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Semper Fi: Colt M45A1 CQBP Marine Pistol Review

by Eric R. Poole   |  February 25th, 2014   |   44

The M45A1 Close Quarters Battle Pistol (CQBP) was decided on July 20, 2012, from three submissions to a 2010 solicitation handed down by Marine Corps Systems Command (MARCORSYSCOM). Colt, Springfield Armory and Karl Lippard Designs each offered Leathernecks a replacement for the age-old rebuilt .45s. A variation of the 1911 Rail Gun won and re-upped Colt’s enlistment in the U.S. Marine Corps.

The initial delivery order following the announcement specified 4,036 pistols and spares. However, the contract carries with it an indefinite-delivery and indefinite-quantity clause for up to 12,000 M45A1s, spare parts and logistical support. The value of this contract is said to be worth $22.5 million to Colt. Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC) and Marine Expeditionary Unit Special Operation Command (MEU[SOC]), as well as members of Force Recon, Special Reaction Teams (SRT) and the Marine Corps pistol team are the expected end users for the first new Colt 1911s added to an armory’s inventory since World War II.

“This is a truly gratifying contract award,” said Gerry Dinkel, president and CEO of Colt Defense. “To have the 1911 selected again for U.S. Forces 101 years after its initial introduction is just an incredible testament to the timeless design and effectiveness of the Colt 1911. Colt Defense looks forward to another great partnership with the Marine Corps as we renew industry production of the military 1911.”

The commercially available Colt Marine Pistol is a tribute to this achievement and comes from the Colt Custom Shop. There, critical parts are precisely mated and test fired for accuracy. Every one of these pistols arrived with an actual test target. Colt sent “Tactical Operator” a sample with a factory test target displaying a five-shot, 15-yard group measuring .85 inch.

Quantities are limited. Like the M45A1 CQBP issued to Marines, the commercial version features the flat, desert-tan-colored Cerakote finish over a stainless steel slide, frame and more. You’ll also notice the underbarrel Picatinny rail; fixed Novak three-dot night sights; flat, serrated mainspring housing with lanyard loop; enhanced hammer to guard against hammer bite; long, solid aluminum trigger; and ambidextrous safety lock. As you inspect the obvious, be sure not to overlook the stainless, five-inch National Match barrel and bushing.

Marines with military occupational specialty (MOS) 2112 assigned to the Precision Weapons Section (PWS) at Quantico, Virginia, are some of the best gunsmiths in the business. Today, there are about 60 of them. I say “gunsmiths” and not simply “pistolsmiths” because it needs to be made clear that the smallest MOS requires two years of specialized training. There is nothing like this little-known team of highly proficient practitioners in any other American branch of service. These apron-wearing Marines only certify about 10 to 12 former 2111s (small-arm repair technicians) each year. They work on everything from competition-tuned rifles and pistols used by the shooting teams to the legendary M40-series employed by Marine snipers.

In 1985, when the Marine Corps replaced its standard-issue .45-caliber M1911A1 with the 9mm M9, the PWS sorted through 1911s being turned in and started work rebuilding a small number for use as a secondary weapon system preferred by Special Operation units and Recon. Even though the higher-capacity M9 was selected by Uncle Sam, it was quite obvious that Marines still wanted the power from the legendary .45. Initially, PWS sourced serviceable parts stripped from M1911A1s before looking to commercially available parts to fill the gaps. Since 1985, the M45 has been distinguished by a set of Pachmayr grips, a Videki aluminum trigger and an ambidextrous thumb safety. Over the years, a few upgrades appeared, including a few sight variations, Springfield Armory slides, various replacement barrels, magazines, grip safeties, even a few Caspian frames when the demand for the M45 by Marine special operation units exceeded supply.

The Marine Corps System Command issued a formal Request For Proposal (RFP) in March 2010. Though the M45 was more respected for its terminal performance over the M9, these pistols required special maintenance cycles and fitting for reliable operation. The RFP indicated “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.” Marines wanted a “semiautomatic pistol in .45 ACP using a single-stack magazine that must hold at least seven rounds.”

The RFP stated that the pistol should function with a seven-round .45-caliber magazine the Marine Corps already had in the supply chain (NSN 1005-01-373-2774). This language in the RFP made it clear what pistol Marines were hoping for.

Colt Defense answered the call with a slightly modified variant of its stainless steel Rail Gun. It already featured a beveled magazine well to improve faster reloads. It satisfied the requirement to readily demonstrate parts interchangeability with no special handwork, tools or degradation of performance. The RFP also noted that the M45A1 CQBP would be a model that was commercially available.

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