USMC Re-ups with the Colt 1911

By Robert Sadowski published on in Range Reports

There’s a reason why USSOCOM’s elite forces use the 1911 in .45 ACP: It works, plain and simple. It doesn’t matter that the design is over 100 years old. When the Marines called for bids on a new .45 ACP pistol, naturally they gravitated to the 1911 platform. And despite the range of manufacturers offering a slew of 1911s today, they chose Colt, the original.

Colt M45A1 CQBP in Box

Colt chose its rail gun as the basis for the M45A1, since one of the requisites called for an accessory rail meeting MIL-STD-1913 specifications.

The Marines’ new M45 CQBP (Close-Quarters Battle Pistol) is based on Colt’s rail gun, and in the words of retired Lieutenant General William M. Keys, Colt’s president and CEO, it is a “highly enhanced version of an already excellent combat weapon.” The team at Colt was eager to have the new M45 “exercised” and was gracious enough to make one available for Shooter’s Log examination. With the exception of its roll marks, the early prototype I tested was built nearly to military specifications. The Farmington, Connecticut police granted me access to their range, and the boys from Colt were loading magazines as fast as I could empty them. Later on, I received a production model for more extensive accuracy testing.

In the official RFP (Request For Price), the Marines stated that “the pistol’s operating environment is characterized by high usage in training, rough handling and environments on deployments, and limited access to repair and maintenance resources during high-tempo operations.” To translate the official jargon, the pistol will be used in whatever environmental hell this world offers. It might be dropped in sand, caked with mud, dunked in saltwater, driven over by trucks. There will be no time for cleaning or repairs. Bottom line—it needs to work all of the time and anywhere. Though the RFP did not specifically require a 1911 platform, it was obvious since a “semiautomatic pistol in .45 ACP using a single-stack magazine that must hold at least seven rounds” was outlined. It further outlined: “It is desirable that the pistol function with the Marine Corps .45 ACP 7-round magazine (NSN 1005-01-373-2774) used in the current MEUSOC pistol.” That magazine only fits a 1911-style pistol.

Colt M45A1CQBP Profile with Muzzle Right

The M45A1 wears a UID (unique identification) label on the receiver, which is basically a serial number for the 21st century. The 2D Matrix symbol contains data and can be read by a suitable device. It functions similar to a barcode. All Department of Defense equipment choices have worn a UID since 2005. Photo courtesy of Colt.

Compared to the last Colt pistol contracted by the military, the 1911A1, the new M45 is vastly different. But in some respects, the M45 more closely resembles the first 1911 issued prior to World War I. The M45, however, is by no means your great-granddaddy’s 1911. At first glance, the M45 looks like a Colt rail gun, except it has a desert-tan Cerakote finish instead of being all black. The M45 starts out like all Colt 1911s, from chunks of stainless steel forged into a receiver, slide, slide stop and barrel. Non-stainless models are forged from carbon steel. The forging process actually makes the steel stronger and allows tolerances to be more closely held. It also makes the receiver tough. The .45 ACP round has an average a chamber pressure of 21,000 pounds per square inch (psi), but the Colt receiver can easily stand high chamber pressures like those from .38 Super and 10mm cartridges, which have average pressures of 36,500 and 37,500 psi, respectively. Not all 1911s in the market are manufactured from forgings—Colt builds theirs to last. The framework of the Colt is designed for strength. Having a forged slide stop is extremely important because it is the one piece that holds the slide, barrel and receiver together.

Colt M45A1 CQBP Profile with Muzzle Left

Except for the M45’s longer trigger, the grooved, solid trigger and the flat mainspring housing on the M45A1 are similar to original-issue 1911s. Photo courtesy of Colt.

The pistol features a smooth, long, solid trigger with a flat mainspring housing. This is where the M45 is more like the circa-WWI 1911s. The WWII-era 1911A1 changed the setup with a short trigger and arched mainspring housing in an effort to help GIs shoot better. Shooting styles have changed over the years but have come full-circle with the M45—long and flat is the setup most shooters prefer today. Per military specifications, the M45 also has a lanyard loop in the mainspring housing, but that’s where the similarities with your great-grandfather’s pistol end.

