AUSTIN, Texas — In 1993, then-Pfc. Sean Lamphere received an M1911 pistol as part of the 11th Engineer Battalion at Fort Stewart in Georgia. It had a front sight that was cocked 10 degrees off center, and nearly all the bluing had worn off from what he assumed was decades of service.
He was right about that last part — the pistol was about 50 years old when he received it.
For more than 80 years the Army’s weapon of choice was the M1911 — beginning in World War I and running through Operation Desert Storm.
A new sidearm was called for by the military following engagement in the Philippine Insurrection that ended in 1902. Created in 1911 by John Moses Browning, the pistol was originally produced by Colt.
During World War II, the Army purchased so many of the .45-caliber pistols that it never had to buy another. It was officially decommissioned in 1985, though young soldiers like Lamphere continued to shoot with them years after. The M1911 was so beloved by troops that many called for its return during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan claiming its replacement, the Beretta M9, was not as powerful.
For the first time, large quantities of this piece of military history will be available for civilian purchase. In the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress directed the Army to transfer up to 10,000 of the sidearms to the Civilian Marksmanship Program for sale this year and next. After 2019, transfers are discretionary.
“That’s shocking,” Lamphere, a 44-year-old Austin, Texas resident, said when he learned people were lining up to pay nearly $1,000 for the weapon that he eventually traded in for a Ruger.
Starting June 4, people can apply to purchase one of the 8,000 made available this year. Since they were decommissioned, the pistols have been in storage at Anniston Army Depot in Alabama.
The Army pays the Defense Logistics Agency about 61 cents per pistol per year for storage, so this year’s transfer of 8,000 saved the Army about $5,000 in storage fees, said Wayne Hall, an Army spokesman. The Army does not receive any money for the weapons, and taxpayers don’t pay for the sale. Instead, it goes to the nonprofit national marksmanship program to support competitions, safety courses and more.
Training future Olympians
Established in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt to improve the rifleman marksmanship of the armed forces, the program’s goal is to train and educate U.S. citizens in the responsible use of firearms and air guns through safety training, marksmanship training and competitions. In 1996, the CMP separated from the government and became a private organization, but continues with the same mission, said Steve Cooper, marketing director.
It maintains various types of gun ranges, provides directives for shooting clubs, hosts competitions and offers classes with the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit. It also supports many youth and Junior ROTC programs. Over this summer, Cooper said the CMP will host five weeks of matches. Their young people’s competitions have become a feeder for Olympians.
Cooper said the sale of the M1911s will support all these programs.
“It’s been off the hook — literally phones ringing off the hook,” Cooper said of the M1911 interest. “It’s a variety of people: historians, collectors, family members of veterans who fought in wars dating back to World War I.”
‘It put the enemy down’
Military weapon historian Leroy Thompson said he understands the interest in owning a “Government Model,” as these specific M1911s are known.
“There are still a lot of veterans who that was the pistol they were issued, trained on, whatever, and it sort of has an association with their time in service,” said Thompson, author of “The Colt 1911 Pistol,” which outlines the history of the weapon. “It’s not just chance to get a 1911. You can buy new 1911 pistols that the prices are competitive, but those are not ones that saw service.”
He said there are many reasons that the Army may have used the M1911 for so long, but most likely it’s because they’d purchased so many and didn’t want to spend the money on something else.
“On the other hand, it’s a very durable weapon. For troops who used it, it put the enemy down and they didn’t get back up … The criticism of the Beretta is they did shoot people and they did keep fighting,” Thompson said.
He added that for years, the front-line troops of the Army and Marine Corps used a rifle, machine gun, artillery piece or tank as their primary weapon, and there was no need to replace the pistol. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the need to carry a sidearm all the time increased, as did the need for a weapon like the Beretta, which has a double-action trigger mechanism that allows for a quicker reaction time.
“Also, the 1911s were just getting old,” he said. “When Desert Storm took place, they were 80 years old. They were just wearing out.”
The CMP has said it is pricing the M1911s based on their condition — between $850 and $1,050. The price also factors in the costs of building a vault to house the weapons, transportation and insurance. Cooper said. Just getting ready for the sale has cost about $100,000.
Some veterans have balked at the prices.
“They are historic pieces and not your average 1911 you can buy over the counter,” Cooper said. “We have costs and also are trying to put fair pricing on these for what they are: valuable historic relics. We don’t want them to be treated lightly.”
Some of the pistols have been deemed more valuable and set aside for auction. Cooper said those include weapons with parts that have matching serial numbers.
