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After 30 years, the Marines are returning to the Colt .45 pistol
Stars and Stripes ^ | August 18, 2012 | By MATTHEW STURDEVANT

Posted on 08/18/2012 2:50:53 PM PDT by Jet Jaguar

HARTFORD, Conn. — The newest Colt .45-caliber pistol is touted for its durability and design.

It is tested to make sure it can be dropped in water, covered in mud, immersed in sand or ice, or left in a dust storm — and still be able to blast off a round when you pull the trigger.

"Virtually, it's indestructible," said Casimir Pawlowski, who works in international sales and technical sevices for Colt Defense LLC. "You can drive over these things with a Humvee and they're still gonna work. It's like a brick that shoots bullets."

An order last month of new M45 Close Quarter Battle Pistols for the Marines is the first purchase of any Colt handgun in almost three decades by any branch of the U.S. military, though .45-caliber Colts were a trusty sidearm of the Army and Marines for most of the 20th century.

Pawlowski started working at Colt Defense several years ago after a 30-year career as a Navy Corpsman. In 1977, he joined the medical corps serving the Navy and U.S. Marines who carried an earlier version of the Colt as their official sidearm — the Model 1911 .45-caliber automatic.

"We saw the .45s out there, and that's what the guys wanted," Pawlowski said.

Connecticut's historic gun manufacturer first sold its semi-automatic Model 1911, designed by John Moses Browning, to the U.S. military in 1911. At the turn of the 19th century, the military was looking for a stronger handgun than the .38-caliber revolvers used in close combat during the Phillipine-American War. The .45-caliber promised knock-down power — more likely to kill than injure — compared with the .38-caliber.

Browning's design was an impressive development from 19th century single-action Army revolvers that held six, individually loaded bullets. The Model 1911 was designed to have a spring-loaded magazine of bullets fit vertically inside the pistol grip. The Model 1911 features a sliding top which ejects a bullet casing, or shell, immediately after a bullet is fired while slipping another round into position for the next shot.

"It's been a brilliant design," Pawlowski said. "Browning was kind of like the Jimi Hendrix of the gun world at the time."

The Model 1911 Colt has been called the "most respected handgun" and was carried, mostly by U.S. military officers, during both World Wars, in Korea and Vietnam.

But in 1985, the federal government, switched to Italian-owned Beretta to provide 9-millimeter pistols as the new official sidearm for the military. The switch was controversial in the 1980s.

The argument in favor of changing to 9-millimeter cartridges was mostly to standardize the U.S. military with other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO. The U.S. General Accounting Office, however, said in 1982, leading up to the change, that substituting an existing inventory with 9-mm pistols would be costly. It wasn't clear if there was any advantage to a 9-mm round versus existing sidearms, the GAO report said.

In recent years, the Marine Corps has been building its own .45-caliber pistols at a facility in Quantico, Va., using parts from existing inventory of Model 1911 pistols and other commercial parts, said Barbara Hamby, spokeswoman for Marine Corps System Command, which orders guns for the Marines. The government, however, hadn't bought new handguns from Colt for decades. That changed this month with the first order of up to 12,000 Colt pistols, starting with 4,036 right away.

"The Colt pistol met or exceeded all requirements put forth in the solicitation and offered the best value to the government," Hamby said. "Colt Defense LLC successfully competed under a best value competitive source selection utilizing a performance specification. Any historical significance inferred from the selection of Colt's offered weapon is coincidental."

The West Hartford Colt manufacturing plant where the pistols are made, along with many other guns, is a spectacle of curiosities.

A computerized lathe about the size of an MRI machine sculpts gun barrels to the 1/10,000th of an inch.

In one room, a team of highly skilled engravers chisel designs on custom-made revolvers, making art on the firearm. They tap tiny, 24-karat-gold-wire strands into inlaid designs, including one pistol with a scrimshaw-scratched portrait of Samuel Colt on one side of the ivory handle.

Engraver Jan Gwinnell says he has been carving designs for Colt for 33 years. Master engraver George Spring said he's been with the company since 1975, though he started engraving earlier than that.

