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April 26, 2006
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Back to the 1911

Unertl's MEU-SOC .45

By Firearms Expert Dave Spaulding

As the model 1911 .45 pistol approaches its 100th birthday, it's enjoying the popularity of a firearm newly introduced to the market. The reasons for this are simple: the gun is powerful, easy to shoot, quite accurate, fits a wide range of hand sizes, rides flat to the body (making it easy to conceal and carry), and offers a proven design. Police administrators now advancing along the ranks understand the gun and realize that a visibly cocked pistol in a holster isn't really a bad thing. Officers will carry the gun in a duty holster with a strap across the cocked hammer. Because you can't fire the 1911 unless the gun is in hand with the grip safety depressed and the thumb safety pushed down, what difference does it make that it's cocked?

At the same time, widespread dissatisfaction with the 9mm pistol in its military role, where soldiers must use pencil-pointed ball ammo, has led to requests to reissue the old war horse to our soldiers, sailors and Marines. I carry a 9mm pistol on a daily basis, but I admit it would not be my choice if I had to load it with 9mm ball ammo. High-speed, full-metal-jacket ammo is famous for passing through the human torso and delivering very little energy to the intervening tissues. Anyone who understands ballistics realizes that the real beauty of the hollow-point cartridge is that its expansion stops it rapidly, depositing energy to surrounding tissues. That said, if I were to use any ball ammo, I would want it to be large and slow moving, giving it a better chance to perform well once it has entered the body. Therefore, if I were carrying a gun in Iraq or Afghanistan and could not pick the ammo, I would want a .45.

Most major firearm manufacturers currently make a 1911-style pistol in an effort to take advantage of the renaissance the gun currently enjoys. While most models are very good, the one that excites me the most is from a manufacturer not known for firearms. Unertl is best known for its high-end sporting and military optics, which the company has manufactured for more than 70 years. Under the direction of former Marine Rocky Green, Unertl currently offers one of the best 1911-style pistols in production. I recently spent a bit of time with Unertl's MEU-SOC, and I was greatly impressed.

As most of you probably know, MEU-SOC stands for Marine Expeditionary Unit-Special Operations Capable, a force vital to the Corp's wartime operations. Rumor has it the USMC is still searching for the right pistol to issue to its personnel in large numbers, and I'm sure Unertl named its 1911 the MEU-SOC to make it obvious that this pistol is the perfect choice. However, while Unertl produces the sniper scope of choice and Rocky Green retired from the USMC after a lengthy career served with great distinction, the company does not have an inside track on any future purchase. It must prove its superiority like any other company, but Unertl is more than up to the task.

The MEU-SOC is a full length, 5"-barreled 1911 pistol with an overall length of 8.6" and a height of 5.9". Weighing in at 40 oz., the MEU-SOC is not light, but you'll appreciate the added weight when shooting hot .45 ACP loads. The width of the pistol is slightly more than 1", making the gun easy to carry and conceal. The match-grade, tapered bull barrel features a 1-in-16 left-hand twist and locks into the slide without the traditional bushing. The recoil plug locks into the frame and is easily removed for cleaning. The solid trigger is serrated on the face and is set to break at around 5 lbs.; the trigger on my pistol was so smooth and crisp I would have sworn it was much lighter. (For those who want a longer trigger, a longer match version is available.) The MEU-SOC comes from the factory with Falcon Industries' sandpaper-like Ergo Grip. These molded rubber grips offer the best gripping surface found anywhere; I use Ergo grips on all of my 1911 pistols as well as my AR-15 carbine.

Unertl offers its own line of night sights, not just for 1911 pistols, but for a wide range of popular semi-auto pistols. Therefore, it's not surprising to find Unertl's tritium night sights on the MEU-SOC. Former Navy Seabee and noted small-arms authority Aaron Davis is working with Unertl on its pistols and its line of sights. Davis realizes not every shooter has a set of perfect 21-year-old eyes, so he is working to make Unertl sights as visible as possible to a wide range of vision capability. One of the things Unertl does is serrate the rear sight. "Sights on a service pistol come from the factory nice and black [and] easy to see, but they will not stay this way as time goes by," says Davis. "The cop on the street or the soldier in the field doesn't have the time or ability to touch up the black on the sight. By serrating them, we do all we can to reduce glare as the black surface fades." The rear sight picture on my MEU-SOC is quite clear, with no glare. Unertl applied the same theory to the front sight by experimenting with different color tritium protection tubes in an attempt to make the front sight easier to see under stress. The sight on my gun features a red sight insert.

Field testing proved that 500 rounds of Cor-Bon, Remington, Winchester, Federal, CCI and Triton ammunition couldn't create even a burp from the solid-shooting .45. Accuracy was more than adequate; the gun was more accurate than I. At 75 yards I was able to hit an 8"-square steel plate with predictable regularity.

The MEU-SOC is not cheap, but consider what you're willing to pay for a gun that offers total reliability and accuracy when your life is on the line. With many inexpensive 1911 pistols needing added work and parts to compare with Unertl's MEU-SOC, it makes sense to just buy the best in the beginning.

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