Argentina’s Modelo 1927


by R. K. Campbell

Photography by R. K. Campbell

September 30th, 2005




Shortly after the adoption of the 1911 pistol by the United States Army, other nations began to look hard at our service pistol. The 1911 stood alone- and still does. Here was a semi auto of undeniably robust construction, proven in hard testing against all competition.  The 1911 chambered a fight stopping cartridge in a semi auto action.  Only the unsuccessful Webley .455 offered this combination, and the Webley was ungainly to say the least.  A combination of a low bore axis, excellent human engineering, and the ability to quickly replenish the ammunition supply placed the Colt head and shoulders above all others. Not inconsiderably, the 1911 was among the first service handguns to enclose the barrel and inner workings of the piece. 

The Norwegian armed forces adopted a license built 1911 as their own 1912, but that is another story. In Mexico, the Mondragon .45 auto featured a rotating barrel. (Mondragon was a brilliant and largely unheralded designer. )  The Argentine military took a look at the 1911 and elected to obtain a license to manufacture the pistol in their own country. Some were purchased from Colt but the majority of Argentine pistols are manufactured by F M A P,  a respected company that produces the modern, high quality FM High Power pistols.  The original Modelo 1916 is simply a 1911 type. It is seldom seen on these shores. The Modelo 1927 incorporated all 1911A1 improvements. This included improved sights,  slash cuts in the frame for improved trigger reach,  an arched mainspring housing and a short trigger.  The Modelo 1927 is comparable to the 1911A1 and parts interchangeability is generally good, with the warning that all 1911s require some hand fitting.

My experience with the Modelo 1927 is limited to three pistols, but the experience is good.  There are pitfalls in the pistol, and I think that these must be discussed. But the gun is a good solid 1911 as long as the particulars of the handgun are understood. These handguns have been imported at various times as the Argentine military replaced their aging .45s with modern 1911s.  This simply proves they are no smarter than we, although they did adopt a High Power type 9mm I prefer to the Beretta pistol.  Lets look at the 1927s I have encountered and their performance. This will be a gauge for the buyer interested in such a handgun. I hope collectors don’t spoil this market. 1927s have been inexpensive in the past, but with the supply probably drying up I suppose someone will yell scarce in the near future. This is fine if you have your guns but not so fine if you are looking for a gun.  As a shooter, the Rock Island Armory pistols are a better choice in the price range but there is something about old steel, especially a .45 auto, that some of us like.

Remember, these handguns may have been heavily used and perhaps even harshly abused. Some will show wear, while others will be arsenal refinished.  A check of the pistol is in order. Before purchasing a 1911 ( we call them all 1911s, but they are 1911A1s) it is good to familiarize yourself with the operating procedure. Always check to be certain the handgun is unloaded, and this means triple checking the magazine and chamber. Set the magazine aside and lock the safety in the "on" position, being certain that it operates properly. With the safety on, press the trigger hard. Then release the safety. The hammer should not fall. Next, with the safety off,  move your hand from the grip safety and attempt to press the trigger. The hammer should not fall. Press the slide slightly to the rear, brining the pistol out of battery, and attempt to press the trigger and lower the hammer. The hammer should not fall.

My first 1927 was an attractive enough handgun, with a passing fair blue finish. The plastic grips have a brown tone and seem to be new production. The pistol was supplied with an eight round magazine with a buffer pad on the bottom. The trigger was heavy but clean at just over six and one half pounds. Heavy even for a GI gun, but I have seen worse.  A word on feed reliability - it is true the 1911 is intended to feed only ball ammunition but if the magazine well is properly squared in the frame and good quality magazines are used, the pistol will often feed hollow point ammunition.

I found that the supplied magazine was not feed reliable. Sometimes it would fail to feed the first round, other times the last. It is asking a lot for an eight round magazine to feed from full compression on the first cartridge to almost none on the second, and I lay the eight round magazine aside. I have a considerable assortment of Metalform magazines and used these in further testing. The Metalform is a first class magazine, with good construction and a feed angle far superior to the GI types. The Metalform feeds the bullet nose more into the chamber than off the feed ramp.  Feed problems disappeared. 

The pistol fed well with several of my ‘proof loads’.  If the pistol will not feed these it is sick!  I use the Oregon Trail / Laser Cast 230 grain round nose lead bullet over a modest charge of Universal Clays for about 800 fps as an economy loading. Function is good.  I also used  Fiocchi 230 grain ball ammunition. While affordable,  Fiocchi is quality ammunition that I trust as a carry load in my personal handguns. The 1927 fed, chambered,  fired and ejected several hundred of these handloads.  Accuracy was on a par with the GI guns, four to six inches at 25 yards for a five shot group. The heavy trigger and small sights were a limiting factor.

