The basic principle of the pistol is recoil operation.

After the bullet has left the barrel, the slide and barrel continue rearward a short distance.

At this point, a link pivots the barrel down, out of locking recesses in the slide, and brings the barrel to a stop.

Colt's 80 series uses a trigger operated one and several other manufacturers use one operated by the grip safety.

Following its success in trials, the Colt pistol was formally adopted by the Army on March 29, 1911, thus gaining its designation, M1911 (Model of 1911).

The next decade would see a similar pace, including the adoption of several more revolvers and an intensive search for a self-loading pistol that would culminate in official adoption of the M1911. Maxim designed a self-loading pistol in the 1880s, but he was preoccupied with machine guns and did not pursue the design further.

Nevertheless, the application of his principle of using bullet energy to reload led to several self-loading pistols in the 1890s.

Asking for a .45-caliber automatic pistol was a tall order that few manufacturers or inventors attempted successfully in the early 20th century.

To accomplish this, Browning settled on a design that is so timeless, it has been changed little in nearly 100 years of production.

The M1911 pistol originated in the late 1890s, as a search for a suitable self-loading (or semi-automatic) handgun, to replace the variety of revolvers then in service.