(This is a reader-submitted review as part of our rifle and pistol review contest. See details here.)
By William Cruz
A police chief in Texas once told me that the 9mm cartridge was the water gun of the firearms world. He explained that in his experience a 9mm at point-blank range was as capable of stopping a determined aggressor as a fly was at stopping an 18 wheeler; whereas, the .45 ACP just about always takes the fight out of an aggressor immediately.
Body armor? No problem. The energy transferred by a .45 ACP while wearing body armor is equivalent to getting hit with a sledge hammer swung by Barry Bonds. His opinion was formed from years of Special Forces active duty, SWAT and walking the beat, so I tend to take his firsthand caliber critique seriously.
Now that I’ve managed to upset the 9mm fan boys, I know they will, undoubtedly, dig up special bullet load and ballistic gel statistics in order to try to discredit these statements. Please consider the following statement:
No other pistol caliber in modern weapons history has stopped more bad guys than the .45 ACP and in particular John Browning’s 1911. The 1911’s appeal stems from a time when guns were machined entirely out of steel. When they were assembled with exquisite precession and gunsmiths hand-tooled fine adjustments so that each time you pull back on the slide or pull the trigger, the gun reacts in mechanical sequence like a fine Swiss watch. To quote the old timers, “they feel and sound like quality.”
John Browning’s classic handgun design has been around and fighting wars for well over a century. In that time the 1911 has undergone numerous modifications in an effort to remain competitive with other notable designs from GLOCK, FN, S&W, HK and others.
One of the newest iterations available in the Colt 1911 format is Colt’s M45A1 CQBP (Close Quarters Battle Pistol). The M45A1 was initially designed to serve as the Marine Corps (USMC) Systems Command and U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) sidearm; however, it can also serve in your household.
There are two versions of M45A1 pistol available. The first version is the $2,400; Colt Custom Shop edition, also known as the ‘Civilian’ version. It is hand fit, hand tooled and comes with a snazzy green Pelican case and cleaning kit. The CQBP CCS, like many other Colt products (Python), is sure to become a safe queen in short order.
The other version is the standard CQBP which is the exact same version that is being issued to the Marine Corps. When I say exact, I mean it’s literally the same gun. It rolls off the same assembly line and has the same identifying marks as the standard Marine Corp issue.
The CQBP does not go through the Colt custom shop like the CQBP CCS so it is significantly less expensive. There are plenty of reviews online for the CQBP CCS but very few for the Marine version which brings me to the point: Is the CQBP Marine 1911 worth $1,600 in its standard form?
At first glance many potential buyers will be turned off by the $1,600 price tag and rightfully so. That sort of cash buys a GLOCK 19 and a Colt 6920 AR-15 with a few hundred rounds of ammo. Because of the high price tag, the M45A1 may only appeal to discerning gun collectors. Regardless, I found that the M45A1 presses all the right buttons and is so much more than just another railed 1911…but I digress.
Military heritage and current accolades aside, why is this particular pistol so much more than a normal Colt Rail Gun or similarly railed 1911? The short answer is MIM or Metal Injection Molding. In an effort to make guns that are traditionally built with steel more affordable, gun manufacturers have created a process to mold low impact gun parts rather than forge or mill each one. Each manufacturer has their own method of MIM’ing parts and some companies are better at it than others but the overall result is a 1911 that is much more assessable to the common man.
Companies like Rock Island, Springfield, Kimber and Colt use MIM parts rather liberally in order to produce a competitively priced product. Springfield and Colt have done a great job in making these MIM parts extremely strong, thus increasing the durability and reliability of MIM-equipped firearms.
Before you hop on Google to search for every MIM part in your own collection please remember that GLOCKs use MIM parts and a polymer frame yet are widely considered to be among the most reliable and durable firearms ever created. MIM parts are a part of the firearms world now and thus are widely excepted as the a standard in the industry. The Marine Corp is aware of this yet opted for steel, so consequently the CQBP does not use any MIM parts. Every piece of steel in the M45A1 is machined to specific tolerances and tested to the specifications put forth by the United States Marine Corps. This makes for an incredibly well constructed pistol.
When you pick up the M45A1 the first thing you notice is the weight. It feels like a man’s gun or in other words, it’s heavy. The Picatinny rail on the bottom of the frame is a full size Mil Standard 1913 rail which holds accessories nice and tight as compared to its competitors with smaller lower rails. This full-size lower rail adds some of the noticeable heft to the gun but that heft seems to balance out the pistol so that the gun doesn’t feel nose heavy.
The grip is smooth with a small cutout under the trigger housing where your middle finger should slide into place. Please note that despite the grip’s comfortability, there is no front grip stippling whatsoever. This is odd considering it is being touted as a combat firearm. The lack of front stippling is definitely a drawback to a $1600 gun, but not a deal breaker.
The front slide serrations are perfectly placed and have a noticeably deep depth and width, so much so that you can easily feel them while wearing gloves. The FDE Cerakote itself is very nice, but I am a sucker for FDE so take my FDE bias with a grain of salt. Although the M45A1’s Cerakote finish is beautiful to the eye, it makes for a slippery frame. As a result this accentuates the lack of grip stippling when pulling back on the slide. The large slide serrations do help to counter the slick finish but it’s definitely something to note if you are going to actually use your M45A1 for its intended use.
