Sunday, July 8, 2012

Just the Basics – the Single Action Semi-Automatic Pistol



Perhaps the most famous Single Action, Semi-Automatic pistol on the face of the earth is the 1911 first introduced by the Colt company in – strangely enough – 1911. The move to a semi-automatic pistol ( it goes “bang” every time the trigger is pressed until it’s empty ) captured the energy of the firing of the cartridge to eject the spent casing and to feed a new cartridge into the chamber. This allowed for faster, more accurate shots as well as an expanded cartridge capacity.

Let’s take a walk through this classic weapon.

The chassis, the primary component that holds all the parts together is the Frame.

The Barrel is the component that allows the bullet to exit the handgun after it is fired and adds a spin to the bullet to increase its accuracy.

The Muzzle is the region immediately at the end of the Barrel where the bullet exits.

The Front Sight, used in conjunction with the Rear Sight is used to acquire an accurate sight picture prior to engaging a threat.

The Hammer is manually thumbed back or moved into firing position by moving the Slide to the rear and releasing it. This prepare the Hammer to strike the primer in the .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) cartridge.

The Magazine contains the cartridges to be fired and feeds a new cartridge into chamber each time the weapon if fired – until the magazine is empty. Magazines in the 1911 are typically “single stack” magazines meaning one cartridge is stacked directly over another cartridge in a “single stack”.

The Magazine Release is used to drop an empty magazine from the Magazine Well in order to make room for a replacement magazine that is fully loaded.

The Grip is the portion of the pistol that is actually “gripped” by the shooter. The Back Strap fits into the shooter’s palm and the Front Strap provides a purchase for the shooter’s fingers. An additional Grip Safety is mounted in the top portion of the Back Strap to provide an additional level of safety against a negligent discharge if the shooter does not have a firm grip on the pistol.

The Thumb Safety is mounted on the side of the weapon. Positioned up it fits into a notch on the slide it insures that the Slide is unable to move. Positioned down, the weapon is ready to fire.

The Trigger is the component that is pressed to the rear releasing the Hammer and firing the cartridge.

The Trigger Guard provides protection against an accidental discharge from rubbing the Trigger against clothing or a holster.

The Semi-Automatic Pistol is loaded by inserting a loaded Magazine into the Magazine Well and seating it with a firm palm-slap to the bottom of the Magazine. The shooter than manually racks the Slide to the rear and releases it. This will strip a new cartridge out of the Magazine and load it into the chamber at the rear of the Barrel. From this point forward, each time the weapon is fired, part of the energy is captured to automatically force the slide to the rear, eject the spent cartridge out of the Ejection Port and to strip a new cartridge from the Magazine and load it into the chamber at the rear of the Barrel. This process will continue each time the Trigger is pressed until the Magazine is empty.

Unloading can be done by depressing the Magazine Release and capturing the Magazine as it falls from the Magazine Well. To display that the weapon is empty, rack the Slide to the rear ejecting any un-fired cartridge that may still be in the chamber out of the Ejection Port. Push the Slide Lock up into the notch on the Slide. This allows the shooter to easily verify the weapon is, indeed, empty.

The name “Single Action” comes from the fact that the trigger performs a “single” function, to release a cocked Hammer to fire the cartridge. Hence, this is a “Single Action” pistol. Because the weapon captures part of the energy of a fired cartridge to activate the Slide, eject the spent casing and to strip off a new cartridge from the Magazine and load it into the chamber – the only thing the shooter must do is to press the trigger to fire a new round. Thus, it is a Semi-Automatic pistol as well.

This particular weapon has been a workhorse around the world since its introduction and continues to be a favorite for recreational shooting, competition, personal defense and as a side-arm by our military.


  1. Awesome! May have use of this in the nearish future...

  2. Thank you, glad you find this useful . . .