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 M

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    When I read that Colt kept the series 80 firing system, it totally turned me off on this gun! It means that it will not fire with the magazine out ! That is a major drawback to this firing system, especially for a gun intended for combat use !
    I’ll stick with my series 70 system, and the warning label on the side, and I won’t go to California to shoot it either ! I like to be able to reload and still have the weapon hot !

    Reply

    • Will-j

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      @ Bob M; Bob, don’t know when you bought your Series 80– I bought mine in ’91 and don’t have any problem at all shooting a round with the mag removed. Any mods done since then which I need to know about?
      WILL.

      Reply

    • Will-j

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      @ Bob M; Bob, don’t know what to tell you ’bout the “new” Series 80 Colt. Bought mine in ’91 (used), but the reason it was on the market was because it was dropped, the muzzle got nicked –the owner was too dumb to check when accuracy went south—and I got it for practically nothing.[ SER. #SS40XXX]. Touchup w/a fine ignition file to the muzzle and it does 1-1/2″ w/good loads, and yes, I just removed the mag and dropped the hammer on an empty chamber, 12 times.
      The trigger pull raises the lever in the frame, which raises the pin in the slide which unblocks the firing pin and the gun fires….. All with the mag removed. Perhaps you might check with Colt and see if they modified it per instruction from the Military……. Although that does not seem to be a logical step for a military combat-oriented weapon.. Then again…. the military as of late has no been known to make many logical choices. Check it out……. Something’s not too right..
      WILL.

      Reply

  • Vincent

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    Will, Thanks again for all your info and help. I can see you have been in the gun and reloading business a long time, same as me but I have not been active most of the time. My Ruger 357 I bought new 49 years ago!

    As for the discrepancy in the POI, my hot 45 ACP loads (Atomic) have a muzzle velocity of 1225 and a bullet of 185 gr. The 45 LC loads have a muzzle velocity of only 887 with a 255 gr bullet. So, it does not make sense that the hotter 45 ACP loads have a lower POI. It seems to me that is should be the other way around. So, perhaps the changing of the cylinders has something to do with this? Both bullets are .45, only one is the 45 ACP (short case) and the other is a 45 LC (long case). Both are FMJ. When I am shooting to set the sight, I place my hand on a soft, beaded pad to steady my hand. The gun has a 5.5″ barrel, so the recoil is not much at all with any loads I have shot so far. When I shoot the hot 45 LC loads (1450 fps with a 260 gr bullet) next week, that may change!

    And you are correct – it appears I will have to set the sights of my 45 Ruger Blackhawk differently for the 45 ACP vs. the 45 LC. But I was quite surprised that the POI of the hotter, smaller bullet was lower than the LC load.

    As for reloads, I but just about all my new ammo online, so shipping is already a price factor. So, having to pay for shipping n reloads is no different, although I would have to pay shipping for sending in my spent cartridges. I have just contacted some ammo manufacturer locally to see if they are willing to do reloads. My costs so far for 45 LC has been between $.52 – $1.75/rd, with the higher cost for the real hot loads, and the lower cost ones for plinking. With the 45 ACP, costs have been between $.41-$1.20/rd. Shipping costs are on top of that. I usually order at least 2 boxes at a time to lower the shipping costs per round.

    My Excel spreadsheet gives the unit costs, where to order online, all the specs, and even pictures of the round for some. I focus on handgun ammo, although I do have a rifle section, and even a military section with BIG guns (cannons),Currently, I have about 150 entries. If you are interested in seeing it, just let me know. I update this file about twice a week.

    ix.netcom.com
    Vincent

    Reply

  • Vincent

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    Will, Thanks again for your thoughts and help. But I just responded to your other message, and informed you that I have a Ruger New Model Blackhawk that is quite a gun. It is 42 ozs. with a 5.5″ barrel. So, so far, I have not had any recoil to speak about yet, but I may once I shoot the hot 45 LC ammo I mentioned in my last message to you. I also have a Ruger 357 6.5″ barrel and it has some recoil when I shoot very hot 357 loads. I do not reload anything anymore, so everything I shoot is brand new. I am looking for a place where I can send my brass and get reloads made. Giot any ideas there? I live in the Phoenix, AZ area (the Old West!). But I am perfectly willing to send my bass anywhere and get the reloads sent back to.me, assuming it is not more expensive that simply buying new.

    vlavalle
    Vincent

    Reply

  • Vincent

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    Will, thanks for the very nice response to my inquiry regarding the max load of the new 1911 45’s the government will start using again. As for your specs on the hot cartridges, thanks again. I will look these up online, if possible. Does the reference to ‘Hor’ refer to Hornady? Or are all of these hand made cartridges?

