I’ve shot a lot of things with the 1911 .45, which has pretty much been my favorite handgun since I bonded with my first one at the age of twelve, a Colt produced for the military in 1918. It still works fine. I’ve shot targets of paper, cardboard, and steel, and critters from woodchucks to hogs and to big steers that were ready for slaughter. When my late first wife got frustrated with one of her computer hard drives, she caught me when I was heading for the range and said “Take this damn thing with you and shoot hell out of it.” I did. It turned out they didn’t call them “hard drives” for nothing. Damn thing stopped .45 slugs.
I was recently reading “Damn Lucky: One Man’s Courage During the Bloodiest Military Campaign in Aviation History” by Kevin Maurer. (St. Martin’s Press, 2022.) It was the bio of one Lieutenant John Luckadoo who flew a B-17 bomber on 25 missions over Germany in WWII. “Lucky” was his nickname, not just because it was short for Luckadoo, but because he survived those 25 missions when a helluva lot of American flyers didn’t.
They were using the Norden bombsight which was considered a secret weapon against the Axis, and American combat flight crews were under strict orders not to let one fall into the hands of the Nazis. Here’s an account of what happened aboard one crippled bomber that was about to go down, but the crew took care of business before they bailed out. Verbatim:
“’Let’s get the hell out of this crate,’ Barker said over the interphone. ‘She’s going to blow!’
“Second Lieutenant Floyd Peterson, the bombardier, saw the flames too. With Barker’s order, he hit two buttons that set off a charge, destroying the Norden bombsight and related equipment, and then fired a single shot into it from his 1911 pistol.”
In WWI, Sergeant Alvin York used his 1911 .45 to shoot down an entire patrol of German soldiers charging him with fixed bayonets. In WWII, an American combatant reportedly downed a Japanese Zero fighter plane by killing the pilot with a perfectly directed bullet from his 1911.
Lt. Peterson may not have put any lead into an enemy combatant with his .45, but we’ll never know whether the 230-grain slug into the Norden bombsight kept it from being recovered intact by the enemy from the crashed plane, and may have contributed to victory in its own way.