What Obama's Ban on the Importation of M1 Rifles From South Korea Means to Collectors
Michigan –-(Ammoland.com)- The history of the M1 rifle is well documented, so there is no need to retell the gun's famous history.
The truth is that it has become a highly sought after collectible. Over the past decade the prices of the M1 has increased at a pace greater than almost any other military firearm.
“It is the classic World War II weapon,” says Reefe Renforth, advanced collector and dealer of American militaria. “It hasn't been just the last couple of years, it has been going strong for more than a decade.”
Renforth says the gun's popularity is in part due to movies and video games.
“A lot of the interest came with the release of Saving Private Ryan and later with Band of Brothers. These created a core of ‘World War II addicts,' and this is among the classic World War II weapons.”
Add in the fact that many of the younger generation, those who probably would have never paid much attention to World War II, learned about the exploits of the “greatest generation” from video games such as Medal of Honor and Call of Duty. The M1 remains the de facto U.S. infantry weapon in those games, and that inspired a whole new generation of collectors who were suddenly interested in the gun their grandfathers carried 60 years ago.
It is also a fact that the gun was the most widely distributed semi-automatic infantry weapon of the Second World War, and it remained in service through the Korean War and even saw use in the Vietnam War. Thus it would seem like there should be more than enough to go around. But with each conflict the M1 was sent off to service, and sadly like many soldiers not everyone returned home, at least not when the respective conflicts ended.
Throughout the Cold War era the United States supplied M1 Garands and M1 Carbines to various friendly and allied nations. Over the years many of these American-made rifles do come home, and are given back to the United States Army, where they eventually make it to the civilian market through the Civilian Marksmanship Program.
Orest Michaels, Chief Operating Officer of the CMP notes that his group does not actually import guns. He says that many M1 rifles are actually “on loan” to other nations, and “when those are no longer needed those rifles come home.” From there the U.S. military, through programs such as the CMP, are able to get those guns on the market.
This brings up the issue of the ongoing saga of the South Korean M1 Garands and M1 Carbines that have been blocked for importation by the United States State Department.
“This comes up every eight to 10 years,” says Michaels. “This happened before, around 2004, and it seems that the South Koreans started it up again, trying to bring the rifles home through different importers.”
A couple of points have come to light. The most notable is that while other nations have happily returned their “borrowed” M1 rifles, in this case maybe that the South Koreans don't want to simply give the guns back, they want to sell the firearms.
According to the South Korean press, the numbers quoted were around 100,000 to 110,000. That might seem like a large number, but Michaels says those would sell fast.
“There is no reason to believe collectors wouldn't scoop up the 100,000 rifles if they came up for sale. The AK-47s that were finally allowed in this nation were bought up quickly as well.”
With so much renewed and continued interest in World War II there does seem to be no shortage of demand for the M1. The question is what would 100,000 rifles mean to the price?
“It would affect the bottom end rifles, but really good correct rifles probably wouldn't budge in price,” says Renforth. “It would make what we call shooters available to the general public.”
It remains a true irony that the M1 rifles, which were made in America, carried by American soldiers and are now desired by collectors can't come home, yet AK-47s from China, Romania and Russia are imported in ever increasing numbers.
The exact reason for the ban on the importation of the M1 probably won't be resolved soon. While it comes down to a ban on all weapons and military equipment that was paid for by American tax payers and supplied as a type of “Lend Lease” the question remains why the South Koreans won't simply give the guns back.
Of course, given the increase in prices – and the fact that South Korea has a lot of these, with FoxNews.com noting the number is actually greater than 800,000 in total counting M1 Garands and M1 Carbines – that could be a lot of money to help bolster the nation's military budget.
The argument that the guns are potentially dangerous, or could fall into the hands of terrorists is of course nonsensical. The end result, whatever the reason, is the same.
The price for M1 rifles is going up and up, as new movies, TV series such as HBO's The Pacific, and of course the video games continue to inspire new collectors, and sadly demand will continue to outpace supply. In other words, it would be nice for collectors to see those M1s come home from South Korea.
Peter Suciu is executive editor of FirearmsTruth.com, a website that tracks and monitors media bias against guns and our Second Amendment rights. Visit: FirearmsTruth.com