Thompson speculated that other more valuable M1911s would be those made by the Singer sewing machine company during World War II. Singer made an initial run of 500 pistols, but the quality was not what the military expected, he said. Those 500 were issued, but they are the only ones from Singer.
“An authentic Singer 1911a1, seen in as-issued condition, could sell for $100,000. The odds that a Singer is in that group are fairly small, but that would definitely go into the auction,” Thompson said.
Aside from condition, other things that raise the value include pistols from WWI, which would be marked by the U.S. Navy, and weapons with specific serial numbers known to be used by the Marine Corps.
Despite a more involved than normal gun purchasing process, interest is expected to exceed availability. The CMP will randomly generate numbers for each application and use a random selection process.
“We are really excited about it,” Cooper said. “We know it’s going to be a lot of work. We will be very careful to make sure everybody has a chance to get one.”
For details on how to buy an M1911 from the CMP, go to their website.
Story originally on Stars&Stripes written by Rose L Thayer
March 31st, 1943, British India.
Headed to Pyinmana, Burma, to destroy a bridge, the American B-24 bombers were intercepted by Japanese fighter pilots.
With the plane going down and Japanese fighter pilots attacking the parachuting airmen, Owen J. Bagget did what no man had done before or since.
It must take some sharp shooting and nerves of unbending steel to keep straight aim in the face of certain death, but he managed to shoot and kill the enemy fighter pilot with none other than a .45 caliber M1911 pistol. Whether a testament to sharp shooting under pressure or the efficacy of the gun, I can’t say.
Owen fell to the earth, wounded but alive, and was captured as a POW, later freed at the end of the war. He lived to 85 years old, having reached the rank of Colonel and continued as a defense contractor, and died in 2006. His tombstone tells of his being a POW, a hero, and a father– But sadly, it doesn’t cover his badass airborne feat: being the only person to down a Japanese fighter plane with a pistol.
Whether it was true or not, its still a great story for our M1911 legacy.
by Sam Morstan
Source: Owen J Baggett Wikipedia, Controversial Times
Once upon a time during WWII a lethal dart gun code name “Bigot” was created to be used by commandos to covertly eliminate sentries, this dart gun was constructed from a M1911 .45 caliber pistol. The Office of Strategic Services predecessors of the CIA developed this clandestine weapon, its unknown as to what advantage this has over a silenced pistol. The weapon never made it out of the research and development department, but this didn’t stop Ian McCollum from Forgotten Weapons to get their hands on one to check out, see the video below.
According to Ion McCollum of Forgotten Weapons who shot a reproduction of the “bigot”, here’s what he observed:
” the reproduction darts had a maximum range of about 10 feet. I fired a total of six darts at a glass bowl target roughly 8 feet away, and the result was two darts hitting and breaking the glass, two darts hitting the glass and bouncing off, and two darts failing to make it to the glass bowl. Not exactly lethal.”
“Now, of course, the original darts with a better gas seal and more powder would have had a higher muzzle velocity and a longer range, but I suspect that the reason the project was eventually abandoned was an inability to get the darts moving fast enough to be useful at any reasonable distance. Some people have speculated that the Bigot was designed to throw lines or for use underwater, and my experience suggests that it would have been radically underpowered for either of those uses.”
In summary, the “bigot” isn’t effective as a standard suppressed .45 ACP 1911 pistol. However, the weapon would be a great piece for a cocktail conversation amongst James Bond fans.
Ian: Hi guys, thanks for tuning into another video episode on Forgottenweapons.com, I’m Ian and we have a very interesting old pistol to show you today. This is a Bigot. ‘Least that’s the codename that the OSS gave this particular modification to the 1911. The idea here, these were developed in World War Two, and I believe they were used to shoot sentries very quietly. Why exactly they would do this instead of a silencer, I’m not entirely sure, but you do see these referenced in books about World War Two clandestine equipment. Again, the codename for the device is ‘The Bigot’, and it’s a modification to an otherwise stock-standard 1911 pistol. The idea is, it shoots this rather nasty-looking finned dart.
