Gun Digest

You, Me and the CMP

The CMP program offers civilian shooters access to U.S. Government surplus arms at great prices.

They wrote legislation that established the Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice and Firearms Safety. This non-profit federally chartered corporation was given the responsibility for the supervision, oversight, and control of the U.S. Civilian Marksmanship Program. The law forming this corporation mandates that the mission of the CMP is the “Instruction of the citizens of the United States in marksmanship&.” with the highest priority going to training juniors. The CMP supplies firearms safety and marksmanship training through a nationwide network of affiliated shooting clubs, state shooting associations, and other organizations such as the Boy Scouts and school shooting teams.

The official United States government-sponsored Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) is known to only a small fraction of American gun owners, even though it is of incredibly high importance to our country and the future of firearms use in general — for ourselves and our descendants.

Author's service-grade M-1, shown here with a WWII ammo belt, a clip of ball ammo and a clip of black-tipped armor piercing (AP) ammo.

My family has a long history with the Civilian Marksmanship Program, going back over 70 years. Indeed, I personally owe a great deal of who and what I am to my participation in various CMP programs since I was a young lad. I still own an M1917 30-06 rifle and a Colt M-1917 45 ACP revolver that my late father purchased in the early 1930s from the CMP's predecessor — the Director of Civilian Marksmanship (DCM).

Did you know that gun clubs affiliated with the CMP can qualify to do the same at even better prices, and get substantial other support from the CMP? Even better, the proceeds of the sale of all these items goes to fund the operation of the CMP and its many programs.

For the last 100 years the Civilian Marksmanship Program has trained millions of American youths and adults to shoot in a safe and proper manner. In addition, the CMP sustains the operation of the U.S. National Rifle and Pistol Matches, supports the marksmanship programs of all the state shooting associations, and has made sure that our country always has a substantial number of our population who know how to shoot well. My own extensive experience in the military bears out the significance and importance of my personal CMP background and training.

The CMP program can trace its roots clear back to 1903, when Congress first passed legislation to establish the formation of the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice (NBPRP). This legislation was passed with the full support of President Theodore Roosevelt and the National Rifle Association (NRA). At the same time it also established the U.S. National Rifle and Pistol Matches, as well as appropriations to transport teams of marksmen from the various branches of the U.S. military to attend the National Matches. The main objective of these laws was to promote better rifle marksmanship in our armed forces.

In 1905 Congress passed further legislation, again with the strong support of President Roosevelt and the NRA, that authorized the sale (at cost) of surplus military rifles, ammunition, and other military equipment to civilian shooting clubs meeting requirements laid down by the NBPRP. This was the beginning of a century-old U.S. government-sponsored national program that continues to this day to supply obsolete military rifles to qualified civilians for the purpose of promoting and developing marksmanship in the civilian population. Right from the beginning, the primary objective has been to build and maintain a reserve of trained marksmen among the civilian population that could be called upon for military service in time of war, either as soldiers or marksmanship instructors.

In the summer of 1916, with Europe already at war, Congress passed the National Defense Act. That law earmarked money specifically to promote civilian marksmanship training and authorized the distribution of appropriate arms and ammunition to organized civilian shooting clubs for the same purpose. In addition, it set aside funding for the operation of military rifle ranges and the transportation of military shooting instructors to assist civilian clubs in marksmanship training and allowed civilian shooters access to most military rifle ranges. In addition, it created the office of the Director of Civilian Marksmanship (DCM) to oversee these activities. Finally, it authorized funds to transport civilian teams from across the country to the National Matches to compete with the standard military rifles and pistols of the day. Much to the embarrassment of the military teams, in 1916, in the first of the National Matches open to civilians, both the individual national service rifle and pistol champions were civilians.

The aftermath of World War I found the U.S. military awash with a huge surplus of military rifles and handguns. These included 280,000 Russian M91 7.625x4Rmm Mosin-Nagant rifles originally made by Remington and New England Westinghouse for the Russian government. These had been rendered undeliverable by the Russian revolution so the U.S. government purchased them from their manufacturers, ostensibly for training purposes, but more likely to help the manufacturers out of a financial bind since they were already doing substantial work on other important U.S. government contracts. I cannot find any record that the M91 Mosins were ever actually used for training purposes. However, some of these M91 Mosin rifles were issued to — and carried by — U.S. troops assigned to the international expeditions to Russia to protect Allied interests from the Bolshevik revolution, during and shortly after WWI.

