John Browning developed a semi-automatic pistol in .32 caliber in 1896 and went on to chamber the guns in .25, .380 and .45 ACP cartridges. Note: ACP = Automatic Colt Pistol. In 1911 the U.S. Army adopted the Browning designed and Colt manufactured .45 ACP as their official handgun, hence the name 1911.
The 1911 remained in service in that capacity for the next 75 years (1911-1985). Many say it was a mistake to replace it, to this day, this former soldier included.
A semi-automatic pistol functions by using the energy from the recoil of a single round of ammunition to extract and eject the fired cartridge from the pistol's chamber and load the next round from a magazine into the chamber for the next shot.
From all the things that were invented throughout time, probably the ones we needed the most were guns. Changing the world, guns represented the border between old and new, between ancient and modern. Battles became easier to fight and soldiers weren’t forced anymore to rely on their strength to win. The invention of firearms changed the way we think about attack and defense, offering to us a whole new world of possibilities.
Semi-automatic pistols are part of the modern generation of firearms. These handguns can be fired in semi-automatic mode, meaning that one cartridge is fired at each trigger pull. They are known to use a unique chamber and also one single barrel.
As other firearms, semi-automatic pistols use the energy provided by the recoil of the first fired ammunition to eject the used cartridge and insert a new one. One of the groundbreaking characteristics of the semi-automatic pistols is the removable magazine, located inside the hand grip. This is the place from where ammunition is provided and the chamber reloaded.
So, what are the advantages of semi-automatic pistols? They are able to be reloaded faster and they have the capacity of storing a larger number of cartridges than revolvers for example. Still, studies have shown that the sophisticated design and internal mechanism of semi-automatic pistols make these firearms to break easily. As for the cycle action, there are two main types of semi-automatic pistols. The first is the double-action that can be easily observed in smaller handguns, usually carried for defense and as concealed weapons. For the single action, Colt M1911 is perhaps the most representative example, having to be cocked first.
Carrying a Semi-Automatic Pistol
And if you really want to know everything about semi-automatic pistols, you should also learn that there is a specific mode of carrying such a firearm, meaning with the magazine fully loaded, the round chambered, the hammer cocked (manually) and the safety grip locked. As for the hammer position, this has the main benefit of preventing the accidental discharge of the weapon.
Recent innovations for semi-automatic pistols have started to include the safety mechanisms on each side of the pistol, having the possibility to be used by left-handed and right-handed individuals. Certain models have a different kind of magazine, using a stripper clip and there are also pistols with a magazine that cannot be removed.
The mechanism by which the semi-automatic pistols function is recoil operated, one shot being fired for each trigger pull as opposed to other firearms that are automatic, where the firing process is continued for as long as the trigger is checked.
The semi-automatic pistols that are self-loading operate with the help of two main mechanisms, meaning the blowback and the locked breech. For connoisseurs, these two operating systems make in reality the difference between small and large caliber pistols.
The representative caliber for blowback operating pistols is the 380 caliber and the barrel is usually fixed to the frame and the slide. Locked-breech operating pistols fire typically a 32 caliber or even larger, having the barrel just temporary locked to the slide. The short-recoil system is the perfect example to illustrate the inner functioning of this mechanism, where the slide and the barrel recoil together. Blowback pistols are quite popular today due to their easy manufacturing and attractive prices, even though the pistol can only be used with cartridges that have a low pressure and thus a small caliber. Locked-breech pistols are used with larger calibers, increasing the functionality and the handling of the firearm.
When it comes to any firearm, all the details matter.
Single-action pistols required for the hammer to be cocked manually as opposed to double-action mechanisms where the hammer was cocked once the trigger was pulled. As for the ones who have made the history of semi-automatic pistols matter, Hiram Maxim was one of the most important personalities. He and other American gun designers have proven all there was to prove. John Browning also developed his own self-loading automatic pistol, the firearms being manufactured at that time under the name of Samuel Colt and also in Europe, in Belgium.
Browning used a cartridge of 7.65 mm for the M1900 model and soon designed many other cartridges for semi-automatic pistols. The locked-breech system was also his invention, today used by most semi-automatic pistols that fire large calibers. The 1911 Colt single-action semi-automatic pistol also bears the name of John Browning, who designed the 45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) cartridges as well. The firearms were extensively used by the United States military forces and the use has extended to the present day (100 years later), especially when we consider the Special Forces (who still use the .45).
In the US, Colt started to produce semi-automatic pistols to an increased number, catering to the great demand for firearms. Colt and Smith & Wesson were the two producers that served during the war with both arms and ammunition. After the war, Smith & Wesson concentrated their production towards double-action semi-automatic pistols and launched one of its finest models in 1971. Self-loading semi-automatic pistols have started easily to replace the use of revolvers, especially amongst military forces. In today’s modern world, these are used widely for self-defense and target shooting, by hunting enthusiasts and passionate gun collectors. They have become intensively popular, being utilized by police and military forces but also by civilians.
The Browning Hi-Power is a semi-automatic, single-action pistol that fires 9 mm ammunition. It was designed and patented by the famous John Browning but unfortunately he didn’t live to see his invention reach production. The firearm was produced in Belgium, under the name of Dieudonne Saive, an extremely intelligent man. The firearms had a magazine capacity of 13 rounds defeating by far other existing models on the market. The grip and the barrel are also innovative, being widely adopted in Europe and finally in the US. There were two first original models, the Ordinary and the Adjustable Rear Sight, both being ahead of their times. Operating the short-recoil system, the Hi Power had its own shortcoming but these were easily corrected over time.
Another 9 mm semi-automatic pistol was designed by Smith & Wesson but much later, meaning in 1989. The model is a double-action pistol made from stainless steel and it is one of the most incredible semi-automatic pistols ever made. The uniqueness comes from the increased levels of safety provided, the firearm not being able to be fired without the magazine in its place. Chambered for 10 or 15 rounds, this semi-automatic pistol has been extensively used by various law enforcement agencies. It can be used by both left-handed and right-handed persons, offering either fixed or adjustable rear sights.
Semi-automatic pistols have a reputation of being accurate, effective and easy to use. Important names from American firearms history have helped to their development, including Colt, John Browning and Smith & Wesson. They have all provided their dedication and interest, coming up with innovative models and serving their country!