The Colt "Black Army" M1911
To be sure, Hartford was cutting corners to produce as many pistols as possible. Many of the small parts such as the slide stops and thumb safeties were outsourced or previously manufactured, and were still polished and blued in the previous manner. Over time, the weaker "Black Army" finish wore off many of the slides and frames while the small parts remained blued. After ninety years, the uneven appearance from different rates of wear often gives the impression that all original pistols were put together from scavenged parts. Because of the mix master appearance when weathered and a greater chance of wear on these wartime pistols, many collectors are still seeking the elusive Colt "Black Army" pistols with a high amount of finish. When such a pistol appears on the market, it can command high prices.
All "Black Army" pistols will have the rampant Colt in the center of the slide. The prancing pony moved there sometime between serial number 275000 and 290000. They will also have the typical characteristics of a M1911, a smooth flat mainspring housing with a lanyard loop, an early M1911 slide stop, and a wide spur hammer with an itty bitty spur on the grip safety. Walnut double diamond grips are de rigueur.
I was fortunate to find my Colt "Black Army" walking into a gun show at a fair price. Although the wartime expedient finish is mostly absent on the exterior of my pistol, it has seen very little actual use. The interior parts are still as new, and the bore is bright. Prior to being accepted by the US Army, this M1911 was given the nod by Springfield Armory inspectors. The eagle proofmark is visible above the magazine release. I am happy to have an all original M1911 that can be handled without hesitation.
While the "Black Army" pistol is often viewed as a World War One pistol, it must be remembered that the Great War ended with the armistice signed on 11 November, 1918, a scant seven months after the "Black Army" variation began. Thousands of Colt "Black Army" M1911s languished in the armories of the US military, where they sat ready until war was again declared in 1941. The "Black Army" Colts were a common sidearm in the combat theaters of WWII until 1943, when production of the M1911A1 reached it's zenith. It's ironic that many pistols often associated with WWI finally saw combat after Pearl Harbor, and were brought home by the GIs of WWII.