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IVER JOHNSON'S 1911A1 CARBINE: Cyrano de 1911A1?

Recently, the parcel-delivery service brought an oddly shaped box to my door. Being as the driver frequently delivers firearms to my address, he inquired, "Is this a short rifle or a long pistol?" My answer: "Yes."

Ever since the introduction of handguns, designers, engineers, soldiers and shooters have been trying to figure out how to make them shoot further and more accurately. Because, let's be honest about it, while a handgun is very convenient to carry, there are few of us who can reliably hit something with one of them much past 50 yards (if we're real lucky).

With the advent of the wheel lock, and later the flintlock, ignition-systems handguns became more practical and thus increasingly popular with mounted troops. Firearms also allowed cavalrymen to fight as dismounted infantry (dragoons), but this was a role at which the handgun was found sorely lacking.

Naturally, the bean counters back at the royal capital paled at the expense of equipping mounted troops with both handguns and carbines, until some bright, young mind suggested attaching shoulder stocks to their pistols. Hopefully, this would increase their effective range while saving the royal exchequer funds.

Thus, from the early 1700s through the 1850s, various armies issued mounted troops single-shot flintlock --and later percussion--pistols (often with longer barrels) to which shoulder stocks could be attached, converting them into carbines.

With the introduction of percussion--and later, cartridge-firing--revolvers, it wasn't long before shoulder stocks were tried with them also, in hopes of providing soldiers with repeating revolver-carbines. Colt offered its long-barreled "Buntline Special" with the option of a detachable shoulder stock, as did Smith & Wesson with its Russian model revolvers.

The introduction of smokeless powder served as a catalyst for the development of small-caliber, high-performance cartridges, which were adapted to the early semiauto handguns then coming into vogue.

The first of these, Hugo Borchardt's Pistole C-93 used a toggle-lock breech system and was fed by an eight-round, single-column magazine that was held in the grip. Its 7,65mm Borchardt cartridge propelled an 85-grain FMJ bullet to a velocity of 1,280 fps for long-range penetration.

The C-93 was sold with a detachable wooden shoulder stock, which, when attached, turned the pistol into a "carbine." While it was tested by several armies (e.g. Switzerland, USA), it was too A large and bulky to be practical.

The first semi-auto pistol to experience real commercial success was the Mauser Selbstladepistole C96. It had a number of cosmetic features, including a slab-sided receiver, exposed skinny barrel, box magazine in front of the trigger guard, and a rounded grip whose shape led to its well-known nickname, the Mauser Broomhandle.

The 10-round magazine was loaded with a charger (stripper clip), and most C96 pistols came with a hollow wooden holster/shoulder stock that could be attached to the pistol, turning it into a "carbine." With this in mind, the tangent rear sight was adjustable to a rather optimistic (unrealistic?) 1,000 meters. The C96 was chambered for the 7,63mm Pistolepatrone Mauser, which used the same case as the 7.65mm Brochardt, but loaded with an 86-grain FMJ bullet moving at 1,410 fps.

Georg Luger's Borchardt-Luger Versuchsmodell 1899 replaced the Borchardt's complicated recoil spring and its bulbous housing with a simple flat spring in the rear of the grip frame. The next year, his perfected Pistole-Parabellum was adopted by Switzerland and, eight years later, a legend was born when Georg's pistol was taken into service by the Imperial German Army as the 9mm Pistole-Parabellum Modell 1908. Better known as the "Luger" it became one of the most iconic handguns in history.

In 1913, the Germans adopted the Lange Pistole 08 (LP08, Long Pistol 08), which was the Luger fitted with an eight-inch barrel and a tangent rear sight adjustable to 800 meters. It was issued with a flat-board shoulder stock attached to a leather holster with a strap and worn over the shoulder.

During WWI, elite German Sturmtruppen (storm troopers) found the fast-firing Lange Pistole 08 and Mauser Selbstladepistole C96--usually equipped with shoulder stocks--perfect for close-range trench warfare.

Before and after the war, the stocked semiauto pistol became a major factor in the Asian market, with the Chinese government and various warlord armies buying thousands of them from Mauser and the Spanish firms of Astra and Royal, several of which were selective-fire weapons capable of full-auto fire. As was their usual practice, the Chinese produced unlicensed copies of these by the thousands.

