USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- Officially, the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) is a national organization and a federally chartered 501c3 corporation that is dedicated to training and educating U.S. citizens in responsible uses of firearms and airguns through gun safety training, marksmanship training, and competitions.
To most people, though, the CMP is the organization that sells surplus US military rifles by mail. In the past, they have offered M1903, M1917, M1903A3, M1 Carbines, M1 Garands, and some others.
Since supply has dried up over the years, they now only offer M1 Garands – and a very limited number of M1911 pistols. You can choose from a variety of grades and corresponding conditions – rack, field, service, special, correct, and collector – but beyond those grades, the exact rifle you get is left to the luck of the draw.
That is unless you go to one of the three CMP stores and pick out your rifle in person. That’s just what I did earlier this month. (AmmoLand editor Jim Grant, did too!)
Stores are located in Port Clinton, Ohio; Anniston, Alabama; and Talladega, Alabama. Jim and I did our shopping at the CMP Talladega Marksmanship Park’s store.
I mentioned earlier that Garands and M1911s are all that’s left to buy, but it’s different in person. First off, you cannot buy one of the pistols in the stores. But you can still find some M1903A3s and M1917s on the racks. Why those aren’t available via mail is beyond me; it could be that they don’t have enough anymore to meet the demand that would come in for mail orders. That’s just my guess though.
Anyway, back to the guns!
Each rifle is sorted by grade, but the manufacturers are all lumped together. You’ll find Springfield, Winchester, Harrington & Richardson, and International Harvester guns all hanging out together in one big surplus soirée.
Behind the counter, you’ll find the rarer gems, such as the M1Cs and M1Ds. Mail orders for these have been sold out for years, but there’s still a small stock in person. Even though they’re separated from the rest, they’re not off-limits. You can walk behind the counter, pick them up, and examine them like all the rest.
Tags on each gun tell the muzzle and throat readings, grade, who inspected the gun and when, the serial number, and info about the barrel.
The rifle I ended up buying was a field-grade International Harvester, which sold out by mail on June 1, 2020. I picked it because it was an IHC, had an attractive (to me) replacement stock, and, most importantly, it was in my price range.
The CMP sends all mail-order guns directly to your house, packaged in an awesome, custom-fitted hard case that’s even TSA flight compliant. If you shop in person, you’re free to take your gun with you. I flew but didn’t want the TSA security theater hassle, so I had them ship it to me.
Since it was a field grade, the only part guaranteed to be from IHC was the receiver. When I got the gun home, I tore it down to find out all the specifics. It’s got an IHC receiver; an HRA barrel, bolt, and sight parts; Springfield Armory hammer and operating rod; a Winchester trigger group; and a Beretta buttplate. Oh, and the beech stock is from Denmark, as evidenced by the sticker inside with the shooter’s dope info.
Overall, I’m very happy with my purchase. I already had a WWII-era Garand and always wanted one from International Harvester, so it just made sense to handpick one when I was in Talladega.
If you ever find yourself near one of the three CMP stores, I’d highly recommend that you stop in. Even if you don’t buy a rifle, it’s still nice to see the wide variety of rifles on the racks without the outrageous gun show prices.
About Logan Metesh
Logan Metesh is a historian with a focus on firearms history and development. He runs High Caliber History LLC and has more than a decade of experience working for the Smithsonian Institution, the National Park Service, and the NRA Museums. His ability to present history and research in an engaging manner has made him a sought after consultant, writer, and museum professional. The ease with which he can recall obscure historical facts and figures makes him very good at Jeopardy!, but exceptionally bad at geometry.