The M45 has features that today’s shooters demand and expect in a 1911-style pistol: an upswept beavertail grip safety with a hefty bump, an extended ambidextrous safety, a lightweight, enhanced hammer, beveled magazine well, lowered and flared ejection port, front and rear slide serrations, and a real Mil-Std-1913 accessory rail. The Marines specified this rail because it has more surface area for an accessory to grasp onto. The extra area makes it more reliable in extreme environments.

In the hand, the M45 felt comfortable. The ambidextrous safety worked crisply when I used either hand. The centerline of the bore was low due to the upswept beavertail grip safety, and it protected the web of my hand. The hammer serrations provided enough surface to easily cock the hammer. The sides of the hammer were easy to grasp and hold while I pulled the trigger to lower it. I also like the more contemporary slide serrations. The 1911A1’s slide serrations are fine but can collect gunk and get slippery with wet or sweaty hands. The M45’s serrations allowed for a good purchase barehanded, and I assume it will work just as well with gloves. The trigger has a specified 5-pound pull weight, perfect for its intended purpose. If I used the M45 for a carry gun, I personally wouldn’t mess with the trigger. It does utilize the Series 80 trigger system, which many traditionalists feel mucks up the trigger pull, but Colt has had years to perfect the Series 80—since 1983 in fact—and I could not tell the difference between it and a Series 70. The Series 80 has an internal firing-pin safety that is actuated via the trigger; a Series 70 does not have a firing-pin safety system. Unfortunately, my benchmark for a prime 1911 trigger is a 3.5-pound Series 70, but the M45A1 is not made for precision work.

Colt M45A1 CQBP with Hands on Gun

In hand, the M45A1 felt comfortable, and its rail gave the weapon slightly more heft and front weight than a government model 1911.

That firing-pin safety was a requirement for the M45 replacement. The G10 grips on the M45 are gritty without being too sharp or raspy, and they are slightly thicker than the flatter, double-diamond checkered walnut or plastic grips of 1911A1s. Including the grip panels, the grip’s actual width is 1.3 inches. My hand is of average size, so smaller-handed users may feel a bit of girth and will need to modify the grip panels to their liking. The G10 grips and only two other components—Novak tritium three-dot night sights and a Wilson Combat seven-round magazine—are the only non-Colt manufactured parts on the M45. Most 1911s today have an eight-round magazine, but the envelope for the 1911 pistol magazine was originally designed for seven rounds. Seven-round magazines have proven reliable in battle, and that was good enough for the Marines—so the Wilson Combat magazine went into the M45’s specifications. The seven-round Wilson magazine has a nylon follower that is self-lubricating and does not corrode, unlike some magazines with metal followers. The polymer base pad gave the magazine just enough length so that I didn’t jab my palm on the lanyard loop when I slammed it home, and the beveled edges of the magazine well allowed me to reload magazines quickly.

The M45’s Novak tritium night sights, in the three-dot arrangement, are simple and fast for acquiring targets. They’re also great for targeting at night with their three glowing green dots. The sights are snag-free, unlike standard GI sights, which catch on anything near them. The Novak sights are also rugged and provide a good sight picture.

It strips down just like all Government 1911s were meant to without the use of tools. There is no need for a hex wrench to disassemble a recoil rod nor is a bushing wrench required to rotate the bushing like some newer 1911s. If anything, preventative maintenance suggests replacing the recoil springs every 5,000 to 7,000 rounds and checking the extractor. Like most military 1911s, it will run dirty and nearly forever.

Colt M45A1 CQBP Target and Winchester .45 Ammunition

At 25 yards, the Colt M45A1 CQBP’s accuracy met the author’s and the Corp’s standards with Winchester 230-grain ammo.

Initially having limited time with the M45, I was only able to fire one type of ammo: Federal Gold Medal Match 230-grain FMJ rounds. This load has a stated muzzle velocity of 860 feet per second (fps), while mil-spec .45 ACP ammo runs at 855 fps. While the boys from Colt were busting their thumbs to load magazines for me, the M45 produced groups that usually had holes touching each other with an occasional flyer. Military specifications require the M45 to hold a five-shot group within a 4-by-4-inch area at 25 yards when fired from a rest, but I was only able to test the M45 off-hand. I used a two-handed hold and placed the front sight on the target at 15 yards. It was easy to achieve the mil-spec group—something I didn’t expect. Though my time with the M45 was short, I felt as if I’d been shooting the pistol for years. The Colt M45 worked flawlessly. Align the front sight, press the trigger, bang, repeat. And repeat I did, until I was standing in a puddle of empty cases.

