John Browning developed the Colt M1911 pistol more than 100 years ago, and it is still revered as one of the most successful handguns of all time. 1911 enthusiasts constantly debate the merits of the design, as well as the “improvements” they would make, but due to incorrect interpretations of the fundamental laws of physics, or failure to put numbers to the concepts, many of those ideas are misguided… Maybe even the original idea that started it all.
Stress Outdoor® set out to test one of the fundamental beliefs relating to the 1911 by starting at the beginning, with Browning's first pistol, which contrary to popular belief, is not the M1911. In 1896, Browning developed the first semi-automatic pistol, the M1900. The only mechanical difference between this pistol and its infamous successor is the use of a blowback system versus a breech-locking system. Blowback is the obtainment of energy from the motion of the cartridge case as it is pushed to the rear by expanding gases created by the momentum of the bullet leaving the chamber. The issue Browning saw with Blowback was the apparent gas leakage from the breech, and while there is no concrete evidence the leakage impaired the performance of the gun, it still led him to develop the short recoil, locked breech implemented in the M1911, also referred to as the “telescoping bolt”. This telescoping bolt is one of the hallmarks of the 1911, but is it truly necessary? Stress applied fundamental fluid dynamics to learn the answer. Our early conclusions may be surprising to many: they indicate that the more simple blowback system used in smaller caliber handguns may in fact be perfectly adequate for the revered 1911 after all.