WW1 French Contract Colt 1911 for Tank Crewmen

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France was in an interesting position during World War One of being a primary supplier of rifles and machine guns to its allies, but a major importer of handguns. In addition to a great many Spanish pistols of several types, the French government purchased both revolvers and Government Model 1911 pistols from Colt. Specifically, they purchased 5,000 standard commercial 1911s off the shelf from Colt, with deliveries starting in April of 1915 and ending in January 1916. These appear to have been issued to tank crewmen, but not exclusively. It is unclear how exactly they were distributed, but after the war they were sold as surplus through Belgian dealers.

These French purchase 1911s were not given any markings by the French, and appear as standard commercial 1911s. They can only be identified by serial number and by Colt factory letter. We know the whole of the order was fulfilled with pistols between number C17800 and C28000, but only about half of the guns in that range went to France. Colt did not ship the guns as a continuous serial number range, but rather took them basically at random from warehouse stocks. To date, no complete listing of their individual serial numbers has been made.

Thanks to Ozark Machine Gun for loaning me this pistol – check out his cool machine gun rental range in Missouri!

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