Force recon Marines conduct a live-fire exercise off the deck of an amphibious assault ship. The Corps is getting closer to fielding a .45-caliber M45 Close Quarters Battle Pistol for force reconnaissance and Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command. (Lance Cpl. Andrew J. Carlson / Marine Corps)
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More weapons approved for annual quals (Jan. 15)
The Marine Corps is closer to knowing who will manufacture its new .45-caliber M45 Close Quarters Battle Pistol, and could make a decision about the program's future by spring, Marine officials said.
The semiautomatic weapon will be fielded to elite Marines in force reconnaissance and Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command. The service could buy between 400 and 12,000 of them as part of a contract worth up to $22.5 million, officials have said. The current requirement is for about 4,000 pistols.
Officials with Marine Corps Systems Command, out of Quantico, Va., declined to characterize testing or identify which companies are competing for the contract. However, the Corps is in the final round of source selection, said Charles Clark III, head of weapons requirements at Marine Corps Combat Development Command, MARCORSYSCOM's parent command. He declined further comment.
The new pistol is modeled after earlier versions of the 1911 pistol used since the 1980s by force recon units. Those weapons were called the MEU (SOC) pistol, short for Marine expeditionary unit (special operations capable). The precision weapons section at Quantico's Weapons Training Battalion has hand-assembled 1911s chambered for .45-caliber Automatic Colt Pistol ammo for years.
MARSOC's expansion complicated that process, however. The Corps' special operations command has been growing steadily since it was activated in 2006, and force recon was brought back in 2008 after a two-year hiatus designed to help solidify MARSOC.
Now with force recon and MARSOC both using the weapon, there is greater demand, and the Corps is seeking an off-the-shelf option to meet it. Like older 1911s, the new pistol would fill the requirement for a weapon with more stopping power than the 9mm M9 common across the conventional forces. Special operators have paired .45-caliber pistols with other weapons for years, including the MP5, a 9mm submachine gun. MARSOC already fields existing MEU (SOC) pistols, Marine officials said.
Several companies submitted samples to the Corps in 2010 as part of the competition, but it is unclear who remains in contention. They included Colt Defense of Hartford, Conn., and Springfield Armory of Geneseo, Ill.
Colt tweaked its 01070RG rail gun pistol and sent 10 prototypes to Quantico in 2010, Colt officials said. Colt's prototypes for the Corps have a desert-color Cercoat finish, eliminating glare on the weapon and making it less identifiable at distance. They're equipped with a popular night sight made by Novak of Parkersburg, W.Va., mounted on a Picatinny rail.
Springfield Armory sent the Corps at least six copies of its PX9105ML pistol for evaluation, company officials said. The company calls it the Full-Sized MC Operator. It has a black slide with a green chassis. The Corps has bought Springfield Armory 1911 slides in the past to use on pistols assembled at Quantico.