As we all know, 2011 is the centennial of the most popular handgun in the world, the Model 1911. Just this last weekend, though, as I was shooting my Taurus PT1911 in .38 Super, the question occurred to me: just what makes a 1911 a 1911? The terms “1911” and “1911A1,” of course, are merely military nomenclature for approved design specifications.

Taurus PT1911 .38 Super

One of the most important specs for the 1911 is that it fire the “Cal. .45 Automatic Pistol Ball Cartridge, Model of 1911,” otherwise known as the .45 ACP.  This chambering was so central to the design of the Model 1911 — in fact, the cartridge was developed somewhat before the 1911 itself was — that I suppose you could argue that no “1911” that is chambered for anything other than the .45 ACP  (.22 LR, 9mm Parabellum, .38 Super, 10mm, .460 Rowland, etc.) can be considered a “true” 1911. For its part, Colt never marked any of its nonmilitary 1911-style guns as “1911s,” preferring the bland “Model O” designation or descriptive names such as  “Super 38,” “Ace,” “Commander,” “Combat Commander,” “Delta Elite,” or “Government Model.” Common practice is to lump all 1911-style pistols together as 1911s, and that’s a much better term than “1911 clones,” if you stop and think about it.

But maybe you don’t want to stop and think about it. Neither do I, really. Instead, I’d much rather re-read Pat Sweeney’s new book, “1911: The First 100 Years.” I say “re-read” because I had the very great pleasure of editing this book, which surely ranks as one of Pat’s best. Entertaining, funny, informative — it’s Pat Sweeney at the top of his game. You can order it here.

Anyway, over the next 13 months or so we’re sure to be hearing more about the 1911, whatever you call it.