Also on hand were 20,000 Canadian Ross Mark II 303 straight-pull rifles procured from Canada during WWI, ostensibly for use as training rifles. In addition, there were over 100,000 obsolete U.S. Krag 30-40 rifles and carbines, thousands of old 45-70 Springfield “Trapdoor” carbines and rifles, over 200,000 M-1917 S&W and Colt 45 ACP revolvers, and a couple million M-1917 “Enfield” 30-06 rifles. There were also large quantities of M-1903 30-06 rifles and M-1911 45 ACP pistols that were, during the post WWI period, the standard service arms of the U.S. armed services.

For more information about the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), Click Here

If you like this article, you'll love the book it appeared in — Gun Digest 2008.






The M-1917 Colt 45 ACP revolver the author's late father purchased from the DCM in the early 1930's. Note the carving on the grips he did before WWII, and the grip adapter later added by the author.

Since the U.S. government trusted its citizens with firearms in those days, the above-mentioned rifles and pistols were all made available for civilian purchase through the DCM, often at incredibly low prices. For example, brand new Russian M91 Mosin-Nagant rifles sold for as low as $3.24 with 7.625x4Rmm ammunition at $4.00 per thousand rounds. The Ross rifles went for about $5, with about the same amount for a thousand rounds of 303 ammo. Krag rifles went for as little as $1.50 and Trapdoor Springfield 45-70 rifles for only $1.25. The M-1917 30-06 rifle, the primary rifle used by U.S. forces in WWI and easily one of the very best military rifles of its day, could be bought for the grand sum of $7.50.

During this period, civilians could also purchase M-1903 Springfield rifles through the DCM in a wide variety of variations: used and new service rifles, service rifle? with star-gauge barrels, National Match variations, the NRA Sporter, Springfield M-1 and M-2 22 LR training rifles and many more model variations.

Between the world wars, all of the Mosin-Nagant, Ross, Krag, and Trapdoor Springfield rifles were sold off, either through the DCM or through surplus disposal channels. However, large quantities of M-1917 rifles, M-1903 rifles and M-1917 revolvers were still on hand when WWII broke out. These arms were quickly put back into U.S. military service, usually in a secondary role, or supplied to our allies. Over a million M-1917 rifles were sent to England, and they were also widely used by both our Chinese and Free French allies.

The author's late father bought this Eddystone manufactured M-1917 rifle in the 1930s from the DCM for $7.50. It has repeatedly shot sub-MOA groups from the bench with match-grade ammunition.

Shortly after WWII, the civilian marksmanship programs restarted. Again the DCM made large quantities of surplus rifles and handguns available to qualified buyers at bargain prices, including large quantities of M-1903A3 rifles introduced and produced during the war. Eventually, surplus M1 Garands and M-1 Carbines, as well as M-1911 and M-1911A1 pistols, were also made available.

After WWII, the M-1 Garand was eventually refined and accurized at Springfield Arsenal for use in service rifle competition. When the military teams began to win the National Service Rifle Matches with these match-grade M-1 Garands, civilian competitors clamored for match-grade M-1 rifles as well. Subsequently, new M-1 National Match rifles assembled at Springfield Arsenal were made available by the DCM for purchase by qualified civilian competitors. I still own my father's National Match M-1 that he purchased at the National Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio in 1960.

The same thing happened in the Service Pistol category with military shooters using arsenal-and custom-accurized M-1911A1 pistols. For a short period the DCM offered for sale to civilian shooters National Match M-1911A1 pistols that had been hand-assembled at Springfield Arsenal. However, the demand for such pistols was soon filled by the commercial firearms community and the sale of DCM National Match 45 pistols soon ended.

Unfortunately, the days of inexpensive surplus guns being available directly from the government at bargain prices were numbered. By the end of the '60s, anti-gun congressmen managed to close down DCM sales of firearms and remove much of the DCM's funding in spite of the fact that huge numbers of surplus guns were still in military stocks, and criminal use of such guns was virtually unknown. Incredibly, these anti-gun congressmen preferred to waste money destroying these guns rather than selling them to the very citizens that paid for them in the first place and who, in many cases, had risked their lives using them in service to their country. Unfortunately, during this period hundreds of thousands such guns were destroyed at considerable cost to the government, turning a substantial financial asset into a financial liability that subsequently poured precious tax dollars down the drain.

