Civilian Marksmanship Program Reveals Plan For Sale Of Surplus M1911 Pistols

In light of the extreme interest in the Army surplus .45 ACP M1911 pistols authorized for public sale as part of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s board of directors has spent the last few weeks examining how to reconcile the organization’s existing rules for firearms sales with the “limited number and the exceedingly high demand” of handguns up for grabs.

While the CMP’s existing rules provide an essential guide to restrictions and requirements of every sale, details of sale pipeline for the M1911 pistols remained scarce — until now. On Dec. 4, the CMP sent an update on the board’s “preliminary decisions” regarding 1911 sales to its mailing list.

Here are the important details.

M1911 sales will be random

In the update, the CMP announced that after it receives 10,000 mail orders for a surplus M1911, customer information will get loaded into, I shit you not, “the Random Number Generator,” which will spit out names in a sequential list.

“Customers will be contacted in the sequence provided by the Random Number Generator,” the update states. “When the customer is contacted a list of 1911 grades and pricing options that are available will be offered for selection of one.”

Pricing will vary

Those pricing and grade decisions “will not be made until inspection has occurred of a substantial quantity” of M1911 pistols — a necessity given that most of the Army’s stockpile of M1911 pistols were manufactured before 1945.

It’s likely that a vintage CMP will end up running customers “between $800 and $1,000,” CMP North marketing manager Steve Cooper told The Gun Writer on Nov. 30. Why that range? Simple, Cooper said: “the 1911 is a very valuable pistol.”

An original drawing of the M1911 pistol included in firearms inventor John Browning’s patent application.Photo via U.S. Patent Office

“Even though they may be shot out or busted up, we don’t want them falling into the hands of people who will just leave them in a glove box,” Cooper told The Gun Writer. “We want a perceived value — more of an heirloom. We don’t want them considered a standard sidearm. All we need is to have someone commit a liquor store robbery with one and then we’ll be held accountable.” (Not wrong: in 2015, the Department of Justice questioned whether past M1911 transfer plans would turn the tried-and-true Army sidearm into a “popular crime gun.”)

Seriously: Mail order only!

“I’ve been down to the CMP shop before, picked up an M-1D Garand Sniper rifle as a 30th birthday present to myself,” Mark Gates, a Navy vet and junior rifle team coach at a CMP-affiliated club who received the update, told Task & Purpose. “It’s not a huge operation, so they aren’t going to do direct sales, it’s all going to be mail order only.”

Sales will take some time

The update also notes that each round of quality inspections will likely take about five months after the CMP receives each new batch from the Army, so you’ll be waiting for some time to get that sweet, sweet call from your CMP representative.

A U.S. Marine with Force Reconnaissance Platoon, Maritime Raid Force, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), reloads an M1911 during a training exercise Jan. 22, 2016.Photo via DoD

The CMP follows the law

The organization notes that all laws concerning the sale of the handguns will be “strictly obeyed.” And according to longtime CMP members, this will mean a rigorous background check process.

“[It] sounds like, in addition to the normal CMP requirements, you’re going to have to pass an NICS background check in advance and mail that off with all the other normal paperwork,” Gates told Task & Purpose. “They then ship the pistol to your dealer, and then you’ll have to do a second NICS background check and all the relevant state and federal paperwork.”

If you need a refresher on all that paperwork, we’ve got you covered.

One at a time, guys

“Qualified CMP customer will only be allowed to purchase one 1911 per calendar year,” according to the CMP. Better than nothin’ — especially if you’re a vet.

“There’s always something special about shooting my ‘old war guns’ that I just don’t get from something that came off a store shelf,” Gates told Task & Purpose. “It’s a humbling experience, and makes me wonder where that gun has been, what it’s seen, and what the man who carried it experienced. It makes me think about my uncle and grandfathers and what they went through during their service. It’s just a great way to connect, and I think there’s a lot of people out there, especially veterans, that would really enjoy it as well.”