Pistol of the century? That’s easy. For nine decades the Colt Government Model 1911 has been without challenge the most recognized, most imitated, most influential, and most used semiauto handgun in the world. It is to autoloaders what the Colt Single Action Army is to revolvers. Its basic mechanical design, based on John Browning’s original 1898 patent for a recoil-operated autoloader mechanism, has been the foundation or point of reference for virtually every other centerfire autoloading pistol subsequently produced by handgun manufacturers everywhere for the entire 20th century, and it is more widely copied and imitated than any other pistol ever made. It held its position as the official sidearm of the U.S. Armed Services for 75 years—which is longer than any other continuous-use military arm in any nation’s history.
Due to its extremely widespread use by military forces in many nations, more people have handled or fired some form of the Model 1911 pistol at least once in their lives than any other sidearm ever made. Worldwide dozens of parts assemblers and manufacturers are presently producing clones and semi-clones of the Model 1911, including at least four based in the US, plus a gazillion parts and component makers, and not to mention the real, authentic, official versions still offered by Colt Firearms itself.