The history of the Colt Gov't / M1911 Pistol began in early 1900s, when famous designer John M. Browning began to develop semi-automatic pistols for Colt company. In the 1906-1907 U.S. Army announced trials to replace its service revolvers with new, semi-automatic pistol. Army required the new pistol to have the caliber of .45 inch, so Browning designed its own cartridge that fired 230 grains (15.64 grams) bullet, and then, designed a new pistol. In 1911, after extensive testing, the new pistol and its cartridge, designed by Browning and manufactured by Colt, were adopted for U.S. military service as M1911. Prior to and during World War One, more than one million of these guns were manufactured, mostly by Colt and Springfield Armory, as well as by Remington-UMC, Burroughs, Savage and some other companies. The rights to manufacture Colt/Browning design were also sold to some foreign countries, such as Norway or Argentine.
In 1926, original design was improved, following the recommendations of the US Army Ordnance Dept. These changes incorporate the following items (see picture above):
1. Wider front sight
2. Longer hammer spur
3. Shorter trigger
4. Curved spring housing
5. Simplified grip panels checkering
6. Index finger reliefs behind the trigger
7. Longer grip-safety spur
The improved design was adopted by US Military as M1911A1 pistol, and served with distinction until 1985, when it was officially replaced in service with M9 pistol (US-made Beretta 92FS).
The commercial Colts of this design are known as Government models. In 1929, Colt introduced the Government pistol in its new chambering, the .38 Super Automatic, a hotter version of the earlier .38 Automatic cartridge. New pistol had bigger magazine capacity (9 rounds) and sold well on the police market. The .38 Super versions are still manufactured and used mostly as competition guns due to extreme accuracy.
Technically, the M1911 is a recoil operated, locked breech semi-auto pistol. It has single action trigger with frame mounted safety that locks the hammer and the slide. Hammer could be locked either in cocked or in lowered position, allowing the gun to be carried in "cocked and locked" state, with safety on, hammer cocked and round chambered. Additional automated safety incorporated into rear of the grip and locks the action when gun not held in the hand properly.
Barrel and slide are interlocked via massive lugs on the upper part of the barrel, just ahead of the chamber. After the shot is fired, the barrel and the slide go back for the short distance, then rear part of the barrel is lovered by tilting link, and barrel unlocks the slide. The slide goes all the way back, extracting and ejecting spent case and chambering the new round on the way back. When magazine is empty, the magazine follower activates slide stop that locks the slide in the open (rear) position. The gun is fed from the single stack, seven round magazine. The magazine release button is located on the left side of the frame, just behind the trigger guard.
In the end, i must say that this article is very incomplete, since the Colt Gov't / M1911 is probably the most popular pistol in the world. It is known for its reliability, serviceability, simplicity. Custom made M1911s capable of outstanding accuracy, and many of M1911-patterned guns are still in service with different military and law enforcement agencies in the USA.