During this same period Congress commissioned a formal study of the DCM program by an independent firm to determine whether or not it justified its cost. Much to the chagrin of the anti-gun members of Congress, this study came back with findings that strongly supported the program.

The investigators found it an extremely cost-effective recruiting aid to get high-caliber American youth to enlist into the armed forces. It also reported that servicemen active in the DCM marksmanship programs prior to their service required less training to become proficient marksmen and were — as a group — better prepared for combat than recruits that had not been in the program. In other words, the original intention for the civilian marksmanship program was being accomplished and the existence of the program was completely validated. Needless to say, the anti-gun members of Congress totally ignored the findings of this study.

A much younger and slimmer author in Vietnam displaying some captured submachine guns. The author credits his CMP training and experiences with interesting him in military service and, once he was on active duty, helping him do well. The weapons are a French 9mm MAT 49, a Chinese copy of the Soviet 7.622x5mm PPSh41, an M-1 Thompson, and a British 9mm Sten Mk IIS with integral noise suppressor.

During those dark days, the DCM continued to support the National Matches, as well as many youth and club marksmanship programs. Eventually, it was able to get permission to sell some surplus M-1 Garand rifles to individuals, but the requirements for qualification to make a purchase were greatly increased. The person had to be over eighteen, a U.S. citizen, and a member of a DCM-affiliated club or association (formerly NRA membership was sufficient). They also had to show proof of recent participation in rifle competition, they could never have purchased an M-1 from the government before, and they had to submit to an FBI fingerprint check. At that time the cost of service-grade DCM M-1 Garand rifles was $94.30, but the price went up steadily over time.

The DCM programs continued to be attacked by anti-gun congressmen for decades and, eventually, their fiscal allocations for operation were completely lost. In 1996 Congress abolished the NBPRP. To save the CMP and the tremendous amount of good work it does, an innovative approach was taken by some clever members of Congress.

They wrote legislation that established the Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice and Firearms Safety. This non-profit federally chartered corporation was given the responsibility for the supervision, oversight, and control of the U.S. Civilian Marksmanship Program. The law forming this corporation mandates that the mission of the CMP is the “Instruction of the citizens of the United States in marksmanship” with the highest priority going to training juniors. The CMP supplies firearms safety and marksmanship training through a nationwide network of affiliated shooting clubs, state shooting associations, and other organizations such as the Boy Scouts and school shooting teams.

To fund these activities the CMP is authorized to sell government surplus 22- and 30-caliber rifles, ammunition, repair parts, equipment and other related supplies. The proceeds from these sales are mandated to be spent to support the CMP programs. Indeed, the entire funding of the CMP operation is strictly from match entry fees and the sales of these items. Consequently, the near-giveaway prices of the old DCM days are, by necessity, gone.

Since this reorganization of the CMP, its leadership has taken a very wise long term approach to its funding. They place $100 from the sale of each M-1 rifle — and the entire proceeds of any special sales — into a “Permanent Investment Account.” The idea behind this is to accumulate enough funds in this account so that, by the time all the M-1 Garands on hand are sold off, the CMP will be able to continue operating for a long time afterward. Hopefully it will be able to run just off the interest on the account. In effect, the surplus stocks of M-1 Garand rifles are the CMP's cash cow. When they are gone the CMP does not want to go away as well.

For more information about the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), Click Here

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The author's two DCM M-1 carbines. Notice the M-1A1 (paratrooper) folding stock he installed on one of them. The stock was a gift from a fellow West Point cadet and is a natural because the author was both a paratrooper and a jump master when he was in the service.

Currently, regular M-1 Garand rifle sales include M-1 service rifles in a variety of variations and grades running from rack grade to collector grade, priced from $295 to $1400. These include rifles supplied to Denmark and Greece that have been repatriated to the U.S. Thankfully, none have importer markings. While these M-1 Garands are not being sold at giveaway prices, they are being sold at low-end market value and represent excellent buys. In my experience, the vast majority of service-grade M-1 Garands sold would rate NRA Very Good condition and the rack-grade rifles would rate NRA Good+ to Very Good – condition.

