“Regulation Army .45 Colt and its effect on bulletproof glass used in the new armored postal trucks which it is proposed to put into use as a further protection of valuable mails,” December 1, 1921.
Via The Library of Congress, National Photo Company Collection. LC-F8-16987
The destructive tester seems to be a Marine, which tracks because the same year this image was taken, President Warren G. Harding sent 2,200 Marines to guard mail delivery across the nation in the wake of a spate of high-profile robberies.
Note the trench guns and M1911s
How about that early M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle? Also, it must have been odd to be on armed details with neckties and campaign hats.
The Devils were tasked with riding shotgun over high priority certified mail, which included cash and negotiable bonds. Reportedly, in the five years that the Marines were on guard, not one robbery on an escorted shipment was attempted.
I recently got a chance to check out this beauty.
What we have here is a beautiful Colt Model of 1911 U.S. Army whose serial number, 164462, puts its production squarely in the range of guns made in 1917, during the ramp-up between American pre-war examples and the simplified “Black Army” Colts. For reference, Colt in 1917 produced some 70,000 GIs while in 1918 they made over 360,000.
The frame is correctly marked with the “GHS” stamp of U.S. Army Major Gilbert H. Stewart, who was the inspector of ordnance from Sept. 1914 to Jan. 1918. Accepted martial Colts in the serial number range between 101,500 and 230,000 should have Stewart’s initials.
Intact M1911 models are rarely encountered even though some 650,000 or so were made between 1912 and 1925. After that time, most still in military stores were reworked to the updated M1911A1 standard which saw a different mainspring housing and small parts. Further arsenal rebuilds saw blued finishes replaced with a heavy parkerized coating. Likewise, such reworks will have a variety of arsenal codes (AA, SA, RIA, etc.), which this pistol does not carry.
As the price of even Black Army models skyrocket, nicely blued military-marked M1911s will likely continue to gain value.
By the 1970s, the “Yaqui Slide,” essentially the Bikini of the holster world, was often seen in both IPSC circles and in use as a practical carry holster, well-liked by such practitioners of the modern shooting method as Col. Jeff Cooper of Gunsite fame, who reportedly brought the concept back from San Salvador where it had been created by one Edwardo Chanin.
Since the early 1990s, Galco has carried the modern Yaqui Slide in its catalog, and it is still popular today. Part of it is cultural, as on-screen iconic characters such as Tom Selleck’s Jesse Stone – who carried an SW1911SC Gunsite Model – and Tom Cruise’s Vincent in Michael Mann’s Collateral used such gun leather.
Then again, the other part is that it still works.
More in my column at Guns.com.
“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