The pistol comes standard with matching G10 grips that provide a generous amount of traction which also help to counter the lack of stippling. The sights are standard Novak sights which work well yet might not fit the bill if your purpose is target shooting. Two Wilson Combat seven-round mags come standard. Plastic pistol fans will be quick to point out that the M45A1 is missing at least seven rounds. To be fair, seven-round mags are part of the original specs the Marine Corp requested, but eight-round mags really are the current standard and should have been included instead. Overall the external design of the M45A1 is striking however the noted missing features should have been standard with any pistol in this price range.
Although they have been solid performers, 1911s have known cycling issues centered on the feed ramp, magazine, ejection port and spring strength. Colt looked to address these concerns with the M45A1. The first thing you notice when racking the slide is the weight of the springs. Colt decided to use a non-captured, dual spring system which adds reliability to the otherwise tried and tested design.
Colt then addressed the ejection port by widening and flaring it out. The feed ramp on the M45A1 was then polished and coated to make the surface extremely smooth. The dual springs have a noticeable slap-back during fire and the flared and lowered ejection port help to eject spent shells out and to the right of the pistol and not back into your grill like many other guns. The feed ramp is smooth and loads up the following rounds nicely. In my testing the M45A1 had zero issues and performed flawlessly even after countless mag dumps and tactical reloads. Total round count for this particular M45A1 is approaching the 1k mark with zero failures of any kind.
Shooting the M45A1 is surprisingly different than shooting other 1911’s. First, there is a bit more weight to this close quarter battle pistol than the standard GI model as mentioned above. This added weight, in addition to the dual spring “slap back,” provide for noticeably less recoil. The trigger is smooth even by series 80 standards and breaks cleanly at 5 lbs. Even in standard form, the 1911 80 series trigger is better than many other firearms aftermarket and upgraded triggers. Aside from a nicely tuned stock 70 series trigger, there is no other non-custom pistol that I have ever shot that has a nicer trigger out of the box.
Colt decided to employ a National Match barrel in the M45A1 instead of their normal barrel option. The quality and engineering on the National Match barrels is exceptional. The overall package helped an average shooter; like myself, to put follow-up shots on target fairly effectively. With that being said, I feel like my Springfield Light Weight Operator is a hair more accurate at bullseye shots at 2/3 of the price.
In my tests the shot groupings were actually slightly better with the Colt M45A1 as compared to the Springfield; however, on prior occasions I have consistently hit quarter sized objects 10-15 yards away on the first shot with the Springfield. This may be due to my years of shooting experience with that particular firearm; never the less, I don’t quite have that confidence yet with the Colt M45A1 even though it performs well each time I put it to work.
Needless to say I love the M45A1, lack of stippling and all. The dual non-captured spring system and added weight really do take away some of the .45 ACP’s known bark though it isn’t necessarily a tack driver out of the box. Yet it can be competition ready with the addition of some aftermarket parts and a little finesse.
Colt designed this pistol for combat and it exceeds all of my expectations as a combat pistol. Very few of us will ever put military-like punishment on any of our firearms but the M45A1 is definitely a firearm built to take that degree of abuse. The M45A1’s looks appeal to a wide variety of consumer’s even those who worship at the altar of Gaston Glock. It has a classic 1911 look with a dash of modern day ‘tac-t-cool,’ appeal to it. Putting it through the mill, one can appreciate the tight fitting, well milled edges and crisp feel. Those details scream quality which translates to excellent performance and of course, lots of money. Colt’s M45A1 CQBP is a worthy successor to John Browning’s original design.
Still let’s get back to the initial question; is the M45A1 worth 1600 big ones? It depends on who you ask and what you are looking for. If you are looking for a gun that will hold its value over time, will work each time you pull the trigger and make you reminisce of old school hardcore then yes, it’s worth every penny. If this sounds like you, then you are most likely a collector and gun enthusiast, such as myself. Guys like us appreciate the quality and craftsmanship that goes into a fine pistol. However, if you’re the guy who complains about leaving a good waiter a 15% tip on a $10 tab, then this gun probably isn’t for you.
Specifications: Colt M45A1 CQBP
Caliber: .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol)
Action: Single-Action Hammer-Fired Semi-Automatic
Weight: 2.8 lbs (1.27 kg)
Frame Material: Stainless Steel
Capacity: 7+1 round magazine (Wilson Magazine)
Safety: Ambidextrous Safety (thumb safety), upswept Beavertail grip safety
Grips: G10 Desert Tan Grips
Sights: Novak Tritium front and rear 3-dot night sights.
Overall Length: 8.5 in. (21.59 cm)
Barrel Length: 5 in. (12.7 cm)
Firing Action: Single Action
Other: Machined MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny accessory rail, serrated mainspring housing with lanyard loop
MSRP: $1,999 (about $1,600 street)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style: * * * * *
It’s a legit 1911 that’s go-to-war ready. What’s not to like?
Ergonomics: * * * *
The fit is nice, but the weight is a drawback if you intend to use this as a carry/duty gun. The lack of front stippling is definitely a drawback on a gun in this price range.
Reliability: * * * * *
Runs flawlessly. Zero Failures.
Accuracy: * * * *
Very accurate with a crisp trigger and noticeably less recoil due to the Dual Recoil spring system and weight. Nevertheless, I’ve shot 1911’s that seem a little more accurate that cost less.
Customize this: * * * *
There are plenty of aftermarket products out there, but holsters are non-existent due to being the only guy on the block with a true Mil Spec rail. If you go with a custom holster, make sure it’s from a quality manufacturer because this gun has significant weight.
Overall: * * * * *
It’s a very stylish gun that keeps its old school heritage intact while earning its way into the Marine Corps current lineup. It fires a large projectile and is as reliable as any gun I’ve ever shot to this current round count (900 rounds or so).