The author with his late father's old DCM M-1917 Colt 45 ACP revolver. This was the very first firearm he remembers ever seeing, and it was his father's primary utility and defensive handgun for most of his life. It, and his dad's M-1, are two of the author's most prized possessions.

The “Collector Grade” M-1s include: any M-1 of any manufacturer that has all its original parts, any pre-WWII M-1 with most of its original parts, any Winchester M-1 “dash-13” variation, any International Harvester M-1 with original barrel and most of its original parts – as well as those bearing unusual logos on the receiver and any H&R M-1 with a serial number over 6 million, among others.

It is hard to believe, but some M-1903, M-1903A3, and M-1917 rifles are still available after all these years. Their prices run in the $350 to $400 range. Some of these had been loaned to veterans' organizations for ceremonial use and then returned to government stocks, while others have just been sitting in a government warehouse all these years.

The recent sales of surplus military 22 LR target rifles have included these models: Mossberg M44, Remington 541X, Remington 40X, and Winchester M52C and D target rifles. As this is written, the only surplus small-bore rifles available are new Kimber Model 82 Government Model 22 LR single-shot target rifles at $600, used H&R M-12 22 target rifles at $225, Mossberg 144US 22 target rifles at $229, and some incomplete Winchester M52 rifles.

To qualify to purchase an M-1 or other firearm through the CMP you must be a U.S. citizen, at least eighteen years old, a member of a CMP-affiliated club or association, and have proof of some kind of marksmanship activity. The sale must also comply with all federal, state, and local laws, so you must also pass a National Instant Check System background check. Once this is accomplished and the rifle paid for, it is shipped right to your door.

If you are not already a member of a CMP-affiliated club or association, the simplest way to meet that requirement is to join your CMP-affiliated state shooting association. Every state has one. The CMP can supply you with the appropriate contacts and the cost is minimal. The proof of participation can be a match bulletin that lists you as a competitor in virtually any kind of shooting competition.

Typical competitors' quarters at Camp Perry in the 1950s and '60s. They had a cement floor and the furnishings consisted primarily of Army cots. The author's family would occupy one of these semi-tents for the duration of the matches his father shot in.

Interestingly, the competition requirement is waived if you can document that you are in any of the following categories: have current or past honorable military service, are a certified law enforcement officer, have proof of completion of a marksmanship clinic or hunter's safety course that includes live-fire training, have NRA Distinguished, Instructor or Coach status, have a state-issued concealed-carry license or firearms identification card, have certification of shooting activity by a shooting range or club official, or are over 60 years of age.

There is even a method for a parent or guardian to procure a rifle for a qualified junior shooter who is under the age of 18. There is a limitation on the number of rifles an individual can purchase per year once you qualify, but it is liberal.

Beside the normal service rifle and pistol matches, the CMP also holds and sponsors a variety of special matches that are conducted at the National Matches and by affiliated clubs. The most fun and interesting are the John C. Garand Match, the Springfield Match and the Vintage Military Rifle Match.

All are shot at 200 yards. The shooter fires ten shots prone slow fire, ten shots standing to sitting rapid fire, and ten shots standing slow fire. For the Garand Match the rifles are limited to standard “as-issued” service rifle specimens of the M-1 Garand (30-06 only), M-1903 in all service rifle variations, M-1 Carbine, M-1941 Johnson and M-1917 “Enfield”, in other words the U.S. service rifles used to some degree in WWII. The Springfield Match is open to any bolt-action U.S. service rifle in as-issued condition, including those listed above, and U.S. Krags. The Vintage Military Rifle Match is open to foreign bolt-action military service rifles, also in as-issued condition.

No military match rifles, match parts, glass bedding, or other changes from “as-issued” are allowed in any of these categories. The idea of these matches is to increase interest and participation in military rifle shooting without the technological arms race that seems to accompany most other competitive shooting sports. It is entirely possible to acquire an accurate foreign military surplus rifle to compete in this match for under $100.

These matches are a lot of fun and are the most popular matches at the National Matches. In 2004 there were 816 entries in the Springfield and Vintage Military Match and a staggering 1401 entries in the Garand Match. Shooters often show up wearing uniforms of the period their rifle was made or, in the case of foreign military rifles, in the uniform of the country the rifle was issued. This adds to the color and fun of these matches. In the 2004 Vintage Military Match at Camp Perry, the variety of foreign countries and rifles represented included the Swedish Mausers, Swiss Schmidt Rubins, Persian Mausers, Italian Carcanos, British Enfields, and more.

