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Fake Ithaca M1911A1 - Any Other Examples?


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#1 dalbert

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Posted 12 September 2015 - 12:32 PM

I thought I'd post about an item that recently caught my attention on the USMilitaria Forum.  At the link below, you can see the item, and my initial challenge of assertions that it might be a fake, until I was able to review records, and became privy to some additional information that convinced me it was indeed a fake.  I know that German items, M1 Carbines and Garands have experienced significant fakery, and I mentioned those genres in my 2010 lecture on repro Thompson items, but I didn't realize that the M1911 series also had such a high degree of fakery.  I guess it makes sense, especially recently.

 

Anyway, here is the link:

 

http://www.usmilitar...number-anomaly/

 

What I'd like to do here, is ask if anyone has experience with other M1911 fakes, and could post evidence or commentary in this forum.

 

Thanks!

 

David Albert

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#2 Annihilator

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Posted 12 September 2015 - 01:27 PM

In Europe there are fake 1911A1 United Switch and Signal Corporations around, they appeared about 10 years ago with a dealer in Germany. It seams he ordered unmarked Norinco parts and had them engraved  or laser marlked.


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#3 RoscoeTurner

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Posted 12 September 2015 - 02:20 PM

US&S is the most commonly faked 1911 and has been for many years. 

It never ceases to amaze me how many people will drop thousands of dollars on collectibles yet balk at the idea of spending money let alone time on reference books.


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#4 dalbert

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Posted 12 September 2015 - 02:40 PM

I've gotten to the point where my book collection is a very significant investment...378 gun books, and counting...

 

David Albert

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#5 RoscoeTurner

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Posted 12 September 2015 - 03:11 PM

I've gotten to the point where my book collection is a very significant investment...378 gun books, and counting...

 

David Albert

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An old collector told me when I first started collecting more than 35 years ago that every dollar you spend on reference material can end up saving you more than a hundred dollars on purchases.  So far nothing I have seen has proved his advice wrong.

The caveat to that is to be sure you spend it on worthwhile reference material and not some of the junk books on the market today.


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#6 dalbert

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Posted 12 September 2015 - 04:24 PM

Yes, I'm selective of the books I add to the collection.  Quality gun books are not cheap...

 

David


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#7 Waffen Und Bier

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Posted 13 September 2015 - 06:58 PM

Sad part with some books by some authors is they use the books to showcase their collections with a bunch of nice color glossy photographs. Sadly, many of the items featured in the books are fakes. This is especially bad in the WWII German collectables area. Be wary of books that feature exclusively the author's collection or that of just a couple people. That said, I have a ton of books.
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#8 gunhistorian

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Posted 23 September 2015 - 10:46 PM

There was a fellow selling "rare" Johnson M1941 rifles a number of years ago: usually "matching serial number" (the numbered parts matched the receiver s/n -- just ain't so!) or with Queen Wilhelmina crests on the receiver (again -- faked).  I've seen the production log for the "no-letter-prefix" serial numbered receivers and there is NO example of any rifle being produced with parts bearing numbers that match the receiver.  They just weren't produced this way -- the parts were numbered at the insistence of the Netherlands Purchasing Commission (I can't document this, but that is the prevalent theory).  The Johnson rifle -- and light machine guns -- were specifically designed to have 100% interchangeable parts, I believe one of the first firearms to be designed from this standpoint.  The other "myth" surrounding Johnson rifles is that they were produced in order of the serial number: In other words a "no-prefix s/n" was produced before an "A" prefix s/n. . .And a rifle with s/n 2085, for example, was produced before a rifle with s/n 3224.  Both of these are generally incorrect assumptions.  Thus, a rifle with s/n A5955 could have been produced earlier than a rifle with s/n 0597 (not true, in this example, but you get the idea).  I'm not sure where these "urban legends" come from -- maybe simple "logic" -- but in the world of mass production of firearms, one should approach "logic" with caution.  There are some rare Johnson rifles floating around and probably some that are waiting to be discovered: the paratroop take-down, for example.  I don't know if it still exists.  There are about 5 Johnson Auto-Carbines out there -- at least one might have a stock similar to that on the M1944 light machine gun.  With the relatively limited number of Johnson rifles (and machine guns) produced, and the current collector's market for these firearms, one ought not to be on the lookout for one of these fake "rare" Johnsons.  And, by the way, this opinion excludes preproduction prototypes, usually with the detachable clip magazine.  These are extremely rare, like maybe 3 to 5 virtually hand-made in a tool room for purpose of using sort of as gages: one made to minimum specs, one to maximum, and one to "average".


