Colt M45A1-1

Colt M45A1 CQB Marine Pistol

I was an active duty Marine from 1992 to 1996, and at that time the standard issue
sidearm was the Beretta M9 (92FS) chambered in 9mm Luger
which was officially adopted in 1986. There were plenty of Marines I
served with when the transition went from the Colt 1911A1 to the Beretta
M9 and many of them were less than thrilled about that move.

The Marine Corps began to look for a 1911 style pistol to be adopted by MARSOC,
The Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command. Several manufactures submitted
test pistols for trials to win the USMC contract. After extensive
testing the trials were over, the smoke had cleared, the brass had been policed,
the broken guns sent home. 101 years after the Colt 1911 was initially adopted it is
once again being issued as a Marine Corps sidearm.

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of the 1911 and a huge fan of Colt so I
personally was pleased when I learned that Colt was awarded
indefinite-delivery,indefinite quantity contract by the U.S. Marine Corps for up
to 12,000 M45 Close Quarter Battle Pistols (CQBP), plus spare parts and support.

Not long after production went underway that I had the opportunity to get
my own hands on it and see what it was all about. Now the pistol has passed muster
with The Marine Corps so who am I to test the pistol, really? With that said there
is no way I was going to pass on putting one through it’s paces.

So the pistol came in at Jim’s Guns in Raleigh NC and Hornady was good enough to
send me several boxes of ammunition. I had also some other test rounds and spent
several nights at my reloading press gearing up for the initial range trip. It was
my goal to put several hundred rounds through the pistol the first day.

Colt M45A1-5

For the initial range trip I removed the Colt from the Pelican case and went
straight to it.

I shot about fifty rounds through it primarily testing for
function but keeping an eye on point of aim and point of impact. The Colt was dead
on out of the box from about thirty feet and flawless through about fifty rounds.

Who am I to have all the fun so I invited three of my friends along for the second
range trip to let them try it out and get their opinion as well. Truthfully I
wanted to get several opinions and no one I asked was turning me down.

With the plans laid, range bag loaded, and the new Colt ready to go we agreed to
meet on a Saturday morning. Well as luck would have it,it was windy as all get out
and pouring rain that day.
So I called Jason, Charlie, and Gabe to see what they thought. Jason was all about
it regardless of the weather so we pressed on. That reminded me of a saying we had
in The Marine Corps, “if it ain’t raining you ain’t training”. Though I am a little
older and less enthusiastic about that sort of thing, I really wanted to shoot the

So, we all met for country ham biscuits and sweet tea (and that my friends is how
you start a day) The second range trip was also to check for function as well as
paying close attention to accuracy. I brought several boxes of .45 Auto and Jason
donated a box of factory Remington 230gr fmj so we had plenty of ammunition, folks
and sorry weather for our trip.

The pistol was not cleaned or lubricated since I opened it so we were continuing
where I left off.
I shot a few magazines out of the gun to warm it up and then stepped back to
twenty-five yards to shoot it from a rest to see what it would do with well aimed
fire at seventy-five feet. I shot four rounds each from six different manufactures
as well as my reloads.

After that the four of us took turns shooting the Colt, going at it as
hard as we could. We had three guys loading magazines and one guy shooting it and
handing it off.
We went through about 400 rounds of factory full metal jacket, factory hollow
points, as well as reloaded lead round nose flat point and lead hollow points as
hard as we could go. For the test I used the included Wilson Combat magazines as
well as Check-Mate 7 round dimpled follower hybrid lip magazines (my very favorite)
and no issues for either magazine type.

Colt M45A1-1-2


At times the slide was too hot to touch, so many reloads occurred using the slide
stop. Fortunately it rained pretty hard the whole second range trip so that helped
cool it down a bit. The Colt did find it’s way to the ground and a few mud holes
during the second range trip. By the end of that session, I had about 450 rounds
through the Colt with no malfunctions and accuracy was superb. To be honest it had
gotten pretty nasty, like plowing a muddy field nasty.

Colt M45A1-2

A few close up shots of the Colt.

Colt M45A1-22

The front Novak night sight, well blended to the slide radius.

Colt M45A1-13

Accessory rail

Colt M45A1-18

The grip safety was well fit to the receiver and included a palm swell to insure positive disengagement. The grip safety engaged and disengaged positively. The hammer is a combat style and was also serrated.

Colt M45A1-31

The slide to receiver fit was snug enough so there was no perceivable side to side movement but reliability was not sacrificed.

Colt M45A1-30

The slide stop engaged positively at ever empty magazine. The magazine release button was well checkered to help with magazine changes with wet and muddy hands. Note, the USMC rollmark.

Colt M45A1-29

Mainspring housing with a lanyard loop, and the magazine well was slightly beveled.

Colt M45A1-27

The grip safety was fit tight to the receiver.

