If you’re into military firearms, you have undoubtedly heard the hubbub about the US Military surplus 1911s a few years ago. Unless you actually followed the program, you probably have heard little else beyond internet rumors since then. Contrary to some of those rumors, the program is real and they are indeed selling US Military 1911s. They have actually gotten enough of them to offer another round of orders for them as reported HERE. I was one of the lucky individuals to get a 1911 from the first batch they sold. Today’s article is to shed some light on the program, how it works, and what you’ll receive if you choose to go through the process.
If you’re not familiar with the back story, I’ll fill in the details. After WWII, the Armed Forces had a LOT of extra 1911s. Some of these were sold, for a while anyway, by the Director of Civilian Marksmanship, the forerunner to the modern CMP. Then somewhere along the way some of the clowns in DC decided that the US government shouldn’t be selling handguns to its citizens. In the meantime, the US military carried these pistols with them into Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, and some even were used in Operation Desert Storm. With the adoption of the Beretta M9 pistol in 1985, the remaining 1911s then in service began to be replaced. Obviously, this didn’t happen overnight (hence some units still having them when they went to Saudi Arabia in 1990-91). As these 1911s were removed from service, they were inspected and put into storage-just in case of a future military need to reissue them. And for the most part, there they sat for a couple of decades. Some were pulled out of storage and used by certain military units. Regrettably, as they are prone to do, the government destroyed some of them as well. Then in 2015, the CMP was authorized to take possession of the remaining 175,000 1911s via a yearly allotment, and sell them. Interestingly enough, this happened as an amendment to a yearly defense spending bill.
Before I proceed any further, this is a program that is supplied by, and to some degree overseen by the government. That means it’s not as simple as buying a handgun at your favorite local gun shop. There is a bit of a process. There is some paperwork to contend with, it has to be done just right, and you’re going to wait a while. If you’ve ever purchased an NFA regulated item, you undoubtedly are familiar with this concept. Because the demand for these has vastly outstripped supply, they’re selling these on a lottery system. Also unlike the rest of the firearms the CMP sells, you can’t purchase a 1911 from any of the CMP Stores. If these terms are not acceptable to you, save yourself some aggravation and don’t bother looking into this any further.
Also, they’re not giving these 1911s away either. The CMP incurred some significant costs to be able to proceed with this. The usual suspects in DC threw a bunch of hurdles at them; some even at the last minute, when they figured out that these were to be sold. That’s part of the reason it took so long for the 1911 sales to get started. So no, there won’t be any $200 1911s involved with this program. However, when compared to actual US Military 1911s I’ve seen elsewhere, I think the CMP’s pricing is very reasonable. I’d say it’s similar to how they price the M1s and other surplus rifles they sell in comparison to the open market. Also, another thing to keep in mind is that Uncle Sam’s armorers don’t pay any attention to matching parts when working on weapons. So, all matching pistols are pretty unlikely given the history of these-where they quite possibly have been through more than one rebuild in their service lives. For that matter, I’m not entirely convinced that they all had matching parts when they were originally produced but that’s another discussion. Now that that’s all out of the way, let’s discuss the details of the CMP 1911 purchase process.
Under the law, as it stands, the Department of Defense can transfer as many as 10,000 1911s per year to the CMP. Unfortunately, they don’t HAVE to transfer that many. And I don’t know if they actually have to transfer any in a given year. I believe the first year they did indeed transfer some, they transferred 8000 to the CMP. The CMP received something like 17,000 orders the first go around. So they must’ve received enough since then to fill those orders and allow them to take more. Hopefully, this will continue, though I have my suspicions that the incoming administration will try and end the program as most of that crowd was pretty opposed to the idea to begin with.