When I had alone time with the new Colt, I ran two additional factory loads and a handload. At 25 yards and shot from a rest, the Colt was impressive. I like it when a 1911 belches out 1-inch groups with inexpensive 230-grain ball ammo. It’s a combat-ready pistol that will shoot the black out all day long.

We expect our government to purchase military equipment that works, and the M45 does just that. And it doesn’t dent your empties like the former military 1911s. Would I change anything on the M45? While 1911s beg to be customized, I would carry this weapon as is. Uncle Sam has made a wise purchase.

 
Colt M45A1 CQBP, MSRP $1,995
Action Single action
Barrel Length 5.0 inches
Caliber .45 ACP
Overall Length 8.5 inches
Weight Unloaded 42.5 ounces with empty magazine
Sights Novak 3-dot, Tritium night
Grips Textured laminated G10 Desert Camouflage
Capacity 7+1 Wilson magazine
Firing System Series 80
Finish Cerakote Desert Tan
Frame Stainless steel

Colt M45A1 CQBP Accuracy

Velocity measured 15 feet from the muzzle by a ProChrono digital chronograph. Accuracy reflects three five-shot groups at 25 yards.

Load Velocity Average Best
Federal Gold Medal Match 230 FMJ 860 fps 2.03 in. 1.02 in.
Reload 185 SWC 926 fps 2.88 in. 1.75 in.
Winchester WinClean 230 BEB 779 fps 2.06 in. 1.50 in.
American Eagle 230 FMJ 838 fps 2.06 in. 1.00 in.

Tell us what you think about the Colt M45A1 CQBP in the comment section.

SLRule

Robert Sadowski has written about firearms and hunting for nearly 15 years. He is the author of four gun books, editor of three others and is a contributor to numerous gun-enthusiast magazines, including Combat Handguns, Black Guns, Tactical Weapons for Military and Police, Gun Tests, Personal and Home Defense, Gun Hunter, SHOT Business, and others. He has a personal affinity for large-caliber revolvers and the AR platform.

View all articles by Robert Sadowski

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Comments (44)

  • bob campbell

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    Boycott?

    Many of our brothers and sisters live in anti gun states. Many are fine people and they cannot easily pack up and leave. So it is Colt. I do not think that the sate taxes paid by colt are a significant shot in the arm for CT. They have already lost PTR Inc among others . they are shooting themselves in the foot.

    Reply

    • Robert Sadowski

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      Yep. PTR and Marlin are both gone. So is Winchester. The remaining gun manufacturers in CT have additional manufacturing in other states.

      Reply

    • Boycott

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      Robert: I think Winchester and some other companies maintain the executive offices in their home anti2A state. Thus directing control of the companies from liberal agenda states. One needs to look at the executive office address to determine this. This approach does drag some of the monies back into these states for taxing purposes.

      Reply

    • Boycott

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      Bob: Please remember the bucks passed down from wages paying income tax, sales tax, property tax, special levies, and a slew of indirect taxes on items purchased, from Colt’s payroll. Also, the anti2A states are the highest taxing rate states in the union. One thing for sure on this contract, is most of the monies from this contract will roost in a anti2A state. One not to forget, for the private consumer, is the consumer pays for it all.

      Reply

    • steve

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      As for those Anti 2nd Amendment States these manufactures are still in, come to Detroit MI area. We have TACOM in Warren right next to GM Design and plenty of out of work machinists that would be happy to become the “Arsenal of Democracy” again. A lot of little manufactures of Firearms are relocating to Florida Space coast for the Skilled Trades in area. We have a lot of responsible gun owners (and some not so in Detroit) but a Republican Governor Rick Snyder who is Pro-Business, some of the best White Tail Deer hunting in 2 National Forests just in lower mitten, Turkeys galore and even a growing coyote problem in lower part of state (they have even caught one in downtown Detroit. Michigan will manufacture Guns for Military and Sporting use. The Marble Car Gun came from Michigan. So Colt, we welcome you to manufacture and relocate your Corporate HQ here. Business gets a $1.2 Billion a year tax break and in 2014 Michigan eliminated the “Business Property Tax” that the commie states charge on Tooling and Machinery, press’s and all down to the Janitors Bucket.

