The Latest John Wayne Commemorative
A 1911A1 to honor Wayne’s most memorable WWII films
By Dennis Adler
John Wayne’s cinematic legacy is “The Great American Western” but The Duke also left an unforgettable mark across film history with a handful of outstanding dramatic, and occasionally comedic films, along with a list of memorable war films during his 46 year career. He made 140 motion pictures from 1930’s The Big Trail to The Shootist in 1976 and this included more than a dozen war pictures, all of which were WWII films except for 1968’s The Green Berets. Among his most famous were The Sands of Iwo Jima in 1949 and The Longest Day in 1962. The Colt Government Model 1911A1 was a part of those films and that great era in American history.
On the big screen John Wayne covered the full scope of the U.S. military at war, with roles portraying characters in the Army, Navy, Seabees and Marine Corps, and ranks from Sergeant to General and Admiral, in such memorable films as In Harm’s Way (directed by Otto Preminger), They Were Expendable (directed by John Ford), and Flying Leathernecks.
In a WWII film, if John Wayne had a handgun, it was a military issue Colt Model 1911A1, and what he did for the 1873 Colt Peacemaker in westerns, he did for the .45 ACP Government Model. It is with this heritage that Air Venturi and John Wayne Enterprises have introduced the first Colt Model 1911 John Wayne commemorative blowback action CO2 model.
About the gun
In design and handling this is very close to the Tanfoglio 1911A1 reviewed in War Dogs (Airgun Experience December 27th, 29th and 31st) but with a handsome weathered gray finish that has the look of an aged and battle tested handgun; there are worn edges, scuffs, and scratches, all the things that happen to a real gun on the field of battle, but the grips are excellent, rather than equally worn, and have a nice wood grained, checkered finish.
The John Wayne model does not have the lanyard loop at the base of the grip frame, but has a correct small (original) style thumb safety. The pistol also features the correct front and rear military sights, checkered trigger shoe, and checkered arched mainspring housing. Although not correct for any 1911, proper safety requires that the white “S-arrow-F” be printed on the side of the safety lever, as is also seen on the Umarex Colt Commander model. At least the safety has a weathered finish.
The feature that sets this 1911A1 apart from others (including previous weathered finish editions like the WWII commemorative) is the embossed John Wayne signature and name on the left side of the slide, and 1911 Commemorative on the left side of the frame. The right side of the slide bears the mandatory warnings and the frame has the caliber .177 cal (4.5mm), proof marks, and serial number embossed. These minor exasperations, however, do not detract from the overall significance of the John Wayne 1911A1, which is a first in this caliber.
While there are variances from one maker to another, the basic characteristics of trigger, safety, slide, and magazine release operation remain generally consistent within blowback action 1911 models. The trigger pull on the John Wayne is a stout 5 pounds, 14 ounces, with 0.2 inches of take up to drop the hammer and quick reset. The checkered hammer spur is easy to thumb cock; the slide racks with moderate spring resistance, and of course, like the best 1911A1 airguns, the grip safety functions exactly as on a .45 ACP model. The pistol even fieldstrips the same as a 1911, and with the weathered finish you don’t have to fret if you scratch the frame putting the slide release back into place!
To run the gun I used Umarex steel BBs and fired 15 shots per target (the magazine actually holds 18 shots). Average velocity for the gun is rated at 320 fps, and on this not too warm 50 degree afternoon it clocked 309 to 319 fps through the traps on a ProChrono chronograph. The slide has a nice little kick when it comes back, so you have some modest feedback after pulling the trigger.
With targets set out at 21 feet, I used a two-handed hold and Weaver stance (as opposed to the single hand, military shooting stance in the photo) and managed a best 15-shot target measuring 2.25 inches in the 9, 10 and X rings, with the majority of shots at 1.81 inches and a best 5-rounds tightly grouped at 0.5 inches. There were no failures or issues with loading (you lock down the follower and, if you use a speed loader, can punch in 18 rounds in a couple of seconds).
This is a quality blowback action CO2 powered 1911A1 with the fit, feel, and finish John Wayne would have been proud to carry on The Longest Day or any day.
A word about safety
Blowback action airguns provide the look, feel and operation of their cartridge-firing counterparts and this is one reason why they have become so popular. Airguns in general all look like guns, blowback action models more so, and it is important to remember that the vast majority of people can’t tell an airgun from a cartridge gun. Never brandish an airgun in public. Always, and I can never stress this enough, always treat an airgun as you would a cartridge gun. The same manual of operation and safety should always apply.