As the CMP receives these pistols, they are inspected for functionality and condition much like they do with the M1s and other surplus rifles the CMP sells. Obviously, in these 1911s there are some highly collectible examples in the group (think the REALLY rare stuff that would be the holy grail for 1911 collectors), and these are segregated out and sold via the CMP Auction Site. The remainder of them are sorted by condition and sold through the regular 1911 program. I have been buying stuff from the CMP for quite some time now-not just my 1911. I find that they are typically very conservative with their grading, meaning that in my opinion, the item in question is in better condition than advertised (which is a real rarity these days). The pistols are broken down into three grades: Service Grade, Field Grade, and Rack Grade. The Service Grades are $1050, the Field Grades are $950, and the Rack Grades are $850. The CMP has specific descriptions of these grades on their 1911 page. The catch here is that they may or may not have a particular grade available when they contact you.
To purchase from the CMP, there are some requirements. The 1911 program basically has the same requirements as the rifle and ammunition sales. You must have proof of US citizenship, membership in a CMP affiliated organization, and proof of marksmanship or other firearms related activity. The order form has detailed information about what specific documents you need for each requirement. The 1911 page has a link to the 1911 order form. Note that page 2A must be notarized. Make sure everything is properly filled out, as they will reject incomplete packets. Make sure all your “I’s” are dotted and “T’s” crossed, so to speak. If you have previously purchased a 1911 from the CMP, you cannot purchase another at the time of this writing.
Where things start to get different with the 1911 sales is that you need to have an FFL (for whatever reason a C&R license won’t work) lined up to transfer the 1911 through. I would recommend that you use a dealer with regular hours, as the CMP has some pretty specific shipping requirements. The CMP gives a specific date range when your packet must be received. This time this is between January 4th and March 4th, 2021-not before or after those dates. I would recommend that you ship your packet to the CMP with some means of tracking it to ensure it gets received as they won’t contact you until your packet is accepted and given a number. As I mentioned previously, the 1911 sales are done on a lottery system. Once your packet is received, the waiting game begins. Your packet will receive a random number. This number basically determines your place in line. This takes some time. I was contacted with this information after a couple of months, and this notification also served to let me know my packet had indeed been accepted. The CMP forum has a 1911 section, and I actually found the information there very helpful to see how things were progressing in general. There is an ongoing thread where people (not the CMP themselves) are posting the numbers assigned to their packets, and this was a great help in getting an idea of when they were likely to contact me.
After a few more months, they called me to let me know my turn had come and what grades they had available. Make sure you have good contact info in your packet, for obvious reasons. As I mentioned previously, they may or may not have all of the grades available at any given time. When they called me they only had service grade pistols available which I was more than happy to take. They won’t give you a couple of days to think about it, as they have a few people trying to process a lot of orders. So I would make up your mind ahead of time what is or is not acceptable to you. Keep in mind that if you opt not to take what they offer, you go to the back of the line. Again, in my personal experience the CMP grades things very conservatively and usually things are in better condition than how they’re graded. I’ve kept an eye on different forums as CMP 1911s are discussed. So far, I have yet to see any that weren’t in good shape. This is not a situation where they’re selling the best condition pistols first, so you may be offered any of the “grades” of pistols. There are people reporting being offered Service Grade 1911s even now. A few days after they contacted me, my pistol arrived at my local FFL.
I was ecstatic with the 1911 that I received. It was in excellent condition. It’s a 1911A1 and its serial number dates it to the end of 1942. It has an arsenal rebuild stamp on it as well. They shipped it with a very nice hard case, a magazine, and a copy of the Army armorer’s manual. My particular pistol was definitely refinished before it was put into storage. I don’t believe it was fired after being put into storage. If they ever allow people to purchase a second 1911 from them, I will put in for one.
US military handguns have not been sold to citizens as surplus weapons in quite a long time. Given the current political climate, it’s really hard to tell how long the CMP will keep getting 1911s to sell. I am really happy with the pistol I received, and I believe you will be as well if you get one. If you’re a diehard 1911 fan, these are a must and they’re definitely worth the wait. It’s not every day that you can buy a real piece of history.