In January 2017, the Army selected a new pistol that will replace the Beretta M9, a handgun that has been the selected choice for the Armed Forces for three decades. But just like every form of weapon in the arsenal of the United States Military new and improved weapons have become a custom. Regardless the Army’s pistol has traveled through 240-years of evolution, emerging from flintlocks that are slow to load but were responsible for creating a country, and developing into semiautomatic pistols that solve conflicts across the globe.
The Flintlocks That Made America
The first firearm of America was a duplicate of a British gun. Based on the British Model 1760, the Model 1775 was a .62 caliber, muzzle-loading handgun. While Flintlocks produced by a key manufacturing base and arsenal that serve the continental forces and produced 80,000 muskets during the American Revolution.
The Rappahannock Forge in Virginia was the weapon of choice to be used during the war of 1812; this gun was renamed to be called the Model 1805.
When the revolution ended, Simeon North, a Connecticut gunmaker, was awarded a manufacturing contract to develop a new pistol. The new handgun was based on those used by the French during this period. While North designed this handgun to be smaller than the 1775 model, it accompanied a side-mounted ramrod and was capable of firing a .72 caliber ball that was larger than his predecessor was.
North was awarded another contract in 1813, in which he created an additional 20,000 pistols for the American military to use. These handguns were required to have a full stock, fire off a .69 caliber ball and utilize interchangeable parts, which was the most important feature and most innovative concept of this time.
Having these pistols, saved the lives of many that would otherwise have been condemned to death in sticky situations. While fighting Tecumseh’s Shawnee soldiers during the war of 1812, Colonel Richard Johnson suffered a wound to the arm.
This event has been the subject of debate and controversy, one story proclaims that Johnson had only a moment to prepare his lock, hold still and shoot the native leader “of undoubted bravery,” Tecumseh. This occurs allow Johnson to capitalize upon it, initiating his full career eventually led to him becoming the ninth vice president of the United States.
Years went by, as North created more and more pistols, manufacturing the Model 1820s for the Navy and the last American flintlock was also made in 1836. Almost a century had passed where flintlocks have been the most preferred ignition system for handguns, but because their performance was rated depending on variable elements, the handgun became mostly unreliable.
By the 1840s, most superior European powers, such as France and Britain, had begun this repositioning away from the seemingly obsolete flintlock pistol and embracing the new percussion lock pistols. These new handguns utilize Mercury percussion caps as opposed to what in order to ignite the gunpowder. The United States maintained the utilization of the lock handgun throughout the 1830s and 1840s until they began to transition slowly into the use of new percussion Programs.
The Birth of the Revolver
Having had been adopted formally in 1848, percussion locks pushed firearm technology forward. The most significant improvement in this handgun was based on basic math, as soldiers equipped with the handgun were now empowered with six shots before reloading as opposed to having only one shot with earlier models. The firepower of new handguns made them a very desirable firearm, in which has emerged as one of the most iconic weapons associated with America’s bloodiest war.
The arrival of the Civil War ushered in a plethora of percussion revolvers that were utilized by the union and soldiers of the Confederate. The first revolver of America was the Colt Dragoon, which was originally created for the Army’s Regiment of Mounted Rifles, and became known as the first in a series of generations of Colt pistols utilize by America throughout the 19th century.
After a fire had erupted at Colt’s Connecticut factory in 1864, the Army ordered a significant number of Remington Model 1858 pistols in order to fill in their storage. These handguns featured solid frames and was a considerable improvement over the Colt revolvers, and over the years, the same continue to improve the Model 1858, utilizing suggestions handed down from the United States Army Ordnance Department.
By the time that this war was ending, self-contained metallic cartridges were increasingly becoming popular. But during the late 1860s and early 1870s, another revolution of small handguns utilizing percussion pistols for succumbing to cartridge revolvers such as the well-renowned Colt Single Action Army and Smith & Weston Model 3.
The Gun of the West
the American military acquired its first metallic cartridge golfers in 1870 from Smith & Wesson. The model three featured a top break revolver which allowed the barrel and cylinder to be swung downwards in order to allow the soldier to reload the weapon quickly. This eliminated the need for loose powder and percussion caps while improving the rate of fire, allowing an expert shooter to release all six wells in less than five seconds.
