1911 circa 1918: To shoot or not to shoot


July 29, 2008, 12:31 AM
Earlier this year I inherited a Colt model 1911 dating back to 1918. Basically all original except like most in that era it was sent back to the arsenal to be re-finished. It has all the arsenal and inspector markings, although I can't remember specifics since it's been a while since I researched it. I've had a few fairly trusted people look at the gun and they think it's possible it's been refinshed even since it was refinished at the arsenal. All that being said, the consensus was that the gun is drastically de-valued because it is not the original finish. Basically they say shoot and enjoy. If this gun is de-valued I would really like to enjoy shooting the gun, but I would like to get some more opinions first. I am not a collector, so all my info has come from other people or through internet research. If it has no real collector value due to the lack of the original finish, I would possibly have the gun restored to look like it did in 1918. I will try to get some pics up tomorrow. Please let me hear some opinions. Thanks in advance!

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July 29, 2008, 12:42 AM
CSAY- First off Is it parkerized or blued? If it's parked it's rearsenaled probably at Augusta or the like and I would dispute the words "severely devalued" --lately these period reworked guns are spiking up in prices if they are in good shape. If it's blued and redone it wasn't by the military and it is severely devalued and will only ever be a shooter. Now with all that being said my favorite 1911 -I own alot of them so this is saying something-- Is a Colt made in mid 1918 that was an Augusta Arsenal rebuild and I shoot it. Make sure your springs are in good shape and Pop of a few rounds of ball ammo, keep her clean and don't do anything stupid and you can enjoy it without damage. :)

Jim Watson
July 29, 2008, 12:59 AM
I shoot my 1918 AA rework occasionally. Even though reworked and pretty well used after that, it is still real deal USGI and probably worth more than most of the copies on the market.

Some people will warn you that those old guns are made out of pretty mild steel with differential heat treating that sets up stresses and can lead to damage. I had a co-worker with a 1911 cracked slide. So I don't shoot mine much. Of course some of them have gone for thousands and thousands of rounds.

July 29, 2008, 01:17 AM
You are going to want to get a better estimation of the current value. Interest in military 1911's has shot up in recent years and what may have been a $500 dollar gun just a few years ago could easily be a $2000 (or more) gun today.

A military refinish won't damage the value as much as any changes done to the gun after it left the military system.

Granted, it's not going to be as valuable as one in original finish, but even the refinished examples are getting too pricey to shoot.

July 29, 2008, 01:47 AM
If you wish to shoot it, keep in mind metallurgical advances....the 1918 isn't all that far removed from Colt 1873 SAA's made with iron, not steel....the SAA didn't become proof-safed for smokeless until the early 1900's....you're looking at a gun made shortly after Orville and Wilber flew at Kittyhawk....not when Lindy flew across the Atlantic, and not when 400mph+ Mustangs dove on German armor....in short, metal/steel got better....best advice might be to shoot lead 200-230gr bullets to keep pressure/slide velocity down...also, a SWC lead bullet that slows slide closing velocity couldn't hurt.....but I'd be cautious of shooting much full-power FMJ hardball....softball would be better.

July 29, 2008, 08:27 AM
I was able to get 1 pic up this morning. While it is not a great pic, it might at least give an idea of what the finish is like.

July 29, 2008, 09:46 AM
Nice pistol. Definately a shooter.

Jim Watson
July 29, 2008, 10:18 AM
See the little staggered stamp of "AA" next to the slide stop?

That means it is a military rework done at Augusta Arsenal, legitimate GI even though not original. It got a Parkerized finish and plastic grips (instead of blue and wood) but that appears to be all; it still has the long hammer, short grip safety, flat mainspring housing, and long trigger of the true 1911. If the barrel is orignal or at least of the 1918 period, that would be VERY nice. Many refurbs got 1911A1 parts.

Prices are just going nuts on these things as the pristine originals have gotten tied up in collections, selling only when the collector croaks. I don't like Internet Price Checks, but it is surely worth many hundreds, maybe a grand or more, and no way to go but up. I think it is in too good correct refurbished condition to "restore".

I could not resist shooting a heirloom piece enough to say I had, but I would not shoot it much, a cracked major part and most of its value would evaporate.

July 29, 2008, 10:30 AM
I have a reblued 1911 from 1913 and I've had offers for at least a grand for it...it would be very, very expensive with the original finish. Yours is probably worth more than mine.

I shoot mine, but only with very soft 200gr SWC reloads and sometimes Winchester White Box.

Every time I pull the trigger I'm risking a cracked slide, so my priority #1 is to get a new 1911 so the antique can get some rest.


No, it's not "devalued," at least not all the way.

Yes, you might break it.

Some people shoot em, some people don't.

It's your gun so it's your call.


July 29, 2008, 10:33 AM
Its a firearm.

they are made to be shot.

You wouldnt buy a screwdriver and not use it to drive screws.

July 29, 2008, 11:23 AM

July 29, 2008, 11:46 AM
I can't resist....even the background color is close....yours is worth $1000 min. as WWII RR's are going for close to that nowadays, and yours is a Colt from WWI refurbed at AA for WWII....mine is a new Colt with fake refurb, including AA marks....yours might have been reparked unless you see clean metal in the bottom of the AA stamp....I shoot mine with hardball all the time, but yours probably should stick to softball.....or just do like I did, and spend $1000 on a fake...

