So, You Want a Remington-UMC 1911?

They were rare. Very rare. 21,677 of them were made in 1918 and 1919, numbered from 1 to 21,677. And that was near-as-dammit a century ago, during most of which time they were a USGI pistol through four major and a bunch of minor wars. So survivors from that small old batch are rare today, and they change hands rarely these days.

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Here’s the back story, from the NRA Museum, which holds this one, Nº 2900:

In late 1917 and early 1918, the government approached both Remington-U.M.C. and Winchester Repeating Arms Co. about manufacturing the M1911. Remington-U.M.C.’s Bridgeport, Connecticut plant was the largest in the United States at that time, and production lines at the 1.6 million square-foot complex were turning out a variety of arms, including M1917 bolt-action rifles and Browning .50 caliber machine guns, as well as M1891 Mosin-Nagant rifles for the Russian government. In nearby New Haven, Winchester also produced M1917 rifles, in addition to Browning Automatic Rifles and M1897 trench shotguns. Both companies received contracts for 500,000 M1911s. Under terms of their agreements, pistols manufactured by these two firms were to be completely interchangeable with those produced by Colt and Springfield Armory.

Colt provided technical assistance in the form of sample pistols and production drawings, but problems quickly arose. In addition to numerous discrepancies, these drawings contained only nominal dimensions and no tolerances. Finding it easier to make their own blueprints based on measurements obtained from the Colt-produced sample pistols rather than reconcile more than 400 known discrepancies, Remington-U.M.C. created a set of “salvage drawings” that were later used by other contractors as well. The Army suspended its contract with Remington-U.M.C. on December 12, 1918, but allowed the company to manufacture additional examples to reduce parts inventories on hand. All told, nearly 22,000 M1911s were delivered to the government before Remington-U.M.C. shut down its production line.

In the summer of 1919, the company turned over its pistol manufacturing equipment to Springfield Armory, where it was placed in storage until the Second World War.

Winchester’s 500,000 pistols? None were delivered: just parts. Indeed, the US took delivery of just over 500,000 1911 pistols in total from all manufacturers, mostly from Colt, including about 100,000 made before the US entered World War I. So, while Winchesters and some other abortive contract 1911s are functionally nonexistent, the survivors of the 21,677 Remington-UMC pistols are about the rarest 1911s that a regular guy can acquire — but the prices of the pistols have been climbing.

Until Remington and Turnbull cut a deal… which put new Remington-UMC pistols on the market. Turnbull made a run of 1,000, but they’re identically marked to their 1918-19 forbears — except for the serial numbers, which start at UMC 21,678 and go up from there.

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It’s a close match in processes, finish, and detail to the original. It even has the inspecting officer’s initials, reproduced, behind the trigger on the left side of the frame.

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Each pistol comes with a nice collection of accessories — holster, lanyard, mag pouch, and a display case that holds the pistol and the accessories.

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The accessories include original-style “2-tone” magazines.

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These photos came from one that’s up for auction for $2,000 opening bid, or a buy-it-now of $2,100, which is close to the recommended retail. Sure, you can get four generic imported 1911s for that, but that’s not what you’re buying here. While an original Remington-UMC 1911 in good condition is worth more than double the cost of this rig, the reproduction will never be worth as much as the original. On the other hand, Turnbull guns could certainly emerge as collector’s items in their own right.

If you shop around, you can find one or another for around $1,300.

Of course, this GI Turnbull is kind of entry-level for Turnbull’s 1911 line. You can spend many thousands on one, with, say, engraving and color case-hardening. And you can buy them in sets. 

Sure, it’s a modern reproduction, but it’s made in the USA, and isn’t a bad centerpiece for a US martial arms collection.

14 thoughts on “So, You Want a Remington-UMC 1911?

  1. Boat Guy

    THAT’s a purty piece. T’would be a good “centerpiece” I spose – specially on the Thanksgiving table (IF we have ANYTHING to be thankful for by then macro-wise). Still with the specter looming there’s no way I could justify that kind of money on any pistol I can think of.
    I still have the single two-tone mag (with lanyard loop – I note these don’t have them) for my GrandDad’s pistol. We’ve kinda retired that one since the barrel bushing failed (piece wasn’t even a hundred years old and it already broke!), but it’s still “functional”.

  2. BAP45

    Yes a reproduction but a meticulous and gorgeous one. And when you compare to other higher end or semi custum 1911s like Wilsons not all that bad really.

    1. Boat Guy

      One of the differences being that with a Wilson (et al) you can actually SEE the sights.

      1. BAP45

        Haha true. But that bluing looks really clean. And I’m sure the fit is outstanding. And for the niche this is for they won’t care. Besides who needs sights anyways…

  3. Bart Noir

    So the NRA says that Remington UMC was making .50 caliber Browning machine guns in 1917 and 1918? This would be the Machine Gun, M1921? The very first .50 caliber Browning started testing on 15 Oct 1918, just a month prior to the 11th minute 11th day 11th month cease-fire.
    Unless there were WW1 time machines, it must be that Remington was making .30 caliber Browning machine guns during the war.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Think it’s sloppy editing on the NRA guy, he talks about how big the plant was in 17-18 and then goes into what contracts they had. Both the .30 and the BAR only got to France in tiny numbers at the end of the war, but both saw combat. The .50 wasn’t ready, even though it was being pushed hard as an AT measure.

  4. looserounds.com

    this is a nice repro.
    Thing is, Colt re issued their 1918 models and they sold for around 1100 one side or the other, and were just as faithful. and unlike the remingtons, were/are forged and not cast. And if I remember correctly, turnbull did the bluing on the original run of the colts before they started making the “black army ” versions

    the rest of that stuff can be bought for a reasonable deal.

    Turnbull is great and I am sure its outstanding quality, but Remington would do a lot better making it a standard catalog pistol for a few years and not some limited run special edition

    1. Pathfinder

      Yes they did. I got mine a heck of a lot cheaper than $1100.00 though.

      This will probably make some people scream at their computer screen, but who cares. I used it for an IDPA match one time

      1. 11B-Mailclerk

        I can understand not shooting a museum piece of antique manufacture and/or questionable condition.

        Why would anyone buy a newly-made gun and -not- shoot it? If you just want to look, get a photo.

        1. Pathfinder

          It boggles the mind sometimes.

          I know guys that buy brand new guns and the only time the box gets opened is when it is checked at the gun shop. They take it home and never open it. Unless it’s to show it off.

  5. Aesop

    I had one. But 3rd MarDiv made me give it back after I qualified with it. It also clanged like a cowbell when carried or fired. I suspect it had spent some goodly portion of its days in someplace like China or the Philippines, inter-war, before coming to rest in Oki.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Perhaps it will be among the 1911s that Congress has directed CMP can sell, rather than among the ones that the DOD previously destroyed.

      1. Boat Guy

        Probly not the way to bet, but wouldn’t that be a nice piece to draw? The folks at CMP might be observant enough to winnow the bunch. In my experience they DO pay attention.

      2. Aesop

        Highly unlikely; MCLB Barstow and Albany have, to a near certainty, Revolutionary War Brown Bess bayonets, Civil War mess kits, and Spanish American War entrenching tools neatly boxed up in some apocryphal collection of crates, “just in case”.
        (Even odds the Ark of the Covenant is also at one or the other location.)
        I would sooner bet real money on an earth-ending meteorite strike than wager that the Corps will ever, under any circumstances including presidential/DoD decree, part with one operable weapon.
        Rumor has it the ghost of Archibald Henderson would arise, walk the earth, and strangle the sitting commandant in his sleep, were such to occur.

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