The second and third 1927 were much the same, with similar accuracy.  I adopted the best version as a truck and spelunking gun, as it proved to have a nice five pound trigger.  However, this pistol gave the only problem encountered in breaking in the three handguns. The original grips cracked when firing the piece! Well, they were older than I and deserved to give up I suppose. I elected to keep a pair of 1927s and do a liberal upgrade to see just what the pistols were capable of. It was a learning experience. While straightforward 1911 work, we ran into a couple of roadblocks.

The easy gun was the first. I sent the pistol to Dixie Shooter in Spartanburg SC for refinishing.   (864-583-6490, ask for Jack)  I didn’t wish to see a GI  finish but a very nice reblue of the commercial type. The good people at Dixie did a wonderful job.  I added Pachmayr rubber grips. If you choose to do a lot of shooting, you may find that sharply checkered wooden grips abrade your hand. The Pachmayr grips offer at least equal adhesion to the palm but will never abrade your hand. The Signature line also offers a steel insert. This adds weight, keeping the balance of the pistol in the palm while offering a margin of safety to the enthusiastic hand loader.  This pistol turned out well. It was not really a restoration as the internal parts were OK but the pistol looked better than when new!  The trigger was left at five pounds. While I do not feel undergunned with hardball ammunition,  I would be behind the times indeed not to appreciate the effect of a good expanding .45 caliber bullet. Some modern hollow points will not feed in the GI type pistols. I found that the Fiocchi 230 grain JHP works well in these handguns. The Cullman, Alabama-produced Zero hollow point is used in these loads. Velocity is a little faster than some, at 870 fps, and the bullet opens up well in my testing with a good balance of expansion and penetration. With the new bright blue pistol with its nice grips, sure I shot a little better.  The Fiocchi hollowpoint would break about four inches at 25 yards, but this is a close range fighter not a target pistol.

A 1911 can be pretty loose but as long as the barrel lugs and bushing and tight it will deliver good accuracy. I elected to build up a second 1927 in the format so common in the 1970s, with a speed safety and high visibility sights.  However, I ran into a snag with this pistol.  When attempting to perform a trigger job, I found the internal parts harder than that of comparable Colts. The 1927 is possibly made of denser alloy than the Colt, as the pistols weigh an ounce more on average than the Colt version. After managing to get a decent trigger action of four pounds, the pistol’s hammer followed the slide when dropped on an empty chamber. No, this is not good to do, but a test of the durability of the trigger action. In the end I replaced the internal parts with Ed Brown parts but this was a bit more expense than I envisioned. Still, the only thing to do was trash my mistake. Keep in mind I am a careful experimenter with some experience. If you run into a similar situation,  replace the parts or contact a good gunsmith. If not, you will regret your error. Not today or tomorrow perhaps but soon.  I cannot deny the quality of the Ed Brown parts--the results were good.  With the Ed Brown sear and other internals, the pistol’s trigger breaks at 3.5 pounds. Very, very nice and durable.

The Kings Gunworks in California is famous for high quality 1911 parts. Their fixed sights,  beavertails and extended safeties are simply first class.  The King’s Hardballer sight may not be a low profile, but it gets the job done. A considerable advantage according to some is that the King’s offers good purchase for catching on the belt or a pocket if we need to clear a malfunction with one hand!  I also added a King’s beavertail grip safety. This safety makes for more rapid depression of the grip safety and also funnels the hand into the grip efficiently. Moreover, the bore axis of the pistol is lowered slightly by this grip safety. These advantages added up to a very capable handgun. At the time, good 1927s were available for less than three hundred dollars, and my conservative dressing up of the .45 made sense. Even today, the King’s parts modified 1927 is a formidable fighting handgun, well suited to personal defense at moderate range.  Think about it- the only thing we may defer to in combat effectiveness would be a more highly developed 1911. The final addition to the pistol was a set of Prater grips. Somehow, these modern plastic grips seemed to fit my 1970s style. They are practically indestructible and while I chose an inexpensive version,  Prater grips are available in several custom configurations.

Overall my experience with the 1927 pistols has been good. The denser metal and a propensity for more difficult fitting are concerns, but nothing we cannot get with and get over. The pistols are comparable to early Colts in all regards but are much less expensive. Overall,  I am pleased with my examples and hope that the 1927 will remain available at a reasonable price in the near future. 

Accuracy,  modified 1927

Load Velocity Group (25 yards)
Oregon Trail/Universal 802 fps 2.5 inches
Fiocchi 230 grain ball 841 fps 3.0 inches
Fiocchi  230 grain JHP 875 fps 2.9 inches
PMC Starfire 230 grain JHP 845 fps* 3.5 inches
Federal 230 grain Hydra Shock 868 fps 2.8 inches
CCI Blazer 230 grain 845 fps 3.1 inches

*failed to feed properly, bullet set back into case


Kings Gun Works, 1837 Glenoaks Blvd, Glendale Ca  91201

R. K. Campbell




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