Last week we looked at early European semi-auto pistol designs. Now let’s look at what happened on the American side of the pond. American semi-auto pistol design starts with one man, the genius John M. Browning. Once again, we find Browning’s brilliant mind is the source of a pistol design that dominates the market even today.
In 1896, Browning’s first design for a self-loading semi-auto pistol came into being. The guns were manufactured by FN in Belgium. Later Browning would engage in a partnership with Colt that would produce many semi-auto designs, including what many, including myself, believe is the greatest pistol design of all time, the Government Model of 1911.
The Browning M1900 chambered in 7.65 was his first successful design. He then went on to design his own 7.65 cartridge more commonly known as the .32. Browning guns were chambered in .25, .32, .38, .380 (also known as 9mm Kurtz) and the venerable .45 ACP. For those of you that are wondering, ACP stands for Automatic Colt Pistol.
Perhaps the greatest feature of Browning designed pistols is the “locked breech action” feature. This very strong and simple design is commonly used today in most pistols that are chambered in the heavier pistol calibers. There are a few other designs (e.g. gas operated) on the market, but most likely your Glock, S&W, Springfield, Ruger, or other center fire semi-auto pistol is of the Browning design. Today’s competition “Race Guns” are nearly all 1911 based pistols. In all of these cases, old is still new, and still the best option.
Some firearms historians believe that the best Browning semi-auto pistol design is the Hi-Power. But for my money, the Model 1911 is the greatest of all time. Chambered in a powerful cartridge, the .45 ACP, reliable, accurate, and safe to operate, the 1911 is all one can ask for. The U.S. military opted for a new design in the ‘80s, but today, American Special Operations forces are equipped with modern 1911s. Old is still the best.
Be safe and good shooting.