Everything You Need To Know About The Civilian Marksmanship Program

A big piece of news in recent months is that a number of pistols are going to be sold by the CMP, the Civilian Marksmanship Program. Just what the heck IS the CMP, anyhow?

The CMP, in the broadest sense, is a quasi-government program (more on that in a bit) that promotes...well, civilian marksmanship. The broad strokes is that it has to do with target shooting, but also selling guns to people for people to do it with. The goal is to foment basic marksmanship, though the focus is on the use of a rifle rather than a pistol that one might carry on a gun belt.

What the Civilian Marksmanship Program does can get a little nebulous, so let's dive right in.

Genesis Of The CMP


So, how did the CMP start?

At the start of the 20th century, the US military was switching to the M1903 Springfield, a bolt-action rifle, across all branches. It was noticed that civilians were a whole lot better with lever-action rifles, being faster and more accurate than with a bolt-action. Something had to be done about it, so the then-War Department (now the DOD) cooked up the idea to have a program to teach people - especially the youth - to shoot in case they had to be called into service later.

And with that (and the War Department Appropriations Act of 1903) the Civilian Marksmanship Program was born. The stated goal? To promote the learning of shooting skills all across the country.

The program today is multifaceted, as it encourages gun and gun safety education, as well as the shooting sports. The CMP also hosts a number of competitive shooting events, such as the Camp Perry matches, NCAA Rifle Championships, Olympic rifle trials and others.

Is the CMP government-funded?

No, but it used to be. Up until 1996, it was administered by the US Army, but the National Defense Authorization Act of 1996 created a private non-profit 503(c) called the Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice and Firearms Safety, or CPRPFS because they couldn't think of a shorter acronym. It was chartered by the government, but its run privately. It's kind of like the Federal Reserve, except they sell guns instead of giving free money to Wall Street.

Today, the only thing it gets from the federal government is surplus firearms, donated for sale. M1 Garands and .22 rifles such as might be used for target practice orplinking are the most common, but some lots of 1911 pistols - which have been much-discussed in the gun media - are coming up for sale.

Civilian Marksmanship Program And Gun Sales

civilian marksmanship program

What gets a number of people curious about the Civilian Marksmanship Program is gun sales. Surplus firearms of the United States are highly collectible, and the CMP is pretty much THE source for one of the most iconic guns of all time, the M1 Garand.

As of now, stores of the other surplus guns that the CMP used to sell a lot of are pretty much exhausted. Formerly, surplus M1 Carbine,, M1892 Krag-Jorgensen, M1903 Springfield and M1917 Enfield rifles used to be quite popular but have almost entirely been sold on the civilian market. A few very special examples may come up for auction at times, but for the most part the supplies have been exhausted.

Availability and prices vary, but generally the available wares are M1 Garand rifles, .22 target rifles when available - which range from mid-shelf (a few hundred bucks) to competition grade ($1,500 and up) - competition rifles for Palma and F-Class shooting matches and others as available.

How do I buy guns from the CMP?

There are two ways to buy a gun from the CMP. First is you go to one of their two stores. The CMP South store is located in Anniston, Ala. (about an hour from Birmingham) and the North store is located in Port Clinton, Ohio at Camp Perry. You go in, pick your gun, pay and leave just like any other gun store or pawn shop.

Or, you can order one.

Ordering one, though, isn't as simple as online gun sales through more conventional channels. The CMP requires you meet certain qualifications to sell you a gun. They include:

You have to be legally allowed to purchase or possess a firearm. (Duh.) You also have to prove citizenship, such as birth certificate.

You have to have passed some sort of firearms training course, such as a basic safety course, hunter's safety or possess a concealed carry permit.

You must provide proof of membership in a CMP-affiliated shooting club and no, the NRA is not one of them.

Then, you may purchase a CMP gun and have it shipped to the FFL of your choice.

What's The Skinny On CMP 1911 Pistols?

cmp 1911

So, what's the straight dope on the CMP 1911 pistols?

About 8,000 or so 1911 pistols are being sold through the CMP sometime in the future. Exact dates will be made available by them when appropriate. The government has a lot of them sitting in crates in various locations and interested collectors have been wondering when they would get around to selling them.

The gist is that they will go on sale sometime soon, and additional lots will be after that when the CMP says it's time for some to go on sale.


The guns in question are all old, most dating to the 1950s. Only a few are in pristine condition, which will be sold via auction, and the rest will show their age. A good number of them will have been rode hard and put away wet, so to speak.

For the privilege of owning one, you can expect to spend $850 for a rack grade model (might not function, it was beaten like it owed someone money) $950 for a field grade (functions, has definitely taken a beating) or $1050 for service grade, which means it's good enough to be issued.

Yes, they are cool and they are collectible. It might also be pointed out that you can just go buy a new Colt 1911 Government model (aka the 1991) for $800 MSRP. It's new, has a Series 80 firing pin block safety and GI sights. Darn near the same gun, by the same manufacturer, and made to stricter standards (tighter clearances and tolerances) than the original guns were. You can also get imported GI-spec 1911 pistols by Tisas, Rock Island Armory (Armscor) and other makers for $500 or less.

Whether it's worth it to get one...that's up to you, but that's a high price for a beat-up old gun that you can get a brand new version of (that's made better!) for less money.

Sam Hoober  

About The Author

Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.

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