“The M45 Close Quarter Battle Pistol is modeled after earlier versions of the semi-automatic 1911 pistol used since the 1980s by Force Reconnaissance units,” marincorpstimes.com reports. “The Corps could buy between 400 and 12,000 as part of a contract worth up to $22.5 million, according to Marine Corps Systems Command.” That’s a pretty big spread there, guys. Maybe that’s why Smith & Wesson and Kimber passed—although they both bitched about tight deadlines and “competing business priorities.” Which leaves Springfield, Colt and Karl Lippard in the running. Hang on; Karl who? Make the jump to enter the secret world of one of America’s most hardcore and innovative gunmakers. Yes, secret. And TTAG’s got the password . . .

Karl Lippard’s a Colorado-based gunsmith who manufactures high-tech, hand-crafted, ornately-engraved over-and-under shotguns for hunters, collectors and anyone else who can afford to pay around $30k per gun. He also builds big bore hunting rifles with completely interchangeable parts, whose barrels are fashioned from single blocks of S7 vacuum arc re-melt steel. Oh, and a multi-caliber handgun of some sort.

Previously on Who Wants to Be John Moses Browning, Karl was the the General Manager of Pachmayr. And before that, he was a USMC Drill Instructor, Jungle Instructor and Hand to Hand Combat instructor. A Marine Corps Vietnam vet with more than a passing familiarity with what the CIA (and CIA novelists) call “wet work.” As Karl told TTAG, “Everybody knows I’ve killed a lot of people offensively.”

Karl doesn’t mean a lot of people would take offense at the way he killed people. He used the term to indicate a distinction between an offensive and defensive weapons. According to Karl, a defensive weapon is one where you “shoot ’em in danger close.” An offensive weapon is one where you take out enemies at 100 yards. Or more. Much more. Which raises the $22.5 million dollar question: with a handgun? A 1911?

Karl is the man behind the legendary 1911 known as the Combat Grade NCO. The design is so different from the John Moses Browning’s 1911 in so many key areas that it’s called the A2 platform. “John Browning only built a couple of his guns. He shot two rabbits with it, period,” Karl says. “It had some extreme shortcomings. I wish I could of sat down and talked with him about it.”


Instead, Karl breathed his own engineering genius on the gun. It became “The world’s only 400-yard open sight accurate production pistol.” Click here for the mods that helped make it more . . . versatile. Karl claims the A2 NCO’s good for killing bad guys from two feet to 400 yards, with the possibility of effective suppressing fire out to 650 yards.

That’ll be $3k or so, $5k for the CQB. Apparently, the NCO’s price tag’s not a barrier to the black ops boys. “They don’t give a shit what it cost . . . My job is to build a gun that will let them survive combat and get back.”

And now the story of the NCO’s genesis can be told. Or read. Click here for TTAG’s exclusive (for about the next ten minutes anyway) access to the brand spanking new military side of Karl Lippard’s website. ‘Cause the NCO, a gun once unavailable to civilians, is available to civilians—for the aforementioned King’s Ransom.

And now Karl Lippard is bidding against Springfield and Colt for the Marine’s 1911 contract, hoping to equip his brothers and sisters in the Corps with a more deadly, reliable, customizable sidearm (fully interchangeable parts).

“It’s no competition as far as I’m concerned,” Karl says. “If the beanpickers buy the Colt they might as well go back to the 03 rifle and the Model T for transportation. The Springfield’s a Brazilian copy of an A1 . . . If I’m in combat, don’t give me an M9. I’d rather have a bloody knife.”

And I bet it would be, too.

24 Responses to Springfield, Colt and Lippard Compete for Marines’ New 1911

    • Great read! But now according to his site, the price is $3,500.00 plus $65.00 shipping. Much nicer than 5K, but still much more than I can afford. Still fun to read about, though.

    • I think it means that the old 1911s suck, and the new ones don’t.

      Speaking to that point, I asked Lippard what he thought of a polymer .45.

      “You design the gun to cartridge,” he said. “A polymer gun is too light for the caliber. The NCO is heavy enough to handle the recoil and we’ve changed the balanced. We’ve reduced the 1911’s felt recoil by 60 percent and increased the accuracy of the gun by 80 percent.”

      Them’s fighting words!

  1. It means 1911 combat gun that Marines want desire over all others when go in combat with. It mean that want shoot 45acp other 9mm.

