In the HBO® epic Band of Brothers, there is a brief “firearms oops” in the scene where Private Webster confronts a baker who is reluctant to supply bread from his shop to the starving prisoners of the liberated Nazi Concentration camp outside town. He stuffs his GI .45 into the baker’s face to gain cooperation, but the pistol he is using isn’t a GI .45. Watch carefully—you will see white three-dot sights on Webster’s gun. Short supply of the real deal resulted in a substitution of a modern commercial replica pistol of the “loosely based on” variety.
It caused me to wonder if anyone could make an affordable modern rendition of the real deal: a 1911 with original sights, curved backstrap, thumb safety, PLASTIC grips, and grip safety. My current experience with my department issued 1942 1911A1 made me realize that one could actually shoot a 1911A1—to very great effect—without modification, even with modern hollowpoint ammunition. It also taught me a few things. First, certain commercial 1911s are put together without overly tight tolerances, which can affect reliability. Second, advances in hollowpoint ammunition seem to improve reliability for the 1911A1 system. Third, with the possible exception of the sights, John Browning and the U.S. Military had it right the first time.
For those of us who want a shootable piece of history at married guy prices, one that can be counted on not only to entertain but also to defend, Auto-Ordnance/Thompson™ has given us exactly that in their 1911PKZMA .45.
The 1911PKZMA is the closest replica of the original GI pistol that I have had the good fortune to handle. An all steel, USA made pistol, its grips are brown plastic and fully checkered with no “U.S.” marking (which detracts from historic accuracy). There is a lanyard ring in the base of the curved backstrap, sights are small but usable (the fact that they worked for the Vietnam “Tunnel Rats” tells me that they are adequate even in low level light), the thumb safety is pure A1 size, there is no extended slide or magazine release, and the grip safety is beavertail free. The hammer spur is wide and checkered, and takedown is totally original GI.
There are only a couple of small details that tip the observant off to the fact that this is not an original 1911A1. The markings on the left side of the slide read “Model 1911A1 U.S. Army.” On the right side is the Auto-Ordnance name and serial number. The barrel hood is marked .45 ACP. There is no modern warning to advise you not to shoot yourself to ruin the ambiance. The barrel hood is left in the white, and the ejection port is slightly, but not fully, lowered. The final detail is the trigger. Its length falls between the long 1911 trigger, and the short 1911A1 trigger, and is grooved rather than checkered.
Since Auto-Ordnance bought Thompson (Thompson never made .45 pistols for the military), quality has gone way up. The pistol shot marvelously, with both ball and hollowpoint ammo. Accuracy was very good, and not at the “broad side of a barn” levels which military .45s were reputed to be. There were no malfunctions.
The Thompson .45 has an MSRP of $668. It is a working tribute to those who have served in the military and law enforcement ever since the 1911A1 entered service in 1924.
Learn more at www.auto-ordnance.com.