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Argentine Colts and Sistemas, 1914-1966 Part One

BACKGROUND

Argentina has been producing arms since the late 19th century and since that time has aimed toward achieving independence in the manufacture of military equipment. Between 1914 and 1950, 21,616 Colt 1911 and 1911A1 pistols were purchased from Colt by the Argentine Government. Between 1927 and 1966, another 112,494(*) 1911A1’s, called "Sistema Colts," were produced in Argentina under license from Colt.

M1911's

In 1914, the Argentine military adopted the Colt M1911 as their standard military sidearm and contracted with Colt to supply these guns. Argentina took shipment of 2,151 of these weapons between 1914 and 1919. Among them were the following: 321 pistols received in 1914 marked MARINA ARGENTINA (Argentina Navy), S/N C6201 – C6400 and C11501 – C11621; 1000 received in 1916, S/N C20001 – C21000; 400 received in 1919 within the S/N range of C86790 – C116594.
These pistols went through two different channels. The battleships that were being made in the USA for Argentina received the Navy pistols directly. Pistols delivered to Argentina went through the London Armoury Company.
The 1,000 pistols received in 1915 were marked with Argentine crests and property numbers 1 to 1,000 on the tops of the slides. These pistols were designated "Pistola Colt Modelo Argentino 1916.�

THE 1927 CONTRACT

In 1923, Argentina adopted an armaments bill that would eliminate Argentine dependency on foreign arms. Under this bill, the Argentine Congress authorized appropriations for a military modernization program and prepared the infrastructure for a domestic arms industry. In accordance with the new law, an aircraft factory was established in 1927, a munitions factory in 1933, a small steel mill in 1934, and a small arms factory in 1936, all of which were managed by Argentine army officers.

In 1927, the Argentine Commission for Foreign Acquisitions negotiated a contract with Colt for the manufacture of M1911A1 .45 caliber self-loading pistols specially marked and serial numbered in a separate series, and secured a licensing agreement giving the Argentine government the right to manufacture these pistols.

The agreement specified: 1) that Colt would manufacture 10,000 Colt automatic pistols, caliber .45, “Ejercito Argentino Modelo 1927,� for the Argentine Army; 2) that the complete knowledge base for future production of the pistols in Argentina, including drawings, manufacturing instructions, material specifications, tool requirements, etc., would be transferred to Argentine control; and 3) that Argentine technicians would be trained in manufacturing operations and inspection.

THE 1927 HARTFORD ARGENTINE ARMY MODELS

The 10,000 Hartford Colts made for Agentina prior to production of Sistemas were delivered from 1927 to 1933, serial #’s 1-10,000." The production period was from July 28, 1927 to February 16, 1928. Serial numbers were stamped in Colt’s italic numbers on top of the slides, under the mainspring housing, and (usually) on top of the barrel.

On the left side of the slide (the Colt logo is stamped behind these lines):
"COLT'S PT. F.A. MFG. CO. HARTFORD CT. USA"
"PATD APR. 20, 1897,SEPT. 9, 1902,DEC. 19, 1905,FEB. 14, 1911,AUG. 19, 1913."
On the right side of the slide is the Argentine Crest and:
"EJERCITO ARGENTINO"
"COLT CAL. 45 MOD. 1927"
“Ejercito Argentino� is the Argentine Army, but some of the Hartford’s were issued to “Policia Maritima,� Argentina’s Shore Patrol.

“SISTEMA COLTS�

For production of Colt 1911A1's in Argentina, Colt engineers supervised the set-up of the production equipment, which was acquired from the Fritz Werner company in Germany, a maker of arms-manufacturing machinery still in business today.

From 1927 to 1942, 14,000 “Sistema� pistols (from “Sistema Colt,� indicating “made on the Colt system (machinery)� were produced at the Esteban de Luca Arsenal in Buenos Aires, S/N’s 10,001 – 24,000(*), the serial numbers continuing from the Hartford run.

In 1941, after a decade of planning, Argentines established a large and diversified military-industrial complex under the overall supervision of the Direccion General de Fabricaciones Militares (D.G.F.M.), the “Military Manufacturing Agency.� Similar to the US Ordnance Department, the agency was run by the military and military officers managed the manufacturing plants. Among other products, this agency would eventually, through contractual agreements, oversee the production of identical copies of Colt’s M1911-A1, Browning’s Hi Power, and FN’s FAL rifle.

In 1945, after construction of the state-owned Fabrica Militar de Armas Portatiles (F.M.A.P.), “Small Arms Factory� in Rosario, Santa Fe (250 miles from Buenos Aires), assembly of Sistemas was transferred to the new plant and another 88,494 pistols were produced through 1966. This factory was named for Domingo Matheu, a 19th century military official who was active in the early development of the nation’s arms industry.