  2. The Marines should just buy the HK45 and be done with it.

    They went through this whole rigmarole just a few years ago when they decided all the old M1911s in inventory were too shot to hell to keep going, so they bought Kimbers (what wound up on the civilian market as the “Warrior”). Just a few years later, and here they are, buying more M1911s because they probably shot those Kimbers to hell. So once more, they will expend resources and go through the arduous, red tape encumbered, totally screwy procurement process.

    The facts are quite simple; the only thing the 1911 has going for it is irrational emotional baggage that a lot of folks can’t let go of. They are fantastic for gun guys who want to spend a whole lotta money to buy one that runs proper AND want to be anal retentive bastards about performing maintenance. Even folks like Hilton Yam and Larry Vickers – two of the best 1911 builders in the world – write the 1911 off as an awful mass-issue duty weapon because of the maintenance resources required to keep them running.

    The HK45 has already proven itself in combat with two rather notable units who are finding that, despite the old timer’s arguments about history and all that old fooey, the HK45 is very good at shooting bad guys and killing them just as dead as the M1911. It just f-ing works. For a hell of a lot less money, a hell of a lot less problems and a hell of a lot less resources to babysit. How many mountaintops in Afghanistan have M1911 armorers sitting around with their tools so they can properly re-tune an extractor when it goes south?

    The Lippard guy sounds like a joke, whatever his previous credentials are. Polymer pistols can’t handle the .45? Seriously? He’s going around, claiming that his .45 can make good hits to 400 yards. Right. Sounds like the perfect side arm for the space shuttle door gunner.

    Besides, I always think “Bullshit artist/moron” whenever someone goes around, bandying about the fact that they killed people in combat. Folks who have done the deed in wars may talk about the experience as a teaching tool, but the smart and sane ones don’t use this fact as a marketing bullet point.

    • I always find it amusing to see people unload on something – the 1911, the Glock, a Chevy truck – whatever, and they inevitably slam the “fanboys.” But just as fanboys go over-the-top for a given product, these people go the opposite direction with venom and vitriol. Shrinks will tell you the opposite of love is not hate…it’s indifference. So I’m thinking the anti-fanboys doth protest too much. Perhaps they are like jilted lovers. Or reformed addicts. (There’s no creature on the face of the Earth that is as much of an obnoxious zealot as a reformed, former addict.) So when I hear someone dissing the 1911, I’ve gotta ask: jilted lover? Reformed addict? Closet fanboy in denial?

      • The M1911 is a fantastic weapon. Out of all my pistols, the Les Baer Thunder Ranch Special is my favorite to shoot, by far. There is absolutely no denying that the 1911 has an appeal beyond the historical value; the ergonomics and trigger are most excellent. And let’s all face it; there is something very confidence inspiring about that heavy, old school feel.

        The trouble with the 1911 is a well documented one; it is a weapon designed when hand labor was cheap and machine time was expensive. It’s assembly (and therefor, maintenance) requires lots of skilled hand fitting, tuning and the like. It is not a matter of irrational hate or fanboydom to say that the 1911 is the most labor intensive pistol to keep in service made today, it is just a fact.

        This isn’t just my opinion. Like I said; ask Hilton Yam about this; he flat out states that the 1911 is not appropriate for mass unit, duty issue. Better yet, read about why Larry Vickers went to HK to design the HK45… he will gladly tell you that his unit’s resources were getting soaked to hell keeping their very high end, custom built, hard use M1911s working up to spec; so he made (and they now use) the HK45. This transition has been so successful, that NSW switched from their beloved P226 to the HK45 Compact.

        The HK45 is in service, working fantastically well doing the job of launching very accurate .45 caliber bullets at bad guys in harsh places. Pedantic arguments about the history and such of the 1911 aside, that debate is moot because the HK45 has already effective replaced it with none of the downsides 1911 fans like to cook up in these arguments. They cost less, they are more than accurate enough to do the job, they are more reliable, they have zero downside from the usability/ergonomics department and they let unit armorers focus on other weapon systems instead of babysitting finicky 1911s. The debate is done.

        The Marines suffer from institutional inertia. I think they want a 1911 because there is a lot of pride behind them being the only holdouts to still run old ironsides. Those are fine and worthy reasons for them to soldier on and part of me secretly wishes they will just because I do so like these weapons. But let’s not fool ourselves; their cost/benefit analysis sucks the same way it does for us; the expense of the 1911, coupled with it’s maintenance requirements make it an awful platform to deploy.

        • The HK45 Compact is – by his own admission – more in tune with what Mr Vickers was after when he approached HK about the project. It is also the better variant than the full size ergonomically.

