Monday, May 4, 2009

Belleau Wood 1911 pistol

In the late 1960s Colt's Mfg. company released a 50th Anniversary commemorative set of 1911 pistols, comprising four pistols for four battles - Belleau Wood, Chateau Thierry, Meuse Argonne and the 2nd Battle of the Marne.

My father ordered a full set, but somehow by the time I inherited them in 2006 one of them, the Meuse Argonne, had gone missing. I vaguely remembered a story about how the other one got away, but since it won't be coming back it doesn't matter. What does matter is the three that remain.
Over the last few months I often thought about selling them in order to raise funds for more modern gear as a hedge against the anticipated Holder-Dark Lord axis. I'm not much for fancy guns and commemoratives as a whole never set me on fire. I started researching the prices being offered for them on the web and was surprised to learn that they were only going for about $1000 per gun, even if you had the entire set of four. Mine were still in their cardboard shipping boxes and brand new, but how would I settle for getting only $1000 each when a current production Colt 1911 pistol, which is nowhere near as nice as these guns, is going to fetch about that much anyway?
Then I got them out, looked at them and handled them - and changed my mind. Let go of three 1911s of this type, made the way that Colt used to make them, for that little money?
No way.
These pistols have a beautiful deep almost-black bluing. The surfaces are polished almost mirror-bright. The metal is solid and the hammer falls onto the firing pin with a ringing musical sound like no other 1911 I own. Where would I ever replace them for that money?
Straight out of the box, they'd do to fight with.
They're staying here.
The pistol shown here today is the Belleau Wood version - a classic 1911 with a solid long trigger, lanyard ring, straight mainspring housing and small but usable sights. There's no checkering on the grip frame anywhere, and the stocks are smooth dark wood of an unknown species.
Later on today I hope to take it to the range.
If I'm gonna keep 'em, you better bet that I'm gonna shoot at least ONE of them if not ALL of them, friends!

After opening the carton and unfolding multiple layers of cardboard, like a Russian doll, you come to this very plain and unadorned paper box.
Nothing in it hints at the treasure hidden inside.

(click on pictures to enlarge them)

Lifting off the lid, you see a brochure that could have been printed many decades ago, with drawings and text which would have been consistent with those enclosed with the first 1911s.

And here it is, the Belleau Wood Colt Model of 1911 Caliber .45 pistol -

The gun is gorgeous, pure and simple. When lighting conditions permit I'll have better photos of all three of them here on the blog. The overcast on this day just doesn't do justice to the polish and lustre of this pistol.
These guns commemorate the actions of the American Expeditionary Force that went to the aid of the Allied powers in 1917. Their vigor and determination turned the tide of the war. They were more than the German army, exhausted but still dangerous after years of trench combat, was able to handle, and they earned the name "Teufel Hunden (Devil Dogs)" from the Germans who fought against them. The Marines in particular were regarded as fierce, savage fighters.
Retired Colonel of Marines Jeff Cooper is said to have owned and carried one of these Belleau Wood commemoratives at some point in his life.
I like to think it's true.

1 comment:

Brigid said...

Very nice write up. Very nice gun.