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Historic Precursors To The 1911

I’m a sucker for the Rock Island Auction. I love browsing the catalog to see what desirable pieces have come up for auction. This time I was surprised to see several of John Moses Browning’s precursors to the 1911 as well as some more modern pistols that are reasonably rare.

Colt Model 1900

The first one that I came across was a rare US Navy contract Colt 1900 with the old site safety. This pistol is in beautiful shape considering its age and the possibility that it may have been issued at some time.

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Only 4,274 Model 1900s were produced between 1900 and 1902 making them incredibly scarce today. The pistol was chambered in .38 ACP and only saw combat in the Philippines during a field trial conducted during the Philippine-American war.

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The design is rather interesting but was ultimately not adopted by any military force in appreciable numbers.

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Colt Model 1902

The next Colt gem in the line of historic precursors to the 1911 is a US Army contract Colt 1902 chambered in .38 ACP. While this pistol is not in quite as good of shape as the Model 1900 above and is not quite as scarce, it is still cooler than the other side of the pillow.

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Small changes were made to the Colt Model 1900 that resulted in a designation change to the 1902 but the changes weren’t significant enough for Colt to start a new serial number range. Some of the changes to the Model 1900 design included a simplification of the Model 1900’s internals, a reduction in the number of parts, and the addition of a slide stop. Colt produced 18,068 of the military model between 1902 and 1928 and another 6,927 of the sporting models between 1902 and 1908.

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While the Model 1902 was never adopted by any military several small lots were sold to armies around the world, the largest purchase being 800 pistols to Mexico. This pistol is part of the small 200 pistol lot that the US Army purchased in 1902 for service evaluation and may have seen service in a field trial like the Model 1900.

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Colt Model 1905 Military

Next in the line is a Colt Model 1905 Military chambered in the new .45 Colt Automatic Pistol cartridge. Feedback during the trials of the Model 1902 prompted Colt to rethink the .38 caliber bullet that the previous two guns were chambered in resulting in the creation of the .45 ACP. Several other changes were made to the pistol to accommodate the new cartridge like a larger grip and an external extractor.

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This particular pistol has a serial number of 266 putting the production year in 1906. Only 6,111 of these handguns were produced between 1905 and 1917 with most of them being produced between 1906 and 1911. It is interesting to note that the pistol didn’t include a safety at this point and was intended to be carried Israeli style.

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During the production run of the Colt Model 1905 Military, the Department Of Defense purchased 200 units for evaluation. There is no indication that the pistols made it to a field trial, but feedback from the US government prompted the development of a grip safety similar to the one found on the Fabrique Nationale Model 1905 6.35mm pocket pistols.

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Colt Model 1907

Rock Island also has one of the 200 Colt 1907 pistols that the US Army ordered for field trials in 1908 but Colt requested the pistols be withdrawn due to several issues found during test firing. The Model 1907 was also the last Colt pistol design to use the dual barrel link design that had been present since the model 1900.

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The deficiencies found during the trials test firing resulted in changes that gave birth to the Model 1909. Not only was the Colt 1907 the first US Army contract pistol that was chambered in .45 ACP, but the pistols also paved the way for improvements to the design that ended up culminating with the Model 1911 that has become a staple of the shooting community. 
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Colt Model 1909

Development of the platform continued with the Model 1909 trials pistol designed with feedback from the Department Of Defense’s evaluation of the Model 1902 Military and the issues that came to light with the Model 1907 field trials. Colt moved to the more familiar single link design and slide stop on this small series of 25 pistols and submitted them to Rock Island Arsenal in March 1910 for testing.

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The Model 1909 was also notable in that it had the magazine release placed near the trigger guard instead of the heel of the pistol like the previous iterations of the Colt autoloader. Colt also redesigned the grip safety, a redesigned ejector and extractor, a new firing pin retainer, and the slide lock release was made a part of the link pin.

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Prototype Singer 1911

While I kind of skipped over the Model 1910 and Model 1911 to get straight to the prototype Singer 1911A1, but I think it is forgivable given how freaking cool this thing is. If you are familiar with the 1911, you should be well aware that the Singer 1911s are among the most desirable with only 500 pistols being ordered during World War II.

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Prototype #3 sports the Singer high polish Du-Lite blue finish and has the original brown plastic Keyes Fiber grips still fitted to the gun. This is undoubtedly one of the nicest government spec 1911A1s that I have ever seen.

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The estimate on this particular pistol ranges between $55,000 and $85,000 given how desirable it is, I am sure that the pistol will sell for far more once the hammer falls.

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If you don’t browse the Rock Island catalog, you should. Visit them on the Rock Island Auction website or go directly to the auction catalog and drink in the rare, collectible pieces that one might wish they could call their own. I know that I will spend the next several days shuffling through the catalog, marveling over guns that I will sadly never own and likely never see.

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