The news that the USMC had adopted the Colt 1911 Rail Gun as the new M45 pistol generated a lot of controversy. People could not understand why the Marines would adopt a very generic 1911 pistol when more modern, lighter and higher capacity pistols were readily available. Fuel was added to the fire when Solider Systems broke the news that in military tests the Colt 1911 Rail Gun exhibited cracking after 12,000 rounds.
So why did they adopt this 100 year old design? In my opinion there are three reasons why the MEU(SOC) adopted, or readopted, the 1911 (in order of ascending importance) …
Nobody could accused me of being a 1911 fanboy, but the 1911 pistol and .45 ACP combination is proven to work. There may be lighter, faster, more powerful and higher capacity handguns out today, but John Browning’s design worked just as well in 2011 as it did in 1911 and will probably continue to work fine in 2111. I do not know why the USMC adopted Colt’s Rail Gun over other 1911 designs, maybe they all exhibited cracking at 12,000 rounds.
Giving the Marine elite a distinct and more powerful pistol than what is issued to the regular
Corps, Army, Navy and Airforce helps group cohesiveness. Group cohesiveness is why the Army Special Forces wear Green Berets and why Ballistic knifes were issued to the Spetsnaz.
The primary reason they adopted the 1911 is that they could never adopt a modern plastic fantastic chambered in .45 ACP without a whole lot of drama and politics. In 2005 USSOCOM solicited designs from the industry for the Joint Combat Pistol program. The Joint Combat Pistol was to be chambered in .45 ACP. Many companies spent a lot of time and money developing pistols for the program only for it to be cancelled in 2006. The Pentagon, Congress and industry (everyone except the winner) would be very unimpressed if the Marines tried to resurrect a program killed only a few years ago.
By “upgrading” the old M45 1911 pistols, the Marines are technically just maintaining their current arsenal, not adopting a new design. The Marine elite get to keep their symbol and no helpful Congressmen are going to get involved in the procurement process. Everyone is happy.