Today FMAP manufactures a wide range of small arms and ammunition and is known in the industry as “FM.� The Rosario arsenal closed in 1991 and much of its production was transferred to FMAP’s Fray Luis Beltran arsenal, about 15 miles from Rosario.

Sistema Colts were manufactured in accordance with Colt's 1927 drawings. They were identical to US military M1911-A1 pistols except for 6 minor cosmetic differences, and parts were interchangeable.

The differences were: a) the markings, b) the grips, c) a black oxide bluing, d) a sharp edge on the rear of the hammer, e) a sharp edge on the heel of the grip safety, f) indented checkering on the mainspring housing.

The pistols were made for the Argentine Army, Navy, Air Force, government bureaus, police, commercial sales, and export. They were normally serial numbered a) on the right side of the receiver, b) on the grip frame under the mainspring housing, c) on the top and right side of the slide, d) on the top of the chamber, and e) the bottom of the magazine.

In most cases, the presence of an Argentine crest on the pistol indicates government issue; pistols without crests were made for police, non-national government agencies, commercial sales, and export. Also in most cases, barrels on pistols issued to the Army had blued chambers, but the chambers on Navy, police, and commercial barrels were milled after being blued, which resulted in a bright unfinished surface comparable to Colt commercial barrels. Serial numbers were stamped on the barrels prior to bluing, and therefore, bluing remained inside the numbers.

All Sistemas were originally finished in black oxide, except a few that were specially ordered for the Navy. Many were later re-finished, most Navy pistols in parkerization. Early guns had checkered walnut stocks; later had black or brown hard rubber or plastic.

Sistemas from the early ‘50’s without an Argentine crest, marked “Gendarmeria Nacional� were originally made for the U.S. Army’s use in the Korean War. They were never delivered. They were re-stamped and issued to the Gendarmaria, Argentina’s border patrol.

6,226 Sistemas were made for the Argentine Navy (known through the years as “Marina Argentina,� “Armada Argentina,� “Armada Nacional,� and “Marina de Guerra�), and 4,285 for the Argentine Air Force (“Aeronautica Argentina�).

Up to the 1960's, Sistema Colt pistols bear the markings, on the left sides of the slides:
D.G.F.M. - (F.M.A.P.)
The right side of the slide is marked:
Sist. Colt Cal. 11.25mm Mod. 1927

Slide markings changed in the 1960's through to the last pistols produced. On the left sides of the slides:
Fabrica Militar de Armas Portatiles – Rosario (with a circled FM)
Sistema Colt Cal. 11.25mm Industria Argentina
Serial numbers remained stamped on the right sides of the slides.

Sistema Colts were made from forged steel and will be just as long-lived and reliable as their Hartford counterparts. The German, British, and Swedish steel used in their manufacture was the best available. They are regarded as 100% Colt pistols, "Fully USGI," according to one opinion, "in fit, finish, form, and function." The myth that some Sistemas were made from the Graf Spee, a German warship scuttled at Argentina during World War II, is just that – a myth.

At production, it was expected that Sistema barrels would withstand 15,000 rounds. The sights were set for a 6 o’clock hold. The Argentine military used Sistemas during the Falkland/Malvinas War in 1982.

DIMENSIONS
Mechanism Type: Recoil Operated Semi-automatic
Caliber: 11.25mm/.45
Weight: 39 ounces
Barrel Length: 5 inches
Overall Length: 8.62 inches
Magazine Capacity: 7 rounds
Sights: Blade front, V notch rear drift, adjustable for windage
Rifling: 4 grooves, .005 inches deep, .165 inches wide. Right twist, one turn in 9.84 inches

Numbers Produced at FMAP Rosario and Serial #’s, 1945-1966
1945 - 6,000 - #24,001 - #30,000
1946 - 7,628 - #30,001 - #37,628
1947 - 5,000 - #37,629 - #42,628
1948 - 7,000 - #42,629 - #49,628
1949 - 5,000 - #49,629 - #54,628
1950 - 8,000 - #54,629 - #62,628
1951 - 8,011 - #62,629 - #70,639
1952 - 7,016 - #70,640 - #77,655
1953 - 2,500 - #77,656 - #80,155
1954 - 5,000 - #80,156 - #85,155
1955 - 2,500 - #85,156 - #87,655
1956 - 2,500 - #87,656 - #90,155
1957 - 5,626 - #90,156 - #95,781
1958 - 5,547 - #95,782 - #101,328
1959 - 5,000 - #101,329 - #106,328
1960 - 2,066 - #106,329 - #108,394
1961 - 1,000 - #108,395 - #109,394
1962 - 0
1963 - 600 - #109395 - #109,994
1964 - 750 - #109,995 - #110,744
1965 - 1,250 - #110,745 - #111,994
1966 - 500 - #111,995 - #112,494

