The 1911: America’s Greatest Pistol

There will soon be thousands of new-in-the-box military M1911 and M1911A1 pistols on the market, thanks to a provision of the Defense Authorization Bill recently signed into law by President Obama.

The surplus 1911s will soon be headed to the Civilian Marksmanship Program to be sold to the qualifying members of the general public. According to this story from, as many as 100,000 surplus M1911s, which have been sitting in storage since the U.S. military switched to the Beretta M9 in 1986, could be transferred to the CMP now that Obama has signed a revised version of the Defense bill. The legislation authorizes appropriations for the Department of Defense, among other things.

This is how it’s going to go: At first, 10,000 of the pistols will be transferred to the CMP for a pilot program. If all goes well, the rest of the surplus stock will be offered for sale, according to the story.

“As a gun owner and strong believer in the Second Amendment, my proposal is a common-sense approach to eliminating an unnecessary cost to the Federal government while allowing the very capable CMP to handle the sale of these vintage firearms that otherwise would just sit in storage,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), who championed the provision. “This amendment is a win-win for the taxpayer.” The story reports that it costs taxpayers about $200,000 a year to store the surplus pistols, and only about 8,000 have been sold to law enforcement agencies or transferred abroad since the 1980s.

Some 1911 owners worry that the introduction of so many military-grade pistols will devalue their own guns, as does Mike Weisser over at HuffPo.

But this story from The Florida Tribune says those worries are unfounded, as the CMP has strict requirements for who may purchase the pistols.

Although Weisser praised the passage of the provision, we reported in May that another HuffPo writer, Michael McAuliffe, derided the provision tacked onto the Defense Authorization Act by Rogers, saying it would “put 100,000 untraceable guns on the streets.”

Currently, the CMP will only sell surplus military firearms, ammunition, and parts to individuals who meet these criteria:

  • CMP guns can only be sold to members of CMP-affiliated clubs who are also U.S. citizens, over 18 years of age, and who are legally eligible to purchase firearms.

  • The purchaser must provide proof of age, proof of citizenship, and a copy of a current club membership card. A national NRA membership doesn’t qualify.

  • For every single gun sale, the CMP must complete a background check on the purchaser, which must be approved by the FBI. For people living in most states, this is more involved than buying a gun from an FFL.

  • The purchaser must provide proof of participation in a marksmanship related activity or other wise show familiarity with the safe handling of firearms and range procedures.

In most states, the CMP is exempt from the requirement of having to ship a gun to an FFL, and can ship them directly to purchasers. However, they must still be shipped to an FFL in New York and New Jersey. California and Connecticut also have additional shipping provisions.

For more details on CMP purchaser eligibility requirements, go here.