Let me start by saying that I love the 1911. Anybody who has a healthy appreciation for firearms usually owns at least one. John Browning’s revolutionary design has seen combat from Mexico to Japan, in the Great Wars and in the Global Wars On Terror. It’s a true American icon. Now that I’ve appeased the purists out there, let me say that, as a combat sidearm, I hate the 1911.
The pistol, commonly referred to as the MEUSOC 1911 or .45, has been a trademark of Force Recon for decades. And it has been the issued sidearm of most CSOs since MARSOC was stood up. Recently, we received an updated version of the old workhorse: the Colt M45 CQBP. The revised platform corrected many of the short comings of the older models, and has turned the standard Colt 1911 into a Frankenstein of modern weaponry. The new M45 CQBP, produced by Colt and delivered to the Marine Corps in a recently won contract bid, sports tritium night sights, picatinny rails, a dual recoil spring and a desert tan finish (because it’s not fit for SOF unless it’s tan!).
According to the MARSOC Lance Corporal Underground, the contract for the new pistols was under conventional Marine Corps funds and intended to benefit Force Reconnaissance and MARSOC. Since the money didn’t come from the USSOCOM pot, MARSOC is considering using funds to buy some model of Glocks for the MSOTs (I wont hold my breath for those). I couldn’t find any way to substantiate this rumor that has been circling around battalion lately but the Lcpl Underground is usually more reliable than the 1stSgt. So take it with a grain of a salt or the whole shaker.
You might be wondering why I hate the old Springfield model 1911s that preceded these new Colts. Well, I had four major complaints: maintenance, capacity, light and sound. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of carrying a non-polymer weapon throughout a green-side patrolling package or during a deployment to a dry, dusty climate then you know what I’m getting at. That two-pound chunk of steel will suck the moisture right out of the air. Maintaining your weapon system is ingrained into most of our DNA, but in the 21st century, when polymer framed weapons are in such abundance, there is no reason we should be dragging a steel sidearm through your local 3rd world slum. My tumultuous relationship with the 1911 has consisted of equal parts shooting and busting rust. Compare that with any polymer weapon and its 95% fun and 5% maintenance.
Second, the magazines issued to us have always been Wilson Combat’s seven round inline box magazine. Seven in the mag and one in the pipe is by no means a handicap. However, when you consider the magazine capacity of, say, a Glock 21 SF (same caliber but capable of 13 in the staggered box mag and one in the pipe), it makes you question why you’re still lugging around Grandpa’s 1911. Over the years, I’ve purchased, with my own money, CMC’s 10-round extended magazines. The increased load is an improvement, but I should not have to spend my own savings on what should be an armory-issued piece of gear.
My third complaint with the old pistol was the fact you had no way to mount a light or laser to it. There are aftermarket gun light-laser combos available for a 1911 model pistol. However, MARSOC and my beloved Corps has never issued out any gun lights, lasers or supporting holsters. Again, I should not be forced to habitually dig into my own pockets to buy better gear.
For those still counting, my fourth complaint is the inability to mount a silencer to the barrel. To those Doubting Thomases out there scoffing at the notion of any Marine having the need for a silenced pistol, I ask you this: have you ever tried to clear an Afghan shack with a rifle and all 200 lbs of your American physique? Half the structures I had to make entry into were the size of my daughters closet. In these common situations, my secondary weapon system was promoted to my primary. We have suppressors on our rifles to aid in battlefield situational awareness, as well as supporting any surreptitious entry plans. It makes sense to me that a silenced pistol should be available for these same reasons. A silenced pistol may not be at the top of the SOF grocery list, but if we don’t rate them then who does? (Yeah, I know: Delta, DevGru, ISA… whatever, I still want a silencer for my secondary weapon.)
To be fair, some of my gripes with the 1911 have been resolved with the updated replacement that was recently issued to us. But not all of my complaints have been rectified. The new Colt CQBPs are a long overdue replacement of the old Springfields, but it’s only a half solution. We now have the ability to mount vital accessories like a laser or a light. Also, night operations are slightly improved by the addition of tritium night sights. The Colt CQBP has filled some gaps, but we can do better.
For years, we have tried to get our 1911s replaced with something more up-to-date and a little more relevant to the era we live in. Our lives depend on our gear and we’ll make do with what’s issued to us. Hell, we’ll even spend a small personal fortune to buy the kit we should be issued in the first place. As professional warriors, our input should be valued and implemented. Our kit is our lifeline. On the issue of improving and replacing the weapons we live and die by, we should strive for more than just half measures.