(SEE PART TWO)
 

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Argentine Colts and Sistemas, 1914-1966, Part Two

Argentine Colts and Sistemas, 1914-1966, Part Two

AGENCY SLIDE MARKINGS ON SISTEMA COLTS:

(No markings); (Argentine crest with no agency); Ejercito Argentino (Army); I.P.(?); Aeronautica Argentina (Air Force); Marina de Guerra, Armada Nacional, Armada Argentina, Marina Argentina (Navy, in various periods); Gendarmeria Nacional (Border Patrol); Ministerio Del Interior – Policia De Los Territorios Nacional; Policia De La Provencia De Buenos Aires; Policia De La Provencia De Santa Fe; C.F.S. (Federal Internal Security).

HARTFORD BUENOS AIRES POLICE MODELS

A batch of 5,320 Hartford Colts were made in 1933 and issued to the Buenos Aires Police Department, and are known as the “Policia de la Capital� pistols. The first order was placed that year through a private arms dealer. Police pistols show the fit and finish typical of pre-war Colts, and are blued with commercial markings. The police pistols are serial numbered within the C165000 through C171000 range.

The pistols have Colt markings, with POLICIA DE LA CAPITAL and /or POLICIA FEDERAL on the slides. On the right sides of the frames is marked, “Government Model� over the serial numbers. The tops of the slides are marked with property numbers, 1 – 5,320.

HARTFORD COLT COMMERCIAL MODELS

From 1914 through 1941, excluding the 10,000 pistols from the 1927 contract, Argentina purchased 11,616 pistols from Colt and they bear various slide markings: 1,420 pistols for the army; 2,290 pistols for the navy; and 6,183 pistols for federal police departments. A total of 1,723 other Colt pistols were also purchased, most of which were likely for provincial police departments. These pistols were in the Colt commercial serial number range.

REFERENCE BOOKS

http://coolgunsite.com/collectors_guide.htm Scroll down moderator Ty Moore’s page for related reference books. Also, Military Pistols of Argentina (Self Published, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1994), by Alex Gherovici. This volume can be purchased by writing to the author at:
Alex Gherovici
P.O. Box 58506
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19102

(*) Sistema production numbers do not seem to be universally accepted.

It was specified in the 1927 agreement, beginning with the 10,000 Hartford Colts, that the Argentine pistols would be separately serial numbered from Colt’s regular production. Those pistols were numbered 1 – 10,000.

Some maintain that the numbering continued, beginning with 10,001, and that production of Sistemas 10,001 through 24,000 took place 1927 through 1942 at the Estaban de Luca arsenal.

According to one source, “8,000 (Sistemas) were made in the late 1920’s, followed by a….batch of 30,000 in the 1930’s to early 1940’s….�

What is universally accepted is that, at the end of WWII, after the opening of FMAP Rosario, production of Sistemas 24,001 through 112,494 took place through 1966, for a total of 88,494 pistols produced at Rosario. Some steadfastly maintain that Sistema production begins and ends at Rosario.

But the assertion of production 1927–1942 makes sense. And why would serial numbering begin at Rosario with 24,001? No guns had been produced there before; it had just opened. And why would the 1927 contract not produce a single gun for 18 years?

One answer holds that the 10,000 1927 Hartford Colts fulfilled Argentina’s needs for the next 18 years. But Rosario averaged over 4,000 pistols per year for 22 years and, during that time, Argentina continued to buy Hartford Colts.

The fact is that 88,494 Sistemas were made at Rosario, and those are the Sistemas turning up in today's marketplace. But assuming 1927-1942 production anywhere else, what happened to those 14,000 pistols? There are plenty of other pistols still around from that era. Where are the early Sistemas?

Additional References:

http://archives.gunsandammo.com/article/argentinas-1911sistema-modelo-1927

http://forums.1911forum.com/showthread.php?t=260836
 

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You stated:"Between 1914 and 1950, 26,426 Colt 1911 and 1911A1 pistols were purchased from Colt by the Argentine Government. Another 102,494 1911A1’s were produced in Argentina under license from Colt.(*)
In 1914, the Argentine military adopted the Colt M1911 as their standard military sidearm and contracted with Colt to supply these guns. Argentina took shipment of 6,821 of these weapons between 1914 and 1919: 5,421, S/N’s C6201 – C-11621 in 1914, 321 of them marked MARINA ARGENTINA (Argentine Navy, also known as Armada Argentina, Armada Nacional, and Marina de Guerra); 1,000 IN 1915, s/n C20,001 – C21000; and 400 in 1919 within the S/N range of C86790 – C116583 " and that Argentina took shipment of 5421 pistols between serial numbers 6201 and 11621. This is all of the pistols within that serial range. Whereas the Canadian Government took delivery of 3900 pistols within that serial range per Goddards shipping records. I believe that the only pistols shipped to Argentina within that serial range were the were two batches between C6201 and C6400, and the batch between C11501 and C11621. Clawson (Page 139 states that there were a total of 2151 1911 style pistols shipped to Argentina and that includes the 1000 pistols shipped in 1916 numbered from C20001 to C21000. Best Karl
 

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Thanks for this information. My 1952 Sistema is one of the best firearms I own, and a joy to shoot.

