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Old 03-06-2012, 09:47 AM   #1
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Origins of the 1911 Grip Safety

This short video gives the background of the Semiauto Pistol Trials which began in 1905, including the ability to access footage of the rare Colt 1907 prototype (only 250 made). The end result of this process was the Colt 1911 that has served us soooo well for over 100 years......

Last edited by one eye joe; 03-06-2012 at 10:09 AM.
 
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Old 03-11-2012, 12:24 AM   #2
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About damn time somebody besides me told the truth about the thumb safety, and why it was added...for short-term reholstering on horseback and not so the pistol could be carried "Cocked and Locked and ready to rock the way JMB intended!"

Incidentally, the "Locked" part of cocked and locked refers to the slide...not the hammer or the sear. The sear is blocked, but not positively locked. If the sear were to spontaneously disintegrate into dust, the hammer will fall, and it'll wipe the safety off on its way down faster than you can do it with your thumb.

The US Cavalry requested a slide-locking manual safety so the slide wouldn't be pushed out of battery when the pistol was hurriedly jammed into the holster...possibly not returning when it was withdrawn again...battlefield conditions not being exactly conducive to clean, well-oiled weapons at times.

And, yep. The grip safety first made an appearance on the 1905 Colt as a tacked-on modification...and later incorporated into the 1907.

Last edited by JohnnyT; 03-11-2012 at 12:28 AM.
 
Old 03-12-2012, 04:35 PM   #3
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Just what is this heresy I hear? The 1911 WAS NOT designed to be carried cocked and locked?

The scribblers and iditors from every gun mag will want this site shut down immediately!!! Tacticool trainers and BDUd zombie killers will hunt each of us down and make us recant all of JohnnyTs posts. Wildbill will have to shut down his shop and become a walmart greeter.

Yup, truth is now in the eye of the beholder.
 
Old 03-12-2012, 05:30 PM   #4
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Wild Bill as a Walmart greeter----tooooo funny, cohee ! ! !
 
Old 03-13-2012, 03:10 AM   #5
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Quote:
Just what is this heresy I hear? The 1911 WAS NOT designed to be carried cocked and locked?

The scribblers and iditors from every gun mag will want this site shut down immediately!!!
If you really wanna hear'em howl, they tellin'em that the half-cock is a safety...by design and intent...and it is.

I've become something of a pariah on other boards by pointing that out...despite the fact that it says so right there in the original, pre-thumb safety 1910 patents, along with instructions on lowering the hammer with one hand to the half-cocked, or "safety" position.
 
Old 03-13-2012, 05:05 AM   #6
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1911 safety

What I have never understood is why the design did not have a conventional safety on it right from the inception of the 1900 model. The early 1900 models had the rear sight that operated as a clumsy safety but it was soon dropped and many of the earlier ones were returned to the factory and the safety removed.

From my reading I am left with the impression (not to be confused with stated fact) that the cavalry early identified the limitation of the design and were pressing for a solution and the Ordnance board that did not have a cavalry representitive, didn't really get it. First attempt to pacify them was the slide lock which appears on the 1902 military so that if they needed to drop their pistol to control their horse. they could shoot it to empty and let it hang by the lanyard. Not sure where I read this but it does sound somewhat bizarre. Then came the grip safety in 1907 and finally the thumb safety in 1910.

What is really strange is that Browning Pistol designs for FN starting with the 1900 all had a thumb safety as we know it. Also the Colt Hammerless models from 1903. Its interesting to speculate whether, if Browning had put a thumb safety on his design from day 1 whether it would ever have had a grip safety or a slide lock.

Peter

Last edited by Peter Dawson; 03-13-2012 at 05:08 AM.
 
Old 03-13-2012, 06:22 AM   #7
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Peter...all of Browning's "hammerless" pistols had manual safeties. The ones with exposed hammers didn't...because he designed a half-cock safety in which hammer and sear were interlocked.

In that design, hammer, sear, and trigger are effectively disabled, and you could pull the trigger 'til hell froze over and the gun wouldn't fire. This is true of all his "hammer" guns, two of the most notable being the Model 97 shotgun and the Model 92/94 Winchester carbine.