Colt even has a special sauce.

Deep inside the big-box factory is a square vat of chemicals that looks like a doughnut grease fryer, labeled "Activated Black Magic." Beside it are similar vats full of water. This is where polished, carbon steel pistols can be stained as azure as the deep ocean in Belize.

"That'll give you your royal blue finish on carbine steel," said Phil Hinkley, vice president of quality at Colt Defense LLC, said of the oxidizing chemical. "After they pull it out of here, they'll dip it into a cold water tank."

The color can be contrasted with inlaid gold, for example, for an exotic look to the expensive, custom-designed guns that are sold to collectors by the other Colt — the company under the same roof that makes consumer guns sold at WalMart, Cabela's, Bass Pro Shops and gun stores.

Colt gives a pair of customized guns to each standing president, though Bill Clinton was the only one not to accept the offer, Hinkley said.

In the back of the factory, the accuracy of guns is tested in an indoor shooting range. In addition to paper targets, a series of microphones use acoustics to track the bullets.

"They pick up the acoustics of the round going by, and they'll chart what the group size is," Hinkley said. The microphones also measure the number of rounds fired per minute and the gun's muzzle velocity.

Two companies share the 310,000-square-foot facility on New Park Avenue in a commercial and industrial strip next to BJ's Wholesale Club.

Colt Defense LLC was spun off from its parent company Colt's Manufacturing Company LLC in 2002 to protect the military-contract business from lawsuits against gun makers. Colt Defense sells to U.S. and allied militaries in 90 nations around the world as well as to law enforcement agencies. Colt's Manufacturing makes guns for regular customers, such as collectors, hunters and target shooters.

While the military hasn't bought Colt handguns in 27 years, the federal government has purchased other Colt firearms all along. Since the M4 carbine was introduced in 1993, the U.S. Army has been a major customer, buying 19,000 the next year for the Army and Special Forces. Colt sells machine guns to the military, too.

Throughout the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the military bought a steady supply of the M4 — a short, lightweight rifle, which is a successor to the M-16 that the government bought from the Vietnam era until 1988.

The drawdown of troops a few years ago contributed to a financial slump at Colt Defense as net sales dropped from $270 million to $175 million between 2009 and 2010. Last year, sales were up to $208 million. The company also recovered from an $11.3 million net loss in 2010 to report net income of $5.2 million last year.

The Marines' contract to buy up to 12,000 pistols for $22.5 million over five years means it accounts for about 2 percent of Colt Defense's annual sales. That's not enough to drive the success of the company. But the historic return to Colt sidearms is significant and it's a morale boost within the company.

"I call it in the category of 'cool,'" said Gerry Dinkel, CEO and president of Colt Defense.

"It just has a lot of ring to it when you have something that's this long lived," Dinkel said of the Model 1911.

The return to West Hartford-made Colts from Italian-owned Beretta also carries some patriotic pride.

Dinkel said, "A lot of people have said it's great to go back to an American supplier."

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs
KEYWORDS: 1911; bang; banglist; colt; usmc
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1 posted on 08/18/2012 2:50:57 PM PDT by Jet Jaguar
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To: Jet Jaguar

Yankee Fist BUMP

2 posted on 08/18/2012 2:53:33 PM PDT by gundog (Help us, Nairobi-Wan're our only hope.)
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To: Jet Jaguar

A most wide choice.

3 posted on 08/18/2012 2:57:05 PM PDT by TheRhinelander
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To: Jet Jaguar

John Browning’s birthday should be a national holiday!

4 posted on 08/18/2012 2:57:46 PM PDT by Erik Latranyi (When religions have to beg the gov't for a waiver, we are already under socialism.)
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To: Jet Jaguar

Genuflectimus non ad principem sed ad Principem Pacis!

Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The LORD hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name. (Isaiah 49:1 KJV)

5 posted on 08/18/2012 2:58:38 PM PDT by ConorMacNessa (HM/2 USN, 3/5 Marines RVN 1969 - St. Michael the Archangel defend us in Battle!)
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To: Jet Jaguar

The only thing that could make it better would be if it was DA/SA instead of SAO.

