance would seem to be an otherwise ordinary M1911A1 Colt Military, martial marked “US Army” and “United States Property” along with the correct inspector’s marks. The serial number, No.732591, falls within Colt’s circa 1941 production range.

Accession #: NHHC 1968-141 (Photo: Naval History and Heritage Command)

We often say, “if only a gun could talk,” but in this case, the voyage through history that the above .45ACP took is well-documented.

Also joining the fleet in 1941 was Ensign Victor Antoine Moitoret, a Californian who was admitted to the Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1937 and graduated with the Class of ’41.

Moitoret’s first ship was the brand-new aircraft carrier USS Hornet, which he joined three months prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that ushered America into World War II.

Moitoret served as an assistant navigator on Hornet during the flattop’s secret mission to carry the Doolittle Raiders to bomb Tokyo in 1942— possibly best remembered among today’s youth as the third act of Jerry Bruckheimer’s 2001 film “Pearl Harbor”– and was also aboard the carrier for the massive naval victory at Midway (where Hornet was something of a mystery).

Flanked by torpedo boat escorts, the aircraft carrier USS Hornet arrives at Pearl Harbor after the Doolittle Raid on Japan, 30 April 1942, just five weeks before the Battle of Midway. (Photo: U.S. National Archives 80-G-16865)

When Hornet was irreparably damaged by enemy torpedo and dive bombers during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands in October 1942, Moitoret was armed with the above pistol while serving as the carrier’s Officer of the Deck on the bridge. The young officer still had it buckled around his waist when he was pulled out of the ocean more than two hours after Hornet went to the bottom in 17,500 feet of water off the Solomon Islands, carrying 140 sailors with her.

Moitoret’s pistol belt, consisting of an M1936 Belt, M1918 Magazine Pocket, and russet leather M1916 Holster. (Photo: Naval History and Heritage Command)

Two years later, Moitoret, with his relic of the lost Hornet still with him, was a lieutenant aboard the new light carrier USS Princeton, fighting to liberate the Japanese-occupied Philippines.

USS Princeton (CVL-23) steaming at 20 knots off Seattle, Washington, 3 January 1944. Moitoret was a plankowner of the new flattop, which had originally been laid down as the Cleveland-class light cruiser Tallahassee (CL-61) (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Historical Center. Catalog #: NH 95651)

In October 1944– almost two years to the day that Hornet was lost– Moitoret was on the bridge of Princeton when the ship was hit by a Japanese bomb and was wounded by shrapnel from the resulting explosion.

According to his Silver Star citation for that day, Moitoret “remained on board for a period of seven hours, fighting fires, maintaining communication with other ships in the area, preserving confidential publications and obtaining all available lengths of fire hose for use where most needed.”

Leaving his second sinking aircraft carrier, Moitoret reportedly kissed the hull of Princeton before boarding a whaleboat, one of the last men off the stricken ship.

After the war, he remained in the Navy through the Korean and Vietnam wars, retiring in 1972 at the rank of Captain. On 30 May 1999, while aged 80, he delivered the Memorial Day Address to the assembled cadets at Annapolis, continuing to serve as a proud link in the long blue line up to the very end.

Moitoret died in 2005 and is buried at Fort Bayard National Cemetery in New Mexico, next to his wife, Rowena, and son, Alan.

His well-traveled sidearm and pistol belt are in the collection of the NHHC, held in the Headquarters Artifact Collection

As noted by the Navy,

“The central theme of this year’s 246th Navy Birthday and Heritage week is ‘Resilient and Ready,’ which speaks to the Navy’s history of being able to shake off disaster, such as the loss of a ship or a global pandemic, and still maintain force lethality and preparedness. It allows the messaging to showcase readiness, capabilities, capacity, and of course the Sailor—all while celebrating our glorious victories at sea and honoring our shipmates who stand and have stood the watch.”

Happy Birthday, Navy, and a slow hand salute to Capt. Moitoret.

Back to our regular Warship Wednesday format next week.

***
 
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Could the days of pretty ponies be back?

Colt long used a deep rich charcoal blue or “fire blue” on highly polished slides and frames going back to the early 1900s while their famed Royal Blue finish peaked on the company’s Python model .357 revolvers in the late 20th Century, the company moved away from it in most models about two decades ago, leaving the famed “Prancing Pony” short on show horses.

Well, In the latest installment of getting back to its roots, Colt announced this week that a high polish Royal Blue finish is making a come back on at least one handgun model.

Nice

More in my column at Guns.com.