Also, any pistol or rifle designed under contract had whichever features that the guys with the money wanted...regardless of what the designer deemed fitting and proper. The High Power didn't have a grip safety. If the people paying the freight on a half-million pistols had wanted one, it would be wearing one today. If they'd specified a rear sight that looked like bunny rabbit ears...that's exactly what they'd have gotten.

During the initial trials with the 1910 version...of which only eight were submitted...the US Cavalry requested a "manual slide-locking" safety. Six of the eight were retrofitted and resubmitted. It was accepted, and the rest is history.

Pictured below is one of the two remaining 1910s, sans the thumb safety. One resides in Colt's museum, and the other in Charles Clawson's private collection.

1910 Colt courtesy of Charles W. Clawson.


 
Old 03-15-2012, 09:21 PM   #8
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Early 1911 design

I am aware that the half cock notch functions as a safety. In fact in a country where all imported firearms have to have a safety catch - resulting in some bizare modifications to single shot air rifles, even our Customs Inspectors recognise the half cock notch on lever actions etc. as a safety.

The point however is that it clearly did not suit the Cavalry. I would guess that on horse back, probably with gloves on it was just too awkward to lower the hammer. It is understandable why they held out for a double action revolver for so long.

(From Colt Automatic Pistols by Brady) Early in 1904 the Cavalry prepared specifications which included as a minimum "bolt stop after last round had been fired" and "grip or squeezer safety desirable" Its not clear from my reading whether the Ordnance Board adopted these requirments at this stage.

It seems to be the case that the suggestions were eventually provided for by Colt but ulimately did not prove sufficient. So the thumb safety was added in 1910. I suspect that, had Colt examined the way the guns were used by the cavalry, bearing in mind that the thumb safety was already in use by Mauser, DWM and Browning their solution would more likely have been the thumb safety and the slide stop and/or grip safety may not have been included in the design.

The irony of course is that by the time that the Cavalry were presented with the perfect Horse Pistol, they were starting to lose their horses.

Peter
 
Old 03-16-2012, 03:46 AM   #9
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Quote:
even our Customs Inspectors recognise the half cock notch on lever actions etc. as a safety.
You and I know it, but just try to argue the point with some of these new age high-speed/low-drag mall ninjas. They'll pile on ya like a pack of starvin' wolves.

Quote:
I suspect that, had Colt examined the way the guns were used by the cavalry, bearing in mind that the thumb safety was already in use by Mauser, DWM and Browning their solution would more likely have been the thumb safety and the slide stop and/or grip safety may not have been included in the design.
I tend to think that it would have been included. It was already part of the design in 1907 and 1909. If for no other reason, it would have required a major tooling change, and that means money and time. It was much simpler and cheaper to make a minor change and adapt to the different frame dimensions.

Another point is that the grip safety blocks the trigger, making it much less likely that a pistol dropped from horseback and striking the ground muzzle up would let the trigger bump the disconnect and fire the pistol. When analyzing the various features, we have to bear in mind that it was designed primarily for mounted cavalry.

The presence of the grip safety also made the pistol much easier to detail strip in the field. No small consideration, seeing as how that factor was the final straw in the army's adoption of the 1911 over its only competitor.

When the trials were nearly at an end, there were holdouts that still wanted the Savage...despite the problems that it showed. The time came for the field maintenance demonstration. The Savage rep unrolled his tool kit and began. After giving him a little head start, John Browning stepped up to the table with nothing but the pistol in his hand...and completely disassembled and reassembled it before the other guy could get his apart. Even the die-hards couldn't argue with that.

Quote:
The irony of course is that by the time that the Cavalry were presented with the perfect Horse Pistol, they were starting to lose their horses
The US Army still had horse-mounted cavalry at the beginning of WW2, though they never used it in any major campaign. When my uncle entered the army, he was assigned to the cavalry due to his size. He was the runt of the litter at 5'2" among four brothers who all went to 6 feet or more. He was trained and reassigned to artillery, and went on to be a forward observer in Burma and later in the Philippines...and he always had a pistol on his belt. He had occasion to use it once when a Japanese scout stumbled on him. He said...and I quote: "That .45 really put him down."

Last edited by JohnnyT; 03-16-2012 at 04:04 AM.
 
Old 09-20-2013, 07:27 AM   #10
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Let's just face facts; in 1911 just as now, the Government made them do it....
 
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