1911 Black Army - how to identify

Discussion in 'The 1911 Forum' started by groundpilot, Feb 15, 2009.

  1. groundpilot

    groundpilot New Member

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    Folks, Just joined. First post.

    I'm trying to update my collection for value and using the auction circuit as a base. I keep bumping into "Black Army 1911's" but have no idea how you determine if a 1911 is a "Black Army" or not.

    1918 ser# ranges is all I ever see in the description. Is it merely by virture of it being made in 1918 or is there more to it?

    Thanks for your time.

    - Tim
  2. Shooter45

    Shooter45 *Administrator* Staff Member

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    Black Army refers to the finish.
  3. groundpilot

    groundpilot New Member

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    Thanks, Shooter. But is the "black" finish that distinguishable from a mildly worn blued finish? I mean does it stand out that readily?

    I've got a couple 1918's and can't really tell. That's why I was wondering if there's any other identifying marks for them.

    - Tim
  4. delta13soultaker

    delta13soultaker New Member

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    Depends on Uncle Sam's whim every 3 yrs.
    Is this a different finish than blued or parkerized?
  5. groundpilot

    groundpilot New Member

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    Again, Shooter, thank you.

    So there's some new model being made, reproduction or something, that has this special finish and when I see "black army" used on a gun with a ser # in the 1918 range I should just treat it as a normal 1918 '11?
  6. Shooter45

    Shooter45 *Administrator* Staff Member

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    I have been googling Black Army while we are on this thread and I'm finding it is the color of the parkerizing. Not the usual gray but a darker color. Black parkerizing. If your pistol is blued then No.
  7. Shooter45

    Shooter45 *Administrator* Staff Member

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    The Colt "Black Army" M1911
    In May of 1918, to meet the demands of the US Army in the war to end all wars, Colt changed the way it finished the Model of 1911 pistol. The Army wanted production increased, and requested that Colt eliminate the final polishing process prior to bluing the M1911. As a result, the surface of the pistols would be left with a rougher appearance, unlike previous Colts. In addition, Colt began using a gas fired oven blued process. Between these two factors, the appearance of the M1911 changed from a lustrous blue to almost black. Collectors have since coined the term "Black Army" to denote the last of the M1911 pistols, with the finish phased in after serial number 312000.

    To be sure, Hartford was cutting corners to produce as many pistols as possible. Many of the small parts such as the slide stops and thumb safeties were outsourced or previously manufactured, and were still polished and blued in the previous manner. Over time, the weaker "Black Army" finish wore off many of the slides and frames while the small parts remained blued. After ninety years, the uneven appearance from different rates of wear often gives the impression that all original pistols were put together from scavenged parts. Because of the mix master appearance when weathered and a greater chance of wear on these wartime pistols, many collectors are still seeking the elusive Colt "Black Army" pistols with a high amount of finish. When such a pistol appears on the market, it can command high prices.


    All "Black Army" pistols will have the rampant Colt in the center of the slide. The prancing pony moved there sometime between serial number 275000 and 290000. They will also have the typical characteristics of a M1911, a smooth flat mainspring housing with a lanyard loop, an early M1911 slide stop, and a wide spur hammer with an itty bitty spur on the grip safety. Walnut double diamond grips are de rigueur.

    I was fortunate to find my Colt "Black Army" walking into a gun show at a fair price. Although the wartime expedient finish is mostly absent on the exterior of my pistol, it has seen very little actual use. The interior parts are still as new, and the bore is bright. Prior to being accepted by the US Army, this M1911 was given the nod by Springfield Armory inspectors. The eagle proofmark is visible above the magazine release. I am happy to have an all original M1911 that can be handled without hesitation.

    While the "Black Army" pistol is often viewed as a World War One pistol, it must be remembered that the Great War ended with the armistice signed on 11 November, 1918, a scant seven months after the "Black Army" variation began. Thousands of Colt "Black Army" M1911s languished in the armories of the US military, where they sat ready until war was again declared in 1941. The "Black Army" Colts were a common sidearm in the combat theaters of WWII until 1943, when production of the M1911A1 reached it's zenith. It's ironic that many pistols often associated with WWI finally saw combat after Pearl Harbor, and were brought home by the GIs of WWII.
    Labels: Beater Guns, Colt Black Army, M1911's

    This took a while but this may be the info you were looking for.
  8. delta13soultaker

    delta13soultaker New Member

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    Depends on Uncle Sam's whim every 3 yrs.
    Cool. Understand.
  9. Shooter45

    Shooter45 *Administrator* Staff Member

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    Delta, I'm glad you understand. I've been pulling my hair out. :D:D
  10. groundpilot

    groundpilot New Member

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    Thank you so much, Shooter45. I know the frustation and time it takes to find info like that. It was Great!! It helps immensely.

    My interpretation is the metal finish on the basic frame and slide are "rougher" than on , say, a commercial or earlier period gun.

    I have a couple in that ser# range and will look them over, carefully, according to the information you found.

    Again. . . thank you very much for the time and your expertise!

    - Tim
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