July 29, 2008, 11:54 AM
Its a firearm.they are made to be shot.You wouldnt buy a screwdriver and not use it to drive screws.

It's also a relatively fragile antique, and I doubt you'd use your gandpa's Model A for a daily commuter.

July 29, 2008, 12:07 PM
If a 1918-1919 range Colt has a Parkerized-type finish, does that mean it has bee refinished?

I know of one that has NO rework stamps of any kind with a Park finish, a WW-II era barrel, and a WW-II era rear sight.
...oh, and one two-tone mag.


Jim Watson
July 29, 2008, 12:30 PM
Yes. It has been refinished, that is; 1911s were not originally Parkerized.

As I understand it - and I am not an expert or collector - there was some depot level refurbishment that would not leave an arsenal stamp. How you authenticate one of these as a Significant Historical Artifact and Valuable Collector's Item, I don't know.

July 29, 2008, 12:44 PM
A friend related how as while a youngster, the town doc told him of the Arkeesaw National Guard rounding up every single weapon they had in the state, bringing them to a central location of commandeered machine shop, and there disassembled, steam-cleaned, inspected, and parkerized if needed, every single gun, boxes of frames, slides, safeties, sears, assembled into working guns....this was at the onset of hostilities, and probably happened nationwide.

July 29, 2008, 01:39 PM
Its a firearm.they are made to be shot.You wouldnt buy a screwdriver and not use it to drive screws.
It's also a relatively fragile antique, and I doubt you'd use your gandpa's Model A for a daily commuter.

I would most likely. I've been handed down several firearms from my grandparents parents. I shoot hem all. The oldest is 106 this year and can hit a valve cover at 75 yards with no problem.

July 29, 2008, 05:28 PM
Ok, first off, do NOT "restore" the gun. The military aresenal refinish and military plastic grips are now part of that gun's history. Anything you do to change the gun is only going to lower the value.

You can't put the original blued finish back on. It's gone. But, the military refinish is part of the guns history now and shouldn't be touched.

This is an interesting gun. I think the subset of guns with "all original parts except for arsenal refinish" is going to go up in price quicker then mixed parts guns as more collectors turn to them as they are priced out on all-original, unrefinished guns.

Personally, I'd buy a new 1911 to shoot and retire this one. Run a box or two through it and clean it and it'll probably be fine, but if you shoot it regularly you are just asking for something to crack or break, which would significantly lower the value.

July 30, 2008, 07:39 AM
I appreciate all the help. There is a gunsmith in Texas, whose name escapes me, that specializes in restoring WWI & WWII 1911's to original-like condition. However, I have decided not to do this. The gun will remain the same. As for shooting it, that might be another story. If I do, it will be limited, and with lighter loads.
I don't know how many of you guys have similar historical pieces like this, but when I hold this 1911 all I can think about is where all has it been, and what all has it been through. Man, if guns could talk.

July 30, 2008, 12:13 PM
I do the same thing, I love old guns. :)

July 30, 2008, 12:20 PM
Shoot the crap out of it.

July 30, 2008, 12:21 PM
I appreciate all the help. There is a gunsmith in Texas, whose name escapes me, that specializes in restoring WWI & WWII 1911's to original-like condition.

His name is Bill Adair, and he's the one who did the work to my new Colt pictured above....the 1918 guns originally looked rather crude....if it had been a gorgeous pre-WWI, I could see restoring it to its glory, but to restore it to its original brushed finish seems silly for a shooter that's already parkerized and much more carefree/rust-resistant.

July 30, 2008, 09:41 PM
I have been shooting one that looks just like it for the past 30 years. It still looks the same as when I got it.You may have got lucky as it could well still have the Colt frame matched to the Colt slide too. That ups the $$$ on them quite a bit. I would say a grand worth of gun there at the very least.

Aguila Blanca
July 30, 2008, 10:51 PM
You should not shoot it. Not at all.

The WW1 slides were heat treated only toward the front. There is a definite line of demarcation, and the slides are prone to break at that point. Once that happens, you no longer have an authentic, arsenal rebuilt M1911 -- you have a box of 1911 parts.

Over on the forum at M1911.org awhile ago someone posted a letter from the curator of the Army museaum at Aberdeen Proving Ground stating that they do not fire the M1911s in their collection for that reason. His statement was, essentially, that you cannot predict which round will be THE round that does it.

July 31, 2008, 02:26 AM
If he doesn't shoot it at all, all he has is a collection of Colt parts, anyhow....I'm not for pounding an unlimited or even limited number of full-throttle jacketed ball rounds through it, but a limited diet of what amounts to light target loads with cast bullets would be indicated...unless the owner is into parts collecting instead of gun collecting/shooting....no matter what you do, nothing lasts forever, including NIB guns....unfired guns just last longer....and fired or unfired, they'll generally outlast you....like the land, and our time here, we just borrow them....and hopefully try to be good stewards....and a good steward just doesn't take his master's wealth and bury it in a hole to preserve it....he uses it wisely...with judgement....

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