All Quiet in the Ardennes

American engineers emerge from the woods and move out of defensive positions after fighting in the vicinity of Bastogne, Belgium, in December 1944. Note the M1 Garand, M1 Carbine and M9 Bazookas, along with a liberal sprinkling of grenades and spare ammo. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Today is the 75th Anniversary of the last great German offensive of WWII. Launched through the densely forested Ardennes region near the intersection of the eastern borders of Belgium, France, and Luxembourg, some 200,000 Germans fell on less than 80,000 unsuspecting American troops, many of which were recovering from the summer and Fall push through France and the Lowlands.

While the German offensive gained ground at first, eventually reinforcements– including Lt. Gen. George S. Patton Jr.’s Third Army–were rushed to the scene and counterattacked.

However, for the men trapped inside the 75-mile “bulged” salient from St. Vith to the week-long Siege of Bastogne, it was a white hell of exploding trees and an onslaught from 1,000 German panzers that those who survived never forgot.

The U.S. Army suffered over 89,000 casualties in the six-week-long Battle of the Bulge, making it one of the largest and bloodiest battles fought by the nation’s servicemen.

U.S. Army infantrymen of the 290th Regiment, 75th Infantry Division, fight in fresh snowfall near Amonines, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge, Jan. 4, 1945. Note the M3 Grease Gun to the right and M1 Carbine to the left. (Photo: U.S. Army)

For a more detailed look at the men, firepower, and background of the battle, check out the (free) 685-page U.S. Army Center of Military History reference, “The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge” by Hugh M. Cole, as well as the vast records available through the National Archives. For more information about commemorating the battle Bastogne and other events, visit Bastogne 75 and Belgium Remembers 44-45.

The 411 on 1911s

I had a few people ask me recently as to the differences between the M1911 and M1911A1, as well as what makes a 1911 a GI Longslide or a Commander, or Officer; 70 series or 80, so I put this together.

For more detail on how to speak 1911, check out the article below in my column over at Guns.com

https://www.guns.com/news/2019/11/14/how-to-speak-1911-holding-class-on-the-evolutionary-differences

“Black Army” 1911 Making a Return?

“Kamerad” by Frank Schoonover for Ladies Home Journal, 1919, showing some Doughboys making friends with German headquarters staff, with some very dark-hued 1911s at hand.

The so-called “Black Army” is a designation often used by collectors to describe the late World War I finish techniques applied to Colt’s M1911 GIs between May 1918 and March 1919. Although given the standard brushed Colt “Carbonia Blue” finish, it was applied to more roughly finished frames and slides, which resulted in a noticeably darker hue that looked more black than blue.

As few of these wartime guns escaped later arsenal parkerization and mixmaster modification to the M1911A1 standard, original “Black Army” models are highly sought after, commanding prices in the $7K range.

A correct WWI-vintage Black Army 1911, via RIAC

Now it seems that Colt is set to debut a limited run of brand new Black Army repros.

While externally it looks trench-ready with a smooth straight mainspring housing, WWI style manual thumb safety and lanyard loop, these new Colts are missing the rampant pony in the center of the rollmark. Still, very close.

More details in my column at Guns.com 

 

Who doesn’t love a Gold Cup?

John Moses Browning’s celebrated 1911 design was adopted by the U.S. military just in time for World War I and soon after Colt began to respond to feedback to tweak the gun for further use. In January 1932, Colt responded to the common fine tuning done to service pistols by military marksmen at the National Match competitions in Camp Perry by introducing the National Match series of accurized 1911s that offered upgrades such as hand-fitted internals, match barrels, checked triggers and mainspring housings and adjustable sights. This model proved popular until it was suspended in 1942 due to the pressing needs of World War II.

In 1957, Colt rebooted the concept as the “Gold Cup National Match” line and has retained the terminology ever since.

Fundamentally, these guns have been the benchmark for right-out-of-the-box competition pistols for more than a half-decade with Colt long describing them as “the finest shooting semi-automatic in the world.”

Check out a sweet spread that covers several decades of these classics in my column at Guns.com.

A 1911 fit for an Aztec

Colt 1911 Aztec Jaguar .38 Super Serial #29 of 300 This one sold for $3,424.99 through CDNN.

This full-sized stainless Government Model 1911A1 is chambered in .38 Super and features a beautifully intricate Aztec theme based upon the jaguar.

