American Rifleman - July 2019 - 66

t was the kind of day that a gun guy can never
forget. Stack upon stack of crisp-cornered cardboard
boxes weighed down a work bench in the armory of
what is now called the Marine Raider Training Center.
The instructors had been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the
pistols, the first new military-issue Colt M1911s since 1945.
The Marine Corps had chosen the tan Colts, official designation M45A1, as a commercial replacement for the legendary,
custom, Quantico-built M1911s issued to U.S. Marine Corps
Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) Marine Raiders
and the Corps' Force Reconnaissance Marines. I was looking
at the first shipment from that contract, and my Marines
would be the first to be issued the .45s.
I went through the boxes with the armorers, examining a few random Colts to get a sense of the pistols. The
.45s had a number of features that jumped right out: the
light rails, the aggressively checkered G10 stocks-which
replaced the Pachmayrs we had used for so long-tritium
vials in the Novak sights, and unique markings on the
frames and slides. Cycling the pistols revealed the fit to
be smooth but clearly tighter than a typical commercial
M1911. The triggers were uniformly pretty good. These
were going right to work, and they looked promising.
Interestingly, many of these very same pistols
recently hit the civilian market in a way that took military enthusiasts and collectors completely by surprise.
A large batch, rumored to be nearly 1,000 pistols, hit
the Gunbroker auction site (gunbroker.com) described
as decommissioned USMC 1911 M45A1s. It was largely
(maybe entirely) unannounced and seemed odd, or
even suspect, but there was a factory letter from Colt
to guarantee authenticity. The pistols shipped in the
original cardboard container with the contract-correct
black Wilson Combat seven-round magazine. Before word

66

JULY 2019

Genuine Marine Corps M45A1 Colts-used by Marine Raiders and
Force Reconnaissance-were decommissioned and became available
on the civilian market complete with their original packaging and letters of authenticity. Note the "X" through the "USMC" marking.

could even circulate in casual conversation, the pistols
were snapped up at prices that were lower than comparable commercial Colts. I was at my local gun shop when
a Marine was picking up two that he had won. They were
certainly the genuine article, with the exception that
Colt had marked through the large "USMC" on the slide
with a laser-etched "X" to signify the decommissioning.
A large number of certified modern U.S. military
handguns on the market is mostly unheard of. Even more
so considering these guns were largely expected to be the
last government-issue M1911s and, further, models specific
to Marine Raiders and Force Reconnaissance. Collectors
and shooters reacted predictably, and the Colts began to
flip over on Gunbroker at two-week intervals, each time
gaining several hundred dollars in asking price. The prices
seemed to stabilize in the mid-$3,000s, and then the pistols largely stopped moving, presumably occupying prized
places in safes across the country. In recent months, the
auction houses have listed a few with the prices for the
pristine unissued handguns estimated around $7,000.
How did the pistols get to market? You will hear different stories, but the simplest is that the M45A1 was
Colt's first large-scale run of Cerakoted pistols. The earliest
production samples had isolated instances where the application of the tan coating was suspected by the end users
to be causing reliability issues. In other cases on specific
guns, the finish was not wearing as durably as expected.
My opinion is that both of these were likely due to Colt
learning the quirks of a new coating process.
AMERICAN RIFLEMAN

Photos by author


http://www.gunbroker.com

American Rifleman - July 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Rifleman - July 2019

Contents
American Rifleman - July 2019 - Cover1
American Rifleman - July 2019 - Cover2
American Rifleman - July 2019 - 1
American Rifleman - July 2019 - Contents
American Rifleman - July 2019 - 3
American Rifleman - July 2019 - 4
American Rifleman - July 2019 - 5
American Rifleman - July 2019 - 6
American Rifleman - July 2019 - 7
American Rifleman - July 2019 - 8
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American Rifleman - July 2019 - Cover3
American Rifleman - July 2019 - Cover4
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