.45 Colt pistols have always been appreciated, especially by the military. From 1911 to 1986, the Colt Government pistols were some of the gun models dominating wars and not only. Chambered with the .45 ACP cartridge, these were semi-automatic, single-action, magazine-fed, recoil-operated pistols that were always popular. Even though this classic Colt 45 was replaced in 1986, it wasn’t completely forgotten. In fact, there are modernized variants of it that can be found today, and they are able to give you a similar feel to the historical pistol. 

The classic gun used in both World Wars, as well as the Vietnam War and the Korean War, has a beauty of its own that not many guns are able to reproduce. The former standard-issue sidearm of the United States Armed Forces surely left its mark on today’s Colt guns, particularly through the M1911, which is known as the Colt Government. 

History of the Classic Colt 45 Model

Considering so many were looking for a replacement for the revolvers that existed in the 1890s, the search for a new, self-loading pistol began. It was at that time that the M1911 gun originated in the U.S. There were many guns adopted, and some of these were Colt revolvers. 

But it was only in 1911 that this pistol actually made it to the military and became a sidearm. John Moses Browning, who was a firearm inventor, was the one who came up with the idea for the Colt 45 model and gave the military a great opportunity. He started developing the M1911 pistol, which was the only gun to resist a series of tests. 

After competing with multiple gun makers, Browning’s model was the one that won and ended up being adopted as the sidearm of choice of the U.S. military. Basically, the model was able to pass every round easily, even though it had to deal with shooting deformed cartridges and with a 6,000 round torture test, being submerged in acid, and many other things. Unlike other guns that went through the tests, it was the only one that resisted – that’s why it was chosen. 

There was also a need of a way deadlier handgun – while the .38 Long Colt was great, it wasn’t enough anymore. For this reason, the military wanted to use a .45 caliber bullet, as the Army already had a history with these cartridges. 

That being said, the model designed by Browning, aka the M1911 chambered in .45 Automatic, was the perfect one. It featured a 230-grain projectile, which had the ability to go as fast as 850 feet per second. Its self-defense round was way better than the one of the .38 Long Colt. The .45 caliber won as a result, and it began being a favorite for many years to come. 

1911 training
Soldiers Training with the 1911

The Build of the M1911

What’s interesting about this Colt gun is the fact that it has no fasteners. The only fasteners you’ll see are the grip screws, as the recoil spring is actually the one that keeps the components in place. If you want to check the inside of the gun, the slide will have to be retracted, and the slide stop removed. Also, the barrel bushing will have to be removed. To fully disassemble the unit, some manually removed components can be actually used as tools to fully disassemble the gun. The same goes for reassembling it. 

Another great thing about the Colt 45 unit is that the military was using manual safety and a grip safety with the M1911. Over time, companies even managed to develop a firing pin block safety to make the pistol much safer.

For the most part, there were very few changes to the original design of the Colt 45 pistol over the years. Browning’s design was maintained because it was not only beautiful but also efficient, which was all thanks to the recoil operation. 

The bullet is being forced down the barrel due to the expanding combustion gases. The gases are the ones giving reverse momentum to the slide and barrel, as during this part of the entire firing process, they are locked together. The slide and barrel will then continue rearward a short distance after the bullet has left the barrel.

There’s a particular beauty in the way the M1911 was designed. After the process continues as the bullet leaves the barrel, the barrel is stopped from making contact with the lower barrel lugs, because a link will pivot the rear of the barrel down. Then, a claw extractor will manage to pull the spent casing from the firing chamber while the slide keeps going rearward. What happens is that it will be pivoted out and away from the handgun and through the port of ejection. 

After being stopped, the slide will then be propelled forward by a spring. This will trigger a new cartridge from the magazine to enter the firing chamber, and then the slide will lock into the barrel. As such, the gun can be fired again. 

But if there is no other round in the magazine, you won’t be able to fire it again – the slide will lock in a rearward position, and you will be notified that adding a loaded magazine is necessary now. 

1911 Schematics
1911A1 Exploded View

Performance of the .45 Cartridge

The .45 ACP cartridge was long-awaited when the Colt 45 pistol M1911 was created, all thanks to the fact that it has destructive power against humans and it’s great for self-defense. The standard round of this cartridge used to be a 230-grain bullet that was able to travel 830 feet per second, as already mentioned. It was amazing because while it produced recoil, it was quite easy to handle. Also, it didn’t have a high blast or a high flash. 

The cool thing about this cartridge is that it is able to increase the service life of the gun that uses it, and it needs low maximum chamber pressure to operate, respectively 21,000 psi. 

What truly helped the M1911 was how effective the .45 cartridge was against humans. In both its non-expanded and expanded versions, this is a very destructive bullet that can cause enough damage to allow you to adequately protect yourself. 

45 caliber info

In its non-expanding full metal jacket form, the cartridge can do enough damage due to the fact that it’s able to penetrate tissue very deeply. Add that to the fact that the central nervous system can be damaged as well. If it manages to hit some important organs that aid the circulatory system, then blood pressure can be lowered instantly. 