The last significant stocked semiauto pistol was the FN Hi-Power. Introduced by Fabrique Nationale in 1935, it was available with a detachable wooden shoulder stock and an adjustable rear sight. When the Wehrmacht conquered Belgium in 1940, they had the FN plant keep producing Hi-Powers for them as the 9mm Pistole 640(b). (1)

During WWII, the Hi-Power was produced for the Allies by the John Inglis Company, Ltd. of Toronto, Canada. Inglis produced pistols with both adjustable (No. 1 Mark 1) and fixed (No. 2 Mark 1) sights. Modifications to the pistol resulted in the No. 1 Mark 1* and No. 2 Mark 1*.

The Chinese placed an order for 20,000 Pistol, 9mm, No. 1 Mark 1 and 1* with tangent rear sight adjustable to 500 meters and Mauser-style hollow wooden holster/shoulder stocks. (2)

While the USSR (today the Russian Republic) has made limited use of the stocked, selective-fire Automaticheskij Pistolet Stechkina (APS), by the end of WWII, the submachine gun had made the concept of the stocked pistol obsolete.

On this side of the Atlantic, stocked pistols failed to achieve any degree of popularity, and today, American shooters wanting a pistol with a detachable shoulder stock find themselves in a difficult position.

By the terms of the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA), the ATF regards pistols with detachable shoulder stocks as redesigned to be fired from the shoulder making them "short barreled rifles." Modern pistols with shoulder stocks and with barrels less than 16 inches long, or an overall length shorter than 26 inches are subject to federal controls. The ATF has removed some specified stocked handguns (e.g., original Mauser C96 and Luger utilizing an original shoulder stock) from the NFA as collectors' items and treats them as pistols.

For those persons interested in the legalities of attaching a shoulder stock to a pistol, I would refer them to this discussion on Jan Still's Luger Forum: 28986-Detachable-Shoulder-Stocks

One of history's most iconic handguns, over the years, 191 Is have been the subject of numerous attempts to convert them to selective fire and, in some cases, fit them with shoulder stocks.

Colt offered its Ml905 pistol with an optional metal-lined holster that could be fitted to the pistol and used as a shoulder stock. Before the passage of the aforementioned NFA, a Texas gunsmith, Hyman Lebman (also spelled Lehman), specialized in converting popular semiauto rifles (e.g. Winchester Model 07) and 1911 pistols to selective fire, and several of the most notorious gangsters of the Roaring Twenties and Troublesome Thirties were known to be his customers.

At the FBI's headquarters in Washington, DC, they have a collection of weapons taken from the John Dillinger gang, including a Lebman .38 Super 1911A1 that has been converted to fire full auto and fitted with a compensator, extended magazine, and pistol grip on the front of the frame. Other infamous gangsters who were known to use Lebman conversions were George "Baby Face" Nelson and Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd. (3)

Reportedly, in the early days of WWII, Colt produced a few 1911A1s, in both .38 Super and .45 ACP, that were modified to fire full auto, were fitted with detachable shoulder stocks, forward pistol grips, extended magazines and, in the case of the .38 Super guns, muzzle mounted compensators.

There is a photo from WWII of a Lieutenant Colonel David Schilling of the 56th Fighter/94th Bomber Group with a 1911A1 with a forward pistol grip and extended magazine. I have been unable to ascertain if it was converted to fire full auto.

It has long been an American trait that when the powers that be tell us that we can't (or shouldn't) have something, we immediately want one! But the paperwork and fees required by the above gun law have helped to dampen the enthusiasm for stocked pistols. But another trait Americans have been well known for can be summed up thusly, "If you can't lick 'em..... figure a way to get around 'em!" That is just what Iver Johnson Arms has done.

In 1863, a Norwegian gunsmith named Iver Johnson immigrated to the United States. In the 1870s, he established Iver Johnson Arms & Cycle Works, which produced an extensive line of revolvers and shotguns until 1993.

In 2006, the company's name was resurrected by Iver Johnson Arms, Inc. of Rockledge, Florida, which today offers an extensive line of 1911 pistols, shotguns, and derringers. At the 2018 SHOT Show, it introduced its newest product--and one shooters desiring an affordable, legal, stocked pistol have wished for--the Iver Johnson 1911A1 Carbine.

When I first saw the Iver Johnson 1911A1 Carbine, I was a bit taken aback. Iver Johnson's designers went to great pains to insure that their 1911A1 Carbine met all the specifications laid down by the NFA, so as to provide a 100% civilian legal firearm.

