Marine Corps Colt M45A1 CQBP

Owning A Piece Of History
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Gunnery Sergeant Cody Brevley was number three in the stack. His men called him the Terminator. At 6’2″ and 215 lbs. of pure lean muscle, he certainly looked the part. On this black Afghan night, Gunny Brevley and the rest of his Marine Raiders stood poised to rid the world of yet another scumbag.

This evening’s vermin was one Mustafa Moeen Ali, bomb-maker to the stars. Ali’s artistic medium was Semtex and he had already accounted for several Allied KIAs in this part of Helmand Province. For these reasons as well as a few others, this evening Mustafa Moeen Ali was going to die.


The Colt 1911 Rail Gun is essentially the same gun as the
M45A1 minus the cool GI markings. Photo: Rock Island Auctions

The Hit

The breacher blew the front door and the Raiders rushed into the squalid dwelling. MK 18’s sporting PEQ-15 IR lasers swept everything before them. Their NVGs turned the dimly lit hovel into daytime. Then the entire world exploded.

Gunny Brevley’s awareness came back slowly. His ear-pro had helped him retain some vestiges of his hearing, but his rifle and NVGs were gone. Over the high-pitched squeal in his head, Brevley could just make out the pressured chatter of the Hajjis as they quickly exploited the aftermath. Brevley didn’t speak Hajji, but he could tell these boys were up to no good.

Brevley had no idea what had happened to the rest of his guys, but he wasn’t going out like this. As one of the Hajjis poked him in the side with the muzzle of his AKM, Brevley allowed himself to roll over heavily. In the dim dusty light of the room, he could make out the outlines of three terrorists, all with AKs.

Before the Taliban insurgents could put him down, Brevley had his Colt M45A1 CQBP up. The thumb safety came off during the draw. In a literal instant, he put two big fat .45ACP rounds center mass into each of the three terrorists. They immediately dropped to the floor amidst the clattering of their rifles. Brevley, now panting like a St. Bernard in the Sahara, activated his SureFire weapon light and quickly swept the room. Pulling himself heavily to his feet, Gunny Brevley safed his weapon, retrieved his rifle and moved to tend to his wounded. Now that he could think straight, Brevley was just mad. These unwashed swine would rue the day they blew up the Terminator.


Colt non-USMC-issue M45A1 CQBP pistols are available and
at press time, hover around the $2,000 price range on Internet
gun sale sites. Photo: Rock Island Auctions

A letter from Colt verifying the provenance of the M45A1 CQBP.

In The Beginning …

The origin story of the 1911 should be foundational dogma to anyone clutching this sacred tome. The Moro Rebellion of the Philippine/American War ran from 1899 through 1913. American troops armed with .38-caliber M1892 revolvers had a devil of a time stopping tooled-up fanatical Muslim tribesmen. Considering these guys were often hopped up on drugs and not infrequently tied wet leather thongs around their ’nads that shrank as they dried to keep them focused, this is not surprising. In response, John Moses Browning designed the most effective general-issue combat pistol round in human history along with the manliest handgun in the world to throw it.

The resulting 230-grain FMJ bullet was exactly twice as massive as the comparable European fare. Additionally, while the Lugers, Mausers, Frommers, Gassers, Werders and Steyrs have all come and gone, Browning’s immortal M1911 yet still marches on. There is a good reason for it.

We adopted the big fat bullet because we were restricted to FMJ ammo and the stopping power of 9mm ball has long been suspect. Nowadays, advances in expanding bullet design are said to have reinstituted relevancy in the 9mm Para. However, it follows if better bullets in the 9mm made it bad, those same bullet technologies in the larger, heavier .45ACP should make it even badder.

As for the gun, technology has indeed moved on to a degree. That original M1911 only carried seven rounds in the magazine and the steel frame was heavy. Modern plastic-framed guns can pack more than twice the ammo at about half the weight. However, a combat pistol’s effectiveness is driven by more than raw numbers.

Over the past two centuries, the humble handgun has meant something more than a simple piece of issue equipment. Though I have a near-unhealthy affection for my Woobie, the tattered poncho liner with which I maintained an intimate relationship everywhere from the desert to the arctic and all spaces in between, a soldier’s pistol is yet more than that. That combat handgun is the last line of defense between life and death in a combat zone. If a soldier slaps leather, it is because every other option has already been expended.

