The Wasatch Behind: Honoring Browning's baby
"Is this a great state, or what?" Uncle Spud grinned. "Did you hear the news? Utah might be the first state in the union to have an official state handgun."
"That's great," I said. "Utah is a pretty high caliber state. I think it's time we had a state handgun."
"The Utah house of representatives passed the resolution last week," Spud purred. "They want the official state handgun to be the Browning Model 1911 .45 caliber pistol."
"Cool," I said. "We wouldn't want some wimpy .22 or .380."
"That's right," he agreed. "The .45 is tried and true. John Browning's baby has knocked down more bad guys than Dog the Bounty Hunter."
"I'll bet Utah catches a lot of guff from the liberal media," I smiled. "Those anti-gun people are sure to go ballistic."
"What the heck," the Spudster smirked. "The California state weed is a marijuana plant. Sometimes we think those people are goofy, too. Besides, pistols are good guns. They are defensive weapons. They save lives. Ask any law officer or soldier why he carries one. Ask any law-abiding private citizen why he carries one.
"But why did Utah choose the Model 1911 and not the .45 Colt revolver made famous by Porter Rockwell?"
"Let me tell you how it happened," Spud said eagerly. "Back in the early 1900s the American army was busily engaged in putting down insurrection in the Philippine Islands. You remember; we took the Philippines from Spain following the Spanish American War of 1898 - Teddy Roosevelt, San Juan Hill and all of that.
"Anyway, the Moro tribesmen were a tough band of Philippine renegades who would get all doped-up on happy weed and hate speech and then charge the Americans with muskets and machetes. The wimpy .38 revolvers the Yanks were using failed to cut the mustard. Too many of our troops were reporting to sick call with machete-related injuries.
"To the rescue came John Moses Browning, a good Utah boy who dabbled in being a firearms genius. John Browning designed a semi-automatic .45-caliber pistol that would knock down machete-wielding bad guys like bowling pins. Recognizing a good thing, the army beat their .38s into plowshares and adopted the more effective handgun. John Browning's pistol officially entered government service in 1911.
"The pistol went into old Mexico with General Pershing in pursuit of Panco Villa in 1916, and it was standard issue to our Doughboys in the trenches of World War I. In the 1930s, Elliot Ness and the 'G' men took down Baby Face Nelson and Bonny and Clyde while packing John Browning's baby. The pistol was, and is, a great gun for law officers."
"During World War II, over two million Model 1911s were manufactured. The pistol served with distinction in all military theaters, in every clime and under every adverse condition. Proud G.I.s smuggled them home as war souvenirs by the tens of thousands."
"The gun served again as America's official sidearm during the Korean War, performing flawlessly in the frozen winter battles of that conflict. Then, just a few years later, the Model 1911 saw duty in the steaming jungles of Vietnam, again performing perfectly."
"John Browning's baby proved to be such a great gun that it is still on active duty with special military units 100 years after its introduction. No other firearm in history has done so well or served so long. The army screwed up and adopted a Beretta 9mm pistol in 1985, but the Special Forces, Seals, and other high-impact troops still carry the old .45 because they know it is a better gun. And, the Model 1911 is still one of the best selling handguns on the civilian market today. Modern gun makers can't improve on perfection."
"With a record like that, I think the Model 1911 should be honored for 100 years of service to our country," Spud said proudly. "And since old John Browning was a local Utah boy, what could be more appropriate than the state of Utah bestowing the honor?"
"I completely agree," I said reverently.
"Two-bits you can't hit that scruffy old pot-gut out there by that sage bush."
My little heart skipped a beat as the slide on Spud's Model 1911 slammed shut on a 230-grain hollow-point.
"I'll take that bet," he grinned.