The current standard U.S. service rifle is the M-16. Accurized versions of semiautomatic commercial equivalents of the M-16 are currently dominating national-level service rifle competition. At the National Matches, there is also a special M-16 Match where the shooter is issued a genuine military-issue M16 service rifle to shoot the match. This match is proving particularly popular with new shooters.

For more information about the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), Click Here

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The author's son Jake enjoys shooting his father's and grandfather's DCM M-1s and will eventually inherit them.

During the National Matches, the CMP sponsors a Small Arms Firing School, a program that has been in place since shortly after WWII. Rifles and ammunition are supplied and the shooting instruction is absolutely top-notch. I highly recommend that anyone interested in rifle shooting attend this school, particularly teenagers and young adults. It can quite literally change your life — it did for me when I went through it back in 1960.

The CMP also conducts many other junior and senior marksmanship programs, including programs in conjunction with 4-H clubs, the Boy Scouts, ROTC, college shooting tea?s, and a wide variety of other clubs and associations. They also sponsor an extensive youth air rifle competition program. In the past, they made lightweight low-recoiling M-1 Carbines available to clubs for junior-level centerfire rifle training, and may do so again in the near future. They also sell surplus ammunition, as well as a variety of M-1 Garand and other rifle parts to clubs and individuals at quite reasonable prices.

The author in younger days holding his late father's National Match M-1 rifle bought in 1960 at Camp Perry from the DCM.

It is notable that the guns my dad purchased from the DCM are among my first memories of firearms of any kind. As I said earlier, my father purchased his first guns from the DCM in the early 1930s: an M-1917 Enfield rifle and an M-1917 Colt revolver, both veterans of WWI. I once asked him why he purchased a Colt M-1917 rather than the also-available S&W M-1917. He told me the latter cost a few dollars more and that, since money was in such short supply during the Great Depression, he simply bought the cheapest one.

My father was working in California when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He told me that shortly after the attack it was impossible to find any firearms or ammunition for sale because everybody was arming themselves against a possible Japanese invasion of the West Coast. He recalled being very glad that he was already well armed, by the standards of the day, with his DCM M-1917 rifle and M-1917 Colt revolver. It was learned after the war that the Japanese were aware of the large numbers of well-armed American civilians, like my father, which contributed to discouraging any invasion plans. Yet again the CMP's mission was vindicated.

My dad's DCM M-1917 Colt was his primary utility and home defense handgun for most of his life, in spite of his subsequent acquisition of many more handguns. That old Colt was the gun he always used to dispatch sick or injured animals, as well as farm animals that were being butchered. It was the gun he grabbed to investigate things that went bump in the night. When, in his final years, he finally gave me the old beast, it had been kept loaded almost continuously for about fifty years. In honor of my late father, I still keep it loaded with modern high-performance hollowpoints; it now resides in a locked cabinet and has been loaded for over 70 years.

I was with my dad when he bought his National Match M-1 from the DCM in 1960 while he attended the National Matches at Camp Perry. As a teenager I usually competed with a surplus M-1903 Springfield because that was all that I could afford with my paper route income. Later, as my shooting improved, he often loaned me that superbly accurate M-1 to shoot in our club matches. That National Match M-1 is now one of my most prized possessions and I still break it out on occasion for a local rifle match.

As a youngster I was active in our local DCM-affiliated shooting club's youth program. We shot DCM-supplied Remington 513T 22 target rifles in the basement of the local YMCA. Thanks to good instruction, good equipment, and plentiful ammunition, I became a reasonably good small-bore rifle shooter.

At the unusually young age of 13 I attended the DCM's Small Arms Firing School at Camp Perry, along with two of my cousins and my late uncle Joe Karwan, while my late father was shooting in matches. There was no particular minimum age requirement to attend the school as long as you were big and strong enough to properly handle a 10-pound M-1 Garand rifle. Since I was already just under six feet tall, and nearly 200 pounds at 13, I qualified easily.

