100 years ago on this day, March 29th, 1911; the United States Army officially adopted the J. Browning self loading pistol design of 1910, manufactured by Colt's firearms (with changes and specifications as amended by the Army ordnance board); as the Automatic Pistol, Caliber .45, model of 1911.
And history was forever changed.
Over the past 100 years, the m1911, in all it's variants from all the many manufacturers producing them; has sold more than any other centerfire automatic pistol by far.... With at least 5 million sold.
There were 2 million 1911s made by military contract manufacturers for WW2 alone.
Including all variants and all manufacturers, the number is most likely far, far more than 5 million. I'd wager it's more like 10 million sold, given that we know (from excise tax records compiled by the ATF) we manufacture about 150,000 1911 variants every year in the U.S. alone, and have (or more) every year since the mid 80s (when the current 1911 boom began).
Really, no other single design even comes close... in fact, even at the lower estimates, the 1911 has probably sold more than the entire centerfire auto product line of any other manufacturer... or even any two manufacturers.
(That's if we limit it to centerfire automatic pistols only. Otherwise S&W would have the 1911 beat with revolvers; and Ruger with .22s. The Ruger Mark1/2/3 etc... .22 is by far the highest selling rimfire auto pistol; at around 3 million sold. Combine that with Rugers .22 revolvers and you've probably got over 5 million).
Glock has sold about 3 million pistols of every model and variant world wide. S&W has sold around 12 million handguns, but less than 1/4 of those have been automatics (and at least a hundred thousand of them have been 1911s). Ruger has sold about 10 million handguns, but less than 1/4 of those are centerfire automatics. SIG and Berretta have both sold about 3 million handguns each. HK has sold about a half million handguns (that's a very rough estimate based on internet sources, since they don't publish figures, and don't have the large military contracts that other manufacturers do, to allow for better estimates). Walther and other manufacturers made about a million p38s for WW2 (surprisingly, I dont think even 200,000 Lugers were made from 1908 til today). Browning has sold about 2 million centerfire auto pistols, about half of which are hi-powers, and the majority of those to foreign militaries.
Something like 7 million new guns are sold in the united states every year; about 1/8th of which are centerfire handguns (fully half are .22s; and about 3/4 overall are long guns), and about 3/4 of those automatics. So, out of about 660,000 total centerfire auto pistols sold every year, about 150,000, or one out of every 4.4, is a 1911.The 1911, has been issued to more soldiers, and been used to kill more of our nations enemies, than any other sidearm.
Although I have no hard numbers on the topic, I feel safe in saying it has defended more civilian lives, than any other hand gun... or at the very least any other automatic (the K frame smith might beat it).
Also, and there is absolutely no doubt about the numbers here: variants of the 1911 have won more competitions and championships than all other handguns COMBINED.
Is it a perfect weapon? No of course, there's no such thing; but it's a damn fine one.
The 1911 simply has the best trigger of any auto pistol, period. No other single action trigger can be made better than a well worked 1911 trigger; no matter how expert the smith (though 1950s S&W revolvers worked by a master can come close). It still has among the best, if not the best, feel in the hand and general ergonomics of any auto pistol.
The 1911 platform provides you a useful defensive handgun from the subcompact to the longslide size, slimline short grip, or a full size doublestack holding up to 20 rounds; and it does it all looking great (ok, some of those doublestackers can be kinda funny lookin...).
Personally... the 1911 is my first choice for both a combat and a competition handgun (that is, for me personally. If choosing for a large military or police organization, I would choose differently, because the 1911 is for people who train a lot with their handguns. With lower standards of weapon handling, marksmanship, and weapon maintenance, the 1911 is a suboptimal choice). I carry one most every day; and most of the serious gunnies I know make the same choice (at least part time anyway).
I believe I've put more rounds downrange, by far, with 1911s than any other handgun; including .22s... (and I only make the handgun only qualification because of the number of machine gun rounds I've fired. If we're excluding full auto I'm pretty sure that includes rifles as well). 1911s, still make up the majority of my handgun shooting today.
The thought that a firearm designed 100 years ago, can still be the best selling handgun in the United States (and excluding military sales, the world), every single year... that's absolutely mind blowing.
So, happy 1911 day, and heres an unfortunately short selection of my writings on 1911s (short because for some reason most of my posts about 1911s aren't tagged properly):