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What’s the deal with CMP 1911s?

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There is no semi-automatic pistol as uniquely American as John Browning’s 1911. Being a design over 100 years old and the primary sidearm of the US military for seven decades, there are countless variations, numerous manufacturers and an entire sub-industry dedicated to 1911s. Despite the assortment of options available to a consumer, an actual US government issue 1911 is not an easy gun to find.

There are two primary sources for these, one being “bring-back” pistols that came home with soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines after both world wars, Korea, Vietnam and other assignments around the world. Additionally, there was a time in the 1960s where Joe-consumer could get a 1911 direct in the mail from the Director of Civilian Marksmanship (DCM), an office of the US Army for promoting marksmanship for civilians in the interest of national defense. However, both of these sources were limited to a certain period of time and circumstances, and the supply was very finite.

CMP 1911 Sales

In 1996, the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) was created to move DCM activities of promoting marksmanship out of US Army control and into civilian hands. The CMP is a federally chartered corporation but receives no federal monies. Instead, a main source of revenue comes from the sale of US government surplus .22 and .30 cal rifles. In 2015 the legislative foundation was set to add 1911 pistols to CMP sales, however it wasn’t until FY2018 legislation that the first 8,000 pistols made their way to Anniston, AL and into CMP’s hands. A separate entity known as CMP 1911 was created for handling these pistol sales, mainly due to establishing a federal firearms license (FFL) to comply with firearm transfer laws for these pistols. Knowing that there would be significant demand and not enough pistols to go around, an application process and lottery was established for interested and eligible consumers. A 30-day window was established for application submission, with all applications going into a lottery.

My CMP 1911 Experience

While I’ve owned many different 1911s over the years, everything was a more modern interpretation better suited for defensive or competition use. A USGI 1911 was always out of reach for my finances, and then there is always some doubt as to the authenticity if you do shell out money on a potentially historic firearm. I have purchased several USGI rifles from the CMP before with much satisfaction and was excited when the announcement of CMP 1911s was made. When the window for purchase opened, I went through the steps of completing the order packet. The deadline for a post-marked submission was October 4, 2018. There were some estimates of the application totals ranging from 50,000 to several hundred thousand. With an authorized 8,000-10,000 pistols a year, it could be a while for my name to be called… however, with any lottery, you can’t win if you don’t try.


CMP 1911 – Service Grade example

After the window closed, the CMP notified everyone that 19,000 packets had been received and in early November the random number generator assigned numbers for all packets. As numbers are assigned to packets, customers were notified of their RNG number by email, which is an also indicator for where you are in line for a pistol. I received an email from CMP 1911 in stating that I was in the low 1700s and would be contacted as the order progressed. With 8,000 pistols, assuming some collector guns would be sold via CMP auction and others might not be in a sellable condition, there should be more than enough to ensure I was now in the running to get one. Following information threads on the CMP forum, I was not expecting a call for at least another 4-6 weeks and the wait began for an Alabama area code to show up on my phone.

Once the CMP 1911 staff get to your packet for processing, your eligibility is verified and a background check is completed before a phone call for payment information. As fate would have it, I was in a work meeting and missed the 256-area code that came in after five weeks of waiting. Fortunately, the voicemail said I had five business days to make contact. I made the call back the next morning without issue and was told it could be up to several weeks before my pistol shipped.

Several grades of pistols with pricing were announced, including Rack at $850 (some rust, may need work but functional), Field at $950 (minor rust/pitting, in issuable condition), Service at $1050 (some wear, issuable condition, best condition for general purchase), and Auction grade (unique or pristine examples only sold at auction). To date, the CMP has received Grade A and B pistols from US Army inventory, which translates to only Service grade being available.

Despite being told it could be several weeks, I returned my call on a Thursday and received a shipping notification the following Tuesday. By the end of the week, I was able to get to my FFL and complete the 4473 to get my pistol. Now I had my new/old pistol in hand.


CMP 1911 as received in heavy-duty pistol case.

If you're not into historical firearms or the idea of GI guns, looking over one of these 1911s would reveal a primitive take compared to modern guns. For some like myself, that is the beauty of it. All of the government-owned 1911s were built during the span of both world wars. Due to the long military service life of the 1911, most have been re-built at some point. Additionally, GIs were not worried about keeping weapons in collector condition but using them as combat weapons. Over time parts get changed by accident or on purpose, meaning a Service grade pistol is going to have a mixture of parts not necessarily original as manufactured.


CMP 1911 (serial number partially obscured)

My example is a pistol that shows some use, as well as the stamp of a re-build. Some guns showing up online appear to have been put into storage right after being re-built and exhibit a fresh coat of parkerizing. The pistol I received has a frame by Remington Rand (made in 1944), an Ithaca slide and an HS (High Standard) barrel. Other parts are either mixed in markings or have no markings as to be expected for contractor and replacement parts. Despite the mixed parts, the pistol is not the worn out rattle-trap that many prior service-members remember. The barrel does not show much wear on the outside and has very well-defined lands. From what I can tell, I have a gun that served our country in some capacity and I could be able to shoot it without feeling guilty of having a pristine copy.


CMP 1911 field stripped

At the time of writing, the CMP has only shipped a couple thousand pistols with more to go. If you didn’t get your application in for this first round of pistols, it could be a couple years until the opportunity might arise again. The CMP has stated that if they continue to get guns, the program will continue unless legislation changes. If you are interested in one of these pistols, sign up for CMP email updates and don’t hesitate to apply next time around.


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