Sunday, December 8, 2013
The Hartford Courant
WEST HARTFORD, Conn. - The newest Colt .45-caliber pistol is touted for its durability and design.
Al Cromwell of East Hampton, Conn., a Colt firearms assembler, works on the Colt 45 ACP model 1918. For the first time in three decades, a Colt .45-caliber pistol will be sold to the U.S. military for the Marines.
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 get off a round when you pull the trigger.
"Virtually, it's indestructible," said Casimir Pawlowski, who works in international sales and technical services 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, although .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 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 Spanish-American War. The .45-caliber promised more 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, which 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 that 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 and in Korea and Vietnam.
But in a controversial move, the federal government switched in 1985 to Italian-owned Beretta to provide 9-millimeter pistols as the new official sidearm for the military.
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. But the U.S. General Accounting Office said in 1982 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.
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 Army has been a major customer, buying 19,000 the next year.