by Robert Gibson
Several have posted over last couple of months asking how to ID the M1911A1 Govt 45 Auto, as in “I’ve got one, who made the darn thing?” Good question since the frame usually just says “GOVERNMENT MODEL” or “UNITED STATES PROPERTY M 1911 A1 U.S.ARMY”…or some such.
I’m certainly no Govt 45 expert but I dug up some info, maybe it will help, but first a bit of history.
World War I production: Four (4) manufacturers made M1911 pistols that actually saw use during the war years:
* Springfield Armory (U.S. Government owned & operated)
* North American Arms Co. of Quebec (just a VERY FEW)
Seven (7) manufacturers were tooling up to produce M1911 pistols but the Armistice stopped it all and program was cancelled:
* National Cash Register Co.
* Savage Arms Co.
* Caron Bros. of Montreal
* Burroughs Adding Machine Co.
* Winchester Repeating Arms Co.
* Lanston Monotype Co.
* Savage Munitions Co.
World War II production: five (5) manufacturers made the M1911A1 pistol:
* Union Switch & Signal
* Singer Sewing Machine Co. (approx. 500)
The problem with ID’ing M1911A1’s is that parts are totally interchange- able, and during the lives of many examples their slides were many times switched or replaced. Since the slide is the only part actually marked with the manufacturer’s name, you can see the problem that arises.
The following taken from an article by Charles W. Karwan in the 3/1/95 issue of Classic Firearms will shed some light.
“All is not lost, however. The guns themselves can help you reveal which company made the pistol’s frame. First, if you encounter an M1911A1 – identified by the finger cutouts and/or the M1911A1 markings on the frame – and it has a slide made by Remington-UMC, Springfield or Savage, you know the slide is not original to the gun since the first two manufacturers only made M1911 pistols during WWI, and the latter only made M1911 slides.
The slide is also not original if it has a drawing number on the side, usually 7790314. These are replacement slides made long after WWII by Colt and SanColMar. The same is true if the slide is marked Drake – the company that built National Match slides for the government.
Looking at the pistol’s frame, here are some rules to help you identify its maker:
1. The presence of VP proofmark in a triangle at the left front of the triggerguard; a GHD inspector marking or an M1911A1 marking without any spaces between the figures indicates an M1911A1 manufactured by Colt.
2. A serial number preceded by an “S” indicates an M1911A1 manufactured by Singer _(not many of these around – an understatement)_
3. A serial number preceded by a “NO” instead of a “No” indicates manufacture by Remington-Rand.
4. An RCD inspector mark or double spacing between the M and 1911A1 indicates manufacture by Union Switch and Signal.
5. A geometric-shape proofmark, like a triangle, arrowhead or such, on the front left of triggerguard indicates an M1911A1 made by Ithaca.
6. An “X” prefix to the serial number indicates a gun that has been re-serial numbered by ordnance, and the maker is neither identifiable or relevant.
These rules will not allow you to identify every single frame you encounter, but the will suffice for 99 percent of them.”
BTW, when M1911A1 pistols were rebuilt a military facility they were rebuilt without any regard to the maker of the frame, slide or other parts…mix ‘n match, first in – last out, whatever was expedient to get the pistol in and out was the rule of thumb. Any such rebuilds will normally be stamped with a code indicating the facility that did the work. It might be any of the following (and there may have been others not shown):
AAA – Anniston Army Depot
AA – Augusta Arsenal
OG – Ogden Arsenal
MR – Mt. Rainier Ordnance Depot
RA – Raritan Arsenal
RR – Red River Arsenal
RIA – Rock Island Arsenal
SAA – San Antonio Arsenal
SA – Springfield Armory
BA – Benecia Arsenal
Anyway, hope some of this is of help to someone out there.
These are the commonly seen ordnance inspector marks found on M1911 and M1911A1 pistols.
See also Arsenal Rebuilds
Comments, suggestions, contributions? Let me know