    Just a couple of days ago I shot my first hot 45 ACP loads. I have a Ruger New Blackhawk Convertible western revolver (with a second cylinder that shoots 45 ACP ammo), and it was awesome, with more kick and more of a bang! These loads were 1225 fps with a 185 gr bullet made by Atomic at $.60/rd with a muzzle energy of 616 ft. lbs.,, which is quite high for the 45 ACP ammo. But Buffalo make an even hotter round at 1220 fps with a 200 gr bullet delivering 639 ft. lbs.

    But I learned something from my shooting this week. The ‘hot’ 45 ACP ammo drops quite a bit more (25 yards) that the 45 LC medium loads do. I was trying to adjust the sights on my handgun, and once it was set for the 45 ACP, then when shooting the 45 LC ammo, they were all about 4-6″ too high! Then when I adjusted the sights for the 45 LC ammo, the hot 45 ACP shots were 4-6″ too low!. The 45 LS ammo I was shooting was LAX ammo with a muzzle velocity of 887 with a muzzle energy of 445 ft. lbs. Given the velocity of these two ammos, I was quite surprised at this. Next week I will shoot some very hot 45 LC ammo (Buffalo Bore 3C) with a muzzle velocity of 1450 shooting a 260 gr bullet, resulting in a muzzle energy of 1214 ft. lbs.

    I have an excel file with all this info which I add to constantly. If you are interested, email me

    Reply

    • will-jj

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      Vince; I’ll try to answer both replies together. as for the difference in point of impact between the two cartridges can result from a few different things. First off, even with the same cylinder [ say the ACP ] the different velocities from the different weight bullets will result in different POI( points of impact). This is due to something called ‘dwell time’ [the time the bullet is in the barrel before exiting. The muzzle begins to rise the second the cartridge is fired, [ due to recoil] and the slower the velocity, the further the muzzle rises, resulting in a higher POI. It’s the same, even with the same weight bullet at different velocities; The slower velocity=longer dwell time= higher muzzle rise= higher POI. at the target.
      Now, compound that with a change of cylinders AND a change in caliber/cartridge and it is compounded even further. I have the SAME situation with both my Super Blackhawk and Redhawk Rugers; I have a dedicated load for each. It is possible sometimes to work up a load with two or three different bullets [ same weight / different brand ] and get close to the same POI, but I’ve found that there could be a difference in velocity even w/ the same load data.
      You might try getting a higher grip on the gun, with the web of your thumb / forefinger just touching the hammer spur. This will bring you closer in line with the axis of the bore and reduce muzzle rise somewhat and perhaps give you better control. As things are looking now, you may need to choose which caliber /load will be your main combo and which will be your “plinking load” combo. With practice you should be able to use ‘Kentucky Windage” for most of your shooting. That is something only you can figure out: And you will, in time, with practice.
      As for sending off your brass and exchanging it for more reloads, there were some places which did that in the past, but I think you’ll find it pretty costly to do so these days ,what with shipping and all. Look into sharing loading with someone near you or perhaps get back into reloading for yourself. I can tell you this: After close to 40 yrs. shooting and loading, It is not getting any cheaper-especially with things as they are now.. Get everything you can now , while you can, before it’s too late to do so.
      The loads I have for my Gov’t Model are dedicated to that .45 and no other, not even a Colt, they would wreck it after a few rds. without the Super Mods. Your Ruger ACP cylinder will handle any .45ACP load out there, even the old original Super lds. The only thing is, Hodgdon discontinued their HS-6 powder a few yrs. ago, and it was the best powder for the Super.
      If you can find a copy of Hodgdon’s 2004 Annual Manual, You can see the down loading of the Super Data, But you can load the .45 Rowland data in Starline .45 Super cases because you’ll have full chamber support at the web; Just work your way up and keep those loads separated from any other .45s. Check around your area for any gun shops / reloading places. If you supply your own brass, it will be lots cheaper, since the brass comprises the bulk of the cost of the loads. You’ll find that lead bullets are a lot cheaper than jacketed ones and give considerably good accuracy to boot; even for hunting. That .45 cal. will do some damage.
      With respect to your reference to the 185gr. load “dropping” more than the heavier loads, quite the opposite is in effect. The lighter load has a ‘flatter’ trajectory than the heavier loads: Think; LIGHTER=FASTER= less dwell time=LOWER POI and HEAVIER=SLOWER= more dwell time=HIGHER POI: Adjust your hold accordingly, and good luck.
      WILL.