          To boot- the Marines would get an extra round in the magazine with the HK45C; according to Pat Rodgers, the USMC never got around to trusting any of the 8 round magazines and still runs 7 rounders.

          Think about that- 3 reputable manufacturers make 8 round 1911 magazines (Tripp Research, CMC and Wilson), yet the platform is so finicky that high round count/hard field users trust none of them. The 1911’s dependence on the magazine profile being absolutely in-spec for proper extraction and ejection is one of it’s achillies heels.

        • Exactly.

          It only took 30 years of lousy internal test results, poor field performance surveys, soldiers spending preposterous amounts of time cleaning guns everyday for the Army to admit the AR/M is a lousy design. Finally, they are updating it so at least it doesn’t puke down its own throat every time it fires.

          Don’t worry though. The Marines won’t be updating their M16A4s.

          The 1911 has been building mythology among non-field fighters and non-armorers for 100 years. The only thing that really drives change in either case is that the decision-makers are well informed and somewhat objective.

          What’s the old quote about us always doing the right thing, after we have exhausted all other options…

  3. 400 yard handgun hits with iron sights? Right! $5000.00 for the Brooklyn Bridge?

    Even with a hit, I doubt the ACP has any energy left to do any worthwhile damage. 400 yards is a tough shot with a rifle, never mind a handgun. The vast majority of shooters can’t hit a 100 yard target with a handgun.

    • I too would love to meet the wunderkind who can hit bowling balls repeatedly with an iron-sighted .45ACP at 400 yards. As even the studliest +P rounds chart 4-6 inches drop at only 100 yards. And yeah, the energy may, or may not penetrate a heavy leather jacket.

      Someone good with an XP-100, or a T/C. 3 times the barrel length, in .221 Fireball, damn good eyes, qualified maybe…

      Maybe he was talking about shooting the .45 straight down, leaning over a 1200 foot cliff…

  4. 400 yard handgun hits with iron sights?

    Read up on Elmer Keith. He did it and more using an old Colt SAA. Course you have to shoot it like a motar and walk the rounds in, but once on target you can pretty much hit it all day long.

    As for energy, read up on Civil War combat. Sharpshooters with muzzle loaders shooting at that range probable have close to the same ballistics, and a .50 ball would still go through a man at those ranges. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to get hit at 400 yds with FMJ.

    I’m not saying Lippard’s gun is all that, I’m just saying. I’ve taken a Ruger Blackhawk in .357 mag and easily hit 8″ targets at 100 yds and beyond. It takes me a few spotter rounds to figure the drop, but once I’m on it’s as easy as pie.

    • Don,

      Fair enough, one certainly could do it under those conditions. My point was the manufacturer’s boast was couched in the terms of ‘combat pistol’. Therefore, I was operating under the presumption that the target being shot at is unlikely to stand still while the shooter lobs mortar rounds to sight in. One shot, one kill and all that.

      I don’t doubt you can hit 8″ @ 100 yd. with a .357 mag out of a Blackhawk – the .357 has much different ballistics than the .45. Likely your Blackhawk has a longer barrel which widens the gap even more. You have great eyesight,
      but this manufact is talking about 4 times that distance. Once again, iron sights, no spotter.

      Blackpowder muzzleloader, apples and oranges. We’re talking about a 4-5 inch pistol barrel with a (relatively) tiny cartridge, not a 30 inch rifle with a big pile of powder. Modern .50 blackpowder rifles running .45 sabots have more velocity and energy at 300 yards than any .45 ACP round has at the muzzle. In fact, some powder .40 sabot projectiles will have more velocity and energy at 500 yards than most .45 ACPs will at that barrel tip.

      I’m familiar with Elmer Keith. Also familiar with Chief AJ, who has some pretty impressive records too – those guys are the .0000001 of all shooters. Even in the world of US black ops (based on those I know/shot with) are maybe .0001. They are (relatively) damn good, but they have, and require, a much more diverse skillset to do their job. Shooting is just a slice. They ain’t Elmer Keith, they do pistol ‘head shots only’ at 10-40 m. Beyond that they’d rather have a long gun.

      I’m just thinking in terms of combat realities for the admittedly well-practiced, but not legendary, folks who will actually be releasing this trigger. It is simply impossible to one-shot prairie dogs at 400 yards with this .45, and that 100% negates the producer’s hype. That was all I was attempting to point out.

      • I agree that Lippard’s combat hype is a little much. I was just pointing out (to all the various commenters) that it certainly is possible to hit targets at 400 yards with a pistol, under controlled conditions. Maybe not one-shot-one-kill, but you should be able to place one in the ballpark. It’s not impossible, just impractical from a combat standpoint.

