Here it is! The second part of our gun feature on the USMC’s new side arm–the Colt M45 CQBP. In Part 1 we discovered some of the features and product specs of this gun, now check out what range testing showed us!
TIME WITH THE ZEN RANGEMASTERS
One of the most impressive aspects of the Colt creation process for all of their 1911 pistols is that they are test fired by uber-experienced rangemasters, and have to meet not only the aforementioned exacting quality standards, but demanding accuracy standards as well. This is true not for just some pistols…but all Colt 1911 pistols. The USMC has established an accuracy standard protocol for their M45 CQBP of 2.4 inches or less for a five shot group, fired by hand, at 15 yards. To ensure compliance with this standard, each Colt rangemaster will first fire one magazine of Federal’s slightly juiced 230 grain FMJ cocktail for function and then the second mag goes for accuracy.
Numbered targets used for the tests are logged and matched to each weapon’s personal EGA (Eagle, Globe, Anchor) serial number, so there’s documented proof of how every M45 performs in the hands of an experienced operator. The Colt rangemasters go through more .45ACP ammo in a day than you or I would go through in a couple of years. I observed over a dozen stacked boxes of fully-loaded Wilson Combat seven round magazines with over a hundred mags in each…now that’s a lot of ammo! Every M45 target I could see from that day’s testing beat the USMC accuracy requirements by plenty…as much as 50% or more. This new Marine can really shoot! But how would it do in the hands of someone…less experienced?
To fulfill that role, I nominated myself and my oldest son Chris, a veteran CSAR (combat search and rescue) operator for the USAF who has logged four combat tours in the sandbox, to test drive this new Colt pony. And she gave us both a darned good ride!
RIDING THE COLT PONY
To start off, we loaded about a dozen of the Wilson seven round 47CB mags with a mix of Hornady 185 grain and 230 grain Steel Match HPs, Winchester White Box 230 grain FMJs, the USMC standard Federal 230 grain FMJs, and some other assorted Hornady and Winchester self defense HP ammo I had brought along on my drive up from Long Island. We took an un-lubed gun right off the finished production line assembly rack that was never fired, set some 3 x 4 target spots up at 50 feet, and started banging away.
With Chris and I taking turns loading up additional mags while alternating running the M45 on the firing line, we definitely heated up the barrel, firing off between 200 and 250 rounds in less than half an hour. Incredibly, the M45 digested everything we could run through it and never missed a beat even as the barrel heated way up.
Once we got the feel for the sights on this burly 1911 (the Colt rangemasters recommended a 6 o’clock “lollipop” hold on the bullseye), we started peppering the center of the target spots with consistency. From an ergonomics standpoint, the M45 felt comfortable in my extra large hands both with and without gloves, and I found the trigger to have a smooth take-up (thanks to the Cerakote on most parts) and a crisp break.
In an effort to achieve the maximum accuracy potential of the M45, we drafted Greg Rozum, the Director of Product Engineering and the surrogate “daddy” of the Marine CQBP to show us what his baby girl could really do. Setting himself up on the rangemaster’s bench, Greg schooled us in the nuances of the 1911 platform by shooting some really impressive groups. His very best five shot group printed one inch courtesy of Hornady’s 200 grain XTP ammunition. Close behind was Hornady’s Critical Duty 220 grain Flextip load, which measured 1.2 inches center to center. All of the others were slightly more spaced out, but incredibly, all averaged less than 1.6 inches, a real testimony to the built-in quality and tight tolerances of the Colt Marine M45 right off the assembly line. All told, we sent 375+ rounds downrange with zero failures from a greaseless gun…nice!
MAKING A GOOD THING…BETTER
You’ve probably gotten my drift—this is an outstanding battle pistol with impressive inherent accuracy, absolute top-of-the-line quality, and exceptional reliability. And if that weren’t enough, according to Colt’s Custom Shop Manager Brent Turchi, they will produce anywhere from 80 to 100 of these per month for sale to the general public.
But instead of getting a production model Marine 1911 pistol for the civilian asking price of $1,995, you will get a boatload more for your investment. Colt Custom Shop gunsmith Matthew LaBonte walked me through the added steps that they will take with each consumer weapon to make a great thing even better.
According to Matt, some of these added steps include: custom-fitting the slide to the receiver; cleaning the face of the sear and back-cutting it for a shorter roll; cleaning up the hammer hooks for smoothness; reducing the trigger pull from the USMC 4_ pounds standard spec down to 3æ pounds; cleaning up the barrel sides, hood, radial locking lugs, and lower locking lugs to insure a more consistent lockup…all painstakingly done by hand.
The bottom line for this labor of love? They will guarantee one inch groups using the standard USMC accuracy protocol (recall that their standard is a max group of 2.4 inches) of five shots at 15 yards using the standard USMC spec 230 grain +P FMJ load manufactured by Federal…and they will send you the target to prove it! If you can find ammo it likes more, you should be able to print sub one inch groups.
Each Colt Marine Pistol offered to consumers not wearing USMC digital camo BDUs will come packed in a custom-designed, olive drab, waterproof, locking Pelican case, including two seven-round Wilson 47CB magazines, a Colt branded Otis cleaning kit, a Colt lock and the actual target that was shot by the hand of the Colt rangemaster to prove its mettle. And for all this, is the USMC M45 (and the consumer version model O1070CQB) worth the price tag?
Well, yes and yes…as a tax-paying American citizen, I think that the folks at MARCORSYSCOM (Marine Corps System Command) made the right choice and have selected absolutely the best and most reliable battle pistol that money can buy for our brave Marine warriors.
But, is it for me and my money? Well, I have officially taken a number at the West Hartford bakery line and have ordered one of these Colt Custom Shop M45 Marine pistols for myself, for some extended product testing down the road. After experiencing the step-by-step Colt manufacturing process firsthand, I am a true believer…quality really does make it a Colt!
Colt’s Manufacturing Company LLC
545 New Park Avenue
West Hartford, CT 06111
Story and Photos by John N. Raguso