The U.S. Marines understand this better than most. In the 1980s when the rest of the U.S. military was neck deep in high-capacity 9mm Beretta M9 pistols, USMC Colonel Robert Young began politicking for a resurrected version of the classic Browning-designed M1911 for his special ops Devil Dogs. The end result was the MEU(SOC) 1911.

The M45 MEU(SOC) stood for Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), and it was a heavily customized amalgam drawn from a variety of suppliers. Nowlin Manufacturing provided the barrels, bushings, mainspring housings and sundry incidentals. Springfield Armory cut the slides. Ed Brown did the recoil spring guides and grip safeties, while Novak produced the sights. Wilson Combat and King’s Gun Works rounded out the Dream Team. The frames were resurrected from old WWII-vintage stock. The end result was ballistic art. However, over time the Marines just wore these guns out. No kidding, some of those frames had round counts exceeding half a million. By July 20, 2012, it was time for a massive rethink.

The end result was the Colt M45A1 CQBP (Close Quarters Battle). Colt’s initial order was for 4,036 pistols with an option for another 8,000. A customized version of Colt’s 1911 Rail Gun, the M45A1 had all the expected bells and whistles along with an accessory rail on the dust cover and a sexy-cool Cerakote Desert Tan finish. Later guns were finished out in a bonded material called Decobond. These optimized Browning guns were issued to Force Recon companies, MARSOC (Marine Special Operations Command) forces, and the Special Reaction SWAT teams under the command of the Provost Marshal’s office.

Four years later, the Marine Corps finally succumbed to the relentless grind of “progress” and began trading in their M45A1 pistols for GLOCK 19s. Along the way, some of the M45A1’s suffered undue finish wear from a zillion draw strokes against Kydex. Colt honored their warranty agreement with the Marines and replaced the guns with new versions. However, at this point the smart kids at Colt realized they had a veritable gold mine sitting in their corporate safes.

These combat-used M45A1 pistols were undeniably sexy-cool and Colt now owned them outright. Never before had there been a serious lot of modern GI-issue handguns transferred back to a manufacturer in such a way as to facilitate civilian consumption. Geeks like me went ape over the prospects.


The forerunner of the CQBP model was the M45 MEU(SOC). Built by an all-star team, the USMC literally wore them out, necessitating the new model. And, young Marine, get your finger back on the trigger! Photo: DOD

A small number of genuine GI-surplus M45A1 special ops pistols made it into the civilian gun market. Photo: Rock Island Auctions

Door-Kicking Leathernecks To Chair-Sitting Civilians

Seeing this as a unique opportunity to market genuine GI-issue handguns to a clamoring public, Colt struck a tasteful “X” across the “USMC” on the left side of the slide and offered them for sale. Interestingly, at the Marines’ behest, later runs eschewed the USMC markings. American gun nerds snatched them up like monkeys after pancakes.

Nowadays, the Internet links gun geeks everywhere in their never-ending quest for cool old guns. Auction sites like hocks the pedestrian stuff while Rock Island Auction moves the really bespoke examples. That’s where you go to find a combat veteran M45A1 these days.

No kidding, in 2019 a nicely used example brought $12,650 at auction through Rock Island. This was against a pre-auction estimate of $6,000 to $9,000. As my friend and boss Brent T. Wheat opined, “These are supposedly the first GI-issued handguns sold to the public since George Washington was a brevet corporal.” Of course the American gun-collecting public salivates over them.


The M45A1 CQBP pistols spent plenty of time downrange
before being returned to Colt. Photo: DOD

The surplus M45A1 CQBP’s saw service in the Global War on Terror. Here a female marine puts one of the guns through the paces while training at sea. Photo: DOD


I can’t tell you how these guns run. I haven’t personally dropped 12 grand to make one my own. I opted instead to pay my mortgage, keep my wife and eat. However, there are indeed those out there with enough liquid cash and excess testosterone to buy these remarkable pieces. Like Brent said, they’ve never been available before and it’s not like they’re making any more.

There are lots of GI-surplus guns in circulation these days. A few were actually sold through the NRA many decades back before we all became such flaming pansies. However, the vast majority were frankly stolen. I have a few of these vet bring-back beauties in my own stable. If you have a massive chunk of change just burning a hole in your pocket and you’d like an M45A1 of your own, just surf on over to Rock Island Auctions and be patient. They really are lurking out there.

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