The MEU(SOC) pistol, (“Marine Expeditionary Unit”; “Special Operations Capable”) officially designated the M45 MEUSOC, is a magazine-fed, recoil-operated, single-action, semiautomatic pistol chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge. It’s a variant of the M1911, and has been the standard-issue side arm for the Force Recon Element of the United States Marine Corps’ Marine Expeditionary Units since 1985.
In the late 1980s, USMC Colonel Robert Young laid out a series of specifications and improvements to make Browning’s design ready for 21st century combat, many of which have been included in MEU(SOC) pistol designs.
In 2002, an article in American Handgunner stated that “Marine armorers from the Precision Weapons Section, MCBQ” are making 789 MEU (SOC) 1911’s. Corporal Gravenese demonstrates the power of the pistol as shown as above. The revised parts list included barrels, bushings, link pins, sear springs, ejectors, firing pin stops, mainspring housings and mainsprings, all from Nowlin Manufacturing. Slides were ordered from Springfield Armory, with front sight pins, beavertail safeties and recoil spring guides from Ed Brown. Novak was contracted for rear sights, Wilson Combat provided extractors and mag release buttons, while King’s Gun Works supplied ambidextrous thumb safeties.
A Marine operator may shoot as many as 80,000 rounds from this pistol during a training-cycle and subsequent deployment. However, it is more common for a Marine to return the pistol to the PWS at Quantico for a rebuild after 10,000 rounds have been fired. A rebuild entails discarding almost all of the gun’s parts except for the frame, which prior to 2003 was a U.S. Government frame last manufactured in 1945. The frame is inspected and reused if it is still within military specifications. There are frames in the USMC inventory that have had as many as 500,000 rounds fired through them.
The Officer In Command of the Precision Weapons Shop in 2001, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Ken Davis, stated that the M1911 is “the only pistol that can stand up to this use”.
However, as the U.S. Marine Corps began its process of hand selecting members from its Force Recon to be submitted to USSOCOM as Marine Corps Special Operations Command, Detachment One (MCSOCOM Det-1), the selection of a .45 ACP M1911A1-based pistol meant roughly 150 units would be needed, more quickly than the PWS could produce them, as PWS were already backlogged with producing DMRs, USMC SAM-Rs, and updating M40A1s to M40A3s, so DET-1 began the search for COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) surrogates to use.
The improved M45A1 CQBP features several changes to the original M1911A1 design. One feature is the dual recoil spring system that spreads out the recoil force of the .45 ACP round by lowering the peak force of the recoil pulse. It also has 3-dot tritium night sights, a 5-inch national match barrel, ambidextrous safety, picatinny rail, and a desert tan Cerakote finish.
In 2016, USMC command stated that MARSOC had replaced the M45A1 with the Glock 19, largely from a logistic standpoint, not from a performance and reliability standpoint, as a result of other SOCOM branches using the Glock 19. As of March 2019, Force Recon, and other MEU(SOC) forces still use the M45A1 and some units have the Glock 19 or Beretta M9A1 as an alternative.
The current M45A1 does not say “USMC” on the slide for either Military or Civilian sales. Marine HQ told Colt to stop marking the pistols as such. All M45A1s are currently marked “COLT***M45A1” and have a darker, flat dark earth Ion Bond type finish referred to by Colt as “Decobond”. While not as corrosion resistant, it is far more durable of a finish.
The M45A1 ships with Wilson Combat 47 7 round magazines, and is a production grade weapon, rolling off the same line as the commercial M45A1 with identical markings and parts. Colt also offers a custom shop civilian model to achieve higher accuracy; but the Marine issue model is the production grade pistol.
|Mass||2.44 lb (1.105 g) empty, w/ magazine|
|Length||8.25 in (210 mm)|
|Barrel length||5.03 in (127 mm)|
|Muzzle velocity||830 ft/s (244 m/s)|
|Effective firing range||70 m (maximum effective range)|
|Feed system||7 round detachable magazine|