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#9 Junkhunter

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Posted 11 March 2016 - 11:32 PM

I think at this point we just need to be ready for fake anything. I collected carbine for a long time, the fake parts kept getting better, I think it will reach a point where the fakes will get so good no one will be able to tell without dedicating there life to studying one model. And good hump jobs will bring original prices because nobody will know the difference
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#10 emmagee1917

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 05:21 PM

Sad to say , but over the last decade I've pretty much stopped buying " collectable " guns because of the fakery . I've been selling most of my collection off over the last 6 months due to failing eyesight combined with the rising value preventing me from modifying my collectables with better / larger / clearer sights compounded with the risk of damage from actually using them to shoot .

They have been going to homes where they'll be cared for and admired and I've bought guns I can shoot or that I can modify to see to shoot .

 

Now , before you all get all excited , my WH Thompsons , their .22 kits , my Greasrguns , and my M65s ain't going anywhere.

Chris


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#11 StooperZero

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 05:52 PM

Dishonosty is the worst policy


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#12 Machodoc

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Posted 11 September 2016 - 01:07 AM

A good friend introduced me to this group, and specifically to this discussion topic. From what I've read so far, I agree with him entirely that the contributors here are far more academically inclined, and less prone to loudly assert personal opinion as fact, than what is typically found elsewhere.  It is for that reason that I'm going to lay out a recent purchase, warts and all, to see what sort of comments I get.  Please forgive me for creating such a long posting, but this one is a bit complex.  Perhaps if you read it like a firearms mystery story, it will be easier to plow through.

 

In brief, this gun had been offered at auction for awhile.  The seller's opening bid was too high, and nobody was nibbling, so I decided to contact him.  We came to an agreement on a price. It was still higher than I really wanted to pay, but not horribly outrageous for an exceptionally nice looking Colt Government Model with some history.  The challenge was to pin down that history.  

In brief, what I hoped I was getting was an Argentine contract Colt from about the 1924 period--one that may have been built partially of WWI surplus parts (as is another "lettered" Argentine Colt that I have), and one that is in exceptionally fine condition.  

 

What did I actually get?  That's the point of this posting.  Is it a fake?  Is it a fluke?  Is it something legit, but unusual?  That's what I'm still trying to determine.  Let's title this:
 

The Case of the Mystery Marina Argentina Colt
 
Here's what I have--or think that that I have--so far as can be determined.  Corrections are welcomed and encouraged.  I'm not trying to turn this into anything that it's not, but it's difficult to determine what it actually is.  
 
OVERALL
On the surface, it's a very nice Marina Argentina contract gun made by Colt.  Both the frame and slide appear to be in "as new condition," with very minor marks.  There are no import marks on this piece.
 
THE SLIDE
The slide seems to be dead-on original and as-new.  All edges are crisp, as are all markings.  The markings on the slide appear to be correct as from Colt in about 1916. The roll marks appear to be correct, and the c. 1916 time period "pony" stamp still shows clear signs of slightly raised metal that was displaced from the stamping. I've looked at a lot of older firearms, and I'm pretty sure that the slide, at least, is legit.
 
THE FRAME
There is no sign that I can discern of pitting or markings having been buffed out.  It's uncertain if the frame has been re-blued, or not, but it was done quite well if it has been.
 
