During most of the 20th century, American combat handgunnery was carried out by men armed with a Colt 1911 chambered in .45 ACP. And what a marvelous choice in fighting weaponry it was. The pages of gun magazines have been swollen over the years with tales of how the U.S. government came to make the decision to contract Colt to make the 1911.
Most enthusiasts are aware that Colt outfitted the U.S. Cavalry with the Single Action Army in the early 1870′s and that it functioned almost flawlessly. The .45 Colt cartridge, spitting its heavy 250-grain slug, caused the demise of many enemy combatants. But in 1891 the Army decided that the SAA was no longer a viable fighting handgun and opted for the double-action .38 Long Colt revolver, which turned out to be a comparatively feeble choice.
During the close-range jungle warfare encountered by the Army in the Philippines, our boys made the unfortunate discovery that the .38 Long Colt cartridge was, to put it kindly, inadequate. Stories circulated about dope-charged Moro fighters resisting multiple .38-caliber wounds, then carving on our troops with lethal cutlery. As a result, the Army had the good sense to go back to the Single Action Army and its .45 Colt round, which was considerably more effective.
When Mr. Roosevelt took the White House, many things changed. He appointed General William Crozier as Chief of Ordnance of the Army. Gen. Crozier recognized the issues regarding the Army’s handgun choice and authorized the search for a new service pistol.
This involved the testing of a wide selection of available arms and cartridges of the time. Two men were in charge of the examination, Army Infantry Colonel John T. Thompson and Medical Corps Colonel Louis A. LaGarde. Some of their tests took place at the livestock yards in Chicago, Illinois, in 1904. They fired upon live cattle and human cadavers hung from the neck, tallying makeshift measurements of the results. In the end it was concluded that the reviewers were “of the opinion that a bullet, which will have the shock effect and stopping effect at short ranges necessary for a military pistol or revolver, should have a caliber not less than .45.”
Submissions of test guns were made by a number of companies vying for the contract, including Savage, Webley, Colt and even the German company DWM, of Luger fame. In the end, John Browning’s 1911 design chambered in .45 ACP was found to be the winner by a large margin.
Almost instantly the Colt 1911 played a starring role in America’s fight for freedom in many military conflicts and was also a great favorite of lawmen. The .45 ACP performed well, with no complaints from those who depended on it.
In the 1980s the government again came to a decision regarding its choice in fighting pistols, and the 1911 was discarded for the Beretta Model 92 chambered in 9mm.
Today we have several years of new-world combat experience in the Middle East behind us. The military has come to yet another conclusion The 9mm cartridge can be bettered when it comes to man-stopping performance. And so the United States government is now eyeballing the .45 ACP.
One of the most important aspects of any pistol, is the way it feels in your hands, and the M&P feels good. Smith & Wesson had a great idea in incorporating interchangeable palm-swell grips on the M&P – small, medium and large. By twisting and removing a pin from the butt of the pistol, the grip can be removed and replaced with one of a different size, thus accommodating the hands of virtually any shooter. The double-stack, 10-round magazine doesn’t cause the grip to be bulky; rather, it’s quite comfortable.