      Reply

    • will-j

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      Vince, I forgot your first questions, so here goes: Hor. was short for Hornady. I keep their ammo loaded in mags. for the house. Aside from the Colt ’80, I keep mags loaded with Starfire 230 gr; Cor- Bon 165 JHPs @1250fps & 185 JHPs @1150fps; and TRITON HI-VEL 165 JHPs @ 1250 fps in the truck for the AUTO ORDNANCE .45, along with one handload of a 230gr. hardcast TFP @ 1100fps for a barricade load should I ever have need for one. hand load consequences be Damned. But to each their own. Find what works BEST for you and 3stay with it. All the above loads stay in “minute-of -chest” at S.D./ Combat range and all work for me. Good luck. WILL

      Reply

  • Joe

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    It is a shame they did not go with at least a 10 round capacity. I thought Para-ordanance had 12 and 14 round versions of the 1911. Even if this is only meant to go in the hands of special forces teams why not give them 3 extra rounds? If the soldier is falling back to his side arm for standing his ground or attacking an enemy why not give him more?

    Reply

    • Mike

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      I know this is a late (2016 versus your post in 2014, but I have a old Combat Commander and even though it sits in safe (I have 2 1st Gen Glock 21’s) I can fire a shot in chamber with mag removed and have even dry fired by mistake a few times, but I agree with the extra stack. With a thinner Grip Panel, it could still be slimmer than the G21. And also the Glocks will eat anything while the Colt is strictly brass, and a high quality to function correctly. As a former City of Detroit LEO my Commander was my back up, always carried in small of back. The Glocks are big and square, but like I said they shoot any cheap crap but the Colt is a special Tool. When you think of German engineering, tight fit, minimum tolerances, well that is a Colt 1911, granted my Glocks were made in Austria and Imported. But for natural feel, balance, point of aim and slim the Colt is King. I also had a Super Black Hawk that was stolen and I miss that the most, second is a Steyr straight pull carbine Model of 1895 that same crook got.

      Reply

  • Jones

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    Same here. I’m glad to see that our men & women are going to be issued some gear that has a proven track record. Suprised to see the Wilson combat mags apart of the package. Why, oh why doesn’t every 1911 manufacture just do the same???

    Reply

    • Jones

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      Same here (as to Bob’s comment).

      Reply

  • Dennis Walker

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    I own several Colt 1911A1 pistols Series 70’s & 80’s some Stainless Steel. My Colt Government Model Series 80 chambered in .38 Super RUSTS VERY EASY!!!! I carry it continuously because of its superb accuracy. I need to clean it every day during the summer, because of perspiration. I am VERY DISSATISFIED with the Grade of STAINLESS STEEL that Colt has gone to. I have other brands of Stainless Pistols that don’t rust. It seems that this pistol rusts worse than a Blued one, almost. Lol
    I know this Model M45 is coated outside but that’s not going to help the internal parts from rusting.
    I really would like to buy 1 or 2 but I don’t want to invest close to either $2,000.00 or $4,000.00 into Stainless Steel pistols with an inferior grade of Stainless Steel.
    I would prefer text messages to my cell phone. I get so many email I very seldom even look at them.
    479-640-0512

    Reply

    • Boycott

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      My General Two Bits:
      I’ve had rusting problems on other brands newer steel firearms lacking good bluing or browning or other chemical coatings. Most of this is caused by not completing a good rinse after other chemical baths before bluing or whatever other is used. I have a Mauser 98, first rifle purchased in 1960 by mail order for $12, and not through any lic dealer, which has superb bluing, and not showing any sign of oxidation, after lots of hunting in raining foul weather conditions. Most good martensitic (if it is magnetic) SS will show some signs of oxidation, so a little good cleaning/preservation is in order, just like for steel.
      Also for Colt quality assurance for the mil version probably is completely different than for the civ units. This MC contract will require government inspectors on site inspection, testing (such as salt spray exposure, metallurgical, mechanical etc.), and certificate of origin for materials, etc. I’m sure Colt will not do this for the civ units, and sources of material for civ units is kept for internal use ,for association with the serial numbers (for problems that may occur later). And probably no testing of the material for the civ units. Your assurance for quality for the civ units resides only on the company’s reputation, you have no independent inspection agency working for you..

      Reply

  • jib quinn

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    I won’t be buying one. The Attorney General of MA, now running for Governor, has determined that the 1911 Colt is not of high enough quality to be owned by MA residents. It appears that somebody is wrong. I wonder who.

    Reply

  • Mike Bryant

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    I had the honor to shoot the M45 a few months back and loved the fill of it. I let the Marine shoot my Colt Series 80 that I was carrying while I shot his on the 100 yd line. We shot two mags each at a 5 gal bucket sitting on the 100 yard line and both were making about 80% hits. He advised that he had never shot a handgun at that distance was very proud that the 45 ammo had good distant and held a good close groupings with a side arm. I love the 1911 platform and may be a little prejudice but why not stay with the KISS program..

    Reply

  • Bob

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    I wish I could find one of these for sale. They’re making 80 per month for the civilian market but good luck trying to find one.

    Reply

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