Colt M45A1-23

The forward cocking serrations. I have mixed emotions about these, as I believe they take away from the beauty of the pistol but I also understand why they are included. They do give you options when having to cock the slide, form of function every time especially in a fighting pistol.

Colt M45A1-12

The rear Novak night sight is also well fitted to the slide and the other side of the ambidextrous safety.

Colt M45A1-9

The trigger broke at four pounds and was the epitome of what a 1911 trigger should be.


Colt M45A1-10

The muzzle of Ole big mouth. The barrel was well fit to the barrel bushing and I am sure played a part in the accuracy of this pistol

Colt M45A1-14

Colt National Match barrel.

Colt M45A1-7

Cleaning kit included, so there is no reason your Colt should ever get as dirty as this one.

Colt M45A1-38

After all the shots were fired and I was satisfied the Colt was accurate and reliable I detail stripped the pistol to talk a look at the innards. Besides being dirty as all get out everything looked A OK. You will notice the dual recoil spring set up and O rings on the stock screw bushings. The dual recoil spring will extend the life of the recoil springs and the O rings aid in keeping the stock screws from backing out.


Accuracy table shot from a rest at twenty-five yards

Hornady 220gr Critical Duty                       1″

Seller and Belliot 230gr FMJ                      2″

Reload                                                             1 1/2″

Winchester 230gr FMJ                               2″

Federal 185gr SWC                                      1″

Remington Golden Sabre                          1 1/2″

Speer Gold Dot                                           1″

My reloads consisted of Winchester brass, Winchester large pistol primers, 5.6gr
of Unique propellent and a home cast lead round nose flat point from Mp mold
number 452-200 which threw a 210gr round nose flat point (after lubed with Lyman
Moly lube) and Lyman mold 452630 which is a 200gr lead semi wad cutter.
Both lead bullets tested 19.2 hardness of the Brinnell scale.

A trip to 1911Tuner’s

To me testing this pistol is important, and so I thought I would get some qualified
eyes on the innards after the shooting portion was concluded just to see if there
was anything I missed.
Gunny did complain to me about how dirty the gun was and chastised me for letting
a sidearm be so unkept. He did understand I was not cleaning it for a reason but
nevertheless he does not miss an opportunity for a dress down.
Gunny detail stripped the M45 and took a hard look at the small parts.
Other than a comment about the light rail he seemed pretty satisfied with the
pistol Colt built for our beloved Corps. I am still getting used to the rail and I
understand why it is there but it does detract from the natural girl next door
beauty of a Colt 1911. With that said, function over form always.

This article is not to debate the Colt M45 over the Beretta M9 or the .45 Auto vs
the 9mm Luger (Lord knows there is enough of that going around).
I will touch on a few points that I believe are relevant, with today’s modern
jacketed hollow points many of the popular defensive calibers are plenty
acceptable for carry but the Hague Conventions of 1899 declares the use of bullets
Which expand or flatten easily in the human body illegal to use in combat.

With law of war in effect, only full metal jacket bullets are used by the military.
This law prevents the military from taking advantage of modern jacketed hollow
point bullets. Being that the 9mm Luger bullet has a diameter of .355″ and weights
124 grains while the .45 Auto bullet has a diameter of .450″ and weights 230 grains.
So we have .095″ larger bullet with the .45 Auto, and the fact that the .45 Auto
travels about 400 feet per second slower than the 9mm Luger it has a much less
chance of overpentration. With full metal jacket for stopping power you want big,
heavy, and slow over small, light, and fast.
Please don’t send me hate mail over what I just said, we are all friends here (and
you 9mm fans know I am making some good points).

The next question that has been brought up is the difference in magazine capacity
on the Colt M45 vs the Beretta M9, while the M9 holds a staggering 15+1 the M45
holds only 7+1 (for those who do not know the “+1″
is the added round that is in the chamber). Beretta achieved this large number of
rounds by using a double stack single feed magazine, staggering the rounds in the
magazine body while the Colt has a single stack single feed magazine where each
round is stacked directly on on top of the other. Though the double stack offers
more rounds the trade off is the pistols grip has to be larger to accommodate the
larger magazine. This larger grip can cause control issues for those with small
hands. Also keeping in mind the Marine Rifleman’s primary weapon is going to be a
rifle so the sidearm is going to be a secondary weapon. In my opinion for a
defensive sidearm eight rounds of .45 Auto at 230 grains fmj out of a 1911 is a
better option than sixteen rounds of 9mm fmj at 124 grains. Also lets not forget we
all carry spare magazines.
I also believe no handgun offers the pointability of the 1911, and so I believe
the ergonomics and stopping power of the Colt M45 outweigh the magazine capacity
of the Beretta M9.
I have personally shot the Beretta M9 and though it is a fine pistol I prefer the
Colt 1911.

