One of the most legendary firearms in history remains the venerable American Colt M1911 .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol. It saw widespread use and adoption as a frontline pistol across dozens of national armies, irregular units, resistance groups and special forces. It proved equally popular in civilian and security markets where its reliability and robustness shown through in all manner of operational environments and regular use. Amazingly, its pre-World War 1 origins have not lessened the reach or popularity of the excellent Colt design.
In 1893, the Norwegian Army moved ahead in its adoption of the Russian Nagant Model 1893 service revolver in 7.5mm caliber as its standard-issue pistol. Despite its designation, the revolver was born from the Nagant Model 1895, a no-frills, seven-shot service pistol with solid frame, checkered grips and large, oblong trigger loop. The weapon was chambered for the 7.62x38mmR cartridge and some 2,000,000 were produced which allowed for it to experience widespread service in countless conflicts to follow.
Despite the adoption of the Model 1893 into Norwegian service, a commission was formed to evaluate several other pistols coming to market. The commission eventually suggested the Colt Military Model 1902 until the United States Army went ahead on adopting the Colt M1911. This high-profile move influenced the Norwegians to test the M1911 to their requirements and official adoption followed in August of 1914 - the M1911 directly replacing the outgoing Nagants. With Colt's European ties in Belgium (through the storied concern of Fabrique Nationale = FN), the pistol was given local production rights in Norway to be handled by the Kongsberg Vaapenfabrikk facility. The pistol was formally designated as "11.25 m/m AUT. PISTOL M/1914" and came to be popularly known as the "Kongsberg Colten" or "Kongsberg Colt" due to its place of manufacture.
Outwardly, there proved little difference between the Norwegian offering and the American (or Belgian for that matter) M1911. The .45 ACP chambering was retained, though recognized in Norway as 11.43x23mm ACP - an effective man-stopping cartridge whose large dimensions limited the pistol's magazine capacity. The external appearance of the handgun was decidedly Browning's Colt design with its smooth, clean rectangular slide which featured the requisite ribbing at the rear. Sights were affixed at the rear and front of the slide in the usual way allowing for some accurized fire to be attained. The hammer was exposed at the rear and could be managed by the thumb or slide action. The angled grip was covered by a checker grip pattern which sat over the bare metal understructure. The trigger was of a solid design and the ring of an oblong shape. A loop was fitted to the base of the grip for use with a lanyard. The rear of the grip sported a noticeable overhang giving some ergonomics and a more secure hold when firing. Controls for removal of the slide and magazine release were all set near the trigger group and within easy reach of the primary hand. The Kongsberg Colt operated through a recoil-induced action utilizing a closed bolt internal arrangement. A return spring was mounted under the barrel for management of the slide in action. The spring-loaded, detachable box magazine held seven ready-to-fire cartridges and spent casings were ejected through a port along the right side of the frame. Muzzle velocity was listed at 800 feet per second.
Even with Europe embroiled in World War 1 (1914-1918), local serial production of the Kongsberg Colt was limited in the early going as Norway remained officially neutral. The Norwegian Navy became the first users of the Colt gun in 1915 when an initial 400-strong batch arrived from Colt USA. Local Norwegian production added numbers in 1916 and another Colt batch followed in 1917. Production ramped up in 1918 (with some minor changes introduced). It is worth noting that early production forms were incorrectly marked as Model 1912s, this addressed in the production of 1918. Previous models were then rounded up and corrected to follow suit.
The Kongsberg Colt continued in service throughout the interwar years. However, only some 22,000 units were in circulation at the time of the German invasion of Norway as part of World War 2 (1939-1945). The invasion began on April 9th, 1940 and resulted in the formal German occupation of the nation. The country would not be liberated until May 8th, 1945.
As was the case with other useful weapons (and their production facilities) falling to the Germans during the European campaign, the Kongsberg Colt was pressed into service by its conqueror. This practice created a rather efficient use of local manufacture and existing material stocks which served the occupying forces quite well - freeing up much-needed, frontline war goods to German and Axis forces fighting along active fronts. The Kongsberg Colt, in German nomenclature, therefore became the "Pistole 657(n)" - the "n" signifying its Norwegian origins. All other facets of the design were largely retained though late-war versions began appearing with German inspection markings and overall war time production netted an additional 8,200 guns to the line. As there proved a heightened commitment to Krag-Jorgensen rifles for a time, no Kongsberg Colts were produced from 1943 to 1944.
In all, only 32,874 Kongsberg Colts are reported to have been produced, making the series an extreme rarity in today's collector's market.