Detonics MkI With, Yes, Forgotten Weapons

TFB Staffer
by TFB Staffer

Although the concept of a sized-down 1911 has become quite common today there was a time when it was unheard of. The Detonics MkI was the first sub-compact 1911 to be made, and it was a boon for the company not only because it was the first of its kind but because making a 1911 smaller presents numerous challenges. They were manufactured between 1976 and 1988 by the Detonics Manufacturing Corporation and were, of course, chambered in .45 ACP. The MkI has a fixed front blade sight and adjustable rear notch sights and a 3 1/4″ barrel. Its creation ushered in the era of smaller 1911s we know and love today, making it an important part of 1911 history.

There are many 1911 fans out there but perhaps the biggest of all was the late Jeff Cooper. Cooper was a big fan of the Colt M1911, and although he was instrumental in the creation of the Bren Ten, it was the 1911 he preferred. Cooper came up with the now fairly common readiness terms of carry based on his 1911:

Condition 4: Chamber empty, empty magazine, hammer down.

Condition 3: Chamber empty, full magazine in place, hammer down.

Condition 2: A round chambered, full magazine in place, hammer down.

Condition 1: A round chambered, full magazine in place, hammer cocked, safety on.

Condition 0: A round chambered, full magazine in place, hammer cocked, safety off.

Cooper carried his 1911 in Condition 1 and taught that method to students at the American Pistol Institute, which is now known as Gunsite. Gunsite is located in Paulden, Arizona and is a fantastic place to hone your firearms skills. Visit Gunsite’s website at

Take a look at the video Ian at Forgotten Weapons made about the Detonics MkI. He does get to play with the best toys!

TFB Staffer
TFB Staffer

TFB Staff, bringing you the latest gun news from around the world for a decade.

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  • DeathFromTheShadows DeathFromTheShadows on Dec 07, 2015

    the first? Hardly! In the early to mid 70s (pre Detonics) Llama made a series of 1911 clones including subcompact .380 models. The .380 was so small it was often called a sock gun.

  • Rick45x8 Rick45x8 on Dec 17, 2015

    I work across the street from the Seattle Tower, where Detonics' HQ was located in the '70s. The gun store where the pistols were bought that were cut-down to create the prototypes was about three blocks south. I have some thousands of rounds through a 1979 Mk. I, and they can be very reliable and accurate enough. I've found that staying on top of spring maintenance - both recoil and magazine - is necessary. They were expensive, costing more than a Colt Gold Cup. I heard stories from a guy who worked at the plant, in Bellevue, WA, that while they were trying to save pennies by buying parts from one subcontractor rather than another, the guys in the penthouse were driving Ferraris and lighting their cigars with $100 bills.