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In All Its Glory


by NRA Staff

John Moses Browning was well-established as a brilliant arms designer when the call came from Colt to prepare prototypes for American military consideration in the Army Ordnance Trials of 1907. Unfortunately, the pistols submitted by Colt and challenger Savage both exhibited less than stellar performances, and another set of ordnance trials was planned for 1911.

The improved Browning design came to be the U.S. Pistol, Model of 1911, and remained in issue through two world wars and several smaller conflicts. The design was quickly adopted by many other nations.

The first 40 Colt 1911 pistols were assembled by Dec. 28, 1911, and then sent off to Springfield Armory, each bearing the finest mirror-polish finish and each fitted with a unique dimple-pattern magazine catch retaining button. While Colt later revised the initial mirror polish requirement, and a slotted screw head replaced the dimple, these first pistols all incorporated two-tone lanyard loop magazines, resulting in a semi-automatic handgun with two lanyard attachment points. This pistol is Serial No. 4 of the first Colt production run.

History lives on in every exhibit at the National Firearms Museum, where thousands of guns that served the military, performed at the National Matches or went into the field with hunters are on daily display.

See hundreds of international engraved arms in the newly opened Robert E. Petersen Gallery as well as the nation’s largest collection of Gatling Guns. For more information, e-mail or call (703) 267-1600. View the online galleries at