M1917 Revolver: America’s Forgotten Handgun

    The classic American M1917 revolver was a much needed answer to a very evident problem: not enough standard issue .45acp 1911 pistols to go around. Smith & Wesson and Colt both produced these revolvers at the request of the US Government, and they served in at least some capacity until Vietnam. Today however, it seems like many people are unaware that even during the era of the 1911 in US military service, the Army was still buying revolvers.

    Transcript …

    (gun firing) – [Voiceover] Hey guys, it’s Alex C with TFB TV.

    Today we’re taking a look at the American M1917 Revolver.

    Today these are generally overlooked, but they are a very significant pieces of American Firearm History.

    Basically, these were adopted by the US Army during World War One because the US could not produce enough semi-automatic 1911 Pistols.

    Colt and Smith both produced M1917’s chambered in 45 ACP, and issued them with half moon clips.

    The Smith version was based on the second model hand ejectors and had a shoulder machined in each cylinder to allow users to shoot 45 ACP without a moon clip, something that the Colt guns initially lacked.

    While these saw service in the trenches of World War One and 300,000 were made, they stuck around through World War Two and even appeared in Vietnam, where certain situations, like extremely cramped conditions may have been problematic for self-loaders.

    So let’s load up this classic American revolver, and see what it can do in my less than capable hands.

    (gun firing) Here you can see that extracting the half moon clip is actually quite easy, you just press the ejector rod, and pull each of the half moon clips right out of there.

    It’s also quite easy to load them, although to be honest I would prefer a full moon clip.

    As stated, because of the shoulder machined into each cylinder on the Smith guns you can also single load without fear of the cartridge case slipping forward in the cylinder and the firing pin failing to ignite it, and you can see that pressing the ejector rod in this case does absolutely nothing.

    (gun firing) It’s worth noting that the military at the time would have taught handgun shooters to shoot one handed, today we think of this as strange, awkward, and the wrong way of doing things, but really that didn’t change for a very long time.

    Even in 1911 in training videos and manuals, you’ll see pictures of soldiers basically holding the pistol far away from their body, postured in a 19th Century shooting pose.

    (gun firing) (gun firing) (gun firing) Notice that after pretty much each shot I’m re-adjusting my grip, because the gun really has quite a lot of muzzle flip, and the grip’s slick sides make it really want to go full 90 degrees on you each time you shoot it.

    With two handed shooting, you notice this significantly less, and I do try that towards the end of the video, and it does improve quite substantially.

    (gun firing) (gun firing) (gun firing) Here I tried shooting with two hands at about 50 or 60 meters, I don’t recall exactly how far away I was from the target, but I think I did pretty well, I was shooting at about an 18 inch gong on this one, and I landed a fair amount of the shots on target.

    I’m pretty rusty with a revolver, but I enjoyed shooting this gun nonetheless for its historical value, and realistically, it’s a very well put together gun.

    It’s something that you’d expect from pretty much any Smith and Wesson product from the 20th Century.

    I’m not a seasoned revolver shooter but I would not really be able to perform any better with a brand new 686 than I would this one.

    I hope you guys enjoy this video of a classic American revolver, big thanks to Ventura Munitions for supplying the ammunition, we hope to see you next time.

    Alex C.

    Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and Director of TFBTV.