USMC Colt M45A1 Decommissioned Pistol

I ran across this pistol recently. It was the first time I have had a chance to actually fondle a “turn-in” M45. As you can see, it has seen quite a bit of use. The seller has been able to determine which unit this handgun served with and has documentation that it is not, “a school house gun”. His words not mine. So take that for whatever it’s worth. I haven’t confirmed.

My takeaways:

It’s very, very cool.
The wear is cool.
The first 1/3 inch of the barrel lands are functionally shot out.
The ambi-safety seems very sturdy but beefy.
The plunger tube was tight.
The plunger tube was 2 stake.
The recoil spring guide is standard GI.
The recoil springs are two instead of the standard one.
The recoil springs are not model type limited.
Site’s are sucky Novak style instead of ledge.

If you are someone who wants to have “just one” 1911, this certainly would be it. They are worn enough that any subsequent wear wouldn’t hurt the value in the slightest. But here’s the rub.

Am I going to exchange my semi-custom 1911 in place of this? From a function standpoint? No. That would not be a good trade.

Investment wise? What will have more value in 10 years? One of my Ed Brown 1911’s or this specific example of M45a1? Honesty the M45a1 will be worth double if not more. And the logic is based in simple economics. Everyday Ed Brown, Wilson, Bear, Burton, et all pump out more and more pistols.

The USMC is just about at the end of their 1911 history. These are being dumped and it seems some more with better finishes will rotate into their armories. And one day, those will hit the surplus market too. And…the newer models might not be as valuable as this pistol.

How can I say that? Honestly…it’s kind of a shitty thing to admit, but it’s true. These decommissioned M45a1 pistols will always be, “war pistols”. And I know many of our young or middle aged service men and women have been engaged in wars non-stop since 2001. 16 years. That seems like forever. But it goes in the blink of an eye.

Take it from me. I’ve been around a long time. This war won’t last forever. They never do. Look what’s happened to WWII weapon prices. And those are available in the millions! The small amount of civilian legal GWOT weapons is destined to drive post-war dollar numbers into the stratosphere.

If you don’t buy it now, you likely never will.

“Shooting Guns & Having Fun”

Marky Mark

Marky Mark

Writer at
Writer for Co-Host of the John1911 Podcast. Video content provider for John1911-TV.

Areas of focus: Defense and National Security, Modern Light Weapons, Analysis of the Geo-political / Military Relationship in the Context of Strategic Goals.
Marky Mark

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  • At the time these photos were taken the owner hadn’t put an official price on the pistol. I suspect he is going to come in well above $3000. And by the time this is published, it may already be sold. As much I claim, and honestly believe, that this USMC M45a1 pistol is a failure; it was hard not buying this pistol.

    The history. The significance. The look. But I have more then enough 1911s. I used to have quite a few full custom examples but sold them off when I realized I only shoot 1 or 2 of them. Today, I am down to 3. Plus a WWI Colt.

    I just don’t need another 1911. But if you are someone who wants to have, “just one”. Something to keep but also shoot. You could do A LOT worse.

    Please buy it before I change my mind!


  • guns2317

    Interesting piece. I dont have $3K to throw around unfortunately or I would be interested in adding a GWoT weapon to my collection. It is sad to see that they engraved the ” X” across USMC. My 1917 era 1911 had nothing done to it whenever it exited government service, a real shame these modern guns get defaced.

    Just an aside, my 100 year old gun looks like it has had less abuse than that gun in the photos.

    • A lot of the WW1 and WWII 1911’s weren’t actually released from inventory. Many were just brought home. Which is why you see more than a few with the US Government Property obliterated.

      As for the X through the USMC marking, that was done at the request of the USMC. If you have never dealt with HQMC, it may some as a surprise that they take their image, copyrights and TM’ed very, very seriously. Basically the contract said, deface the USMC or you don’t get to sell the guns, Mr. Colt. And if we catch you doing otherwise, the penalties will make the entire deal a financial loser for you.


      • MickeyG

        Yes, many War 1 1911’s came home with their users, I have 2 1911’s from both my grandfathers, one made 1913 and the other 1918. Still shoot them, they definitley are not “safe queens” !

        • That is cool you have family guns. Make sure you document what they are so your family has a record going forward. Even having a sheet notarized at a bank would do wonders 40 years from now.


          • MickeyG

            Thanks Marky, I’ll do that.