Model                                           O1070CQB
Caliber                                         .45 Automatic
Length                                          8 1/2″
Height                                          5 1/2″
Width                                           1 1/4′
Sight Radius                              6 1/2″
Weight                                        40 ounces
Trigger Pull                                4 pounds
Twist LH                                     1 turn in 16 inches
Standard Magazine Capacity 7 rounds                                                                                                                                                                                                 MSRP                                         $1995
Receiver Material stainless steel
Slide Material stainless steel
Novak 3 Dot Trijicon Night Sights
Enhanced Hammer
Ambidextrous thumb safety
Long, Solid Aluminum Trigger
Flat, Serrated Mainspring Housing with Lanyard Loop
Desert Tan Cerakoted Stainless Steel Receiver and Slide
5” National Match(r) Barrel
MIL-STD-1913 Accessory Rail


Colt Manufacturing
Hornady Manufacturing
Charlie Brown set design and photography consultant
Gabriel Nelson set design and photography lighting
1911Tuner for everything


Top, an original Colt 1911, middle a Colt 1911A1 and bottom the Colt M45, a timeline or sorts.

I would figure you all have by now would understand I have fallen in love with this new Colt.  I am in talks with Colt so I can hang onto her for my very own. I also plan on updating this article from time to time on how she is doing.

Update, after another several hundred rounds down range the M45A1 is still holding up excellent and has not given a moments trouble.

A short video of the M45A1 preforming at a 100 yards. That is 4 out of 5 hits on a 12″ x 12″ piece of steel at the 100 yard line. I am a bit disappointed I missed the third shot but I got a little cocky.


By Hunter Elliott

I spent much of my youth involved with firearms and felt the call early on to the United States Marine Corps, following in my father's and his brother's footsteps. Just after high school I enlisted and felt most at home on the rifle range, where I qualified expert with several firearms and spent some time as a rifle coach to my fellow Marines. After being honorably discharged I continued teaching firearm safety, rifle and pistol marksmanship, and began teaching metallic cartridge reloading. In the late 1990s I became a life member to the National Rifle Association and worked with the Friends of the NRA. Around that time my father and I became involved with IDPA and competed together up until he passed away. I began reviewing firearms for publications in the mid 2000s and have been fortunate to make many friends in the industry. Continuing to improve my firearms skills and knowledge is a never ending journey in which we should all be committed. I am also credited as weapons master on a few independent films.

16 thoughts on “Colt M45A1 – Often it is tough to know you had it right until you get it not right.”
  1. Nice article about the best damn pistol ever made. Glad to see it lives up to John Browning/Colts/USMC’s standards. I have a Colt Rail Gun but would love to upgrade to something that said U.S.M.C. on the slide.

  2. […] GA_googleFillSlot("ColtForum-300F"); I posted this several months ago and thought I would share it with the Colt enthusists on this forum. Colt M45 – Often it is tough to know you had it right until you get it not right. | Range HotRange H… […]

  3. I believe one of the requirements for the new 45 was a 8 round magazine. I am wondering if the Marines are getting Wilson or other newer style 8 rd. magazines? The accuracy you are getting is outstanding from a service gun (you guys are obviously good shots). I like both guns and I believe its OK to say that as I always planned on a double tap from the 9mm if it was to be used. Beretta had stated its accuracy was 5″ or less at 25 yards to a friend of mine which for our range purposes was not good enough but probably fine for combat use.

  4. […] Colt Marine Pistol Review If you suspected this might be mine, it is not. I am not into rails. I am not into Ceracoat in any colors other than all black or black over sniper gray. I am not even into three hole triggers any longer preferring the look of solid. I am into the fact the contract takes a step back in going forward. That part gives me a warm feeling. I hope this is not a repeat here. I hope you enjoy. Colt M45A1 CQB Marine Pistol […]

  5. I am glad to see an honest article on the Colt M45A1. Some folks were spreading rumors showing faults with the prototype after some 15,000 proof rounds. Colt addressed those issues and all is well with the world.
    Great work on your Colt M45A1 article. I hope you hung onto that one,

    1. You are exactly right Frank. I did indeed wind up buying the test sample of the Colt M45A1 and have had it out several times since the review and she is still running great. Thank you for your feedback.

  6. Hey Hunter; I hadn’t seen much from you in a good bit, glad to know you’re still,around!

    Excellent review, as always.

    Take care.

  7. Has always Rangehot, great video and article. Also, thinking I may have to ask the Big Boss for permission lol. Thanks again too for the articles, video and chatting on Google+ with me taking the Delta Elite plunge. I haven’t forgotten about sending you a video of my friends and myself shooting it. Hands down, my most favorite and sexy pistol I have. Thanks and happy shooting sir!

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