Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles The best designs are timeless. The wheel, lightbulb, sliced bread: this weapon ranks among them. The M1911 is an American semi-automatic pistol whose use spans over a century. So what set this weapon apart from early semi-automatic designs? How has it influenced later pistols? And how on earth has a wartime design remained so popular? Around the turn of the 20th century, the earliest self-loading pistol designs appeared. Inspired by Maxim's machine gun, weapons like the Borchardt C-93 and Mauser C96 attempted to scale down a repeating mechanism into a handheld package. The first American to do the same was John Moses Browning, a legendary arms designer credited with many firsts. Amongst them was the first production handgun with a slide: the FN M1900. His semi-automatic pistol designs saw iterative improvements over the next decade, culminating in one manufacturered by Colt and subject to trial by the US Army. Six designs were submitted, but only two were in major contention: a Savage Arms design providing a rival to Browning's. Over an endurance test of 6,000 rounds, the Savage had 37 malfunctions: the Colt had none. Its superlative performance led to its official adoption in 1911 - as the M1911. One of the weapon's defining traits is its calibre: .45 Automatic Colt Pistol. The rimless straight-walled cartridge is designed for two things: reliable self-loading operation; and stopping power. The US military's earlier experience with .38 Long Colt revolvers led to one conclusion for any future sidearm: Nothing less than a .45 would do. Browning's design has been particularly influential: many modern pistols follow its form, and mode of operation. It does lack some modern conveniences: it is single-action only, meaning that the hammer must be cocked for the first shot, either manually or by racking the slide. However, an uncomplicated design does have some perks: a crisp trigger and reliable function. Its short recoil operation is equally elegant: the barrel pivots about a swinging link, seamlessly locking and unlocking with the slide during firing. This principle has subsequently been imitated in a surprising amount of modern pistol designs: models by Glock, H&K, SIG, and more. All have an action with a tilting barrel - and all owe this operation to Browning's 1911 design. In the early 1900s, the US military was relatively small: a product of non-interventionism and reticence for war. However, the increasing scale of global conflict proved impossible to ignore: and with America's entry into World War 1 in 1917 a period of rapid military expansion followed. In response to wartime experience, the 1911's design was slightly revised, as the M1911A1: principally to fix minor ergonomic gripes. The changes include a smaller trigger with smoother frame moulding, and a longer backspur to prevent any painful interaction with the hammer while firing. The weapon really came into its own during World War 2, with a huge ramp in production during this time. Nearly 2 million such pistols were procured by the War's end - plenty to go around, and enough to ensure surplus for years after. Unsurprisingly, the weapon turns up in World War 2 shooters quite often - where American GIs are found, so too is the Colt. True to life, the weapon is shown as a sidearm: a comrade to weapons like the M1 Garand or Thompson. It's rare that it's given a prime role, but it's often at your side. Saving Private Ryan shoulders the blame for the popularity of World War 2 games at the start of the millennial decade. It was the Medal of Honor series that opened this trend: an attempt to recreate some of the moments a soldier might have experienced from a first-person perspective, with a full complement of wartime weapons, 1911 and all. It's also here that the Call of Duty series first emerged - and as interest in wartime shooters waned, there was instead a transition to modern warfare: but of course - the M1911 would remain. There was simply no hurry to replace it: most modern pistol designs use a similar principle, and while there are lighter designs of a higher capacity, the 1911's bulk does help to tame the recoil of its powerful cartridge. Still, its time in mainline service did come to an end with the US Army in 1985: when it was largely replaced by the Beretta M9. A controversial decision, but one needed for NATO standardisation. Nevertheless, the M1911 does remain in use with some units - notably with the US Marine Corps, and some Special Forces. For those with the freedom to choose, it absolutely remains a favourite. A relic perhaps, a holdover from a different age - but a worthy elective for those who respect their elders. It's a signature weapon of Captain Price in Call of Duty: someone who clearly holds military tradition dear. It plays a pivotal role at the climax of Modern Warfare, and its reunion with Price gives rise to a brief ceremony in Modern Warfare 2. A torch passed from one generation to the next: a remembrance of roots, and a nod to the series' origin. While the 1911's military role has been reduced, it is now more popular than ever in civilian hands. Commonly seen in competitive shooting, recreational use - or in concealed carry courtesy of its low profile single-stack magazine. Its long service lends it a potent dose of patriotism: it is a strong symbol of America. It's a display of allegiance for irregular forces: Soldiers of Fortune who might not bear rank, but stand for freedom nonetheless. A fitting match for the machismo of Duke Nukem: with a big enough bore to shake any feelings of inadequacy, there's little doubt that the .45 is all man. Spanning multiple genres, filling various roles: the 1911 has seen widespread use since its introduction. A century of service, and ready for a hundred years more. A classic without compromise. The perfect intersection of ergonomics, reliable operation and .45 calibre power. The pistol that forgot to become obsolete. The M1911. Antique. Veteran. Patriot. Thank you very much for watching - Iconic Arms will return - and until next time, farewell.