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Colt US Model 1917 .45

Colt US Model 1917 .45

An Ingenious Solution To A Handgun Shortage

When countries can’t supply the number of weapons needed by their armed forces for the wars in which they engage, most must resort to buying them from other countries. America has never had that problem. Besides having a robust firearms industry, it has also been an ingenuous one. A prime example of that would be in the manner by which the shortage of 1911 .45 Auto handguns for the US Army in World War I was satisfied.

Back then, the premier American handgun manufacturers were Smith & Wesson and Colt. Both were set up to make large-bore revolvers, including .45 caliber ones. However, that .45 caliber was the .45 Colt, which used a rimmed cartridge case, as had all revolver chamberings up to that time. The US military’s standard .45 Auto handgun cartridge was designed around a rimless case, so there was no flange on it to provide a surface for extractors to push against when ejecting fired cases.

Therefore some bright thinker at S&W, whose name has been long lost to history, came up with the idea of “half-moon” clips. These were simply stamped out pieces of steel, each holding three rounds of .45 ACP. The clips’ arms slipped into the extractor groove of the rimless cases, holding them solidly. So solidly, in fact, that the empty cases are a pain to remove if you want to reload them—a factor of no consequence whatsoever to the military. (These 3-round clips also were the first revolver speed loaders.)

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