The serial number on the frame turns out to be correct for the same 1916 time period as the slide, but Colt's archives show that this gun's serial number was supposed to have been shipped to, "The Government of Russia" in late 1916. There are no British or Russian marks on the gun, however, as there should be if this had actually been sent to Russia as a lend-lease firearm.  Still, the serial number does fall into a block of numbers also used to send some contract guns to Argentina.  One possibility is a duplicate serial number--Colt says that did happen on occasion--but there are other problems, too.
 
Most obvious is the fact that the frame (and the gun in general) has most of the 1911A1-style modifications, when the serial number and the slide markings indicate that it should be a 1911.  Some of these can be explained away as later add-on upgrades, but not all (such as the first mentioned in the following list).
 
Here are some of the 1911A1-style characteristics:
 
  -- There's a crescent-shaped relief cut in the rear area of the trigger housing.
 
  -- It has the arched mainspring housing.
 
  -- It has the short trigger with the checkered face.
 
  -- The font for "Government Model" and the serial number on frame appear to be factory-accurate, but are of a style believed to have been introduced after 1916 (around 1924).
 
  -- The thumb safety is of the type used on the 1911A1.
 
 
 
Here are some of the 1911 characteristics:
 
  -- Wide spur hammer with checkering.
 
  -- The slide has the correct sights for a 1911 made in 1916.
 
  -- The slide has the correct patent and "pony" marks for a 1911 made in 1916.
 
  -- The stocks appear to be correct for a 1911 made in 1916.
 
  -- The front slide relief cut has the smaller radius.
 
  -- Slide stop has checkered thumb piece.
 
 
It turns out that this gun went through a regional auction by RIA about 2 years ago.  They rated it, at that time, as "professionally restored or re-blued".  That may be the case, but if so, the work was excellent.  I've checked with Turnbull, and they were kind enough to search their databases.  It has not gone through them.

One of the main questions in my mind, at this point, is that if this is faked, or partially faked, why would someone go to all that much trouble for a gun that wasn't really worth a whole lot a few years back?  Almost any U.S. Military Colt would have fetched a much higher price.  Even today, what I paid for the gun was substantially less than what a quality restoration would cost--and I'd have to start that process already owning a firearm.  
 
What markings are on the inside?  I don't know yet.  I'm waiting for a good day to strip it, clean it very well, preserve it, and photograph it.  I do know that there appears to be a "B" mark showing under the hammer, above the firing pin stop.  I haven't been able to locate a source explaining what that mark would represent.  I'll be posting internal photos soon, but now let me show you the external stuff.  
 
I hesitate to say this, but the only explanation that I can come up with, that seems to fit all the evidence, is that it could have been a Colt employee-made gun assembled from left-over contract parts.  I've read somewhere that happened in the earlier days.  Colt says that they also have heard that, and it wouldn't be surprising if it was confirmed, but they (and I) don't expect it could ever be proved insofar as this gun is concerned.  I'm just throwing that out as a possibility.  
 

Popcorn, anyone?  This might turn into a show!  Don't worry about my feelings. Just be honest.  I've done well enough on most purchases over the years that getting a smack in the wallet may have been overdue.  I just want to figure out what's going on with this gun.  Whatever that turns out to be, this is a really pretty piece that someone tuned up rather nicely.  The trigger is as smooth as warm butter.  It doesn't appear to have been shot much, if at all.  I'll know more about that when I get inside and start cleaning.
 

Attached Files


Edited by Machodoc, 11 September 2016 - 12:28 PM.

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#13 dalbert

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Posted 11 September 2016 - 06:30 PM

Machodoc,

 

First of all, welcome to the board!  You are correct in your assessment of the personality of the board...We are a bit different here in our approach, and pride ourselves on being much more collector focused than other gun boards.  We have an excellent diversity of experience and knowledge that becomes apparent when perusing our posts, which apparently you have done.  I appreciate our mutual friend pointing you towards this board.

 

About your M1911...It's a beauty.  I'm not knowledgeable enough to tell you outright whether there is fakery involved, but I like the way you have laid out the M1911A1/M1911 characteristics that should be considered.  

 

One thing I will say is that Lend Lease is not a consideration.  The Lend Lease Act happened in 1941...It was not in place during WWI.  I would not necessarily expect any British or Russian markings on it.  

