It had been set to accept packets postmarked in September but now it looks like the new cutoff date is October 31, 2022.
So if you haven’t gotten yours in yet and missed out on the first two rounds, now is your chance.
Background on the CMP M1911 Program
One of the biggest boondoggles has been the Army’s repeated attempt at getting rid of its M1911 .45 ACP pistols. With over 2 million made, the classic “Government Issue” pistol was the staple of American fighting men in both world wars as well as Korea and Vietnam. The Army, after trying and failing in the 1950s and 60s to replace the old warhorse with a more compact 9mm that held more ammunition, finally managed to pull it off in 1985 with the adoption of the M9 Beretta. By then, even the newest of the M1911s in stock had been manufactured and delivered in 1945, making them downright elderly. Nonetheless, the military still used the single-action .45 throughout the Cold War and into the Global War on Terror, as the gun remained much-loved by commando types– Special Forces A-teams were still carrying it in Afghanistan post-9/11.
However, even SOCOM eventually put the old M1911 out to pasture, replaced by easier-to-maintain Glocks and SIGs. This left the Army in 2016 with about 100,000 guns still left in storage at Anniston Army Depot, with a cost of about $1.5 million a year to keep clean and dry. This led to a push from the Congressman who represented the Anniston area to donate the guns to CMP for sale and, by 2018, Congress had approved the transfer at a rate of 10,000 pistols per year provided the organization carefully secured the guns (including building a $700,000 handgun vault) and meticulously managed how they were sold– more on the latter in a minute.
This led to a lottery system that the CMP has used since late 2018 to sell the M1911s portioned out to the organization by the Army. The process is simple, with the applicant filling out an eight-page packet similar to that for an M1 Garand and mailing it to their Anniston office.
Once approved, the CMP will email the applicant a number randomly assigned in the current year’s drawing and then the fun begins with about 800 or so pistols shipped out each month.
When the lucky applicant’s number comes up, they will get a call from a usually very chipper young woman with the CMP and be told what grades are available at the time, ranging from Rack grade ($1,050) to Field grade ($1,150) to Service grade ($1,250) of which all will be functional, historic guns. There is also a Range grade for $1,100 that has been modified– usually by Army unit armorers while in service– to contain a lot of commercial aftermarket parts. Like the Garands sold through CMP, the M1911s will typically have been rebuilt a time or two either by unit armorers or Army arsenals since 1945 and usually will have mix-matched parts, for instance with a Colt-marked slide, Ithaca barrel, and Remington frame.
During that call, you can ask for a particular manufacturer (Colt, Ithaca, etc.) and may get lucky, if they have it in stock. Then, after paying, it will arrive at your FFL in a matter of days, complete with a single magazine and a reprint of the Army field manual on the gun, often all inside a very nice CMP-branded Pelican case.
A few things to be aware of is that, unlike the M1 Garand program, CMP is required to ship the M1911s to an FFL, so the transaction is much like buying an out-of-state gun from Gunbroker, Armslist, or Guns.com in that respect. Further, as the packet is only entered after the CMP does a NICS background check on the buyer, at least two such checks are done. This is part of the extra scrutiny that the Army wanted CMP to agree to before sending over the pistols.
There have been two rounds of lotteries done thus far, with a bit over 20,000 guns sold, and CMP just recently completed the enrollment period for the third round at the end of September 2022. It is likely the fourth round will occur sometime in late 2023, so stay tuned for that.
Is the price that CMP sets a lot of money for an M1911? Not if you want a legit Army surplus gun it isn’t as such pieces often resell for twice that much. If you want just an inexpensive M1911 GI pistol to bang around at the range, you may be better off with an imported clone such as a Turkish-made Tisas or Philippine-made Rock Island, either of which can typically be had for around $450-$500 but don’t have any history attached.