What was the 1930 solution to high ammunition prices? The Colt Ace!

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Think .22LR conversion kits are a new thing? Think again!
The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Back in the 1930s Colt decided that their customers needed a less expensive way to practice with their 1911 pistols. Then, like now, the answer seemed to be the lowly but ubiquitous (and dirt cheap) .22 Long Rifle cartridge.

The problem, of course, is that the .22 doesn’t have the power necessary to push the slide back and cock the hammer. The company wanted to maintain the heft and balance of the pistol, so a lightweight replacement slide was out. They’d simply have to figure out a way to make it all work.

The solution came from a convicted murderer named David Marshall Williams. Williams had tremendous mechanical aptitude, and during his time in prison for killing a Sheriff’s Deputy he designed and built four rifles!

What made him a person of interest to Colt was his work on what he called a “floating chamber”. In essence, the round went into a chamber cut into a sleeve, which was free to move back-and-forth inside of, essentially, a second chamber.

The result is what we recognize today as a short-stroke gas piston; specifically, a co-axial annular short-stroke piston. When the round was fired, the gas pressure drove the floating chamber back a short distance, which in turn “slapped” the slide and caused it to reciprocate. It provided enough power to run the heavy 1911 slide (as long as the unit was kept clean!)

The device was sold both as a complete gun and a conversion kit for existing pistols and called the Ace. Today both are highly collectible.

On Imgur I ran across some superb pictures and high-speed video clips (turned into animated GIFs) of an Ace in action. Definitely worth looking at, they’ll give you a perfect understanding of how the system worked!

-=[ Grant ]=-


About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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