Kris versus Krag - Weapons of the Moro Campaigns:

American Side Arms

                           Capt. C.C. Smith, 14th Cavalry        2nd Lt. Guy Fort, Moro Constabulary

                                       with Colt .38 DA, 1904                  with Colt .45 DA "Philippine", 1911                         

    Commissioned officers and sergeants  carried side arms during the Philippine-American War and the Moro Campaigns. If you were in the U.S. military at any time from World War II up through the Vietnam War, chances are very good you were told the story of how officers carrying the standard issue Colt .38 caliber, double-action revolver, adopted by the Army in 1892, were simply not able to stop a charge by a kris-wielding Moro (or bolo-wielding Filipino either). As a result, so the story goes, the Army had Colt Manufacturing "invent" what would become the famous M1911 Colt .45 Semi-Automatic pistol. The story was usually ended giving the impression given that it was this weapon's legendary stopping power that finally defeated the Moros. For the real story, go to the article on this web site "The Legend of the Colt .45 Caliber Semi-Automatic Pistol and the Moros." There is little doubt the M1911 was a superb pistol, but as far as is known it was never used against the Moros by the US Army.

                           M1992 Colt .38 DA service revolver                           M1911 Colt .45 Semi-Automatic pistol

                                  (Photo courtesy of                                                      (Photo courtesy of

   In 1903, the Army's Ordinance Bureau decided the solution would be to leapfrog to a new generation of pistol technology and purchased several hundred 9mm German Lugers which were sent them to Zamboanga. But Army officers were quick to protest that the Luger was almost the same caliber as the .38 and provided almost no difference in performance. Despite pleading letters and reports dripping sarcasm from a succession of commanding generals beginning in 1900, Army ordinance focused instead on developing an entirely new, .45 caliber semi-automatic. The problem was it would take them eight years of development and ten years before it reached the Army in the Philippines. By that time, 1914, the Regular Army had withdrawn from Moroland. In the meantime Ordinance neglected to seriously address the immediate problem, which was left to individual units in the field to resolve.

    Many older officers who had fought in the Indian Wars dusted off their old single-action Colt .45 "peacemakers", despite their inherent drawbacks. A readily available, although technologically dated solution was available in its successor, the 1878 Colt double-action .45 revolver. But Ordinance resisted dipping into their budget and bought only a limited number. Junior officers, who were often too low on the priority list, despite their greater need, were forced to either continue carrying the .38 or purchase them from their own pocket.  It was not until 1909 that Ordinance relented and standardized on a new (and excellent) revolver, Colt .45 double-action M1909. As far as can be determined, Regular Army units in the southern Philippines were not equipped with new M1911's until 1914, which was after their withdrawal from Moroland. Philippine Scout officers (who were Regular US Army officers on four-year term assignments), who were stationed in Zamboanga as a reserve to the Constabulary, continued to carry the M1909 revolver up until 1918. 

                          M1878 Colt .45 DA revolver                                              M1909 Colt .45 DA revolver

                           (Photo courtesy of                                                          (Photo courtesy of

    The Philippine Constabulary, which was under the civil government, not the Army, and having a separate budgetary source, contracted with the Army Ordinance Bureau in 1902 to make a special purchase of 2,000 modified and upgraded Model 1878 Colt .45 DA revolvers, increasing the length and heft of the trigger and spring (in turn producing the odd-looking, over-sized trigger guard) in order to use a higher-velocity bullet and a longer barrel. This became the Model 1902 Colt .45 DA known as "The Philippine" and later also called "The Alaskan" when sold commercially.  Due to the more up close and personal nature of the Constabulary's work they replaced the Army's flap-top holster in favor of an open one, as worn by Lt. Fort above and added a cord swivel on the butt. Of all the revolvers, this truly had "stopping power" with the Moros, and many Army officers purchased the Alaskans at their personal expense.

(Photo courtesy of