Serial Number: W101201
Year of Manufacture: Shipped between July and October of 1917. Contract Number: U.S. 1139-MM67
Caliber: .455 Webley Self Loading Pistol Cartridge, also known as .455 Webley Auto (this is an un-rimmed cartridge and NOT the same as .455 Webley or .455 Eley).
Action Type: Single Action Semi-Automatic Pistol with Removable Magazine
Factory Markings: The left side of the slide is marked “PATENTED APR 20, 1897. SEPT. 9,1902 / DEC 19, 1905. FEB. 14,1911. AUG. 19,1913” and “COLT’S PT. F.A. MFG. CO / HARTFORD, CT. U.S.A.”, with a Rampant Colt logo at the very back of the slide. The right side of the slide is marked “COLT AUTOMATIC / CALIBRE 455″. The right side of the frame is marked “GOVERNMENT MODEL / W101201”. The left front of the trigger guard is marked with a “VP” (Verified Proof) in a triangle and at the rear with “T”. The underside of the barrel in front of the lug is marked “V” and “P”. The flat on the underside of the slide is marked “E” and “U”. The flat on the top of the frame is marked “E” and the top of the right frame rail is marked “8”.
British Markings: The left rear of the slide is marked with Crossed Pennants, and the left side of the frame is marked with a “British Broad Arrow / Crossed Pennants”. The “Crossed Pennants” is a proof mark, which was applied at Colt. The left side of the frame also has the British applied “Broad Arrow”, again signifying government ownership. The left side of the frame, above the magazine release is marked with “Crown / G2 / A”. The “G2” is an inspection mark for G.W.R. Stedman, the British Army Inspector of Small Arms, and the “A” signifies America. The right side of the frame behind the trigger is marked with a Canadian Broad Arrow mark, signifying Canadian ownership.
Barrel Length: 5”
Sights / Optics: The front sight is a rounded blade fixed to the top of the slide. The rear sight is a square notch dovetailed into the top of the slide.
Stock Configuration & Condition: The grips are checkered walnut. with smooth diamonds around the grip screws. The checkering shows moderate to heavy wear, which is worn smooth near the bottoms of the grips. There are a few tiny surface chips in the center rear of the left grip and a few tiny mars in the right grip. All four of the smooth diamonds show tool marks and/or dings around the grip screws and there are small dings in the bottom surfaces of both grips. The grips rate in about Good overall condition.
Type of Finish: Blued
Finish Originality: old touch-up / restoration
Bore Condition: The bore is mottled bright and gray. The rifling is sharp. There is no erosion.
Overall Condition: This handgun retains about 70% of its current metal finish. There is very light pitting under the finish and thinning. The Markings are sharp, however there is clearly finish over the light pitting and scratches. This leads us to believe that the pistol was touched up at some point, likely to stop the progression of erosion. There is no indication that the gun has had the finish completely stripped or sanded. The mainspring housing shows the most surface loss. There are several tiny dings in the slide and front strap, with a few small marks around the edges of the frame around the trigger guard. There is also a scratch in the left side of the frame at the slide release and dings in the edges of the port opening. The top two screw heads are sharp and the other two are distressed. The markings are mostly clear except for the crown on the left side of the frame and the Canadian Broad Arrow on the right side, which are very shallow. The hammer and magazine release knurling show light wear and the knurling on the outside edge of the slide release shows moderate wear. The slide serrations are relatively sharp with a few tiny dings. Overall, this handgun rates in about Very Good condition as restored.
Mechanics: The action functions correctly. The pistol has a grip safety as well as a frame mounted manual safety and a half-cock safety on the hammer. We did not fire this handgun. As with all used firearms, a thorough cleaning may be necessary to meet your maintenance standards.
Box, Paperwork & Accessories: This pistol comes with a single blued magazine. The magazine has a two-tone finish, with the top third “In The White”. The magazine floorplate is marked “CAL. 455 / ELEY” and has a lanyard ring in its center. The bottom left side of the magazine is marked with two British Broad Arrows. The body of the magazine shows thinning and the floorplate shows surface loss. The magazine is in about Very Good condition. There is a second lanyard ring mounted in the bottom of the mainspring housing behind the magazine.
Our Assessment: This pistol is from a desirable range of Colt produced 1911s shipped to England for the WWI war efforts. Colt began shipping pistols to Britain in 1915 marked with a “W” prefix for “Webley” to distinguish them from the commercial pistols (in .45 ACP) shipped to Britain before the war. But, by 1917, Colt had to drastically reduce their production of pistols for Britain to meet U.S. Government demands for M1911 pistols, and this pistol is from the last batch made before the planned shutdown (this may explain the imperfections under the finish and light inspector stamps as a rush to complete and Ship with dull stamps). It was after much appeal that the U.S. War Department authorized Colt to produce more pistols for the British, who pleaded that the pistols were “urgently needed by our flying forces” and failure to deliver would result in the forces being “seriously handicapped”. 15,000 Colt 1911s were eventually delivered to the British by 1919, with 45,000 extra magazines. This pistol was made in 1917 and has the British inspection marks of G.W.R. Stedman, who was the resident British inspector, as well as both British and Canadian property marks (both use a Broad Arrow, but the Canadian Broad Arrow is an arrow surrounded by a “C”). The pistol has been touched up and is in about Very Good condition as is, with about 70% of its current finish remaining. The bore is mottled bright and gray and the rifling is sharp. Even the British could respect the quality and superiority of the 1911 over comparable semi-automatics of the day, even their own. These guns were integral in the performance of the RAF and the success of the Allies in WWI, and some were obviously given to the Canadians. If this gun could talk, it would likely tells stories of two wars and the decades in between.