The Civilian Marksmanship Program Is One Step Closer To Selling Colt 1911s

An amendment to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act is set to allow the U.S. Army to sell off its surplus Colt M1911A1 pistols.
Photo via Rock Island Auction

Fellow military history buffs and shooting enthusiasts rejoice, good news is coming your way: An amendment to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act is set to allow the U.S. Army to, at long last, sell off its surplus Colt M1911A1 pistols.

The Army currently has around 100,000 surplus Colt 1911A1s, the iconic sidearm used throughout both world wars, as well as the fighting in Korea and Vietnam. But by the 1980s, the 1911 had officially been replaced, shunted aside for the sleeker Beretta M9. Now, in a Lion King-esque circle of life, the M9 too has reached its expiration date, and will follow the venerable 1911 into the great beyond (err, storage facilities), as the Army begins to receive shipments of shiny new M17 Sig Sauer pistols.

This day has been a long time coming: In late 2015, President Obama signed the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, which included a provision authorizing the Army to transfer 100,000 surplus pistols to the Civilian Marksmanship Program as part of a one-year pilot program. The program was then given the green light to sell up to 10,000 of the guns per year. Alas, the transfer never took place, and civilian shooters itching to get their hands on a significant bit of U.S. military history were left sorely disappointed. Now, their wait my soon be over.

On July 14, House lawmakers passed the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, along with an amendment tacked on by Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama. Rogers’ amendment, if okayed by the Senate, will allow the Civilian Marksmanship Program to receive, inspect, grade, and prepare the surplus 1911s for sale to the waiting public.

The CMP, a program that has spanned more than a century, has a storied past itself. Created back in 1903, the CMP has long offered civilians the chance to learn the ins and outs of some of the U.S. military’s most well-known service weapons. The program is perhaps best known for selling off the military’s surplus M1903s and M1 Garands, the legendary infantry rifle used throughout World War II and Korea.

In parting with excess, outdated guns, the Army will save a little cash as well. Storing surplus weapons is more expensive than you’d think (representatives from Rogers’ office have estimated the cost at around $200,000 per year). With that in mind, Army officials are psyched to sell off the pistols to open up storage space for the M9s, as soldiers transition to the Modular Handgun System’s M17 and M18 pistols.

So cross your fingers, history buffs and firearms lovers. With a bit of luck, you’ll soon be holding your own personal piece of U.S. military history, an iconic Colt 1911.

Conflict photographer Lynsey Addario's seen a hell of a lot of combat over the past twenty years. She patrolled Afghanistan's Helmand Province with the Marines, accompanied the Army on night raids in Baghdad, took artillery fire with rebel fighters in Libya and has taken photos in countless other wars and humanitarian disasters around the world.

Along the way, Addario captured images of plenty of women serving with pride in uniform, not only in the U.S. armed forces, but also on the battlefields of Syria, Colombia, South Sudan and Israel. Her photographs are the subject of a new article in the November 2019 special issue of National Geographic, "Women: A Century of Change," the magazine's first-ever edition written and photographed exclusively by women.

The photos showcase the wide range of goals and ideals for which these women took up arms. Addario's work includes captivating vignettes of a seasoned guerrilla fighter in the jungles of Colombia; a team of Israeli military police patrolling the streets of Jerusalem; and a unit of Kurdish women guarding ISIS refugees in Syria. Some fight to prove themselves, others seek to ignite social change in their home country, and others do it to liberate other women from the grip of ISIS.

Addario visited several active war zones for the piece, but she found herself shaken by something much closer to home: the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina.

Addario discussed her visit to boot camp and her other travels in an interview with Task & Purpose, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

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