The Singer M1911A .45 semi-automatic pistol which made a record $360,000 (£266,665) at Rock Island Auction Company in Illinois.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The recoil-operated .45 calibre semi-automatic that he proposed became one of the most successful firearms of all time, being standard issue as the M1911 (later M1911A and M19112A) virtually unchanged from 1911-86.

Some 2.7m examples of this design have been manufactured, but from this huge pool of potential some are inevitably of more interest to collectors than others.

Colt is the name most often associated with the M1911 models but, as the Second World War approached, the US Government prepared to ramp up weapon production and a number of large manufacturing companies with the technical ability to make armaments were approached.

This led to some surprising brand names on wartime-issue pistols. Remington Rand (best known for their typewriters) produced 900,000 M1911As.

Ithaca Gun Company (famous for double-barrelled shotguns) made 400,000 and Union Switch and Signal (specialists in railway signalling equipment) turned out 50,000.

But for today’s collector, the rarest of these wartime variants is the batch produced right at the beginning of the war by the Singer Sewing Machine Company. Singer completed an ‘educational order’ to demonstrate its competence in this new arena.

In the event, only 500 Singer pistols were produced before it was decided that the erstwhile sewing machine experts should concentrate on bomb-aiming equipment.

And so it was that the Singer M1911As, mostly issued to the American air force, became the most sought-after version of an iconic but mass-produced marque.

Even poor-condition examples attract premium prices, so what price an all-but perfect example?

Auction return

The answer came in 2010 when Rock Island Auction Company (15% buyer’s premium) took a hammer price of £145,000 for a Singer M1911A, serial number S800221, that had been recovered from the wreck of a B-24 Liberator bomber that crashed in Iceland in 1943.

Still in totally crisp condition, with nearly all of its original blue finish and two spare magazines still wrapped in brown greaseproof paper, this same pistol came up again at Rock Island and proved that it had lost nothing in the eyes of collectors, selling for $360,000 (£266,665) at the December 1-3 auction.

This December sale marked the end of a year in which Rock Island rang up a total of more than $63m in firearm sales.

Despite its rocketing value, the Singer M1911A was not the highest-value lot in the December sale.

Winchester classic

An iconic rarity from the previous century, an example of the Winchester 1873 model repeating rifle known as the One of One Thousand reached $390,000 (£288,890). Despite the name under which this special issue rifle was marketed, only 136 were made between 1875-79, and of those only 30 survivors have been identified.

Top price of the sale went to a cased Colt Model 1862 Police revolver made for presentation to Major Charles T Baker, at $400,000 (£296,295). While the enhanced manufacturing quality and the current excellent condition of this pistol made it all but unique, the price was well over the $140,000- 240,000 estimate. £1 = $1.34