      Reply

  • AG47

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    The Marines made a smart decision. Great weapon. I reside in a PRO 2A State. Down here in the south we take firearms seriously. I feel sorry for anyone living up north having to put up with the libs and their tyrannical laws. Sad. But life is full of choices. All you have to do is MOVE! Take your tax money with you too. Only then will they realize how lame and ass backwards they are. Semper Fi.

    Reply

  • Boycott

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    Remember Colt is located in a anti2A state, and paying taxes to a state trying to shackle you, take away your guns, and then beat you over the head with your own gun. Do not be fooled by this. The federal dollars from the MC contract will help this state carry on their liberal agenda.

    Reply

    • Jones

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      Very interesting point. I think I’m going to have to agree. It’s becoming harder and harder to get anything done these days, without politics getting in the way. Too bad. I still want one though. 😉

      Reply

    • Boycott

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      Robert: Good article by Bartozzi (Mossberg): It is sad to see our founding fathers states descendants (some in influence) rejecting their birthright, but what is more diabolical is trying to take away others great birthright. Our constitutional rights are worth taking a stand on. Just as our forefathers did against powers trying to make them subjects to the mercantile system of England, which they themselves had no recourse to change internally as a colony. Our battle now, for our heritage, is not external but internal, as this article shows.

      Reply

  • CB

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    Good updates but I don’t see the Gov’mnt broadly adopting any thing that not double action, striker fired, etc. But Spec. Ops. have some choices and some pick 1911’s…

    Reply

  • wr

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    I think the Marines were not looking for high capacity.
    They were looking for first shot hit probability and to
    knock their butt in the dirt with one shot.

    A Marine with a Colt in his hand!
    By God that is something!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply

    • mister_jerry

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      I absolutely agree with wr’s assessment with the Marines and the 1911. It’s akin to the snipers motto of “one shot, one kill”, but at a CQB level.

      Reply

  • bob campbell

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    Well done. A beautiful gun.

    Thanks for the work that went into this one.

    Bob

    Reply

    • Robert Sadowski

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      Thanks, Bob. I appreciate it.

      Reply

  • Kurt Stropoli

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    Looks like an awesome choice. My daughter carried a Beretta in Afghanistan and I would have preferred to see her with a 7 shot 1911 with Hague compliant FMJs than the 92 with 15 shots- not that I have anything against the 9mm as such, just that it has been proven time and again that when comparing FMJs to FMJs, the big .45 wins. I do believe that ammunition technology has advanced so far that there are good expanding 9mm rounds that I would not think twice about for self defense carry- but not under battlefield conditions and the restrictions that troopers have to deal with.

    All that said, at a price tag just south of 2,000 bucks, I’ll hang on to my old all-steel Commander vs the M45.

    Reply

  • Hank Alvarez

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    The 1911 is timeless. Having seen what it will do to a man I bought one, had it tricked out by Jeff at the Norco Armor,y and it’s what I would bet my life on in an, ‘oh shit situation.’

    Reply

  • Vincent

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    What is the max 45 ACP load this modern 1911 Colt can handle? I have created an Excel file with ballistics specs for many calibers, and the 45 ACP can vary from 800 to 1900 muzzle fps, which converts to from 335- 639 in muzzle ft. lbs. The 1900 fps ammo is made by Liberty Civil Defense, and the weight of the bullet is only 78 gr. but produces 635 ft. lbs.!

    Reply

    • Brass

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      This frame and slide can and does handle 10MM easily and no 45 ACP loading can approach those pressure levels. The cartridge case will likely be the weak point.

      Reply

    • Vincent

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      Brass, in your response to my note about 45 ACP loads, it sounds like you do not have a handgun that shoots 45 ACP. First of all, the loads I mentioned in my original note are loads you can buy new online and obviously are made for 45 ACP handguns. Secondly, I own a Ruger 45 Long Colt convertible Blackhawk (single action revolver) that has a secondary cylinder which shoots 45 ACP ammo. I have shot 45 LC ammo at double these power values (muzzle energy )with the 45 LC cylinder and 45 LC ammo. I have recently purchased some of these hi powered 45 ACP loads and I will be shooting them next week. I seriously doubt that there will be any issue at all. So, your theory about these loads being ‘too’ high for any 45 ACP handgun has no foundation at all.