        As for the “iron sights”, I used to could hit (accurately) at 100 yards with a long bow, no sights. Realistically, a pistol scope at those ranges is more a hindrance since it won’t have enough elevation adjustment to account for the multiple feet of drop. It’s easier to hold Kentucky windage using iron sights.

        But the point stands that at any combat range over room distance, a rifle is far preferred.

  5. I can barely see a B27 target at a distance of 4 football fields. That’s not to say that some of you Hawkeyes couldn’t hit such a target with a .45 and iron sights, but a moving target on a battlefield? At 1200 feet? Not a chance.

  6. I’m looking forward to seeing how the Springfield and Colt designs fair in a head to head match up. One has to wonder if Springfield has a slight edge, as they already have company 1911s in use with MARSOC, along with another agency at Quantico fielding their “Professional” model. Slightly interesting that Kimber decided to sit this one out.

    Those on the outside of Quantico questioning their firearm selection have poorly displayed on this website and others like it, anything more than an almost comical anti-1911 position. Heck, on certain sites, I already know exactly what someone is going to say about a Glock, H&K or 1911 just by their username’s previous statements. As an earlier poster commented, you sound like a jilted ex-lover or somebody who is mad because the gun they “prefer” didn’t get the order.

    Currently, the USN/USMC operates the F/A-18 as their standard front line fighter while the USAF operates the F-16. Both platforms perform the same duties in a slightly different manner. Does the fact that the USAF ordered the F-16 OVER the F/A-18 make the USN/USMC wrong? Does the fact that the USN/USMC ordered the F/A-18 OVER the F-16 make the USAF wrong? NO, it just means that different services have different ideas on how to perform similar missions.

    The 1911 or M45 is the platform of choice for many top end units and continues to be fielded when new selection processes are made. Are there other choices in the handgun market that shoot 45ACP? Yes, there are, but they are just OTHER choices with their own pros and cons. In this instance, the choice of the end user is the 1911. No different that when a police department chooses a M&P over a Glock or vice versa.

    As for Lippard, his over the top credentials do little other than make people question his abilities.

  7. This guy is full of fail. 400 yards with any pistol, much less a .45, is just stupid. What kind of professional soldier is going to drop his rifle and say “hold on, I want to hit him with my .45?”

  8. My gawd some of you are small minded. Lippard’s gun is NOT intended to replace a rifle, but consider a Boarder Patrol office with the ability to reach out 100+ yards with his handgun if needed. This had been a goal since the original Walker Colts. It is NOT a general purpose weapon. (geeze)

    For those of you who seem to despise the 1911, and love the HK – you never tell me why. I mean you pull the trigger the gun goes off. Isn’t that what really matters? The HK is too big a grip for most people, and requires a lot of cleaning. I choose the 1911 for the ergonomics.

    As for the 100+ yard shooting, Metallic Silhouette shooter (civilian club shooters) shoot production guns out to 200 meters ALL DAY LONG, hitting basketball size targets with open sites. They are not specialists, or 0.000001% of the population. The fact is with a little time and effort ANYONE can learn to do it.

    Lastly – have any of you wondered what Lippard did to get that level of accuracy out of a 1911? He made changes to the gun to keep the very tight tolerance that comes with a perfectly machined gun. (You just cannot get that from plastic.) This included the lugs and the type of metal used in making the slide. You would think that with so many of you smart guys here you would have looked in to this and some research before you shot off your mouths (yes that was a pun!) His guns are currently being purchased by Navy SEALS (with their own monies) for their use. When the men who put THIER hides on the line choose to buy his guns with their own coin it means more that the opinion of some wanta-be H&K rep. (But that is just my opinion)

  9. Every time I hear Lippard quoted I asume his eyes must be brown because he is so obviously full of shit.

    NO 45.acp round is going to be capable of a serious kill shot at 400+ yds simply because of it’s inherant ballistics from a hand gun, you can’t argue with physics folks.

    I’ve watched guys take off the shelf standard quality Kimbers and Paras and lob, yes LOB 45s like a mortar at 100yds and nail bulseye targets at will, doesn’t mean a damn thing when your aiming the gun at the sky hoping your target doesn’t move in a combat situation! And if an off the shelf stock $800 1911 can hit a 100yd bullseye I’m not to impressed by his over-priced over-hyped version.

    Lastly I’ve worked with many combat veterans and none of them has ever shot their mouths off about their kills like Lippard,….no class.

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