It's based upon a standard, milspec 1911A1 pistol, but fitted with (now hold your hats!) a 16.25-inch barrel. Yes, that's right, there is a bit more than 11 inches of tube sticking out in front of the slide.

Strange looking? Yes. But when the wooden shoulder stock is fitted, the whole contraption has an overall length of 35 inches, nine more than is required by the NFA.

A metal bracket on the front end of the shoulder stock slides into two grooves machined into the pistol's mainspring housing and is secured by means of a large-headed, threaded tension bolt.

So as to enlighten our readers about this unique firearm, I requested a 1911A1 Carbine from Iver Johnson. To wring the most out of it, I used an AimTech Scope Mount that was kindly provided by Brownells ( to mount a Leupold Vari 2-7x Compact scope to the pistol/carbine. Accuracy testing was conducted at 25 and 50 yards from an MTM K-Zone rest with two types of .45 ammo.

Once I had the scope zeroed in, I was able to produce groups in the sub-two-inch range at 25 yards, and around two inches at 50. The best, fired with the 185-grain SIG loads had five rounds in three, perfectly centered holes measuring exactly two inches in size.

While running these drills, we discovered a shortcoming of the AimTech mount. Periodically, an ejected case would catch on the edge of the mount, fail to eject and hold the slide partially open, with the next round partially fed from the magazine. When this happened, I had to lock the slide open, remove the magazine, and manually remove the offending case. I don't feel that this is a design defect, as a bit of judicious machining to open up that area of the mount would correct the problem.

Then, to see how the stocked pistol handled offhand, I removed the Leupold scope and attached one of the same company's Deltapoint dot sights. After zeroing it in, I placed an IPSC target at 30 yards and proceeded to run the pistol/carbine through some rapid-fire drills. During this stage of the test firing, I used one of the eight-round magazines that came with the carbine, a Wilson Combat 10-round, and a Pro-Mag 15-round magazine. All fed rounds reliably, and the latter definitely gave the carbine a definite "submachine gun"-like look.

Once I had the measure of the Deltapoint's little red dot bouncing around, I was able to place 32 of the 33 rounds I sent downrange inside the target's A zone. It should be noted that, for some reason, we experienced fewer ejection problems when firing the carbine offhand. Go explain.

Now, I'm sure the readers would like to know if I can see any advantages to a long-barreled pistol with a detachable shoulder stock. To be perfectly honest about it (yes, we gun writers will do that on occasion), I would have to say "not really."

The biggest (only?) "advantage" was recoil control. With the shoulder stock, mounted recoil was hardly noticeable, feeling more akin to that of a semiauto .22 rifle.

When fired from a rest with a scope at longer ranges (past 25 yards), accuracy was very acceptable.... but not much above what someone could do with a standard pistol. Offhand drills with the Deltapoint sight could be run fairly quickly, but again, I've seen shooters with dot-sighted pistols do them just as fast.... if not faster.

The biggest downside was size. Even without the stock attached, how are you going to carry a 1911A1 with eleven inches of extra barrel sticking out the front of the slide? I tried shooting it without the stock attached, and it was--well, to put it diplomatically --not something you'd want to do on a regular basis.

And while the stock mounted securely to the pistol during all our test firing, its mounting bracket interfered with my getting a proper grip, which resulted in my not depressing the grip safety sufficiently on a number of occasions.

So, while I will freely admit to having had a lot of fun running the Iver Johnson 1911A1 Carbine through its paces, I'm afraid I cannot see any real practical use for it other than a unique plinker, wall hanger, or conversation piece.

Photos by: Paul Budde & Becky Scarlata

(1) Gardner, Terry & Peter Chamberlain. Weapons of the Third Reich. Doubleday and Company, Garden City, New York. Page 22.

(2) Law, Clive M. Inglis Diamond--The Canadian High Power Pistol. Collector Grade Publications, Coburg, Ontario. Pages 69 and 223.


