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Colt M45A1 CQBP: the MARSOC pistol

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Colt M45A1 CQBP: the MARSOC pistol

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The Colt M45A1 CQBP semi-automatic pistol is the latest iteration of the .45 caliber 1911 pistol, as adopted in 2012 by the United States Marine Corps

The M45A1 was conceived for the USMC Special Operations Units

The M45A1 was conceived for the USMC Special Operations Units

The venerable Colt 1911 semi-automatic pistol – a design that's now well over 100 years old – has long been replaced in its role as the official sidearm for the United States Armed Forces, so much indeed that its substitute is on its way to replacement itself. And yet, it is still to completely abandon the battlefield, being a favourite of many special operation forces.

Among those are the MEU(SOC) and the Force Recon – the special operation forces of the United States Marine Corps – whose sidearm ever since the year 1986 has been the M45 MEUSOC pistol, a custom-grade 1911 variant assembled and tuned by the USMC armorers at the Quantico base, in Virginia.

Left side of the M45A1 CQBP

Left side of the M45A1 CQBP

Left side of the M45A1 CQBP

Left side of the M45A1 CQBP

As much as its dress may change, this is still John Moses Browning's old reliable battlehorse

As much as its dress may change, this is still John Moses Browning's old reliable battlehorse

As the time went by and the adoption of the M9 pistol depleted the stock of spare parts, making the old M45 MEUSOC pistols unserviceable, a replacement had to be found. Following some stop-gap and interim solutions, in 2012 the United States Marine Corps adopted an upgraded variant of the Colt CCU Rail Gun for its special operations capable units – aptly dubbed the M45A1 CQBP Close Quarters Battle Pistol.

Manufactured by Colt and available for commercial and professional sales alike, the M45A1 CQBP has been available to civilian shooters in the United States for quite some time; now it is available to European gun enthusiasts as well. And despite the price, the M45A1 CQB is definitely going to become a must-have for dedicated collectors and die-hard aficionados of John Moses Browning's quintessential workhorse on this side of the Big Pond.

A detail of the engravings on the slide

A detail of the engravings on the slide

Right side of the M45A1 CQBP

Right side of the M45A1 CQBP

The ejection window

The ejection window

Left side of the M45A1 CQBP

Left side of the M45A1 CQBP

A close-up of the rear portion of the gun with its hammer cocked

A close-up of the rear portion of the gun with its hammer cocked

When it was first launched, the Colt M45A1 was described as "a highly enhanced version of an already excellent combat weapon" by William F. Keys – a retired Lieutenant General of the United States Marine Corps who was also Colt's President and CEO back then.

The first contract, as published on July 20, 2012, bound Colt to deliver 4,000 samples initially, and up to 12,000 samples in the following years; the contract was said to be worth $22.5 million to Colt. Whether or not Colt had the time to honor the contract, is unknown: on September 30, 2016, the United States Marine Corps announced that all 1911 type pistols still used by its special operation units would be replaced by the Glock 19 – and it seemingly included the new Colt M45A1 CQBP.

The decision had been anticipated in February 2015, when the USMC first officially authorized its special operation units to carry Glock pistols in lieu of the 1911, at the operator's will.

And after all, the ongoing XM17 MHS (Modular Handgun System) program – which is slated to lead to the replacement of the Beretta M9 as the standard service pistol for the U.S. Armed Forces – seems to have narrowed down its entrants to a number of strictly striker-fired, polymer frame pistols. Back in March 2016, the U.S. Army Chief of Staff, General Mark Milley, openly declared to be eyeing the Glock 19 as the next standard service pistol.

Whatever side you're on in the neverending "Metal Vs. Polymer" battle, the facts remain: back in the 1980s, the well known Austrian company paved the way for the future and still leads the market, but nonetheless the 1911 pistol is still a pillar of the firearms industry – and given its enduring popularity among law enforcement professionals and civilian shooters worldwide, it's likely to hold its position for decades to come.
Under this point of view, the Colt M45A1 CQBP is definitely the 1911 of the 21st Century.

The M45A1 CQBP could very well be the 1911 for the 21st Century battles, but deep at heart it's still the same gun engineered by John Moses Browning over one century ago

The M45A1 CQBP could very well be the 1911 for the 21st Century battles, but deep at heart it's still the same gun engineered by John Moses Browning over one century ago

A solid design

A detail of the G10 grip panels

A detail of the G10 grip panels

The Colt M45A1 CQBP pistol is based on the tried and true Series 80 platform: it comes with a single-action trigger, a skeletonized enhanced hammer, an automatic firing pin safety, an ambidextrous frame-mounted manual safety, and an improved and crisp trigger pull – about two kilos or just under 6 lbs. of weight, with a very short 0.1"/2mm reset. The grip safety features an extended beavertail.