My uncle, who was in the Army in Hawaii when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and later served in Europe as a Combat Engineer from D-Day until the end of the war, was along mostly just to ride herd on the youngsters. He knew how to shoot an M-1 rifle very well already. He told us that when he was an NCO, which was for most of the war, even though he could have carried an M-1 Carbine or a submachine gun as his personal weapon, he always chose to carry an M-1 Garand because it was so reliable and effective.

For more information about the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), Click Here

It was quite a heady experience for me and my cousins to have a brand new National Match M-1 Garand issued to us for the duration of the Small Arms Firing School, and any matches we wanted to enter. We were told to keep our M-1s clean and to keep the bolt locked back at all times, except when actually shooting. Indeed, if any competitor was caught off the firing line with his rifle bolt forward he would — at a minimum — get severely scolded. While we were there, one match competitor was caught in a common area with his M-1's bolt forward with rounds in the magazine; why, no one can say. He was unceremoniously packed up and escorted off the Camp Perry installation with instructions never to return.

Not only were we supplied with match-grade rifles at no cost, high-quality National Match 30-06 ammunition was even supplied – free! It was issued to us right on the firing line. We all had a great time, learned a lot about rifle shooting, and enjoyed the experience tremendously, including my Uncle who acquitted himself very well with an old and dear friend, the M-1 Garand. When we finally left Camp Perry, I could not afford to buy the National Match M-1 I had been issued, but I sure wanted to! My father bought his, though.

At the Small Arms Firing School we were instructed and coached by members of the various armed services teams, some of whom were national champions and record-holders. There is no doubt that my positive experience there with those outstanding military NCOs and officers was instrumental in my choosing to go to West Point a few years later. As an infantry officer in Vietnam, and later a Special Forces officer, the knowledge and skills in marksmanship acquired at Camp Perry and through other DCM programs were extremely useful to me and to the troops I commanded and worked with.

There are many examples. When I was an upper-class cadet at West Point I was detailed to help train underclassmen on shooting the M-14, and then get them “qualified,” The instruction I received from the CMP helped me immensely. Indeed, when any cadet failed to qualify, that knowledge allowed me to identify the problem with his rifle or technique and, with my help, most qualified the second time around. The same held true later as a junior officer in the Army. My CMP-acquired knowledge was passed on to others and employed to help my troops on numerous occasions.

My experiences in the CMP were also of tremendous value when I served in Vietnam. When I took over my rifle platoon in the 1st Cavalry Division, their idea of cleaning an M-16 was to fire a few tracers through it! Fortunately I?knew better and soon had my platoon cleaning, maintaining, and zeroing their M-16 rifles properly. My background in precision marksmanship in the CMP also helped me a great deal in supporting and using snipers effectively and made me a strong proponent of the use of precision marksmanship in combat. Even though I was an officer and usually occupied with commanding my unit, for about half my tour I carried an accurized M-14 or an XM21 sniper rifle as my personal weapon.

After Vietnam I served in both the 10th and 5th Special Forces Groups. At that time (mid-'70s) the Army had no active sniper program, and Special Forces never did have one. I took a shot at changing that and made a presentation to some staff members at the Special Warfare Center at Ft. Bragg, advocating the issuance of an M21 sniper rifle to each Special Forces A Detachment. I used my personal Springfield Armory M-1A (M-14 type) match rifle that I used for service rifle competition and fitted it with a borrowed ART sniper scope and mount to simulate an M21 sniper rifle for the presentation since there was not a single M21 on Ft. Bragg at the time.

The author, circa 1955, trying to hold up his late father's M-1 while his younger brother Rick fiddles with his Kodak Brownie. In the background is part of Camp Perry's huge firing line.

In the presentation I outlined the many capabilities of the M21 sniper rifle and emphasized the effectiveness it offered a Special Forces detachment, especially with regard to economy of force and cost-effectiveness. There is no question in my mind that, without my CMP training and experiences, I could never have made that presentation. Evidently I was convincing because, after my proposal was run up the flag pole, it was adopted and, ever since, every Special Forces Detachment Alpha (A-team) has been issued a sniper rifle.

Not only that but General Emerson, the 18th Airborne Corps Commander at Ft. Bragg at the time, liked the idea so much he initiated a sniper program for his major units (the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions) as well. The history books credit General Emerson with reviving the Army's sniper program after it was dropped after Vietnam, but it was lowly Captain Karwan in the 5th Special Forces that actually started that revival.