So the main functional part of the Bigot is this modification. This is the device itself, basically. This goes into the barrel of the gun in two parts. The front– This piston is what the dart rides on, then we have this rear piece that sits in the chamber of the 1911 barrel. It’s shaped here at the back to fit nicely in, then the center piston threads nicely into it. So you put this in through the ejection port, then you run this in through the barrel, thread it down like so. Now the firing pin on this particular one has been stuck forward. I think because it was originally made with a very tight fit, and it’s fairly old and it hasn’t been used. what would normally happen is, we have this very long firing pin running the length of this whole device, and in the back here, you can see it’s centered in there. So when you fire the pistol, the firing pin of 1911 firing pin hits that, that pushes out the firing pin on the Bigot device, and this dart actually has a basically a 25 caliber blank cartridge up in the nose. So it slides in like this, firing pin hits here, transmits up to here, then the bigot firing pin up here detonates this little blank cartridge, that produces a ton of gas pressure up here, which pushes this dart off of this rod and out downrange. The fins are a second piece that slides smoothly on the dart body so that when you load this you can load the dart all the way into the barrel, and the fins up at the muzzle, and when it fires it can slide down to the back. Let’s go ahead and put this back together and it’ll make a little more sense.
So we take the two components apart, go ahead and drop this one into my 1911 barrel, and then this piston comes in through the back, threads in place like so, –there are a couple little grooves here so you can get a nice solid grip on this– then if we look at this, you can see the rear-end of this contraption. What we wanna do is put this exactly– you can see it slides nicely into the chamber, and we want it set just right so that the barrel will still close. If you don’t have it rotated to exactly the right position it’ll lock the gun up. I think this is as good a time as any to point out that this was not ever a major production item. I’m not sure if these were ever actually even used, so the fact that it’s really finnicky– you might say it’s an outright bad idea. Didn’t stop them from making a couple. Now this is a normal pistol, I have just added this piston and chamber device in there, and my firing is all pretty much contained in this dart. So what I would do is load a dart, there’s a nice, mechanical, fairly tight seal there. I’ll drop the ends over the muzzle of the gun, and there we go. Now I cock the gun, and I can go about firing it, and when I fire it, it’ll go shoot that dart out. Should I want to fire a second time, all I have to do is put another dart in, because the nose of the gun contains the blank cartridge that powers it. If I then need to revert this back to being a regular forty-five, all I have to do is go about unthreading the piston, drop out the chamber component, and insert magazine of .45 cartridges. And away you go!
Alright, so you might think it’s cool enough that we have one of these bigot pistols, but not only do we have that, we have five different types of dart for them. This is the one that we were looking at in the gun, and this is I believe the one that you normally see pictures of. Sliding fins, and the fins are normally notched to go give you some clearance around the muzzle of the gun. But! We also have, for example, this one– smaller fins, same basic idea, and in this case the front end is threaded so that you can take the tip off, presumably, to load the blank cartridge. Whereas on the first style of dart, the blank is set from the factory. We also have a slightly different arrangement, the tip on this is very much like the first one, but these fins are fixed in place here, so this dart only goes about halfway onto the muzzle. This only goes that deep on there. Why eactly this was done, I don’t know, it may simply have been an experiment to see if fins up in the midsection of the dart would work as well, there were also– we have a test one here that has no fins at all. It sits all the way down. And the most interesting one: This guy, you’ll notice the body of this dart is larger in diameter than any of the others, and if we look close here, the back end is of this pre-rifled to match a .45 1911 barrel. So with this guy –and this is just really cool– this fits right in the muzzle, and what I do is you rotate it, and it will actually fit the rifling. It’s a lot tougher to load, it’s slow, but it will just follow the rifling and slowly rotate as you load it from the muzzle. Then when you fire it, obviously, the rifling spins it back out and in theory at least, you have a nice, accurate projectile. We’d love to find some testing data on these to find out what style they ended up finding to be the most useful or most effective, but I’m not sure we’re ever going to find that kind of documentation. We’re always looking.
Alright, and in case that wasn’t enough for you, if we have any James Bond types out there, We also have grenades. ‘Cuz what’s a pistol if you can’t shoot a grenade off of it? This is the exact same idea, we have a tube that fits down the barrel, we have a blank case in the bottom, slide it on, this is actually very similar to a rifle grenade. Sort of. Given that it has a blank cartridge in there. We’ve got two different sizes here, big one and a little dinky one. How’s that for cool? So we have no idea what the history of these guys is, whether these were actually ever used, whether they were purely experimental , for all I know they were handmade by someone who got their hands on one of these pistols and thought it would be neat to do. Which it totally is. So these were, like I said, developed by the OSS -the Office of Strategic Services- during World War Two, I’ve no idea if they were actually ever used, we’re very lucky to find an actual example of one to take a look at and show you guys. So I hope you liked this, I know I did, tune in again for more interesting gun stuff on ForgottenWeapons.com. Thanks for watching!
Source: Wiki, Forgotten Weapons Youtube and Facebook, Ion McCollum, Popular Mechanics