“The Aztecs regarded the jaguar as the bravest of beasts, and the proud ‘ruler of the animal world.’ The Jaguar was a favorite symbol in Aztec representations of war. In Aztec mythology and astrology, the jaguar also played an important role. Aztec kings, like their Classic Maya predecessors, used the jaguar to enhance their social status. As the jaguar was lord of animals, so an Aztec emperor was the ruler of men. Aztec emperors wore jaguar clothing into battle and sat in judgment on a throne. Jaguar Warriors were members of the elite Aztec military special forces.”

Sold through Talo, these limited edition Colt are a full sized 80-series stainless government in .38 Super caliber. The slide is first polished and then deeply embellished with Aztec themes of the jaguar, rulers, and high priests. The left rear slide panel features a gold rampant Colt.

The gray pearlite grips pick up the Aztec theme along with a gold rampant Colt medallion. The Jaguar pistols have special factory issued serial numbers AJW001-AJW300.

As an aside, .38 Super is the highest caliber handgun round availible (legally) to civilians in Mexico.

The neat, but probably unwise, Fitz Colt

I’ve always been a fan of the Fitz Special concept, although not a practicing fan. More of an idle curiosity you could say, as I personally think they are unsafe.

Around 1926, retired NYPD cop John Henry Fitzgerald began customizing both full-sized Colt New Service, Police Positive, and Police Positive Special models to make them small concealed handguns, much like Colt’s then-new Detective Special. This modification included shortening the barrel to two inches or less, fitting a new front sight, removing the hammer spur and carefully checkering the top of the now-bobbed hammer, shortening the grip, and—unique to this type—cutting away the front 1/3 of the trigger guard and rounding off the now open edges.

A previously auctioned Fitz Colt

This trigger guard surgery left the bulk of the hammer exposed while carefully shrouding the very bottom and back of it to avoid snagging in the pocket. The open trigger guard allowed faster firing, accommodated large or gloved fingers, and according to some accounts made the weapon easier to fire through a pocket (if needed). While these modifications were done to large frame revolvers, they were performed mainly to the smaller Colt Detectives.

Although Fitz only converted less than 200 Colts, (some say as few as 20), the concept lived on and you see many other guns converted to the same degree.

Like this M1917 .45ACP moon gun:

That’s guaranteed to set the target on fire at close range…

My friend Ian over at Forgotten Weapons got a chance to check out a Colt Fitz at RIAC last week:

A relic with the ability to induce a shudder

Object 19880274-001, Canadian War Museum http://www.warmuseum.ca/collections/artifact/1042602/

This early Colt M1911 was used by an individual with the 27th Infantry Battalion (City of Winnipeg), Canadian Expeditionary Force, during the First World War.

If you note, there is a bullet or shrapnel hole from the right penetrating the left-hand side of the grip, meaning if the pistol was in a holster or hand, the owner likely had a very bad experience somewhere on the Western Front.

Canada placed orders for a total of 5,000 Colt Government Model pistols between August and October 1914, with officers, senior NCOs and machine gunners of early units heading to France so equipped with these .45ACP Connecticut-made guns.

The 27th Winnipeg was authorized on 7 November 1914 and disembarked in France as a fully trained and equipped unit on 18 September 1915, just in time to head to the front for the meat-grinder that was Somme the next year.

Close to 61,000 Canadians were killed during the war, and another 172,000 were wounded.

The 27th and a dozen other Manitoba-area Great War battalions are perpetuated today as the “Little Black Devils” of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles (R Wpg Rif).

An elegant weapon, for a more civilized age

At SHOT Show last month I saw a bunch or really sweet 1911s  and shot a few (the rebooted Colt Combat Commander is squared away), but I have to admit, the nicest of the pack were (IMHO) the 1911’s of Berryville, Arkansas-based Nighthawk Custom.

These guys are the Jedi knights of the next-level longslide experience and I have long admired their work.

Their new Tri-Cut Carry was formulated by one of their gunsmiths as part of a successful application for the American Pistolsmiths Guild and features a flattened trigger and a very futuristic styling to go along with Heinie Ledge Straight Eight Tritium rear and Nighthawk tritium front sights. The distinctive tri-cut continues throughout the gun, making the grip more narrow which Nighthawk’s owner Mark Stone told me has been well received by those with smaller hands.

dsc_0591
Another new entry for Nighthawk is The Turnbull VIP, or Very Impressive Pistol. The collaboration between Stone and Doug Turnbull of Turnbull finishes produced a limited run of heirloom firearms whose case hardened frame and cross cut mastodon ivory grips vary from gun to gun, making each one unique. Crowned barrels, custom triggers and a complete dehorning make the guns not only beautiful but functional as well.

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More in my column at Guns.com

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