Meanwhile, the expanding hollow point form will also be effective, but not as destructive as the non-expanding one. It will also cause damage to a human, but it’s rather effective in causing more blood loss as it opens up a larger wound diameter. This makes up for the fact that penetration is not that deep, and there are fewer chances of hitting vital organs. 

Why the Colt 45 Model Is Popular to this Day

Maybe you are one of the people wondering what makes Colt 45 so popular even in today’s world. Well, there are quite a few reasons for that, and you can discover them below. 

Great Concealed Carry

If you think about it, the M1911 wasn’t a huge gun – it was a smaller pistol and a very effective one at that. Even though the model has been an inspiration for multiple modern weapons, the design still has the same convenience as it used to have decades ago. It makes a great concealed carry gun because it can be nicely hidden if you wear a good gun belt. Basically, the slide is quite slim. It’s not that heavy either, especially if you wear the right gun belt. 

The Colt 45 is also a great fit for your hand, which means it will be easy to shoot in a situation when you need it the most. After all, a good grip is essential, especially when the situation you’re involved in is very dangerous. What’s better is that there is not a lot of recoil with the .45 either, making things much more convenient.

Wilson Combat 1911
Modern Compact 1911 from Wilson Combat


Nostalgia can easily hit you when you think about the history of the Colt 45 gun, which is one of the selling points of this weapon. Since it was used in both World Wars and not only, the gun is a popular choice for many people, especially for those related to individuals who took part in the wars and want to honor their loved ones’ memory. 

Furthermore, it’s a piece of American history, as it was created by one of the geniuses of firearms, John M. Browning. Even though at this point it has evolved and it’s past mere nostalgia, history is still one of the things that give it a special appeal.

Browning 1917 machine gun
Browning and his M1917

Nice Design

Let’s be fair, this gun has a classic beauty that many other guns cannot reproduce. While it doesn’t have too many details, the simple design is what gets it going, particularly for those who prefer something less detailed and less modern-looking. The design will make many people proud to own the gun. 

Smith and wesson 1911
Beautiful Engraved S&W 1911

Very Versatile

When it comes to versatility, very few other guns can come close to the M1911. It is pretty much able to deal with every necessary task in the world of handguns. Over the years, the gun has been expanded upon, and the M1911 has been modified in such a way that multiple duties can be fulfilled. There have been combinations of barrels, frames, triggers and many others that demonstrated the gun is very versatile. 

As such, the model can be used for speed shooting, self-defense, duty carry, and many other things.

It’s Easy to Learn

The operation is so easy that it is one of the contributing factors to the popularity of this Colt 45 handgun. Although many people like to complain about the manual safety, it’s actually quite easy to get accustomed to the single-action operation of the gun. Many would, of course, argue that it is harder than it seems, but with some training and dedication, it’s a skill that can be learned fairly quickly. 

What you have to do is pretty much wiggle your thumb, then try to incorporate deactivating the safety into your draw stroke. It may take some time to learn, but once it becomes a habit, it will be a piece of cake. Single action auto can be very easy to learn, as long as you become a master at deactivating the safety and cocking the pistol.

The 45 Colt Is Very Effective

The effectiveness of the 45 Colt cartridge is another reason for the popularity. Many guns have .45 calibers, all due to the destructive power they have and how excellent they can be for both self-defense and hunting. 

This is why you should have one too – and one such example is the Henry .45-70 Government, which was the first lever-action rifle to ever see the light of the day. This gun changed history. The weapon has the ability to take down big animals while hunting, giving you the power to take down bucks, a moose, a bear, and many other animals. With a strong four-round capacity, it is just what you need. 

As such, the .45 caliber, with its amazing strength, was able to maintain its popularity and is a favorite for many people. 

45 caliber penetration
AmmoToGo 45 ACP Ballistics Test

Final Thoughts

Colt 45 is truly a classic beauty, which was able to stay popular for a very long time. The M1911 invention was something that influenced history, as the gun was used in two World Wars and not only. To this day, you can purchase modern versions of the gun, which you can use for self-defense, hunting and much more. 

* This guest post is brought to you by our friend Jay Chambers *

Jay is a pro free speech business owner based in Austin, Texas. Having lived through several natural disasters and more than a few man-made ones (hello 2008), he believes that resilience and self-sufficiency are essential in this increasingly unpredictable world. That’s why he started a business! Jay writes over at Minuteman Review.

Sam M

Sam is an avid firearms enthusiast who loves sharing his knowledge and experience with fellow gunivores.

Let us know what you think in the comments section!

For suggestions, collaborations, or requests, contact [email protected].


  1. That first cutaway that is titled “Modern 1911 Components” sure looks like a S&W Model 39 DA/SA!

    1. Yeah, good catch. Something not-so-attractive about that 1911.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *