1918 1911 question


Peter M. Eick
February 20, 2012, 07:24 PM

I picked up a heavily carried but what appears to be a lightly used 1918 colt 1911. I did it for personal reasons and would like to occasionally shoot the gun. There is little to no collector value to the gun as it has very little finish left and while it is not abused it is not a pristine looking collector gun.

The interesting aspect is the internals. It looks like it was rarely fired and does not exhibit any wear, peening or general abuse that I would normally attribute to now a 90 odd year old gun, let alone a military gun. The breechface looks good, locking lugs are crisp, slide lugs look good etc. The barrel is dark and pitted so it was shot with corrosive at some point. Practically other than not much finish it is a nice gun and I am pleased to buy it.

So, now that I bought it, (I know, cart before the horse thing) I researched it and found that these guns were probably not heat treated and were only good for around 5000 rounds according to what I found on the web.

My original plan was to load up some real light lead bullet loads just for this gun and shoot maybe a couple of hundred rounds per year down it to remember my Grandfather by and just to have some fun. I consider myself a reasonable reloader so I can pull of that end on my own, but now I am having second thoughts about shooting it that much.

Practically, I figure if it is good for 5000 rounds, and I shoot 250 rounds a year, we get 20 years out of the gun before I destroy it. If I am still shooting it in 20 years I would be pleased and not complaining a bit.

I have a nice Baer PII in 45 so I can shoot a nice 1911A1 45 if I wanted to really blast a lot, but there is a strong appeal to me to shoot an original 1918 with the miniature sights, thick trigger guard and classic look of an original 1911.

Am I being unreasonable or is significant caution with these guns totally warranted?

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February 20, 2012, 08:11 PM
Peter, as you know...the old ones are soft, but as long as the lugs aren't deformed and the headspace checks out...it can be shot with hardball, but I'd limit it. If it were mine, I'd shoot cast 230s with 4 grains of Bullseye or 5.5 grains of Unique. Limiting it to 250-300 rounds a year is probably a good idea.

Peter M. Eick
February 21, 2012, 05:40 PM
Will do and I will let you know how it works out at the range.

Pictures to follow in a few weeks when I can put the original hammer back in.

February 21, 2012, 08:11 PM
Pete--I have a 1911 made in 1918 that I bought in the 70's from a Bullseye shooter, Serial # 385xxx. I have no idea how many rounds he put through it but it had been accurized by the the AMU according to him. I have no idea how many rounds I've put through it shooting Bullseye and some IPSC( in my younger days) but it's way north of 10K. When I bought the gun it would shoot good target loads into 2.5"@ 50 yds, it will still do that today. Mine is no collector either and I mounted an Ultra Dot on the slide so I could keep shooting it when I couldn't see the sights well anymore. It's kind of neat holding a piece of history in your hands and wondering where the gun has been and who used it.

River Dog
February 21, 2012, 10:51 PM
Be cautious of the web. These pistols are almost impossible to wear out. Google military testing of the M1911. The endurance tests are amazing. There is also a story concerning John M. Browning finding a pair of M 1911s so rapidly that he would dunk them in a bucket of water to cool them off. Firing thousands of rounds in a sitting.

I have Liteweight Commander in 45 ACP that must have 10,000 to 12,000 full power rounds through it. Talk about " un-hardened" that is with an aluminum frame and a steel slide.

The pistol is pretty loosey goosey but functions flawlessly and still shoots 3 to 5 inch groups offhand at 25 yard when I hold it right.

Shoot it with standard or reduced loads and don't worry. Enjoy it, they are beautiful pistols.

February 22, 2012, 06:43 AM
These pistols are almost impossible to wear out.

Not so. While they wear well, and are rebuildable when they do become worn...the slide lugs in the old ones do deform and they crack at the breechface. It takes a lot of shooting, but they can be rendered unserviceable much sooner than modern hardened slides.

The pistol is pretty loosey goosey.

Worn examples, maybe...and most military pistols did get a lot of use. New, they were actually pretty tight. With a little oil in the rails, slide movement was almost imperceptible. The WW2 era pistols were built a little looser...but not rattletrap loose.

Jim K
February 22, 2012, 09:41 PM
Today, even worn 1911's are collectible if they have not been abused, and WWI vintage guns are much in demand. I think I would check a bit (here or on auction sites) on current values before using that gun as a bullet squirter "before I destroy it".

FWIW, some writers make those unhardened guns sound like they are made of lead or soft copper. They are harder than folks think, and will last a long time. The area that wears first is not the locking lugs but the slide where it hits the slide stop.


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