M1911A1 .45 Caliber Automatic Pistol

The .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol M1911A1 is a recoil-operated hand weapon. 

It is a magazine-fed semiautomatic weapon, which fires one round each time the trigger is squeezed, once the hammer is cocked by prior action of the slide or thumb. This design is referred to as "single action only." 

The thumb safety may only be activated once the pistol is cocked. The hammer remains in the fully cocked position once the safety is activated. 

This single action ("Cocked and Locked") design requires the user to be very familiar and well-trained to allow carrying the pistol in the "ready-to-fire" mode. Consequently, M1911A1s are often prescribed to be carried without a round in the chamber. Even with this restriction on the user, unintentional discharges occasionally occur.

To Load:

  • Insert one or more cartridges into the magazine.
  • Push the magazine firmly and fully into the handle of the pistol until a distinct "click" is heard.
  • With the weapon pointing in a safe direction, grasp the slide (top of the weapon) and pull it back as far as it will go.
  • Release the slide, allowing it to spring back to its' original position. You have just placed a round in the firing chamber and cocked the hammer. The weapon is loaded, ready to fire.
  • If you are not planning on firing the weapon immediately, put it on "safe," by keeping it pointed in a safe direction, and rotating the "Safety Lock" upward. This is called "Cocked and Locked." The weapon remains loaded, however, and should not be pointed at anything you do not intend to shoot..

To Fire:

  • Point the loaded weapon at your intended target.
  • Flip the "Safety Lock" down (off).
  • Pull the trigger. This will release the hammer, and discharge the round.
  • After the round is fired, the slide will recoil backward, and then spring back to its' original position. This action will eject the empty cartridge case, bring a new cartridge into the firing chamber, and cock the hammer.
  • When you have fired the last round from your magazine, the slide will remain in the back or open position.

To Unload:

  • Point the weapon in a safe direction.
  • Depress the "magazine catch" button. This will eject the magazine.
  • Pull back on the slide until it stops. This will eject any unfired round from the firing chamber.
  • IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO UNLOAD THE WEAPON IN THE ORDER DESCRIBED. IF YOU REVERSE THE ORDER, FIRST EJECTING A ROUND FROM THE CHAMBER, AND THEN REMOVING THE MAGAZINE, THE WEAPON WILL REMAIN LOADED. EJECTING A ROUND FROM THE CHAMBER WILL AUTOMATICALLY BRING ANOTHER ROUND INTO THE CHAMBER, UNLESS THE MAGAZINE IS FIRST REMOVED. THAT IS THE AUTOMATIC PART OF THIS SEMI-AUTOMATIC PISTOL.
  • Visually confirm that no round remains in the firing chamber.
  • Rotate the "Slide Stop" down to release the slide. The slide will spring back to its' normal position.
  • Keep your thumb on the hammer, then pull the trigger and ease the hammer slowly down.

Clearing the Pistol:

  • Clearing a weapon means unloading the it and leaving it so that anyone who sees it knows that it is empty and temporarily disabled.
  • To clear the M1911A1 pistol, remove the magazine, pull the slide backward and lock it in the open position. This is the safest way to leave the weapon.

Helpful Tips in Firing this Weapon:

  • While the .45 cal projectile can travel up to a mile, the nature of the weapon makes it effective only at very close range. Unless you are highly practiced with this pistol, you are not likely to hit your target if it is more than 25 feet from you.
  • Aim for the center of the torso. You are least likely to miss this area. 
  • Use two hands to hold the pistol. You will shoot more accurately.
  • Two shots in quick succession (1/2 to 1 second apart) are more likely to stop your target than a single shot. While the .45 cal. round can certainly be lethal if it hits the right spot, it is a relatively small, low speed projectile. It's legendary stopping power is often over-rated. Particularly when trying to stop an adrenalin-charged, highly-motivated individual, multiple hits from your .45 cal. pistol may be required. However, emptying a full magazine into your target is also unwise, as it may leave you with no ammunition to take on his three angry friends.
  • When defending against multiple targets, try to stop the most threatening target first. Usually that is the target closest to you. However, someone with an automatic weapon or shotgun is more dangerous to you and your patients than someone with a pistol. Likewise, someone with a rifle is more dangerous than someone with a pistol.
  • Take advantage of any cover you may have. Crouching behind a rock or packing crate is much better than standing out in the open. If you are caught out in the open, quickly make a decision to either go to the ground, or to run to cover. If you go to ground, keep moving (rolling, crawling), to decrease the chance of your being wounded.
  • Should you become wounded, keep shooting. The best defense against incoming fire is to return fire, wounded or not.
  • Should the weapon fail to fire, use the "Slap, Rack, and Bang" technique: 
    • Slap the base of the Grip to more firmly seat the magazine. 
    • Rack the slide backward and release, ejecting the old cartridge and bringing a fresh cartridge into the chamber.
    • Bang goes the pistol when you pull the trigger again.

For further information on the M1911-A1 Semi-Automatic Pistol, read:

FM 21-75: Combat Skills of the Soldier

Emergency War Surgery NATO Handbook: Part I: Types of Wounds and Injuries: Chapter II: Missile-Caused Wounds: Projectiles

 

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*This web version is provided by The Brookside Associates, LLC.  It contains original contents from the official US Navy NAVMED P-5139, but has been reformatted for web access and includes advertising and links that were not present in the original version. The medical information presented was reviewed and felt to be accurate in 2001. Medical knowledge and practice methods may have changed since that time. Some links may no longer be active. This web version has not been approved by the Department of the Navy or the Department of Defense. The presence of any advertising on these pages does not constitute an endorsement of that product or service by either the US Department of Defense or the Brookside Associates. The Brookside Associates is a private organization, not affiliated with the United States Department of Defense.

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