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. Call it poetic justice.
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. With the exception to its roll marks, the early prototype I tested was built nearly to military specifications. The Farmington, Connecticut, police granted us access to their range, and the boys from Colt were loading magazines as fast as I could empty them.
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.
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 higher. Shooting styles have changed over the years but come full-circle with the M45—long and flat is the setup most shooters prefer today.