Patton’s Revolver And The M1911


Above of course is the famous side arm of  General Patton.    This Colt  Model P is of course chambered  for the classic widowmaker, .45 Colt. or .45 Long Colt if you like that better.   I won’t go into its purchases history and serial number and blah blah blah. That has been done to death.    It was the pistol that Patton used in his Mexican expedition to personally waste one man and helped down another man.   Patton reportedly strapping their bodies across the hood of his Dodge car like slain trophy deer when he drove back to report to Pershing and thus earning his promotion to 1st Lt.

The ivory, never pearl!, grips has two notches filed in.  It doesn’t take much  to guess what they were for.

Over the years  while talking about Patton and his sidearms, people have wondered to me why Patton didn’t carry a M1911.   Well, he was issued a Colt M1911 and he did carry it for a time. Then something happened that ended that.

Patton was a master pistol shot.  He even competed in the Olympics one year.   As a master of the Handgun, Patton was like everyone else and always wanted to improve the trigger. He would stone the parts to give his guns the “hair trigger”  he liked.    Upon getting his M1911 he of course filed  and stoned the parts to make the trigger as light as he liked.

The rest of this story has a few versions I have read over the years.  One has it  that at some point Patton stamped his foot and the gun discharged , grazing his leg. The parts having been altered to the the point of being unsafe.    I find this story  told a million times to be unlikely.   Even with messing with the FCG of a M1911  it would have been nearly impossible for it to go off without depressing the gripe safety. Patton would not have pinned it or altered and the safety to have been defective or  deactivated. Patton carried his  Peace maker with a load of 5 rounds, hammer down on an empty chamber. He would unlikely carried a 1911 cocked , with a round in the chamber back then.

The story  I think is probably more accurate and the one  I like the best is a bit more colorful.     While at some  watering hole in TX or Mexico around the local population and while drinking, Patton while radiating  confidence  and  performing the macho antics of the area and its culture shoved his 1911 into his waist in the “Mexican carry”  ( no holster) fashion.  The gun went off and grazed Patton and very nearly cost Patton  the cojones that made him the most famous tank commander of of WW2.       Apparently this rattled Patton as it would most.   Patton of course blamed the gun  and not his alterations to it not advised by the factory.   It is much more likely Patton almost shot his sack off after being a little drunk and showing off.

Patton did use the M1911 while he served in WW1 but after seemed to prefer his 6 shooters. Below is part of an article from the 1971 August issue of Guns&Ammo.


“In those days, Patton was quoted as saying that the auto was an arm of two parts, while the revolver required nothing other than loose ammunition. Also, the pistol was totally dependent on the condition of the magazine for proper functioning. He once told his nephew that the automatic pistol was a fine noisemaker for scaring people but that it was well to practice with the revolver if it was going to be necessary to fight with handguns to live. Patton also often stated that the handgun should never be drawn and pointed unless it was intended to shoot to kill. The nephew, Frederick Ayer, Jr., went on to become a fine pistol shot, eventually serving as a high-ranking FBI agent during WWII. As a boy, Ayer witnessed a very early version of Hogan’s Alley (FBI Academy) animated target training, as practiced by his Uncle George Patton and a well-to-do Massachusetts sportsman. Col. Francis Throope Colby had set up a white-painted metal screen in his basement in the early 30s and projected upon it his own pictures of charging African game and spear-waving natives. Colby and Patton loaded .22 pistols with the now-unobtainable explosive-tipped rim­ fires and competed with each other in naming and hitting marks on the pictures. It is said they also competed in profanity, something else Patton used as part of his “warrior” window dressing.  These practice sessions were part of Patton’s life in the period between World Wars I and II.”

“Shortly after the 1916 excursion into Mexico, he was ordered to the Allied Expeditionary Force for the World War in Europe. Patton was still on Pershing’s staff, but now detailed to be the first U.S. commander of tanks. When he landed in France in 1917, he carried an ivory handled .45 Auto. As far as is known, he left his Single Action behind, for all of WWI.”

Patton earned the Distinguished Service Cross and promotions for WWI tank operations that go beyond the scope of this article. There is no record of his having to fire his handgun in hand-to-hand combat, although in later years he was known to have claimed six Germans for that period.

At one point, Patton lay severely wounded after a foot charge on a machine gun nest, his ex-orderly tending him in a muddy shell hole. As he did so, Corporal Joseph T. Angelo used his own and Patton’s .45 Autos to fire on German emplacements not far away. In later years, Patton also joked about how he (when conscious) and Angelo took pot shots at low-flying German planes during the several hours before heroic action by Corporal Angelo resulted in Patton’s rescue and recovery.

The .45 Auto which Patton carried evidently served with more dependability than the earlier .45s he tried and put aside, yet there is little or no record of his carrying it again. The ivory handled pistol was seen briefly during maneuvers in 1941 but was superseded for a time by a Colt .22 Woodsman! The .22 rode with Patton while he was training tankers in the California­ Arizona desert near Indio, in 1942.

Maybe it was Patton’s romantic nature that  gave him preference for revolvers like the ones carried by his heroes of the civil war.  Or maybe he just liked the more powerful rounds the guns could fire.



  1. Read where in his Olympic games, he missed getting a medal by having a poor showing in the pistol portion of the Pentathlon.

  2. that .22gauge thing is a verbatim quote from the linked article.

    i had noticed this error as well, should have used quotation marks to make it obvious to the reader as a copypaste or maybe edited in a [sic] to highlight the original author’s fail.

    greets from europe


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