Just one year after Smith & Wesson’s patent had expired; Colt produces their first cartridge revolver. William Mason, who had previously designed pistols that resembled Colt’s, and newly designed our or loading gate for a handgun that includes his own patented extractor rod offset that was to be positioned on the side of the barrel, assisted Colt with the initial release.
The Colt 1871 “Open Top” had been chambered in the frequently used .44 Henry rimfire cartridge. The Army charged that the .44 rimfire around was not strong enough for their standards in the open top design is not as impressive as were the pistols pad tent by Remington and Smith & Wesson. They required Colt to develop a handgun that contained a more powerful cartridge and a sturdy, solid frame.
Colt did not spend a second hesitating to oblige this request, producing three pistols for the Army to sample, test and examine. What the Army had received was a prototype for what is now referred to as the legendary Colt Single Action Army, which is still being manufactured today. After performing the task successfully, the Army adopted and incorporated Colt’s revolver as the Model 1873. The new Colt Single Action Army had a 7.5-inch barrel and weighed 2.5lbs. The Army place in order initially for 8,000 handguns, replacing the percussion will forward that have become obsolete.
The .38 is supposed to be sturdy and reliable when used in the field, featuring a faster rate of fire while being easier to reload. The power of the .38 caliber cartridge was lacking in comparison the power that was contained with the .45 caliber Colt, citing the incident in which a prisoner was shot four times during his attempt to escape but survived and recovered from the gunshot wounds.
Although Colt attempted to improve the power of the .38 caliber handgun, the Army had already initiated their search for a replacement pistol. In 1904, the board of ordnance conducted a round of tests aimed at discovering the type of ammunition needed for the up-and-coming replacement service pistol.
The Colt Pistol and a World at War
It was Colonel John T. Thompson and Major Louis Anatole LaGarde of the Army Medical Corps who were charged with the responsibility of investigating various calibers in order to determine their effectiveness. Using live cattle and donated human cadavers to conduct their scientific findings in order to determine which bullet would penetrate a man enough to eliminate him as a threat. But because many of the bullets used in the experiments would cause a slow, long and painful death for the animals that were used as targets, the pseudo-scientific investigation proved to be cruel to animals.
Nonetheless, the conclusion detailed in the final report stated: “After mature deliberation, the Board finds that a bullet which will have the shock effect and stopping power at short ranges necessary for a military pistol or revolver should have a caliber not less than .45.”
Following these investigations were Army trials conducted between 1906 in 1911, testing nine designs but quickly identifying the three main superior contenders: The Savage 1907, designed by Elbert Searle, faced Colt’s John Browning-designed entry and the iconic Luger designed by George Luger. While the Savage 1907 proved to be exponentially more expensive, the rounds of tests proved all three of the pistols to be poorly designed, lacking in terms of safety, performed, heavy and difficult to maneuver.
All the while Colt managed to improve its 1905 military model, taking it through a series of improvements and changes that eventually allowed it to be deemed superior. This pistol was rapidly adopted by the Army, naming it the ‘Pistol, Semi-automatic, .45 caliber, Model 1911’.
A More Modern Weapon
Colt’s specially designed handgun maintained its appeal as the choice for Army soldiers until the 1980s, in which the United States launched the Joint Service Small Arms Program, which elected to take on the task of selecting a new handgun that was suitable for use by all members of the Armed Forces. After a rigorous competition between Colt, Walther, Smith & Wesson, Steyr, FN, and SIG, the Italian Beretta 92 one the competition.
Even though a new firearm was selected for the American military, the 1911 handgun remains in operation, used by specialized units of the U.S. Marine Force Recon Units and Special Operation Command, marking a full century of service and usage of the handgun.
Additionally, the m9 has been heavily used in recent years, service during the Gulf War, the Iraq war and the war in Afghanistan. In the early 2000s, a series of trials led eventually to the Modular Handgun System program, with the Army requesting a lightweight, more adaptable handgun, which could be fitted to customize individual soldiers. The new pistol, designated the M17, one of the most innovative introductions to the military, equipped soldiers performs different roles with the flexibility to adjust the response as needed. Even though most wars in American history were not one solely due to the use of handguns, they do prove to be very useful in saving a soldier’s life from imminent death.