Caliber:               .45 ACP
Overall Length:        Pistol: 19.5 in.;
                       Stock attached: 35 in.
Barrel Length:         16.125 in.
Weight (unloaded):     4 lbs.
Construction:          Carbon steel
Finish:                Black oxide
Sights:                Front: Blade
                       Rear: Square notch
Magazine:              8 rds.
Grips:                 Walnut
Special Features:      Detachable walnut shoulder
                       stock, extra magazine,
                       27-rd. drum magazine
                       (optional), cable lock &
                       owner's manual
MSRP:                  $698


In defense of the iver Johnson, I would like to state that I have fired C96 Mauser, LP08 and Inglis Hi-Power pistols equipped with shoulder stocks on a number of occasions and did not find them any more user-friendly than the Iver Johnson. In fact, the Iver Johnson showed them all up by its ability to accept a dot sight, and by the bigger holes made by its .45-caliber projectiles!

Caption: Thanks to the shoulder stock, the Iver Johnson was well balanced, very controllable and easy to shoot offhand. Note how the 15-round magazine gives the carbine a "submachine gun"-like appearance.

Caption: Mauser's Selbstladepistole C96 came with a hollow wooden holster/shoulder stock that could be attached to the pistol, converting it into a carbine.

Caption: 1922. A Soviet NKVD officer with a C96 Mauser pistol. Note the wooden holster/shoulder stock attached to his belt.

Caption: The Lange Pistole 08 was a long-barreled Luger designed for issue to artillery and machine-gun crews. It was also popular with elite Sturmtruppen.

Caption: WWI German soldiers armed with the Lange Pistole 08. Note, some are equipped with 32-round drum magazines.

Caption: The C96 Mauser was especially popular in China and saw wide use by warlord troops, government armies, and bandits.

Caption: A worker at the John Inglis factory displaying a No. 1 Mark 1 * pistol attached to a holster/shoulder stock.

Caption: During WWII, the Canadian firm of John Inglis Company, Ltd. produced copies of the Browning Hi-Power pistol. Those sold to China came with wooden holster/shoulder stocks.

Caption: The FBI museum contains a Colt M1911A1 .38 Super pistol converted to selective fire by Hyman Lebman for the notorious gangster John Dillinger.

Caption: Early in WWII, Colt reportedly built a number of selective-fire 1911A1 pistols with detachable shoulder stocks, forward pistol grips, muzzle compensators, and extended magazines.

Caption: Colt offered its M1905 semiauto pistol with an optional metal-lined holster that did double duty as a shoulder stock. It was not popular.

Caption: Lt. Colonel David Schilling, USAAF with his custom 1911A1 pistol. Note the forward pistol grip and extended magazine.

Caption: The Iver Johnson 1911A1 Carbine has a detachable shoulder stock.

Caption: As can be seen here, the Iver Johnson Carbine is nothing more than a standard 1911A1 pistol with a (yikes!!!) 16.25-inch barrel.

Caption: The shoulder stock has a metal bracket on its "nose" that slides into.....

Caption: ..... grooves on the pistol's mainspring housing .....

Caption: ..... where it secured by a large-headed tension bolt.

Caption: Sample targets fired at 25 and 50 yards showed the carbine to be pleasingly accurate.

Caption: We tested the Iver Johnson for accuracy from 25 and 50 yards with a Leupold Vari 2-7x scope.

Caption: On several occasions, the AimTech mount interfered with ejection of spent cases.

Caption: For offhand shooting, we mounted a Leupold Deltapoint dot sight on the AimTech mount.

Caption: During testing, we used S-, 10- and 15-round magazines.

Caption: Offhand test firing was conducted from 30 yards.

Caption: Thanks to the shoulder stock, the Iver Johnson was well balanced, very controllable and easy to shoot offhand. Note how the 15-round magazine gives the carbine a "submachine gun"-like appearance.

Caption: Our offhand drills produced a very nicely perforated target. Note only one round wandered outside the A zone.

Caption: Here I am firing a 1920s-vintage C96 Mauser pistol with a shoulder stock.

Caption: These photos show how little recoil the Iver Johnson produced.

Caption: The Iver Johnson is available with an optional 25-round drum magazine.

Ammunition                            Group size

                                25 yds.      50 yds.     Velocity

SIG 185-gr. V-Crown             1.3            2.0       1,112 fps
Precision Delta 230-gr. FMJ     1.7            2.5        908 fps

Note: Group size is the smallest of three, five-shot groups fired from
an MTM K-Zone. Velocity is the average of five rounds chronographed 10
feet from the muzzle.
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Author:Scarlata, Paul
Publication:Firearms News
Date:Dec 1, 2018
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