A rare Singer 1911 pistol.
An example of an M1911 pistol. web photo

Thanks to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, civilians will be able to enter a lottery to purchase a surplus M1911 from September 4 through October 4—and all the history that comes along with a pistol that was likely manufactured during World War II. The Army will transfer up to 10,000 of the iconic .45 caliber handguns to the Civilian Marksmanship Program for sale this year and next, as directed by Congress.

In a report issued by a Congressman in 2015, it was revealed that it costs about $2 million a year to store the roughly 100,000 surplus 1911s. Since then, about 8,300 have been sold or loaned, mostly through the Department of Defense’s 1033 Program, which offers eligible law enforcement agencies up to one pistol per full-time officer.

Wayne Hall, an Army spokesman, told, that this year’s anticipated transfer of 8,000 pistols will save the Army about $5,000 in storage fees. According to Hall, money from the sales won’t go the Army, and it won’t cost taxpayers a dime either. All proceeds will benefit the Civilian Marksmanship Program, a nonprofit organization, to support competitions, safety courses and more.


People can apply to purchase one of the 8,000 pistols allocated this year starting Sept. 4, with the enrollment period ending on Oct. 4. With a chance at purchasing a firearm with such a unique history, demand is expected to be high. To keep the process as fair as possible, the Civilian Marksmanship Program CMP will randomly generate numbers for each application and use a random selection process.

Prices on the vintage iron, which has been stored at the Anniston Army Depot in Alabama since they were decommissioned, will range from $850 to $1,050. The pistols are classified as Rack Grade, which exhibits rust and requires minor work to return to issuable condition, $850; Field Grade, which is in issuable condition but may exhibit minor rust, pitting, and wear on exterior surfaces and friction surfaces, $950; and Service Grade, which is in issuable condition with only minor pitting and wear on exterior and friction surfaces, $1,050.

The best examples will be reserved for auction, with condition being described in the auction announcement and the fall of the gavel determining price. Perspective buyers are cautioned to weigh their choice carefully, as purchasing one of the other grades of pistol will disqualify you from participating on the auction; likewise, buying a 1911 at auction would prevent you from buying another through the general sale. Only if there are 1911s left after all orders are satisfied will individuals be permitted to purchase a second.

Steve Cooper, marketing director of the Civilian Marksmanship Program, told, that the price covers the safe storage and transportation of the firearms, as well as insurance. Just preparing to sell the guns has cost about $100,000.

The price might seem high compared to modern 1911s, but Cooper reminds potential buyers that, “They are historic pieces and not your average 1911 you can buy over the counter. We have costs and also are trying to put fair pricing on these for what they are: valuable historic relics. We don’t want them to be treated lightly.”

“We are really excited about it,” Cooper said in the story. “We know it’s going to be a lot of work. We will be very careful to make sure everybody has a chance to get one.”

A tunnel rat inspects an enemy tunnel in Vietnam with an M1911A1.
A tunnel rat inspects an enemy tunnel in Vietnam with an M1911A1. Wikimedia Commons

If you want one, here’s what you’ll need:

  • CMP can only sell surplus military firearms given to them by the Army, and only to adult members of affiliated shooting clubs who meet certain guidelines.
  • You must be a U.S. citizen, over 18 years old, who is already legally eligible to purchase a firearm.
  • You must provide a copy of a U.S. birth certificate, passport, proof of naturalization, or any official government that shows proof of citizenship. A military ID can be used if E5 or above.
  • Proof of age must also be supplied, which is usually taken care of by the proof of citizenship document.
  • Additionally, a purchaser must provide proof of membership in a CMP-affiliated organization, of which there are more than 2,000 in most corners of the country. If a CMP affiliated club does not issue individual membership cards, they can fill out the CMP Club Member Certification Form, which can then be included with the order.

You can find a list of affiliated organizations here.

There’s more. You must also provide proof of participation in a marksmanship-related activity or otherwise show familiarity with the safe handling of firearms and shooting range procedures. You can find a list of these qualifiers here.

This last requirement is waived for any purchasers over 60 years of age.

Plus, you must be legally allowed to purchase and own a firearm, and if you’re state has any additional requirements to buy a long gun or handgun, those must be met as well and a photocopy of all pertinent documents must be included with the order.