My experience with the CMP deserves a lot of the credit as well. One of my buddies who knows the above story insists on calling me “The Father of U.S. Special Forces Sniping.” I don't know about that, but I admit I am proud of the fact that today both the U.S. Special Forces and regular Army have an ongoing permanent sniper program and I had a significant role in making it happen.

While I have been out of the Army for a long time, there are still many soldiers out there that have had the benefit of the CMP to help prepare them for combat service. Just recently an Army unit that was about to deploy to Iraq was issued optically-sighted M-14 rifles for use as Squad Designated Marksman (SDM) rifles. An SDM is a sort of low-level sniper that is under the control of the rifle platoon leader and supports that unit with precision rifle fire, particularly at distances beyond the capability of a normal rifleman.

The problem was that nobody in the unit knew very much about the M-14 rifle or its capabilities in the SDM role. As a consequence, they turned to the CMP-affiliated Texas Rifle and Pistol Association which supplied some top-level civilian marksmen highly familiar with the M-14 to provide the necessary training on these rifles before the unit deployed. Yet again, the CMP accomplished precisely the mission it was originally developed for. I was just old enough in the '60s to get in on the tail-end of the period where the DCM was able to sell surplus guns to NRA members without much hassle, and at really low prices. During that period, my father and I both purchased M-1911 45-caliber pistols and M-1 Carbines from the DCM. One of my cousins and I also purchased M-1903A3 30-06 rifles. As I recall the price of each of the above, with packing and shipping, was right around $20 apiece. Yes, those were the days!

My father's DCM-purchased M-1911 was a pretty tired specimen, having been through both world wars and many rebuilds. He gave it to one of his brothers who sadly subsequently lost it. Mine was nearly as tired but it was still a decent shooter.

I was not able to get an M-1 Garand from the DCM until several years later when the DCM got permission to reopen M-1 sales under much more stringent requirements (proof of recent rifle competition and an FBI finger print check). At the time I was an Army Captain in Special Forces with a Top Secret security clearance, but I still had to go through all those hassles to buy my DCM M-1. John Larsen, a good friend who was one of the NCOs in my unit, and I shot in qualification matches and ordered our M-1s at the same time. John promptly got his while my order was refused because the DCM records indicated I had already purchased an M-1 in 1960. I pointed out that they had confused me with my father and that I would have been only 13 years old that year. The DCM eventually sent me my M-1, but not until I received a lot of kidding from John that the DCM obviously gave priority to NCOs because they were more important than officers.

The M-1 Garand that I received was typical of most service-grade M-1 rifles purchased from the DCM then, or the CMP today. It was used but not abused and had been totally rebuilt at least once in its history. It has an H&R receiver, but virtually all of its other parts — including its 1963-dated barrel — were made at Springfield Armory. Since it has a nice bore, it shoots quite well and I have used it in a John C. Garand match and other competitions.

As you can see, between my late father's DCM purchases and my own I have quite a nice little collection of DCM guns including a Colt M-1917 revolver, a Colt M-1911, an Eddystone M-1917, a Remington M-1903A3, a Winchester and an Inland M-1 Carbine, an H&R M-1 Garand and a Springfield National Match M-1 Garand.

Thinking back, I have fired every one of them in one kind of a match or another — except for one of the M-1 Carbines, and the handguns. I have had many enjoyable hours shooting all of them at targets and, on a several occasions, hunting with some of them. The old Eddystone M-1917 was shot one day from the bench at 100 yards with some particularly accurate match loads and repeatedly produced sub-MOA groups using its original peep sight. That's not too shabby for a WWI-vintage service rifle that cost $7.50! I hope the CMP stays alive and well for many years for many reasons, not the least of which is that I would dearly like to add to my personal DCM/CMP collection.

Everyone who can qualify should buy at least one M-1 Garand, or some other rifle through the CMP. If you are not yet qualified, get qualified. In doing so you will help finance one of the best shooter development programs in existence and you will be rescuing a great rifle from possible future government destruction. Please, write or call the CMP for more information — or visit its web site.

Civilian Marksmanship Program Camp Perry Training Site, Building 3 P. O. Box 576 Port Clinton, Ohio 43452-0576 (419) 635-2141 (888) 267-0796 FAX (419) 635-2802

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