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Guns On Trial


Despite changing to a new double-action revolver design for lighter recoil and speed in reloading, American military authorities found that these .38 caliber handguns were inadequate in the Philippine Insurrection, where charging Moro guerillas could not be reliably stopped despite multiple hits. The rapid reissue of older single-action .45 caliber Colt revolvers was a temporary solution until something better could be found. Trials were held beginning in 1901, with 1,000 semi-automatic 7.65 mm Luger pistols from Germany distributed to cavalry troops scattered from Brooklyn to Cuba. But again, military testing showed the smaller caliber Parabellum didn’t yield the desired results. Further pistol trials were held and some unique designs, like the long-barreled .45 Grant-Hammond pistol, didn’t even make it to the firing line after examiners found that firing the last shot also violently ejected the magazine. For troops on horseback, losing a pistol’s magazine would be a serious detriment in future reloading exercises.

The trials of 1907 and 1910 came down to two final contenders from Colt and Savage—both .45 caliber semi-automatics. The daunting series of tests pitted gun against gun in reliability, penetration, velocity and even rust resistance. At the end of the severe testing, the Colt design had won and America had what would become the Pistol, Model of 1911. A special centennial exhibition of the Model 1911 pistol is just one of the dozens of exhibits featuring thousands of historic firearms visitors can view in the National Firearms Museum galleries.

Open daily with no admission charge (donations appreciated), the National Firearms Museum is located at NRA Headquarters in Fairfax, Va. For more information, e-mail or call (703) 267-1600. View the online galleries at