Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"M1911's and M1911A1's - That Aren't" - by JP

For the past five years I have been the Match Director of our club's Vintage and Modern Military Rifle and Pistol Matches. I recently encountered a situation in which a competitor stood to lose his aggregate scores for the year in the Vintage Miltary Pistol Match competition by competing with an M1911A1 clone that wasn't true to the original Colts patents. So if you intend to shoot your M1911 or M1911A1 in competition of any kind, you might want to read on.

Our matches do not strive to send anyone to Camp Perry or the Olympics. They're local Club matches, but are conducted under a strict manual of regulations, especially concerning the match acceptance standards of certain firearms, in particular the 1911 and Hi-Power designs as used in Vintage matches. We shoot thirty round, 25 yard bullesye matches fired in three strings of ten rounds each, slow fire only, one hand or two, single or double action.

The crux of the problem lies in the fact that a number of manufacturers who produce "Milspec" M1911's or M1911A1's often produce them with sights that, while nothing to write home about, are still a considerable improvement over the stock G.I. sights. Some companies even offer models with either set of sights on them.

Our competitor, unaware of the rule, was using a Springfield M1911A1 with the upgraded service sights in Vintage pistol competition with shooters using older military pistols with the rudimentary sights found on same. This afforded him a serious advantage over his competitors, so I called a meeting of the Match Advisory Board to see what action would be appropriate. Here is our ruling:

1. While the 1911 and 1911A1 pistols were never issued to troops with the improved sights on them, the improved sights on this particular Springfield M1911A1 did not give the shooter an appreciable advantage over shooters using Beretta's, Glocks, Sigs, CZ's, etc., in the Modern Military Pistol Matches. So we ruled that despite the upgraded sights, the playing field was level and the gun could be used in competition in the MODERN Military Pistol Matches, and scores fired with it would be cumulative towards end-of-year awards.

2. But the finding was quite different when it came to the Vintage Matches. It was obvious to us that the Springfield pistol in question afforded the shooter an appreciable advantage over his competitors, who were shooting vintage pistols with "period-accurate" (i.e. crummy) military sights on them, and that therefore his pistol could only be used in the "participant" category. "Participant" scores are not cumulative, making the shooter inelegible for awards at the end of the year.

Since this gentleman was not aware of the issue and since the dummy Match Director didn't catch it until after the third match of the year, the three scores fired with his Springfield pistol so far this year were allowed to stand, which met the approval of the other competitors. But he will be using a Government Issue M1911 from here on out.

So here's the crux of the issue. Clones of the Colt Model of 1911 and 1911A1 are often not faithful to the original patents for those pistols, despite being called "M1911", "M1911A1", or having "Milspec" or "G.I." stamped on the box. While a few of these guns are faithful copies, others come with upgraded sights and some are actually clones of the Series 70 and Series 80 guns with upgraded barrels and bushings, as well as other improvements. So before you buy one of these supposed M1911 clones for competition in Vintage Military Pistol Matches, check the match rules and make sure you can compete with the gun you would like to buy. Otherwise you could be wasting your money.

Just as an aside, much the same situation exists with the sights found on Hi-Power pistols. The Hi Power has been produced with both the tiny service sights and the upgraded service sights similar to those found on the Mark III Browning Hi-Power. So if you have the improved sights on your Hi-Power or clone, you need to ask the host if your gun can be used in Vintage competition. Our rules won't allow the Hi-Power pistols to be used in Vintage pistol competition unless they have the older small sights.

Finally, our regs also have a list of approved and unapproved modifications to these guns that affect their acceptability for our matches. Generally, if the modification doesn't afford the shooter an advantage in accuracy or shootability, it is acceptable. Examples of acceptable modifications are enlarged ejection ports, extended safety and slide stop levers, beveled magazine wells, etc. But improved sights, triggers, or grip/grip frame configuration are unapproved and place the shooter into the "participant" category. Also, military firearms originally intended for use as target arms do not qualify under our rules. We strive to use the same guns issued to common troops. So again, check the regs before you modify your gun if you intend to use it in competition.

Good shooting to all,


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