At Close Range: The M1911 Pistol in the Korean War

My experience in outdoor IPSC competition in the Northern Ontario winter of 2003 coincides with the need to "degrease" completely a 1911A1 when it is being fired at minus 30 Celsius in a 20 mph wind IF you want it to work all the time. The Korean War featured very severe cold temperatures for all the troops; winter clothing and gloves for shooting at deep sub zero temperatures were essential and were not issued initially as I recall.

Northern Ontario in the winter has equivalent temperatures; the coldest I ever experienced was when I went to start my 1976 Dodge Aspen at minus 40 Celsius or minus 47 Fahrenheit, The tires had flat surfaces on them from sitting in the cold. My regular gear was an Arctic parka for such events as commuting to work.

In winter time IPSC matches are held predominately indoors in such a climate. However clubhouse renovations left the only option to do one outside in Winter 2003. The day of the match it was minus 30 Celsius with a 20 mph wind..

I showed up at the outdoor level 1 match in my Arctic parka and decided to use an US issue GI type flap holster with my Colt 1911A1 Series 80. I had lightly lubricated it with a well known commercial lubricant that "said on the bottle that it was good for 30 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

We did a lot of standing around outside before the match began. Everything "cooled off" in the bitter wind; I wore light silk gloves so I could maintain my dexterity and not experience "frost bite" you can get from touching bare metal at severely cold temperatures.

My 1911A1 in .45ACP fired okeh for the first stage but in the second stage it started to act in a "slo mo" form where on firing the slide moved very slowly and on the last two shots I had to push the slide forward to get it to fire.

By now those who were taking off their jackets to shoot with their standard IPSC set up with the holster on their pants versus outside on their parka as I was called a "time out" to warm up in the club house as other pistols were failing to fire in the cold as well. As I recall one or two competitors "retired" citing failures of their 1911s or tightly fitted "race guns" to work in the cold.

Metal "shrinks" in severe temperatures. A 1911A1 at room temperature whose slide rattles does not do that anymore at minus 30 Celsius or colder.

At the club house I completely degreased my pistol BUT instead of shooting it "unlubricated" I put small amounts of powdered graphite on the slide and rails and the other key bearing surfaces..very lightly. I had the powdered graphite as I use it on my 1911 magazines to lube the side walls and the magazine follower very lightly.

Upon returning to the third stage I was able to draw and fire from my flap holster two shots on score on the standard IPSC target at 7 metres scoring a 5 and a 4 centre mass in 1.39 seconds.

For there on my .45 worked 100% in the severe cold one where when you try to open a car door handle made out of thick plastic it "breaks off". At age 81 it is my all time favourite pistol chambered in either 45ACP or 10 mm.


Love me my RIA 1911A1 GI. My TIPS:
A. Paint the front sight post a neon color. Will help accuracy.
B. Hogue finger groove rubber grips help with both recoil control and accuracy.
C. Wilson Combat ETM 10 round magazines are the best for this same gun's reliability.


This is a DMC purchase from the late 50's early 60's. It was rebuilt at Augusta Arsenal from a Colt WWI era frame and a WWII slide from Ithaca. All the small parts appear to be new as well as the High Standard barrel. I'm sure many rebuilt 1911's were used during the Korean War.