Why the Marines adopted the M45 Colt 1911

Steve Johnson
by Steve Johnson

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) …

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

Steve Johnson
Steve Johnson

I founded TFB in 2007 and over 10 years worked tirelessly, with the help of my team, to build it up into the largest gun blog online. I retired as Editor in Chief in 2017. During my decade at TFB I was fortunate to work with the most amazing talented writers and genuinely good people!

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  • Roush svt Roush svt on Feb 05, 2014

    This whole argument is just ridiculous I guarantee not one person commenting here has actually been in combat, and doubt even more that there's anyone here who has actually used a pistol in combat, especially enough to compare the fldifference between 9mm and 45 FMJ WHICH IN ALL REALITY THERE IS VERY LITTLE DIFFERENCE. To all you 1911 fanboys........ The 1911 is like a Harley---- way overpriced, heavy, bulky, high maintainaince, unreliable(yes no matter how u want to argue it, the 1911 is tight tolerance and full of tiny complex parts) and overrated. Everytime I go to the range, the only guys having malfunctions are the 1911 guys. My flicks gobble up ammo, shoot just as accurately, and are half the price

  • JSandMath JSandMath on Sep 10, 2014

    Logical explanation of some things:

    They must be using non-mil spec .45ACP. 'Cause honestly, standard .45ACP ball is a fucking joke, ballistically speaking. And I'd even go so far as to assert that it isn't killing any adversaries wearing something resembling armor. Save all the I'm-a-combat-vet hurrderps. There are, in fact, scores of articles related to this (mis)match up that absolutely agree with my point. I'm not even looking one up to link - you can do it. There's lots to sift through.

    The increased pressure and specifically bolt thrust from newer, hotter .45ACP loads would explain why such a tried-and-true design produced by a company that has some familiarity with the design is having premature cracking issues. If this is the case, though, this is just one more reason that the saying "They all fall for 45 ball." is a showing its age.

    Other than that, the 1911 .45 ACP is the BEST pistol combination you can get - for shooting an noncombative, unarmored, stationary target within 50ft. ... Which is the niche SOCOM, if anyone, would be filling; So I'm fine with that. Buying a 7 round version when there are so many other comparables, pretty Marine (stupid) for you, but, well, they do the best they can.