There’s no more American sidearm than the venerable 1911. The John Moses Browning design married the stopping power of the .45 ACP with solid ergonomics. The 1911 was the United States’ service pistol of choice for most of the 20th century. So what happened to the guns, thousands of them, when they were retired from service in the 1980s? We’re about to find out.
The guns have been mothballed. Hopefully, the all steel beauties were packed in oil or cosmoline, too. But now those warehoused guns have been transferred to the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP).
The CMP has a history of selling off government surplus to members of participating gun clubs. Their goal is to increase participation in shooting sports.They’ve had the 1911s for a while, but haven’t had a clear mandate to sell them off.
The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act may change that. A provision in the act approves the sale of at least 8,000, and maybe as many as 10,000 of the .45 caliber pistols.
The gun, produced by Colt, entered service before World War I. Modifications were made before World War II. During that time, contract production really picked up. Companies like typewrite maker Remington Rand, Union Switch and Signal, and even Singer (who made sewing machines) made guns.
The CMP has clear regulations about how they sell their guns. You will need to file paperwork with them in order to be eligible. Instructions on buying guns from the CMP can be found here.
They also sell other surplus guns as they become available. M1 Garands and 1903 Springfields are their most popular offerings, though there is a push to bring thousands of M1 Carbines back from Korea. Those guns were left in service with the South Koreans after the war, and have been warehoused there for years.
The 1911 was replaced by the Beretta M9 in the 1980s. Despite the increase in magazine capacity, the Beretta failed to win the dedicated following that the 1911 had from day 1. The Beretta is now on its way out, too, as the M17 and M18 (both variants of a new modular handgun designed by Sig Sauer) will enter service.