Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Happy Birthday(s)

It was a bit over a hundred years ago when the Moro tribesmen revolted against the American troops occupying the Philippine Islands, taken from Spain after the Spanish American War of 1898. The fighting was nasty. The Moros would bind themselves up with wire so tight it deadened the pain nerves and charged from the jungle swinging those sharp Bolo swords so suddenly that the long bolt action rifles the troops carried were hampered. Worse, the Army had switched from the famous old Single Action Army revolver to a newer, double action revolver, unfortunately they went to a different cartridge, the miserable .38 Long Colt, a ctg. that is rotting away in well deserved obsolescence.

The geniuses that run the military have always gone from low ranking to high ranking over years and decades of service. By the time they make General they have long forgotten what it's like to lead a platoon through a close quarters fight. They start to think strategically and get odd ideads like how it takes four men out of the fight to care for a wounded man and how it takes more of an enemy's resources to care for a wounded man than it does to bury a dead man. That is fine, of course, when you are fighting a European draftee who doesn't care much who wins, he's still gonna be a conscript. Not so the Moros (who our sneaky Pete types in the Army's Special Forces and the Navy's SEAL Teams were still trying to stamp out, last I heard), who didn't stop trying to kill the infidels until they were down for the count.

The Army was in a quandry. The old Colt thumb busters were mostly gone, either flat wore out or sold for surplus, they bought a load of double action revolvers in .45 Colt with that newfangled smokeless powder giving the same ballistics as the old Cavalry load of a 230 grain bullet over 28-30 grains of Black. This was the load that defeated the Sioux and the Apache and it defeated the Moros, too. Still, the Generals weren't happy.

A brilliant American from Utah went to work, John Browning. By 1905 he had designed a semiautomatic handgun in .45 caliber and sent it up for testing. The emergency mostly over due to the Moros running low on young men willing to die fighting, the military took it's time and demanded some changes. They wanted another safety, a grip safety so the pistol could only be fired while being help properly and they wanted a bit more bullet weight, Browning had used 200 grains instead of 230, the Army wanted that 30 grains back. The cartridge was, of course, a lot shorter because smokeless powder is so much denser for the same power. The cartridge was also rimless for use in the pistol's stack magazine. As a matter of fact the base of John Browning's pistol is the same size as the military rifle of the day, the .30-06. A minor detail to the civilian, that one little detail saved thousands of dollars in tooling (in 1911 dollars) for the manufacture of cartridges in the arsenals, even more in the big build up for The War To End All Wars.

So the Model 1911 is 100 years old today. The old girl did her work in WW1. the Banana Wars, WW2, Korea and Viet Nam before the geniuses that ran the military retired her in the mid 1980s. Funny, though, the troops that actually use handguns to stay alive, the Special Ops people, all shoot handguns firing John Browning's .45ACP. Funny, just about everyone who can still carries the .45.

Today everybody and their mother in law makes a 1911. Even the Chinese make them, heck, even Smith and Wesson. I have always been a revolver man, I learned to shoot on a revolver and the big square grip in the 1911 tends to twist in my hand when shooting fast, one handed. I know it's been fashionable to shoot two handed for decades but sometimes that off hand might be busy. Still, if I were going to war again, I'd choose a 1911. In war if you need a handgun it's up close. In war if you need a handgun the chances are it will be muddy or dusty or sandy. Heck, in the Nam I saw trucks splashing mud and raising dust at the same time.

Anyhow, happy birthday, old girl. I suspect that gunnies will still carry you up untll they invent the ray gun.

In a slightly less momentous birthday I turned 64 yesterday. My birthday present was another ache.

10 comments:

Teresa said...

Well I did say a Happy Birthday on FB, but here's another for you. Hope you had a great day! ;-)

pamibe said...

Happy Birthday, Peter! You and my hubby are the same age... for another few months. ;)

Hope you had a good day!

MissTammy said...

Happy Birthday, Sir!

TomR said...

I have several 1911s. One of them would be my first choice if needed. I have a big paw, so the 1911 fits well.

Happy Birthday young'n. I am 65. Also, welcome home from the Nam brother. My tour ran from sep66 to Mar68.

Mrs. Who said...

Happy belated birthday, sir!

Harvey said...

Best birthday combination ever :-)

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