An example of a Colt M1911.
An example of a Colt M1911. photo from

You may have heard that a mandate has come down to transfer all of the U.S. Army’s stockpile of vintage M1911 and M1911A1 pistols to the Civilian Marksmanship Program, (CMP), and that you could potentially get your hands on one. But what does that actually mean? How does someone buy a gun from the CMP?

Let’s break it down.

First, what has changed that allows these guns, which have been in storage for decades, to be released?

Last week, Congress approved the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, which consists of hudnreds of sections including reports on U.S. strategy in Syria to programs for new icebreakers. One of these sections calls for a two-year pilot program for moving the Army’s surplus .45ACP GI pistols, which long served as the military’s go-to sidearm until it was replaced by the Beretta M9 in 1985.

The Guns

In 2015 it was revealed that the government spends about $2 million a year to store about 100,000 surplus 1911s. Since then, about 8,300 have been sold or loaned, mostly through the Department of Defense’s 1033 Program, according to this story from The program offers eligible law enforcement agencies up to one pistol per full-time officer.

A lot of the guns we’re talking about here have been stored since the 1980s since the M9 was adopted. However, the guns were actually made as part of contracts that largely ended in 1945, meaning they’ve been around since WWII or earlier.

From the story:

“On a visit to the ‘Army’s attic’ the Army Museum Support Center at Anniston Army Depot earlier this year, was shown crates packed and filled with M1911s pulled from the military’s museum stocks that were in excess of the service’s needs, pending shipment to the CMP once the handgun program got underway. This means there are literally everything from museum pieces on the high-end of the spectrum to stripped receivers on the low end and everything in between.”

There's a chance a rare Singer 1911, like this one,
There’s a chance a rare Singer 1911, like this one, could be part of the 100,000 pistols headed to the CMP. The guns were made as part of an education contract for 500 pistols by the Singer Mfg. Co. Tooling and parts were later send to Remington Rand and Ithaca. They are among the most sought after 1911s and they are often faked. web photo

Here’s How to Buy Them

The CMP, an organization tasked with spreading firearms safety training and rifle practice, has very specific rules about the firearms it can sell, and who they can sell them to.

The 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.

They must be a U.S. citizen, over 18 years old, who is already legally eligible to purchase a firearm.

They 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.


The vintage handguns have been in storage at least since 1985 and were made in 1945 or earlier.

Measure to Release 100,000 1911s to CMP for Sale Passes House

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.

So When Can I Get My M1911?

Relax, there’s plenty of time to get all that stuff above in order. The NDAA still has to be approved by the White House and signed into law before the handguns can be released. Under its guidelines, no less than 8,000 M1911s — and no more than 10,000 — are to be sent by the military to the CMP each year for the next two years, so there’ won’t suddenly be 100,000 of these 1911s out there.


It was carried by American troops for over a century. Untold numbers of civilians own one. Why is the 1911 the greatest pistol in U.S. history?

The 1911: America’s Greatest Pistol

Then, once the guns are moved from the Anniston Army Depot to the CMP, they must actually open the crates and inspect, grade, and test-fire everything inside, as well as catalog any parts. That process could take months, according to

When you’re talking about guns that are this old, that have been stored this long after surviving who knows what length or intensity of Army service, very few of these 1911s are likely to be in mint condition, and most will probably have issues that need to be resolved.

That said, if any rare 1911s, like those made by Singer or US&S during the wars, will be pulled from the lots and sold on individual auction by the CMP, the story says, which is usual.

The guns in the crates may have been manufactured by Colt, Ithaca, North American, Remington Rand, Singer, UMC, and Union Switch & Signal as well as Springfield Armory. They just won’t know until they open them up.

The CMP ranks and grades the surplus M1 Garand rifles it sells, so it’s to be expected they will do something similar with the 1911s. This will dictate their price based on the market.