February 03, 2023
In 2015, Alabama Congressman Mike Rogers placed an amendment on the Defense Appropriations Act that forced the U.S. Army to release 8,000 surplus M1911A1s to the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP). The more rare and collectible guns among them were auctioned off, while the remaining pistols were made available for sale. Demand far exceeded supply, so the CMP set up a lottery system to decide who would have the privilege of purchasing a piece of U.S. military history.
The administrative burden of the application process, combined with an aversion to paper- work, caused me to miss the first-round deadline of drawings. However, I eventually got everything completed in time for round two. When I took my packet to the local post office, the man behind the counter took one glance at the address and asked, “What grade are you going to get?” I smiled and thought to myself, I love small-town America.
A few months rolled by, and I wrote off my chances of winning, more or less. So, when I received a call from the CMP, I was pleasantly surprised! Unfortunately, they were already sold out of Service Grade guns, so I was offered a choice between a Field Grade ($950) or a Rack Grade ($850) pistol. A few days later, a Field-Grade 1944-vintage M1911A1 built by the Remington Rand typewriter company, arrived at my dealer. It came with a hard-sided case and certificate.
The gun’s condition was as advertised: It is well-worn but serviceable. The frame is marked “UNITED STATES PROPERTY M1911A1 U.S. ARMY”, and a faded U.S. Army Ordnance Corps stamp is just visible behind the grip panel. The “FJA” inspection mark on the opposite side of the frame corresponds with the initials of inspector Lt. Col. Frank J. Atwood, who oversaw wartime production at both the Remington Rand and the nearby Ithaca manufacturing facilities in New York. The crude “SA” stamp is also evidence of a later arsenal rebuild, so this very well could be a parts gun. That doesn’t bother me at all.
The value of this handgun, both in dollars and sentiment, comes from its pedigree. Like all of the M1911A1s that found the way into the CMP warehouse, this handgun was an active participant in our nation’s history. This gun or its parts could have seen action in Germany, on the beaches of Okinawa, on Hill 205 in Korea, or in Vietnam’s Ia Drang Valley. Perhaps it was used in more than one war. We’ll never know the gun’s story, but it is safe to say that someone in uniform bet their life on it during its decades of service.
I grew up shooting Dad’s Remington Rand, so taking this gun to the range was a familiar experience. As CMP assures, the gun functioned reliably. I’ll admit that the USGI sights looked a lot smaller than they did when I had the eyes of a teenager, but the gun is suitably accurate. The trigger fired at a hair past 5 pounds following a bit of creep. Thanks to my high two-handed grip, I was reminded why the beavertail grip safety was later developed.
I won’t shoot it again. Like my CMP Garand, I cherish this firearm for what it is and the places it has been. It’s service to this country is complete, so the old veteran will fight no more. That doesn’t mean its story will end, however.
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