Who Invented the 1911? - Pistolsmith

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Old 07-18-2001, 01:04 PM   #1
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None of the classic works on the 1911 have a list of patent claims that tie any specific individuals or groups to innovations that became the 1911 pistol.
We know the following: J. M. Browning patented the Colt 1905 double swing link lock, or parallelogram lock, pistol design. What we need is the patent number, so we can obtain a copy and list the claims made.
Then we need a listing of later novel improvements, for example the single swing link and bushing locking mechanism. Who patented it and what is the patent number? Who patented the rear grip safety and the patent number. Who patented the thumb safety and the patent number. Who patented the magazine catch and the patent number.
This information would go a long way in establishing how much Browning had to do with the 1911 and precisely who invented the modifications to the 1905 to make the 1911.
Rumor has it that Colt Engineers and U.S. Army Ordnance Engineers are responsible for most of the above improvements, while Browning made the prototype 1905, patented it and sold the patent outright to Colt. How much (if anything) he had to to with the modifications are the subject of this inquiry.
All rumors aside, this would fill the gap in knowledge and put the 1911 in perspective for all time. It makes one wonder why firearms historians, including Haven and Belden, failed to do this.
We DO know that Browning patented the cam lock ramped barrel used in the Hi Power in 1928, but no patent number is available for that, either.
Curiouser and curiouser.
I have the patent dates from the slide of a very early 1911 GM pistol:
Dec.19, 1905, Feb,14, 1911, Aug. 15, 1913.
Now if anybody out there can do a library search of these dates, we will have the name of the inventor(s) and claims relevent to the 1911.
If the researcher is also interested in the earlier .38 ACP models, these are the dates:
Apr.20, 1897 and Sept.9, 1902.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: John Lawson on 2001-07-20 12:19 ]</font>
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Old 08-06-2001, 06:15 PM   #2
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Handguns of the World, E.E.Ezell, Stackpole, 1981; has **some** patent numbers, but not all. He reproduces the drawing and filing information, but not the claims. Here is what I have from him.
Patent 984,519 Feb 14, 1911, filed Feb 17, 1910, granted to John M. Browning, shows the gun commonly called the Model 1909. Ezell says Browning showed SN 1 to an Army board on Aug 23, 1909 and firing tests were done with SNs 1,10,and 13, in Feb 1910.
The patent drawing illustrates the single link and bushing lockup, the 1911 magazine catch, the internal extractor, a 1911-ish grip safety and the stirrup trigger.

The Model 1910 looks like a 1911 but lacks a thumb safety. Ezell gives no patent information but says in Spring 1910 Colt was working on a new model based on a prototype built by Browing - with photo of prototype.
He says "...the Colt technical staff experimented with several different mechanical safety devices. By the summer of 1910 they had developed a safety that seemed to answer the complaints of the service boards." So JMB may not have designed the thumb safety. He did not design the grip safety of the Model 1907. Interestingly enough, that was done by George Tansley and Carl Ehbets... and C.J.Ehbets is shown on the Feb 14, 1911 patent as the attorney. Boothroyd says the Colt company man was Carl H. Ehbets. Not a common name and you have to wonder, though. Ezell does not say anything about the 1913 patent.

Otherwise, Patent 580,924 April 20,1897 to JMB is for the Model 1900 parallel ruler .38 ACP. Patent 708,794 to JMB (date not shown) covers the slide stop that appeared on the Model 1902 Military. He does not say anything about the Sept 1902 and Dec 1905 patents but they both appear in the Model 1905 slide markings. And the Sept 1902 marking is on the 1902 Military, Sporting, and Pocket models. The Sporting and Pocket models do not have slide stops, so either the Sept 1902 patent covers some other feature or they were economizing by using the Military roll stamp on all similar models.

The seminal BHP patent appears to be Patent 1,618,510 granted to JMB Feb 22, 1927 filed June 28, 1923. The drawing shows the cam track lockup, pivoting trigger, and apparently the double column magazine. It is striker fired and has little resemblance to the production model of 1935.

I hope that gets you started. Sorry, but I live about 125 miles from a library with patent collection. See if you can ind 'Colt Automatic Pistols, 1896-1955' by Bady. That is Ezell's main reference other than letters and Army reports. I will check at FLD, he had a large book on 1911s, though I don't recall the title or author.
Old 08-19-2001, 11:26 AM   #3
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Thank you, Jim. That helps to clear the situation.
It is not common knowledge that several people besides Browning contributed to the 1911 design. II hope that this illucidation will inspire others to pursue this issue through patent information.
Old 08-19-2001, 03:36 PM   #4
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I had a chance to leaf through a different book:
The Government Models: The Development of the Colt Model of 1911
by William H. Goddard
He shows the drawing pages from patents other than what Ezell has. I'll borrow it and quote the numbers if it will help.
Old 08-27-2001, 01:51 PM   #5
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I have Goddard's book, and from reading it, I get the impression that a lot of the development was instigated by Army Ordnance, and both Colt and Browning were working on the prototypes. There are pictures of test pistols that were modified by Colt, and similar but different ones, done by Browning. Very interesting to see how a gun was developed over a ten-year period, by people who really knew about guns and their use. It seems that a lot of modern guns are designed by people (or machines?) that don't know much about guns or shooting.
Old 03-05-2002, 03:59 PM   #6
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I obtained a copy of "John M. Browning, American Gunmaker" and read it through.
If you find a copy, note the prototype on page 293 and the claim of the writer (John Browning) that JMB invented the improved thumb safety and slide stop and obtained patents for them.
Old 08-09-2002, 01:59 PM   #7
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Patent Office Website

:roll: John, you might want to check the Patent Office Website at www.uspto.gov , if you haven't already done so. Every Patent from our once great nations beginning til now is supposedly in the search engine. I've used it a lot for some things I've Patented, and it's fairly user freindly. It should have all of the Master's Patents in there, and it might show related Patents, also. Good luck. Joe 8)

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