 

There is at least one example of a repeated serial number Colt Thompson, so that story is possible, though it would be quite unlikely.

 

If it was auctioned previously as "professionally restored or re-blued," it means there was some uncertainty, perhaps along the same lines as you have outlined here. 

 

I will look through my books, and see if I can determine anything else relevant to your pistol.  Your comments about it not making sense financially are the main reason to believe it's legitimate.  Usually, profit is what drives fakery. 

 

Thanks!

 

David Albert

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#14 Machodoc

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Posted 12 September 2016 - 12:22 AM

"One thing I will say is that Lend Lease is not a consideration.  The Lend Lease Act happened in 1941...It was not in place during WWI.  I would not necessarily expect any British or Russian markings on it."  

 

Thanks, David!  I used the term "Lend Lease" incorrectly in my original post because I couldn't recall the name of the program (kind of similar to it) that allowed Colt to sell Russia a large number of guns before the U.S. committed to WWI.  I don't recall the details, but apparently many/most of those guns bounced through England, were English proofed, and had a Russian inscription that essentially says, "English Order".  

 

I need to go back and find that detailed information.

 

I'll include a couple of photos here of a "lettered" Colt 1911 that was sold to the Government of Russia.  The slide on it was made about the same time as the one on mine that was marked for the Argentine Navy.  According to the Colt records, the serial number on my gun was supposed to also have been shipped to the Russian Government at the same time as the one in these photos.

 

If mine was faked, and profit was the motive, someone really missed the boat.  The Russian Colt that I'm including photos for cost the buyer (at auction) about $23K to take it home.  Mine cost me a rather tiny percentage of that.  These photos are from the auction's online description.  

Attached Files


Edited by Machodoc, 12 September 2016 - 12:14 PM.

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#15 kwill

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Posted 12 September 2016 - 05:45 PM

I asked a couple of questions on the other forum but would much prefer to comment here.  There are more inconsistencies than just the ones you note, e.g. the style of the SN and "C" in front of it.  I heavily discount the "Colt employee" story. Have you photoshopped a digit off the SN?  If not, examine the area carefully with a loupe to see if a number has been carefully removed.  Check the bottom of the slide and behind the firing pin stop plate for numbers/marks.


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#16 Machodoc

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Posted 12 September 2016 - 09:50 PM

I asked a couple of questions on the other forum but would much prefer to comment here.  There are more inconsistencies than just the ones you note, e.g. the style of the SN and "C" in front of it.  I heavily discount the "Colt employee" story. Have you photoshopped a digit off the SN?  If not, examine the area carefully with a loupe to see if a number has been carefully removed.  Check the bottom of the slide and behind the firing pin stop plate for numbers/marks.

 

I appreciate your comments and questions.  

Yes, I realize there are probably other inconsistencies.  You note the style of the "C" and the serial number, as an example.  I've found that Colt did use that style "C" and serial number font, but not during the time that the slide appears to have been made.  I'll have to check my notes and photos of other guns to find the examples of that style "C" and serial number font that I've located.  Can't recall off the top of my head right now.

No, I have not photoshopped anything off the serial number.  That's as it appears on the gun.  It would make things much easier if there was another digit on the end, but no such luck.  I'll follow up on that.  

No marks beneath the FPS plate, but there's a "B" showing above the plate.  It might be an "8", but I think it's a "B".  That's one of the things that I need to look into further.

Please understand that I'm not married to the idea that this was an employee-made gun, nor am I trying to drive a round peg into a square hole to come up with a bogus story to pin to this gun.  It's merely the only supposition, thus far, that I can come up with to explain why what appear to be a bunch of NOS Colt parts from different years came to be assembled into one pistol.  

EDIT -

I just got through stripping it and taking pictures.  Other than the barrel, there were not as many marks as I hoped for, but there are a few that are of interest.  If I can't get them all attached here, I'll add them to another post. 

Attached Files


Edited by Machodoc, 12 September 2016 - 11:33 PM.