  • Matt

    I was lucky enough to be in a position in life recently when I decided I could afford to invest in one of these. Mine also is a school house gun and I have military computer records to show it was in the inventory and in for regular maintenance. I tried for a while to find a batallion one but couldn’t swing buying two and trying to offload the school gun in the process.

    Nevertheless I didn’t own a 1911 and hadn’t for a few years. Now I have a piece of history I can shoot as much as I want and still have a strong chance at a very solid return on it.

    Mine shoots straight and feels nice in the hand. Havent put enough rounds to find a problem with it yet. But I’m going to keep trying.

    • I think your logic is sound. Have you looked at the barrel lands and grooves? How is the wear by the chamber? This one was well, well worn. But frankly, that doesn’t really matter in real world accuracy.


      • Matt

        The lands are definitely worn well. They still cast a shadow though haha. Not much of one and its definitly the worst at the 2 o clock position when the feed ramp is held straight down as it sits when shooting. The chamber looks okay to me but other than the hard edge of it, im not sure what to look for.

        I talked with a recon marine online the other day that hated his. His gripes were of the paint initially gumming things up because colt was dumb enough to coat the internals with paint not a finish (mines now plenty worn in) but that it also chipped and wore easy externally, the grips weren’t great he said — minor complaint in my eyes (G10 is G10 is G10), that the sights sucked (most would agree but they’re hardly the worst I have used and still illuminate in the dark) — the m9s are far worse if were going to point out bad combat sights and this individual likely was issued the m9 before this 45. He said the safety was weak and broke a lot and finally that the feed ramp was “poor” — what that means he didnt say and I had asked for clarification haha.

        A lot of that could be pretty well dismissed. But I haven’t trained with mine so his complaints have far more base then my minimal use and observations. The original design m45a1 had front slide serrations that came farther back to where the frame met the slide initially causing stoppages with grit and grime catching in that point. After at least one more iteration (the one I have now) they ironed out that and the dust cover being undersized (what that would affect I can only assume).

        I get the feeling the “colt” name and the early pistol design issues contributed to a large portion of hate that these pistols get. Think early m16 vietnam era issues carrying on into the late 90s mentality that the AR platform is prone to failure 3 decades later. That’s the vibe I get. I am so far from a colt fan it hurts but the rarity hooked me regardless of brand.

        • The M45a1 does not have a huge and loyal following in the units that are issued it. The Glock 19 is much more popular. We live in a striker world. Yes the 1911 can get the job done. But that’s not the issue. I liken it more like race car driving at Indy.

          A lot of cars can get around the track for 500 laps. But when all the performance is wrung out of the platforms, it comes down to which car has to pit less. Lap for lap, the 1911’s simply have to pit more often than the Glocks.

          And over time, that difference really starts to ad up to significant performance numbers.

          But in historical context, they are neat guns. the 1911 world, ambi-safties are always “less robust” than single side safeties. The assembly that connects both sides is a high-stress point in the 1911 design. So…more likely needing to pit over it.


          • Matt

            Thats a good analogy. And yeah the real reason I hear the m45a1 is finally being retired is because of your exact words. This is a striker fired world. Half capacity, extra unnecessary recoil and less reliability and part modularity should take a back seat where life and death is concerned.

          • Consider this. If you want to run a full sized 45 service pistol, it’s damn hard to beat a Glock 21. That’s a lot of gun for the money. And holds almost double the rounds the M45 holds.


    • Tony Phillips

      How did you get a copy of the military records?

      • The COA paperwork you see is coming from Colt. The references to individual guns being used by individual RECON Marines is coming from contacts still serving inside of that unit.

        That is my understanding.


      • Matt

        The MC keeps inspection and part replacement records that incidentally show the unit the item is attached to. The pistol in this article and my pistol come from the same MC20910 unit identifier. Aka the MARSOC school. I have screen grabs of the GCSS-MC page with my pistols serial number.

        • Tony Phillips

          How can I find out where mine came from?

          • Matt

            Is yours a used decom?

          • Tony Phillips


          • Matt

            Yeah, then your best bet is to join a m45a1 usmc decom facebook group if you want the actual screen grabs. I can look up some info about your pistol possibly through that page if youre willing to share the serial # here. But it may or not be listed on the their database. To join the page all you have to do is provide photographical evidence of your pistol. I asked if it was used because the NIB pistols were never issued and have no unit attachment besides the USMC purchasing them. Ill try and provide a link to the page im a part of on facebook, I think its the most official decom page on FB.


          • The easiest way would be to find a MARSOC pistol collector group or page. They have sequential listings of what, when and where.