I have been enamored with it ever since it came into my hands, and have also surfed the net looking for information about its lineage. Thanks for putting this together in one place.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Sistema1927,
Thank you. Mine too, made in 1956, shoots as well as any pistol I own. Everything should be made that well.
 

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Hello Butchblosc,

I just found this forum while trying to find out some info on Sistema's and Agentine Colt's. (Now I get to spend even more time on the computer looking at gun stuff!) Your info has been very helpful! I have been looking hard at getting a Sistema or other Argentine Colt.

I have seen Sistema's for sale on Cruffler.com (J.L.D.) and Southern Ohio Gun. Is there any other sources besides these two places and the auction sites to look?

J.L.D. offers the Sistema's for $300.00 and Pistola Colt Modelo's(?) for $450.00 with original finish. Any opinions?

Thanks for the info!:D

Engineer23
 

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Argentine Colts

Also found the following for sale on the internet,

Marina Argentina #C183XXX
Marina Argentina # C178363
Armana Nacional # C236XXX

I don't see where they fit with the serial number ranges you listed. Maybe I just wasn't reading your info correctly. What are your thoughts?

Thanks again!,

Engineer23
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Engineer23,
Those you cite were later 1911A1 Commercial models from the 30’s and 40’s. Argentina purchased a number of those over the years. I’ll be editing the post with a paragraph on the Commercial Transition models.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Engineer23,
They're the only two sources I see, import-wise, and the prices are better than the ones I see on GunsAmerica. Mine came in through JLD, although I didn't buy directly from them. Couldn't be happier. It's in great shape and shoots great. Looking forward to getting more.
 

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JLD contact

Hello Windy Ridge,

You can get to JLD through www.Cruffler.com. This is their ordering website. You kinda have to look around the site before you find the JLD part.

Engineer23:)
 

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Re: Argentine Colts and Sistemas, 1914-1966, Part Two

butchblosc said:
A batch of 5,320 Hartford Colts were made in 1933 and issued to the Buenos Aires Police Department, and are known as the “Policia de la Capital” pistols. The first order was placed that year through a private arms dealer. Police pistols show the fit and finish typical of pre-war Colts, and are blued with commercial markings. The police pistols are serial numbered within the C165000 through C171000 range.

The right sides of the slides are marked with the normal Colt writing and logo. The left sides are marked POLICIA DE LA CAPITAL. On the right sides of the frames is marked, “Government Model” over the serial numbers. The tops of the slides are marked with property numbers, 1 – 5,320.
interesting...

i have one of those but it says "Policia Federal". There was a mark of some kind to the left of it, but its pretty worn..
And the mark on top says 7167.
 

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butchblosc, I just picked up my latest Sistema today, and it's marked a bit different. It's serial number of 1101XX (1964) and the right side only has the serial number-no slide markings denoting what branch of service. The left side of the slide is marked with FM in a circle, and next to that are 2 lines- "FABRICA MILITAR DE ARMAS PORTATILES-ROSARIO" and below that "SISTEMA COLT CAL. 11.25 mm-INDUSTRIA ARGENTINA". These's an F stamped under the serial number on the frame, and an A with a star stamped on the left side under the slide release. It's in A1 shape, loose like a [email protected] military gun (rattles when you shake it) and looks like it's been re-arsenaled. The frame's parked and the slide a reblue. There's no wear at all on the slide stop hole or on the slide where the slide release goes in and the frame rails seem very sharp. The barrel hood is in the white, with no blue in the serial number and looks very new-the barrel still has the "stirations" going around the barrel on the outside. On the slide someone stamped something-it's some kind of arsenal stamp, all I can make out in the oval shaped stamp is "Santa Fe".
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Brew, that mark next to "Policia Federal" might be what's left of an Argentine national crest.
Does yours have "Policia de la Capital on the left side of the slide?
 

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Mine is marked the same as Brew's, with a four digit number on top of the slide and on the barrel. The symbol next to the "Policia Federal" is definitely a version of the Argentine Coat of Arms. I haven't examined the numbers inside the pistol yet.

The other side of the slide has Colt's patent info only, consistent with your description of the B.A. Police pistols.
--
Brian
 
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