The Famous Colt "Rattle"


February 22, 2009, 07:00 PM
I'm curious as to why JMB designed the original Colt 1911 to have a loose slide to frame fit. Being a genius he obviously wanted the fit to be loose for a reason, but can anyone the rationale behind this? Does it make them more reliable somehow, or what?

In contrast the higher-end 1911's being built today are very tight, with little or no play between the slide and the frame. Somehow this has become the norm and most people today see a tight fit as more desirable.

Who's right, or is it simply preference?

If you enjoyed reading about "The Famous Colt "Rattle"" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!
February 22, 2009, 07:13 PM
Myth perpetrated from worn out USGI pistols, or those hastily assembled from a parts box and judged by people who've never had the oportunity to handle a real Colt 1911 that's in good condition.

They weren't hand-fit tight...but they didn't rattle like a box of bolts, either. I have a pristine Remington Rand, and a 1919 USGI Colt that's in 90% condition, mechanically Neither pistol has excessive play when dry. Add a little oil in the rails, and it's hard to detect any.

February 22, 2009, 09:37 PM
probably during the war when they were hastily assembled and/or beat up on the field... other than that, i'm no historian.

February 22, 2009, 09:55 PM
I agree with Tuner I have several original examples in excellent condition and they do not rattle. If you are ever lucky enough to get your hands on one look at it you'll be amazed at the fit for a martial weapon.

Old Fuff
February 22, 2009, 11:08 PM
The World War Two and later guns weren't loose until they got badly worn. It should be remembered that they were standard issue through the Viet Nam War period up until 1982. But the last ones that were bought new were made in 1945.

That said, a certain amount of calculated clearances were built in to insure that the pistol would continue to function reliably under the worst of conditions anywhere in the world; and that parts made by different manufacturers would interchange in any and all pistols without hand fitting.

It should be noted that unlike later (and tighter) big-boy toys, these pistols didn't have to have a case of ammunition fired through them before they (might) start to function, didn't require expensive aftermarket magazine to work, and complaints about functional issues seldom or never show up on internet forums.

Browning took 10 years to perfect his design. He attended all of the trials, and personally inspected the Colt prototypes, while watching how they worked (or didn’t as the case might be). In this project officers in the U. S. Army’s Ordinance Department, and Colt’s engineering staff backed him. He knew exactly what he was doing, which is more then you can say about some who are building copies today.

February 23, 2009, 07:29 AM
Good post, Fuff.

Before it come up, let's address the question of the innacurate, unreliable, etc...

My 1919 Colt...unaltered in any way, other than spring replacements...will shoot into less than 5 inches at 50 yards with good hardball. By "good" I don't mean Wally-World valu-paks stuff. With my handloaded 200-grain SWC...which it feeds flawlessly,'ll shoot into 3.5 +/- inches when handled by somebody with younger eyes than mine.

This gun hasn't been abused, but neither is it pristine. It's seen its share of use, so it doesn't exactly represent a factory-fresh example.

February 23, 2009, 07:42 AM
I'll pose a question to 1911Tuner: Is the primary reason many think the 1911 is unreliable due to the "super-tight, minimal clearance" guns being sold of late?

I have a Dan Wesson Pointman and it was so tight I couldn't get thru a box of 50 without a failure to go to battery. I'm up to 350 rounds or so now and it's seems to be "breaking in"...

February 23, 2009, 07:48 AM
just out of curiosity, my how much play was there? I have a springfield GI so that is my frame of reference, would there be more play or less(dont worry my gun works fine I won't mess with it regardless of answer :) )

February 23, 2009, 09:06 AM
The Springer GI I had was a much looser slide to frame fit than my Dan Wesson, first gen Kimber Gold Match, and Colt Gold Cup. As long as it's accurate enough for you and reliable enough for you - it's a moot point really. While the super tight guns are more mechanically accurate, the price you pay is they tend to be ammo picky and may not be "carry" reliable until they're well worn in...

February 23, 2009, 11:27 AM
NGIB...Not really. It's got more to do with frame, slide, and barrel specs being right or not.

Note that loose doesn't automatically equal reliable, nor does tight automatically equal persnickety any more than they mean accurate or inaccurate. As far as reliability goes, too loose is as bad...or worse in some cases...than too tight.

qwert...New WW1 GI and WW1-era commercial pistols probably had about .003 inch of play...side-to-side and vertical, and they were nicely fitted. WW2-era GIs had a little more on average...but not a lot more. The Remington Rand nice an example as I've ever seen...comes in at .005 inch sideplay, and .006 vertical. That's .005 total...not per side.

Incidentally...What little that I've fired it...this one doesn't have a problem with hollowpoints and SWC ammo, either. None.

February 23, 2009, 11:52 AM
I sold a 90% 1943 Rand while back was as well fit as any of my current Colts maybe a little better. Like yours it feed ball and HP just fine.
My 1941 Colt is tight also

February 23, 2009, 01:39 PM
The 1911 was originally designed to be a military weapon that functioned reliably in all conditions. Today's "super tight" 1911s are designed to be accurate target pistols, coming with 1"@ 15 yrds or 1.5" @ 25 yrds. guarantees.

February 23, 2009, 06:00 PM
If you can believe the original Army evaluations of the 1911 pistol. Tested tor deployment in WWI with Pershing. Those original pistols, with ball ammo, out performed all but the absolute top shelf full house custom pistols of today. I mean they were flawless and accuracy was on par or better than Wilson, Baer, Yobo, Springfield and everyone else today. Even with the 1 1/2 inch accuracy guarantees. Every pistol then was hand fitted by gunsmiths not CNC machined and assembled. I've read the booklet reproduction at gun shows. Absolutely astounding performance with military ball ammo. I do not think loose frame to slide was part of the original design. That worked it's way into the pistols over 50+ years of use in the military and countless rebuilds, I believe.

Jim K
February 23, 2009, 08:09 PM
One of the standard tests at the time the M1911 was adopted was to drop the loaded pistol in a box of fine sand, shake it up, then remove it, dust it off with the hand, and fire it. If it failed to fire, it was rejected.

So, some clearances were (and still are) necessary and desireable. Obviously, wear increases clearances and well-worn pistols are often quite loose.

But as always, shooting tells the story. I don't care if the gun sounds like a bucket of bolts if the target says it is good.


Double Naught Spy
February 23, 2009, 08:41 PM
Like 1911Tuner, I have a 1916 Rem UMC that is about 85% and it is a very well put together gun. There is some slight side to side slide movement, but not much.

I have handled some of the 'worn out' models with loose tolerances that have a lot more movement and newer versions of 1911s with even more movement, side to side and up and down.

JMB didn't design a loose tolerance gun.

If you enjoyed reading about "The Famous Colt "Rattle"" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!