Many small parts, including the hammer and trigger, are manufactured out of aluminum, but both the slide and frame are machined in solid stainless steel and Decobond-finished in desert tan color.
The slide of the Colt M45A1 CQBP pistol comes with front and rear serrations, and with dovetailed high-visibility sights with tritium night dots. Those should be Novak LoMount sights, according to the official technical specs, but some M45A1 CQBP samples – ours included – are issued with Trijicon sights.

The M45A1 pistol is 21,6 cm / 8.5" long overall and weighs 1,7 kilograms / 40 oz. when unloaded. Among its key improvements over its predecessors is the use of Colt's patented Dual Recoil Spring System, which heavily mitigates the recoil impulse of the powerful .45 ACP caliber – allowing faster target re-acquisition and quicker follow-up shots, potentially a key factor in gunfighting – and boosts the recoil springs' own service life.

The frame comes with a machined MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny accessory rail, and also sports highly textured G10 panels that make the grip basically slip-proof, if a bit wide: with a circumference of about 7" (that's almost 18 cm!), the grip of the M45A1 CQBP is akin to that of a double-stack magazine pistol, and is definitely not made for small hands.

The Picatinny accessories rail is machined on the slide

The Picatinny accessories rail is machined on the slide

The barrel bushing of the M45A1 CQBP

The barrel bushing of the M45A1 CQBP

Colt's M45A1 comes with a 5" National Match barrel

Colt's M45A1 comes with a 5" National Match barrel

A partially stripped M45A1 CQBP

A partially stripped M45A1 CQBP

The sample of this pictures mounts Trijicon night sights

The sample of this pictures mounts Trijicon night sights

The Colt M45A1 CQBP comes with a cold-hammer forged, polished stainless steel 5" National Match barrel and a NM bushing. Outside of the mentioned ambidextrous manual safety, the controls configuration is the same as on any other 1911 variant.

The M45A1 CQBP pistol is issued with Wilson black metal single-stack magazines, holding 7+1 rounds. It will still feed from any type of 1911-compatible single stack magazine, as demonstrated by our test through the use of aftermarket MEC-GAR magazines.

All tests – most notably those carried on by civilian and military experts in the U.S. with a wide variety of commercial and service-grade ammunition – show an incredible and constant accuracy level, with an average group width of 10 cm at around 20 metres (4" groups at 25 yards).

The low number of malfunctions also proves the reliability of a handgun system that was built to save lives. The mentioned non-captive, dual recoil spring solves cycling issues that 1911-type pistols usually experience due to spring strengths; a widened and flared ejection window and a polished and coated feeding ramp also address two other key design issues that are known to cause malfunctions on the 1911 pistol platform. The Colt M45A1 is just as reliable as a perfectly tuned competition-grade custom 1911, except this comes with that level of reliability right out of the factory – and rightfully so.

A round indexed in the chambering position on feeding ramp of the M45A1

A round indexed in the chambering position on feeding ramp of the M45A1

The jewel of the crown

The M45A1 skips the mainstream Cerakote finish for a more resistant IonBond Decobond coating

The M45A1 skips the mainstream Cerakote finish for a more resistant IonBond Decobond coating

One thing is for sure: the M45A1 CQBP is not a handgun for everybody. Colt's crown jewel is sold at a little less than 3000€ in Europe; and while the current MSRP in the United States is set at $1,699.00, the suggested retail price for the early models was way above the $2,000 threshold.

And yet, a lot of gun enthusiasts and collectors have been happy to wait to get one. Particularly for specialized 1911 collectors, a pistol with the history and background of the Colt M45A1 CQBP is a must-have.

The M45A1 proved exceptionally stable and accurate at the range

The M45A1 proved exceptionally stable and accurate at the range

And if you are looking for a 1911 derivative that can reasonably be called "the best 1911 on the market" – at least when it comes to non-luxury, field-ready variants – then look no further. You just need to be willing to spend the money it takes to grab a true jewel of firearm technology.

Colt M45A1 CQBP – Technical specs

Distributor
Model

M45A1 CQBP

Typology

Semi-automatic pistol

Caliber

.45 ACP

Action

Single action

Trigger system

External enhanced hammer, automatic firing pin safety

Safeties

Ambidextrous frame-mounted manual safety, extended beavertail grip safety

Capacity

7+1 rounds, single-stack Wilson magazine

Barrel

127 mm / 5" National Match barrel
Six right-handed grooves, 1 twist in 16"

Sights

Novak LoMount or Trijicon high-visibility sights with Tritium dots

Overall length

216 mm / 8.5"

Weight (empty)

1,27 kg / 40 oz.

Materials / Finishes

Machined stainless steel frame and slide
Cold-hammer forged, polished stainless steel barrel
Solid aluminum grip and hammer
Desert tan Decobond finish

Price

$1,699.00 (MSRP – U.S.A.)
€ 2.939,00 (Europe)