How to get one of the Army's surplus M1911 pistols
After writing about the potential mass sale of the Army's surplus .45 ACP M1911 pistols through the government-chartered Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), I received a f*ck-ton of emails over the course of my Thanksgiving travel that broke down into two main categories:
- It's Medal of Honor, not "Congressional" Medal of Honor (I'm a civilian and moron, so thank you for correcting me!)
- When and where can I grab one of these bad boys!?
At the moment, details are scarce. The $700 billion 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that authorizes the transfer of weapons "no longer actively issued for military service," including thousands of M1911 and M1911A1 pistols, to the CMP is currently sitting on President Donald Trump's desk. And according to the military surplus pipeline, "the limited number and the exceedingly high demand" for the sidearm has sparked congressional scrutiny that's prompted the board of directors to reexamine how it handles future sales.
It's tricky to speculate on legislation that hasn't even passed and what will likely become a brand new sale process, but given the excitement over the sidearm that's accompanied American troops into every conflict zone for more than a century, we can't help but attempt to read the tea leaves on the future of the legendary pistol.
A U.S. Marine with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit's maritime raid force fires an M1911 .45-caliber pistol at a range in Jordan June 9, 2013, during Eager Lion 2013. Eager Lion is a U.S. Central Command-directed exercise designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships between the U.S. and Jordan.
How many M1911 pistols are going to be available?
The DoD doesn't publically post arsenal inventories for obvious reasons, but thank God for Rep. Mike Rogers. In 2015, the Alabama Republican introduced a similar transfer amendment to the NDAA, stating that the Pentagon spends "about $2 per year to store 100,000 Model 1911s that are surplus to the Army's needs." President Barack Obama later signed an NDAA that included a measure to transfer 10,000 pistols to the CMP, although Guns.com notesthat only around 8,300 have been shelled out in recent years, mostly to local law enforcement agencies through the 1033 program.
So that's, what, around 90,000 M1911s up for grabs in the long run?
Why is 90,000 a "limited number"?
This year's NDAA amendment regarding the weapons transfers stipulates that only between 8,000 and 10,000 M1911 pistols will go to the CMP each year, and only for the next two years — which means collectors may have to fight over a scant 16,000 bad boys.
Well, let's take the worst-case scenario: that only 8,000 M1911 pistols ship to the CMP annually. That shakes out to a little more than a decade of releases assuming the measure passes consistently every two years, which seems likely given its inclusion in the 2015 and 2017 NDAAs.
On the downside, this means competition will be fierce — but on the upside, you'll have multiple chances to grab an M1911 should you miss your first shot.
Army psychological operations soldiers train with the M1911 pistol in 1945. (Photo: U.S. Army)
Oh sh*t! So when can I grab one?
Well, this annual sale thing assumes that the actual transfer goes smoothly — which it won't because, you know, logistics. Guns.com smartly notes that all military surplus firearms that originate from the Anniston Army Depot in Alabama go through a rigorous inspection and testing process to assess the condition of each firearm. Given that most of the Army's M1911 stockpile was manufactured before 1945, a significant portion will require repairs or simply end up as scrap due to missing parts.
This doesn't just whittle down the available pool of M1911 pistols for eager collectors but slows the actual distribution and sale process to a crawl. "The odds of finding a mint-in-the-box specimen that has escaped 70-years of Army life without being issued will be slim," as Chris Eger put it, "but even those guns will have to be checked and certified."
Great, so that's the "what" and the "when." Now: How do I get one?
First of all, you'll need to satisfy the general federal and state-level restrictions (age, background check, etc.) around firearms. But more importantly, you need a membership with a CMP-affiliated club — and luckily for you, the organization has a handy search engine to help you find your nearest favorite new hangout, where membership tends to run around $25 annually.
HOWEVER: If you're a veteran or a member of one of CMP's "special affiliates" — congressionally chartered veterans service organizations, professional organizations like the Fraternal Order of Police, or an active-duty service member, reservist, National Guardsman, or retiree — you're essentially good to go.
US Patent 984,519, also known as the Browning. (Image US Patent Office)
Okay, cool, but how do I GET one?
You'll need to provide proof of American citizenship, through a birth certificate, passport, or another official document. You'll also need a copy of your official CMP club membership card (duh) or a Club Member Certification Form. (An odd side note: Apparently this means you can only use your military ID as proof of citizenship if you're E-5 or above? What's the deal with that? Get at me if you know why.)
No more forms, idiot — HOW DO I GET ONE?
Once the 2018 NDAA passes, the CMP will likely make an announcement on their site regarding sales. And when they do: Holy Ordering Form, Batman!