1912 Colt M1911
Serial Number 260

This is a great example of an early Colt Model 1911. This gun was one of the very first as it was produced in January of 1912 and is all original and correct. This gun was part of the first order of 1911s submitted to Colt on May 5th, 1911. #260 shipped with 200 other 1911s on February 3rd, 1912 to the Commanding Officer of Springfield Armory. Click here to jump to images...

Figures 1 and 2- show the Left and Right profiles and how this pistol retains most of the original oil blued finish. Most of the small parts externally visible have the brilliant fire blued finish.  Some small parts such as the front and rear sights, the extractor, the detent spring housing, the barrel bushing, the firing pin stop plate, the detent plungers, and the disconnector, never received the fire blue finish on this pistol or any other 1911.  This practice of selectively fire blueing some small parts but not others seems to be a carry over from previous commercial and military pistols and revolvers made by colt such as the 1903 and 1909 revolvers, as well as the very early Colt autos such as the 1903 Pocket Hammerless.
Figure 3-
shows the forward location of the serial number (used through serial # 7500) as well as the stylized type of lettering (used on pistols through serial #4500.)   After serial #4500, the lettering was changed to gothic and after serial # 7500 the serial number was relocated just behind the Right slide stop pin.
Figure 4
- All slide stampings are the same size. The United States Property was reduced in size at about s/n 104. The Colt's address legend was reduced in size at about s/n 83. The WGP inspector stamp is the second type, stamped vertically starting at s/n 100. 
Figure 5-
Shows the rounded rear sight and alignment stake marks on rear sight and slide. The stake marks were added somewhere between s/n 90 and s/n 140. s/n 90 has no marks and s/n 140 has stake marks. 
Figure 6-
Shows the type I dimpled magazine catch lock used from s/n 1 to s/n 3189. 
Figure 7-
Shows the circled rampant Colt (present from s/n 1 to s/n 20000), and the early fire blued short wide spur hammer. Fire blued parts were present on most pistols between s/n 1 to about 2400.   A few pistols have been observed in that range with the later dull finish yet they appear to be all original.  One explanation is that these pistols were sent back to an earlier stage of manufacture to perform remedial rework to correct an out of specification condition, and by the time the rework was performed, the finish of the pistol had been changed from the early mirror finish to the later dull finish. 
Figure 8-
Shows the rounded rear sight, short wide spur hammer, fire blued thumb safety, and shallow slot screw. 
Figure 9-
Clawson says that the slide, frame, and barrel hood extension should be marked with a serifed “H” beyond about serial #520.  Meadows reports the earliest reported serial number with the three parts marked is #293.  Early pistols below serial #520 may not have all of the parts marked, and very early pistols will not have any parts marked. Too few have been observed to be more precise.  The situation is made more complicated because these early pistols could have been subjected to “Barracks” swapping or parts swapping for many possible reasons (including attempts at restoration.)  Most early pistols observed have had parts changed, and the truly original early pistol is the exception rather than the rule.  As more of these early pistols surface we should get a better picture of the markings. 
Figure 10- The "H" behind the disconnector hole is a “Provisional acceptance mark” applied to the frame that indicates the part has passed all previous tests, the part is accepted as government property by the Ordnance Department, and the part is ready for final assembly.   The "5" is a Colt factory assemblers mark. In late 1918 this assemblers mark was moved to the lower left trigger guard bow. 
Figure 11- Shows the early thin headed stock screws. These screws have a very shallow slot and a thin head.  The thin headed screws were officially changed to thicker ones along with a corresponding reduction in grip screw bushing length in a letter dated March 18, 1912. By this time, only 500 pistols had been shipped to Springfield Armory and Colt was allowed to use up its stock of screws and shorter bushings.  Therefore he actual changeover point to the later screws is not precisely known.  It is further complicated because very few early pistols observed have the original screws undamaged.  The very thin heads required a perfectly fitting screwdriver in the hands of a craftsman to remove them without damage, and many were probably replaced due to damage.  Presence of the earlier longer bushings on a frame would be a good indicator that the pistol originally had the thin screws.
Figure 12- Shows a very early M1911 barrel with the smooth contour and  no raised area at the barrel chamber interface as is seen on much later barrels.
Figure 13-
Shows the barrel hood extension with no marking.  Later pistols had barrels marked with an “H” with serifs.  The changeover point is not precisely known (See figure 9). Notice the material remaining between the link lugs as seen from the rear of the barrel.  This remaining material kept the link from falling backwards while assembling the pistol and would prevent the incorrect assembly of the barrel and slide.  A corresponding front view (Figure 12) shows material remaining in the front of the slot.  This remaining material prevents the link from falling below about 25 degrees from the barrel axis, and helps assure that the link will be in the proper position to receive the slide stop pin during assembly of the slide to the frame.  Retaining this material requires the lug slot cut be done as a plunge cut and was later deleted for manufacturing expediency.
Figure 14-
Barrel Hood is unmarked and the portion of the barrel visible through the ejection port has tooling marks concentric to the barrel axis.
Figure 15-
Front sight .058" wide at the base, and tapered to about .038" at the top.
Figure 16-
Firing pin stop. The early style shows a more blunt contour. The middle picture shows evidence of the "H" stamp transferred from the slide, underneath the firing pin stop plate and below the firing pin hole.
Figure 17- Recoil spring guide. Shown here is the early type with the sharp legs. 
Figure 18- Barrel bushing. Notice the chamfer around the edges. This is an early M1911 characteristic.  Also notice the absence of fire blue on the bushing.
Figure 19- Slide stop. s/n 260 has a machine checkered slide stop. Hand checkering was discontinued around s/n 150.  The slide stop retains the fire blue finish.

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Figure 19
Courtesy of the 
Michael C. Collection

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