Analysis of Colt Transition Model 1911A1 Serial number 708117 salvaged from the USS Shaw after the December 7, 1941 attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaiian Islands.
On 7 December, the USS Shaw was dry-docked, receiving adjustments to her depth charge mechanisms. During the attack, she took three hits: two bombs through the forward machine gun platform, and one through the port wing of the bridge. Fires spread through the ship. By 0925, all fire-fighting facilities were exhausted, and the order to abandon ship was given. Efforts to flood the dock were only partially successful; and, shortly after 0930, her forward magazine exploded.
Overall condition: The pistol shows evidence and damage of a traumatic event. The pistol shows three kinds of damage. First, overall the weapon is pitted from exposure to water or seawater. Very little of the original finish remains, most of the pistol is bare metal or thin blue/brown. Second, there is evidence of small impacts on the slide, this is consistent with damage caused by metal spall or fragments. Third, the weapon sustained an impact, which damaged the front of the slide and presumably the original barrel and bushing. The weapon exhibits period repairs and is currently in operable condition.
Receiver: The pistols’ receiver, with three exceptions, contains parts consistent with and congruent to known original examples of M1911A1 Transition model Colt pistols. The two replaced parts are the trigger and magazine catch. The trigger was replaced with a Model 1911 long trigger and the magazine catch is blue 1911 or early 1911A1 type. The grips are a mismatched pair of World War I vintage double diamond wood grips. The right side grip is oil soaked and has considerably more wear, consistent with holster carry. The front part of the frame shows some distortion.
Slide: The slide is complete and consistent with known Colt Transition model 1911A1s. The replaced parts are the barrel and bushing. The barrel is a pre war Colt Match Barrel and is marked COLT 45 AUTO MATCH with a circled MB mark. The rifling is strong, however the groves exhibit light pitting consistent with firing corrosive ammunition. The recoil spring, plug, and guide are consistent with known Colt Transition model 1911A1s. The recoil spring has 33 ¾ coils, original to the 1911 and 1911A1 Transition models.
Character of the replaced parts: The parts used to repair the pistol are all of pre 1941 vintage. By 1941 standards the long 1911 trigger, and wood double diamond grips were obsolescent. The barrel may have been a discarded match barrel, which no longer met match specifications. The barrel bushing is a blue replacement and is consistent with pre 1942 repair or spare parts.
Blast Damage: The slide shows damage from metal spall or fragments. Clearly, the area above the “E” in PATENTED shows a high-speed impact. This is consistent with an explosion generating spall or fragments.
The muzzle of the weapon shows another type of impact damage. The impact of the muzzle against a very hard surface deformed the slide. This impact severely damaged the end of the original barrel and the bushing. The end of the slide is trimmed, probably to remove the damaged barrel and bushing. The recoil spring and plug appear original and were protected from the impact by the ability to compress inside the slide during the impact.
This pistol received damage in a blast and during an impact on a hard surface. The slide stop and safety show evidence of having to be driven out by a steel punch during repair. Either the surface rust or blast trauma effectively “locked the pistol” necessitating the harsh techniques used during disassembly. The replacement parts used on the pistol and the manner of repair used on the muzzle support the history of the pistol. All replacement parts are pre-1942, and while serviceable, appear to be discarded or obsolescent parts.