If you close your eyes and think of the quintessential military pistol, you’ll undoubtedly picture the glory that is the M1911. This single action, recoil operated, magazine fed, .45 caliber pistol was the primary sidearm for the U.S. Army for 75 years and holds a special place in the heart of veteran, collector, and shooting enthusiast alike. The Army has 10,000 surplus M1911s and, thanks to the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), you might be able to get your hands on one.
Designed by John Browning (praised be his name) and produced by Colt, the M1911 first entered service in 1911. It was adopted by the Army and by the Navy and Marine Corps two years later. It has seen action in WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam until it was replaced by the M9 (a 9mm Beretta) in 1986. Subsets of the military, especially Special Operations, still used the M1911 and its variants well after the official replacement, mostly due to a preference of the .45 caliber round over the 9mm.
Although the M1911 has gone through several updates and imitations, Browning’s basic design has remained relatively unchanged since its inception over a hundred years ago. The pistol operates on recoil. When the gun is shot, the expanding gasses propel the bullet forward and the slide back. The spent casing is ejected as the spring from the magazine moves a new round into place. The slide brings the hammer into the rearward position and, by way of a spring, returns to its original position. The pistol is ready to be fired again. If the round fired was the last round in the magazine, the slide will stay in the rear position.
The M1911 has a slim profile thanks to its single stack magazine. The magazine holds seven rounds, providing the shooter with eight before a reload is required (assuming you carry as I do, with “one in the tube”). The pistol is also remarkably safe, with both a grip safety and an external safety.
You can find M1911 clones made by almost every pistol manufacturer. Take a look at mine, and you’ll see why. The weapon is a work of art. The simplicity and, to be frank, sex appeal of the pistol is undeniable.
The Civilian Marksmanship Program
The Civilian Marksmanship Program was created by Congress in 1903 as the Office of the Director of Civilian Marksmanship. The organization’s goal was to provide marksmanship education and training to civilians, a crucial skill should they be called to serve in the armed forces. The U.S. Army ran it until 1996, when Congress created the Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice & Firearms Safety. This 501(c)(3) non-profit now operates the program. It receives no federal funding or assistance, except for surplus .22 and .30 caliber rifles from the U.S. Army.
The CMP sells these rifles to the public and provides safety and marksmanship education. It sponsors national tournaments and operates camps. The CMP’s current focus is youth development and the promotion of safe firearms use.
The CMP’s rifle inventory currently includes the M1 Garand, .22 caliber target rifles, and air rifles. Their catalog of M1 Carbines has been exhausted, and they are no longer taking orders for the M1917 Enfield or M1903.
The National Defense Authorization Act of 2018 calls for the sale of roughly 10,000 surplus M1911s, and is currently awaiting approval. Once this happens, the Army will be able to transfer the pistols to the CMP. Transfers are expected to take place over a two-year period, according to the Army Times.
While you can always buy a new version at your local gun dealer (where you WILL undergo a background check regardless of what the left may tell you), if you want to get your hands on a piece of history, take a look at the Civilian Marksmanship Program. The popularity of the M1911 can border on the insane, so you’ll have to act fast.
What do you think about the transfer? Will you try to get your hands on one? Tell us in the comments!