Back in the very late 1800s and early 1900s, the US Army had a problem. From 1899 to 1902, US Soldiers were fighting the Philippine-American War, and this involved facing Moro tribal insurgents who are alleged to have rendered themselves insensible to pain through a combination of body binding with leather, narcotics, and religious ritual.
When the Moro charged, they just kept on coming, and the soldiers’ .38 caliber service revolvers were not adequate to deterring the Moros. According to the Internet sources I have read, the Army tried reverting to the .45 caliber single-action Colt revolver. The heavier bullet was effective, but the single-action Colt simply wasn’t fast enough. A higher rate of fire was needed.
Enter John Moses Browning, prolific firearm inventor. In addition to a lever action rifle, a pump action shotgun, a machine gun, and an automatic rifle, Browning invented the M1911 semi-automatic magazine-fed pistol, which served as the standard-issue sidearm for the US Armed Forces from 1911 to 1985. This pistol has an illustrious history and is still widely used by military, law enforcement, firearms competitors, and private citizens throughout the world.
Recently, the good folks at www.airgunsofarizona.com sent me the Colt 1911 WWII Commemorative Edition air pistol. It is a limited edition model, with just 500 made. I was immediately struck by the appearance of the box for the WWII Commemorative. At first glance, it looks like an ancient corrugated cardboard box that has been lying neglected in some warehouse for decades – stained by the dirt, dust and grease of not being disturbed for years. In short, the box looks like it might have been made during World War II and somehow “fell through the cracks” until now. Closer inspection reveals that the box actually has the shiny finish of modern printing, but nevertheless, it is a very cool effect.
Open the box, and the appearance of the pistol is even more striking: as the antiques folks put it, it has been “distressed,” given an aged look that suggests the pistol you are holding is a veteran of World War II. Normally I am not much of a fan of “faux” this or faux that, but in this case I am more than willing to make an exception. Whoever at Umerex designed this commemorative pistol did a really nice job, and it absolutely looks the part. I think would be interesting to put one of these in front of a 1911 firearms enthusiast and see how long it takes them to figure out that this is a modern replica and an air pistol at that.
The WWII Commemorative stretches 8.5 inches from end to end and weighs two pounds, one ounce. The frame is metal and the grips are wood. Press the magazine release button and a magazine that holds a 12-gram CO2 cartridge and 20 BBs drops out of the pistol grip. The pistol features a full blow-back slide, a slide release latch, a manual safety on the left side, a functioning grip safety at the back of the pistol grip, non-adjustable front and rear sights, a lanyard loop, and a working hammer.
To ready the Commemorative for shooting, release the magazine and turn the cartridge piercing screw counter-clockwise with the allen wrench that is provided. Slide a CO2 cartridge into the magazine and slide the magazine back into the pistol grip. Now turn the cartridge piercing screw clockwise until the CO2 cartridge is pierced and stops hissing. Eject the magazine again and slide the BB follower down until it locks. Load up to 20 BBs into the magazine through the loading port, press the BB follower to unlock it and re-insert the magazine into the pistol grip.
Now, here’s the really cool part: as the last step before shooting, you have to “rack the slide” – pull the slide back so that it cocks the hammer. Take aim at your target, and a mere 2 lbs. 4.8 oz. of pressure on the trigger will send the shot downrange. As it does so, the Commemorative emits a “pop,” and the slide blows back, cocking the hammer for the next shot, just like the real deal. When the last shot is fired, the slide locks in the back position, just like the real deal.
The Commemorative launches BBs at around 300 fps. That’s not enough to punch a hole in a tin can at 10 feet, but it is enough to bounce the can around pretty well. I can imagine setting up a backyard practical shooting course and having a whale of a lot of fun with this interesting commemorative pistol.
Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.
– Jock Elliott