      My question still stands if the 1911 45 ACP versions now being made can. Are semi-auto handguns fundamentally weaker? If they can handle the load like my Ruger, then the Marines should be using these high loads!

      Reply

    • will-j

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      @ Vincent, RE: .45 brass;
      I have a Colt Series 80 SS through which I shoot only hand loads, except for a few mags loaded w/ Hornady Critical Defense rds. for home and personal defense.[You cannot justify a self defense shooting w/ hand loads- not even if they are weaker-powered than factory lds.. But I digress.
      In American Handgunner a few yrs. back, and in Gun World too, Dean Grinnell worked on a new rd. he called the .45 Super. Ill health forced him to get someone else to continue the development of the round. Another Gun world writer; A deputy Sheriff- heavy-set with a moustache, took over, worked on it a while, and eventually Ace Hindman, somewhere around San Antonio, Tx. completed the work and customized pistols for the .45 Super until he too passed away and his son took over. He was still in business, last I heard. He would be the one person who could tell all about the strength of the Gov’t. Model whether it be Colt, or any clone.
      I modified my Series 80 with a shortened firing pin(.050″)w/ a slightly less-rounded tip to prevent primer piercing, a 25# Wolffe recoil spring, and x-tra heavy firing pin spring and Main spring. The only other mods were tightening the slide/frame fit and polishing the feed ramp, and double Shok-Buff washers( one on the recoil spring guide rod, and one between the guide rod and frame.[the hole needs to be beveled to fit over the welded hump on back of the guide rod]. the slide still retracts far enough to ejects the brass. In over 500 rds., I’ve had No failures to either feed or eject.
      My loads for the Super are: 185 Hor. XTPs w/14.0gr Hogdon’s HS-6; 200 XTPs w/13.0 gr HS-6; and 230 XTPs w/ 12.0 gr. HS-6. All loaded in
      Starline .45 Super brass. Velocities are 1425, 1330, and 1210 fps respectively, over an Oehler 35P chrono. Recoil is really manageable with the two washers. These
      loads are the ones Grinnell worked up initially but have since been reduced to nothing more than .45+P lds. by today’s standards, thanks to our litigious society.
      Another cartridge that the Gov’t. Model can be loaded for is the .460 Rowland. The case is .055″ longer than the ACP case, but the overall length is practically the same [to fit and feed through the Gov’t mags. With a 30# recoil spring they are what the Super was meant to be, and the pressure levels are in line with the 10MM Auto, as you see, it is compatible w/ the Gov’t Model frame. The mods to the recoil, firing pin, and main springs were to keep recoil tolerable and increase rebound timing of the firing pin to keep the primer from snagging on the firing pin when the slide begins to retract and the barrel drops down when the lugs disengage from the recesses in the slide. The 25# spring works with the factory hardball ammo also; though I ran only three 10-rd mags through it for function-check. One other load I have for it is a 230 gr Win. JHP Bulk bullet from Midway over 14.0 gr. Hercules( now Alliant) powder in Starline Super, and TZZ head-stamped (Israeli, I believe), brass. It clocks at 1230 FPS.(AVG). Kept to 50 yds. max, it’s taken 6 Whitetails, and the 230 XTPs have taken two.. I hunt from an enclosed blind w/these so as not to lose any brass. ( Yes, I AM very stingy w/ my brass, especially with the current situation regarding components.
      I hope I haven’t confused you with this information, but in short; Yes the Gov’t Model will take pressures with the right brass and modifications far beyond today’s factory levels.. Check it out – you might like it.
      Will.

      Another cartridge you

      Reply

    • will-j

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      PS: If recoil is a might too much for you, install a set of Hogue 1-piece wrap-around grips w/ finger grooves; they will help dampen any excess recoil.

      Reply

  • Secundius

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    I think there’s a transiting point here. I wouldn’t be surprise that in the coming months, if the Marine Corp eventually transition from the M1911 to the P227. Just because of its double ammunition capacity.

    Reply

    • BRASS

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      P227? Not gonna happen, if you think that you don’t know Marines. They didn’t pick the M45 because they didn’t know what they want or had to settle for less, they chose it because they knew exactly what they wanted and why. Remember, this pistol was purchased for their special operators, not for all Marines. Trust me, as a retired Marine, I can tell you it was deliberate and well thought out.

      Reply

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