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Question about slide hardening

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It is evident in this picture that Colt hardened the front of this 1943 dated USGI slide as well as the area around the slide stop, but my question is why didn't they go ahead and harden the entire slide while they were at it? I assume it was some type of production shortcut during wartime, but would have taken significantly more effort to do the whole thing?

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The technology to fully harden a finish-machined slide without warping it had not been perfected yet. Austempering was developed during WW2 but wasn't fully implemented until after the war with Colt's commercial production. There were some Austempered slides made during WW2 but they were still being tested by the Ordnance Department when the war ended.
 

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Sometimes, but not always.
 
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The time and added cost of the material (better grades of steel alloys were needed elsewhere), the additional machining and heat-treating processes required were not seen as cost/time beneficial. Remember, the expectant service life was 5000rds. Doubt many issue pistols saw 5000rds during that conflict.

There was an experimental pistol to replace the labor/material intensive 1911 with a stamped steel pistol made by Guide Lamp Div. of GM. Using lessons learned with the M3 'grease gun'. Didn't go past prototype stages.

The Mystery of the Stamped Steel 1911 -The Firearm Blog
 
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