1917 45ACP Revolver + Improved Ammo = New Life for Old Guns

By Major Van Harl USAF Ret

Colt M1917 Revolver
Colt M1917 Revolver
AmmoLand Gun News
AmmoLand Gun News

Wisconsin –-(Ammoland.com)-  In past US military history only officers and some NCOs routinely carried handguns.

The average soldier on the front lines had a rifle and bayonet.

With the US entering WW I in 1917 they analyzed three years of combat data on how the British and French had been ineffectively fighting a trench war.

When the Brits attacked a German trench they jumped into these man-made holes in the ground with long, bolt action rifles attached on the end with very long bayonets.

This was not that conducive to good close-quarters combat. A decision was made by the US that the average frontline Infantry troop would have a handgun so they could fight effectively in tight spaces.

The Colt 1911 45 acp semi-auto pistol was in service. However, there were not enough of these man-stopping handguns to go around for all the Soldiers and Marines. American troops would be looking a German soldier right in the eye, thus requiring these fresh to the battlefield “yanks” the ability to stop the sons of the Kaiser at close range.

To meet the increased need for 45 acp handguns, both Colt and Smith & Wesson developed a large frame revolver designated the M-1917, that could shoot the same ammo as the Colt 1911 semi-auto pistol. ( More on the M-1917 45 ACP Revolver : https://tiny.cc/mqmz0w )

The problem was there is no rim on the 45 acp cartridge, so a half-moon shaped clip was developed to hold three rounds of 45 acp. Two loaded clips could then be inserted into the revolver. Both Colt and Smith & Wesson made 150,000 plus of these M-1917 45 acp revolvers and somewhere close to 300,000 Soldiers had a close combat, very effective kraut killing machine in their hands, in the trenches of France.

They otherwise would have fought at a disadvantage like British and French soldiers did in those mud-filled holes. There are many a story of a Marine with his entrenching tool (shovel) sharpened to a razors edge in one hand and his M-1917 handgun in the other, jumping into a German trench and not stopping until they were all dead.

In fact the Germans called the Americans gangsters because of this tactic. I saw my first M-1917 at the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri. Truman carried a M-1917 and right then and there I knew I needed one.

I went through a couple of both Colt and S&W 1917 revolvers over the years. I currently have one with a very low four digit number. It is ugly from almost 100 years of use and carry but it shoots really tight groups. I finally figured out why, half the parts on the old handgun had been replaced over the years to include a new barrel and cylinder. The issue is the old M-1917s are not considered to be the strongest of the revolvers chambered in 45 acp so you have to stick to standard pressure ammo.

Buffalo Bore Ammunition 45 Auto Rim Standard Pressure - 225 Gr. Hard Cast Wadcutter
Buffalo Bore Ammunition 45 Auto Rim Standard Pressure – 225 Gr. Hard Cast Wadcutter

The folks at Buffalo Bore Ammunition (buffalobore.com), out in St. Ignatius, MT have developed 45 auto-rim cased, improved ammo (standard pressure) for my old M-1917. The auto rim case means I don’t have to use the half-moon clips when I load the new ammo into the cylinder. The ammo I tested had a 225gr wadcutter bullet. When you take it out of the box the first thing you notice is this flat piece of lead barely sticking out of the end of the brass case. When you shoot it you will see these big, really crisp .45 diameter holes in the target. This bullet does not punch a narrow self-closing hole in evil tissue it cuts a large blood-letting channel in whatever you are trying to stop with your old M-1917, game or bad guys.

I did not notice much of a difference in the recoil of the Buffalo Bore 45 auto-rim ammo compared with the standard 230gr FMC 45 acp ammo I was shooting that same day.

“Officer, I was not trying to kill anyone today”, “officer, I was trying to stop this evil person from severely harming my family” that would be my response if I had to use this improved 45 auto-rim ammo to save my wife and daughter from destruction.

There are thousands of the old M1917 revolvers out there along with the newer production six-guns chambered in 45 acp. Any of the handguns can be improved by using the Buffalo Bore 45 auto-rim ammo.

Because, it is about stopping evil as it charges you, whether it is in the trenches of France in 1917 or in the “trenches” of modern America. 45 caliber handguns have always been a man-stopper for the US military and American law enforcement–meaning the law abiding American citizen.

It is “Strictly Business” stop the evil.

Major Van Harl USAF Ret.
[email protected]

About Major Van Harl USAF Ret.:Major Van E. Harl USAF Ret., a career Police Officer in the U.S. Air Force was born in Burlington, Iowa, USA, in 1955. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Infantry School.  A retired Colorado Ranger and currently is an Auxiliary Police Officer with the Cudahy PD in Milwaukee County, WI.  His efforts now are directed at church campus safely and security training.  He believes “evil hates organization.”  [email protected]

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Victor fox

Sir indeed almost 100 later we still face The hordes of evil not pré nazi germans but a rather criminal and communist regime that s being imposed worldwide thats trying to steal a man’s freedom happiness and well being. This is happening in latim america europa and in América. God bless all and take a hold on your guns.

Capn Jack

As a 30-06 case and a .45 ACP case both share similar external dimensions, a cut down 30-06 case can be reloaded into a dandy shot shell using .410 wading. Loaded with # 6 shot, the 1917 makes a great close range, 6 shot, shot gun for snakes, or small game.


Over the years since 1917 Smith & Wesson has made quite a few revolvers chambered for the .45 ACP. Recently they even made a stainless steel revolver they call the Model 625. Seems like a good load for that gun.


Would they be safe in a pristine shaved webley Mk VI?


Yep, 225 grain hard cast wadcutter is what it said. That’s a serious round.

I really want one of those 1917 Colts, in the 45 Colt caliber sometimes called the “long colt.”


aint them wad cutters ?

Laymen's Tactical

I have been a great fan for years of bringing old guns back into service. Having new ammunition being produced that makes these old service weapons relevant again is really outstanding!