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By Stefano Mattioli

Spring of 1904, nearly 100 years ago, the Frankford Arsenal as well as the civilian Industry were asked by the U.S. Government to develop an .45 caliber pistol round to improve the existing pistol rounds and to compete with the ready available .45 caliber revolver rounds of good fame.

The Arsenal however put it on “wait and see”. Not so for the folks at Winchester Repeating Arms Co., that in conjunction with COLT Mfg. Co. came up, just after a few months, with a new .45 caliber round housed in a modified .38 Colt pistol model 1900, the .45 Automatic Colt.

Cartridge length was .900″ (22,86mm), case was brass and of .470″ (11,938mm) diameter, bullet a 200 grains cylindro-spheric gilding jacketed, extraction area had .085″ (2,159mm) in length and markings were “W.R.A.Co. .45 AC” on the base and a “W” on the primer.

Now, after the official introduction in 1905 by Winchester Repeating Arms Co. & Colt Mfg. Co. of the .45 AC together with the Colt model 1905, the folks at Frankford Arsenal began to activate matters, starting and trying to better up the existing round. They ended up with a slightly modified .45 cartridge with a longer case and heavier copper-nickel jacket bullet of 230 grains, named “Cal. .45 Automatic Pistol Ball Cartridge Model of 1906” (FA M1906) to be on time for the upcoming tests planned by the Government for June 1906. The Government however couldn’t set on both of them and in the spring of 1907 contracted the Union Metal Cartridge Co. to design another .45 cartridge based on the existing one but with a shorter case. After 5 more months, the cartridge named “.45 Automatic Colt Government” (UMC M1907) was ready. Again, other modifications, a larger extraction area, were needed and the Government reordered the Union Metallic Cartridge Co. and Winchester Repeating Arms Co. to redesign it as needed. At the end of 1908, two close to identical cartridges emerged from this request (UMC M1908 & WRA M1908). At the same time, in 1908, the folks at Frankford Arsenal worked on another .45 cartridge (FA M1908), hoping to get the contract for delivering test ammunition to the troops. This contract, however, was issued to UMC, that started delivery of the test ammunition in the year 1909. This round was basically the same as the UMC M1908, but had a cannelure on the bullet just over the case mouth. Markings were ” U.M.C. .45 A.C.P.” (UMC M1909). After the tests, this round was finally and officially adopted, after some slight modifications (drop of the cannelure), by the Government as the ” Cal. .45 Automatic Pistol Ball Cartridge, Model of 1911“. This was August of 1911. The ammunition makers could start their production. The first cartridges, Model of 1911, known to be issued came from the Frankford Arsenal (FA M1911) and had the markings “F A 8 11“( the 8 stands for the production month).

The beginning years of the .45

WRA M1904 FA M1906 UMC M1907 UMC M1908
Total
Lenght
1.259 1.297 1.255 1.256
Case
Lenght
.900 .918 .898 .898
Bullet
weight
200 gr 230 gr 230 gr 230
gr
Bullet
material
gilding co.-ni. co.-ni. co.-ni.
Extraction .085 .085 .085 .126
1st
Markings
W.R.A.Co. .45 A.C. F A 4
06
U.M.C. .45
A.C.P.
U.M.C. .45
A.C.P.
Picture

WRA 1904x

WRA 1904x

FA M1906

FA M1906

UMC M1907

UMC M1907

UMC M1908

UMC M1908

WRA M1908 FA M1908 UMC M1909 FA M1911
Total
Lenght
1.260 1.300 1.263 1.273
Case
Lenght
.898 .923 .896 .896
Bullet
weight
230 gr 230 gr 230 gr 230
gr
Bullet
material
co.-ni. co.-ni. co.-ni. co.-ni.
Extraction .126 .085 .126 .126
1st
Markings
W.R.A.Co. .45
A.C.
F A 11
08
U.M.C. .45
A.C.P.
F A 8
11
Picture

WRA M1908

WRA M1908

FA M1908

FA M1908

UMC M1909

UMC M1909

FA M1911

FA M1911

The specifications of today’s .45 auto cartridge cases are similar to the one finally adopted in 1911. After this adoption in 1911, the .45 automatic cartridge was a playground for all possible tests, changes, types (blank, dummies, high pressure, tracer, high velocity, perforating, sport, etc..) for military, police and civilian use. Today, a multitude of .45 auto cartridges exists and the .45 auto is still in use in many country’s military and police forces. In recent years, the .45 auto cartridge as well as the combining guns has also had a revival in sporting and civilian use. Most of the practical shooting sports are dominated by the .45 auto guns. For personal and protection use, it is as good and sometimes better than any other known cartridge.

See also:

The .45 ACP Cartridge

Background Information on the United States Pistol Caliber .45 M1911 – Development history of the M1911 .45 Caliber Automatic Pistol including the Thompson-LaGarde cadaver tests of 1904

 


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