Book Review: The Colt 1911 – An Engineer’s Perspective

This really isn’t a book, but rather an article published for the Kindle. Malcolm Werner is a long-time skilled IPSC competitor and professional engineer, and decided to look at why the Colt 1911 was designed the way it was, and how that has allowed it to remain so popular for more than a century. The article is 97 pages long (with pretty large text), and half of that length is the text of the Thompson/LaGarde ammunition testing included as an appendix.

Werner’s article basically looks at the original Army requirements for its first self-loading pistol and compares the 1911, Glock, and Beretta 92 through the lens of those criteria. He then addresses some of the shortcomings and perceived shortcomings of the 1911 design, and explains them in terms of the materials and manufacturing technology of the period when the pistol was designed. For example, the lowered ejection port that acts to improve ejection reliability on modern 1911s removes material from the slide, and would have probably led to cracked slides if implemented with 1911-era gun steels.

I found the Army requirement analysis fairly self-evident, but the modern engineering look at the original 1911 features was interesting. The whole piece is pretty brief, and will definitely leave engineering-oriented folks feeling like it’s just an introduction to the subject – but to the moderately interested 1911 enthusiast I think it will provide some pretty neat perspective on a pretty cool gun. The full text of the Thompson/LaGarde testing in the final appendix makes for macabre but interesting reading, as it compared the effect of .38, 7.65mm, 9mm, .45, .455, and .476 caliber cartridges on large mammals (cattle, mostly). Of course, this text is also available elsewhere (at the Unblinking Eye, for example), so that may not be a reason to pay for Werner’s Kindle article.

The price is $1.95, and I don’t feel cheated for having spent it, although I think the subject would be much better addressed in a longer and more thorough volume, for a greater price. If you got an Amazon gift card for Christmas yesterday, this is a fine way to use up the last few bucks…