The .45 Cqb

The .45 Cqb

Despite the ongoing brouhaha in gun magazines over the “controversy” of stopping power, the truth is that big bullets blow big holes. The legendary .45 ACP remains the unrivalled king of the bigbores, and many a hand gunner will swear to the efficacy of John Browning’s most enduring contribution to the job security of coroners and medical examiners.

Agreement on caliber is one thing, but consensus on the platform is another. There is considerable hue and cry for the 1911, a chorus proclaiming it the best vehicle, but the fanfare is not quite unanimous. Serious handgun professionals from every discipline– police, competition, military and training–differ in their needs for a sidearm. These contrarians, for a number of legitimate reasons, do not feel comfortable with a cocked-and-locked single action autopistol.

Our God is a compassionate god, so He made allowance for such idiosyncrasy by giving us alternatives to the 1911 such as SIG’s P-220, Glock’s M36, Ruger’s P-97 and Smith & Wesson’s Model 4506, all of which deliver .45 ACP firepower in a gun whose primary selling point is that of not being a 1911.

Indeed, there are those who prefer a conventional double-action auto, and the S&W Performance Center offers what may well be the most accurate, reliable and practical alternative to St. John’s anointed pistol. It is a custom version of the Model 4563, a slick 30 oz., matte black, carry gun with a sensible 4 barrel.

Playing on the popular appeal of spec ops terminology, the pistol is called the .45 CQB. There are two versions of the .45 CQB, an aluminum framed lightweight shown here, and a stainless framed version that adds a half-pound to your belt. weighing 38 ozs.

Both versions are single-stack pistols holding 8+1 rounds of .45 ACP yawn-mouthed hollowpoints. The sights are the superb Novaks, but they lack tritium inserts, which a pistol designed for close quarters battle should have. Write that down, for it is the sole complaint we could find on the .45 CQB.

The slides of the .45 CQB and the stainless version’s frame are forged and rough machined in the main plant; the aluminum version’s frame originates from an extrusion. From there, the components are brought to the PC for final manufacturing on the PC’s own CNC equipment.

The slide and frame rails are cut to precision tolerances that PC engineer Rich Mochak calls “slip fit, no shake.” Basically, this means the fit is so tight, they won’t function unless they are hand-lapped together. All PC autopistols feature hand-lapped frames and slides.

“The bonus of hand-lapping,” remarked Tom Gordon, team leader of the auto division of the PC, “is that a lot of the recoil is absorbed in that sort of fitting. When you don’t have a slide that wants to lift off the frame, it shoots a lot better.”

When the Shorty .45, an aluminum framed .45, was first introduced there was some concern that the frame wouldn’t take the pounding of the bigbore cartridge. Not to worry, says Gordon, they took a sample, a 28 oz. pistol, and shot 5,000 rounds with zero measurable wear.

The barrel is forged, rough machined and rifled in the main S&W plant, but the crucial dimensions are cut in-house by skilled PC gunsmiths. The chamber is cut at the PC along with the muzzle crown and the lugs. “The key to our guns is the fitting,” Gordon added. “Just about every spot on that barrel is re-cut by us.”

I was impressed to see the amount of handwork that goes into a .45 CQB. Shaun Sullivan, a gunsmith with 20 years at S&W and two years at the PC, was stoning the sear of a Model 945 when I toured the PC recently. His methodology and technique were identical to what I have seen in Bill Wilson’s shop and Les Baer’s shop– hand-fitting a crucial component with the skilled eye of a practiced master. “After working at Smith & Wesson for 20 years, I can finally say I make guns,” joked the affable Sullivan, referring to his lengthy tenure as a tool maker in the main plant.

Similar handwork goes into the fitting of the Briley titanium-coated spherical bushing that is mated to each barrel individually. Charlie Jeffroy was working on a lathe, using emory paper to carefully polish a barrel to fit the bushing. It took several repetitions, with ever finer paper, to get the precise sort of “slip fit, no shake” snugness that is the hallmark of PC quality.

The spherical bushing is an ingenious method of locking the barrel to the slide. It was invented and patented by Frank Pachmayr in his “Signature” conversion of the 1911. When PC founding pistoismith Paul Liebenberg worked as a gunsmith for Pachmayr, he discovered the spherical bushing and began incorporating it on his “modular” custom 1911s. He apparently liked it so much he took the idea with him when he opened the PC in 1990.

Briley Mfg., the renowned custom shotgun and pistol specialists out of Texas, manufactures the spherical bushings for the PC. In fact, the PC regularly uses custom parts from leading gunsmiths like Bill Wilson and Wayne Novak. This is not an organization hampered by NIH syndrome.

The aluminum framed .45 CQB is the first full-size aluminum framed .45 ACP from S&W. I did not think that was particularly remarkable until I saw the extrusion from which the .45 CQB is cut. It is just barely large enough to obtain enough meat to machine a bigbore frame. It is a tribute to design engineer Dick Mochek and CNC engineer John Clark that they could slice a .45 frame from 9mm stock.

Performance is in the name, so it had damn sure better be in the gun. Indeed it is. Performance Center autopistols are phenomenally dependable, as evidenced by a proven track record in both competition and police-supervised testing and training.

Mississippi Highway Patrol Lt. Phillip Hemphill won the 2000 PPC Nationals, his sixth, shooting a PPC Champion, the most accurate pistol the PC makes. Bobby Reed, a colorful character from Hemphill’s department and a noted author, has seen so many Smith autos on the Highway Patrol range that he has lost count. “Son, this’ll feed rocks if you can get ’em in the magazine,” drawls Reed.

Accuracy was impressive with handheld groups hovering at 1″ at 50 feet. I did not Ransom Rest the .45 CQB, nor was I able to sandbag it the way I would prefer due to a tight deadline. However, there is no shortage of anecdotal evidence of the gun’s superior accuracy, like Hemphill’s trophy cabinet.

Fit, finish, features, craftsmanship, performance- everything checked out on the .45 CQB. Based on this pistol as well as the other custom guns I saw being handmade, the PC is to custom gunsmithing what the F16 is to private aviation. PC manager Tom Kelly summed it up best: “Our handguns are handcrafted to the highest standards. These are not some retro-fitted 1911, these guns are made from scratch.”

COPYRIGHT 2001 Publishers’ Development Corporation

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group