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#17 kwill

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Posted 13 September 2016 - 08:01 AM

Well, it has a very desirable pre-war National Match barrel that's worth a bunch.  The type of serial number (less the C) is what would have been on late 1930's M1911A1 pistols, less one digit which is why I thought one was missing.  The C is a mystery and the slide is from a much earlier gun.  Here's my theory:  this was a mismatched military gun that someone sent back to Colt's before WWII and asked that it be reworked.  A match barrel was installed, the whole thing refinished and the markings on the frame were replaced.  I used to own a fairly similar gun that even had the finger relief cuts put into a WWI era pistol.  During the depression Colt's would do all kinds of custom work to try to keep their employees busy.  Ultimately, all we can do is guess because the factory did not keep the rework/custom work records.  Special features added to guns when originally shipped will be in the shipping records but they don't have information on guns sent back.  Your is a fascinating gun.  Below is a quick picture of mine with some similar anomalies.  Note they added the "National Match" rollmark and Stevens sights to a WWI era military slide.

IMG_0001.JPG_zpsmh0cffig.jpg


Edited by kwill, 13 September 2016 - 08:03 AM.

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#18 dalbert

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Posted 13 September 2016 - 12:42 PM

I think kwill's assessment of the pistol is outstanding.  It makes complete sense.  We are often so blinded by "how it was when it left the factory," that we forget about the potential return trips the firearm might have made.  Colt wasn't thinking of collectors at the time the pistol may have been returned, and we are left only to reference the records that exist today.

 

David


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#19 Machodoc

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Posted 13 September 2016 - 04:29 PM

Kwill -

 

Yours is a very interesting theory, and it fits as well as any that I can come up with.  

 

Now let me introduce another couple of pieces of info.  I didn't want to throw the first one into the mix at the beginning, because it might have served as a "red herring" and distracted from looking carefully at the gun as an independent object.

 

This firearm came as a set of artifacts that included a display case, a key to the case, and an Argentine medallion.  I can't really tell much from the case, so far.  The style of manufacture and  hardware, unfortunately, have been essentially the same for decades.  The case appears to have been around for a number of years, but whether that means it was made in the '30s ... or the '80s ... is hard to determine.  

The medallion is a fairly large chunk of silver commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Argentine Naval Academy (1811-1911).  The case was purpose-constructed to house both the gun and the medallion.  

 

Again, I didn't want the presence of this medallion and the case to be a red herring.  It might be very much related to the history of the gun, or it might have just looked like a nice way to pair two artifacts together to make an interesting display.  Unfortunately, there's a fellow currently creating attractive displays in new cases to make his guns more marketable.  These cases are engraved to present the "history" of the guns--which are sometimes not very collectible models and/or are not in particularly appealing condition.  

 

I'm also including a photo of the font style and serial number that were placed on another Marina Argentina contract Colt.  This one has been "lettered" and is known to be correct for an Argentine Navy contract shipped in late 1925 (except that it has been park'd ... damn it).  It was part of the second of two small contracts that I believe were intended as re-armament of the battleships of Rivadavia and Moreno, which were in the U.S. receiving propulsion system upgrades at the time (the first shipped in 1924, with the same style markings) .  As you can see, the font used for "Government Model" and the serial number in the small 1924-25 contracts match the markings on the frame of the gun in question.  

 

Attached Files


Edited by Machodoc, 13 September 2016 - 04:31 PM.

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#20 kwill

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Posted 13 September 2016 - 05:21 PM

Colt didn't use that italized serifed font until after the 1924 switch to the new A1 features.  For your SN, which would have originally shipped in 1916 they were using a straight up non-serif (Gothic) font.  I think Colt used a new frame when they reworked the pistol in the 1930s but put the old SN on it.  Usually when they did that they put an "R" at the end of the number to signify that the frame had been replaced but they obviously didn't in this case.  I don't know about the Argentine connection, which seem tenuous to me but all this is really a mystery and this guess work is kind of pointless, I suppose.  That's what makes collecting fun.


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