6 posted on 08/18/2012 2:59:17 PM PDT by SailormanCGA72
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To: SailormanCGA72

What, so the trigger position would change between the first round and subsequent ones?

DA/SA sucks.

7 posted on 08/18/2012 3:04:04 PM PDT by Spktyr (Overwhelmingly superior firepower and the willingness to use it is the only proven peace solution.)
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To: Jet Jaguar
Hallelujah! It was a dark day when I turned my last M1911 into the armory for the final time and the armored handed me that lousy Beretta. I Never really got over it. Great to see the Corps returned to what works best!

Good article, with excellent history of the the "new" pistol's M1911 roots. One criticism for the author: it was the Spanish-American War, not the "Philippine-American War."

8 posted on 08/18/2012 3:05:55 PM PDT by Always A Marine
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To: Jet Jaguar

As much as I like the 1911, it probably been better to go with a Glock in 45 ACP or 10mm.

9 posted on 08/18/2012 3:11:51 PM PDT by MCF
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To: Jet Jaguar; mylife; Clint N. Suhks; lightman; smokingfrog

“Colt gives a pair of customized guns to each standing president, though Bill Clinton was the only one not to accept the offer, Hinkley said.”

The lying, treasonous, POS Kenyan-In-Chief should have gotten 2 plastic squirtguns.

Glad to see Colt coming back as supplier.

10 posted on 08/18/2012 3:12:12 PM PDT by carriage_hill (Harry Reid [PERVERT-NV] has Vickie-the-goat in lingerie & stiletto heels, tied-up in his office.)
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To: Jet Jaguar

11 posted on 08/18/2012 3:12:31 PM PDT by Joe 6-pack (Que me amat, amet et canem meum)
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To: Jet Jaguar

Love my Bull Barrel Commander.

12 posted on 08/18/2012 3:12:48 PM PDT by mylife (The Roar Of The Masses Could Be Farts)
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To: Always A Marine

I have always heard it called the Philippines Insurrection.

It was not the Spanish American war tho it did evolve from our getting the Philippines in that war.

13 posted on 08/18/2012 3:12:58 PM PDT by yarddog
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To: Jet Jaguar

Stars and Stripes didn’t say, so I’ll ask: Who was the person who approved the switch to the 9mm back in 1985?

14 posted on 08/18/2012 3:13:25 PM PDT by Carl Vehse
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To: Jet Jaguar

Uh, youse knows of course dat da most wonderful pistol ever made ‘cuz it’s made by da cousins rite here in New Joisey is da Beretta. Hey, youse gotta problem wid’ da 9mm??

What dese Marines are doin’, well, Vito & Dominic & da boys ain’t gonna be happy about this. Just thought youse’d like to know.....

15 posted on 08/18/2012 3:13:35 PM PDT by elcid1970 (Nuke Mecca now. Death to Islam means freedom for all mankind. Deus vult!)
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To: Jet Jaguar

I always liked the 45 better than the pop gun 9mm. The Army should not have dropped the 45 either.

16 posted on 08/18/2012 3:14:07 PM PDT by RetiredArmy (The Signs of the Times are clear. The days grow short. Your only way to avoid is BELIEVE in Him!)
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To: carriage_hill

Clintoon is a Moron.

17 posted on 08/18/2012 3:14:26 PM PDT by mylife (The Roar Of The Masses Could Be Farts)
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To: Jet Jaguar


18 posted on 08/18/2012 3:14:26 PM PDT by Riley (The Fourth Estate is the Fifth Column.)
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To: Erik Latranyi

People that bitch about “the Mormonizing of America” would do well to recognize JMB’s contributions to the winning of the 20th century’s wars.

19 posted on 08/18/2012 3:15:33 PM PDT by gundog (Help us, Nairobi-Wan're our only hope.)
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Yeah, there are more modern handguns out there in .45. But I guess that after the disaster that was the Joint Combat Pistol program, they decided it would be easier to just buy more stocks of something that was already in service.

20 posted on 08/18/2012 3:16:17 PM PDT by JerseyanExile
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