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 CMP Garand 2012
   Dan Martinez
June 2012

Part 1
It may be a little hard to believe, but the beautiful specimen of M1 Garand pictured above is a regular-old Service Grade Garand from the CMP. It is not a Collector Grade, not a Correct Grade, and not one of their new Special Grade Garands. However, it was certainly not the result of the “luck-of-the-draw” as most people receive their Garands from the CMP.

But first, a little refresher for those of you who need it. CMP stands for the Civilian Marksmanship Program. In a nutshell, the CMP is a government chartered company that receives surplus rifles from the U.S. government which it sells to qualified members of the public for the purpose of promoting marksmanship training. The government’s purpose behind that is to increase the level of firearms familiarity and expertise among the pool of citizens that the military must draw its recruits from.

Though other types of surplus rifles occasionally become available from the CMP, the mainstay is the venerable M1 Garand. The basic process to receive a rifle from the CMP is to fill out a 4-page application, provide proof of citizenship, of marksmanship activity, of membership in a CMP affiliated club or organization, get your application notarized, and send your package of paperwork in with your payment and indicate your desired rifle and grade.

There are a number of grade options of M1 Garands available at different price points. You can specify manufacturer from among those available as well. All the options currently available are listed on the CMP website. As stated on the CMP website:

“Each M1 Garand rifle sold by CMP is an authentic U.S. Government rifle that has been inspected, headspaced, repaired if necessary and test fired for function. Each rifle is shipped with safety manual, one eight-round clip and chamber safety flag. Orders are filled on a first-come first serve basis. Rifles of all grades are packed for shipment purely by “luck of the draw”.

After you send in your paperwork package, you must then wait until your Garand is sent to you at your home through Federal Express. Then and only then, will you be able to find out what kind of “luck” you had.

However, there are some limited opportunities for buyers to hand-pick the rifle they will receive. At major matches that the CMP hosts, such as at the National Matches at Camp Perry, and at the Eastern and Western CMP Games, CMP will bring out a bunch of rifles that buyers can pick from and tag. CMP will set these aside to match up with the paperwork package that you must still send in. Then again you wait for the Federal Express truck, but at least you know what to expect.

Back in September of 2005, I wrote up the story of how I got my so-far one and only Garand from the CMP. It was not a “luck-of-the-draw” acquisition. For that one, I drove out to the Camp Pendleton Marine base in California to participate in the first CMP Western Games match. There, I was able to hand-select the Garand that I would buy.

But there is another way to hand pick your rifle as well. A couple of months ago, I learned that I was being sent on a business trip to Atlanta, Georgia. I got to thinking, “Hey, doesn’t the CMP have a store down there in the Deep South where you can browse racks of rifles and actually pick out and buy a rifle on the spot?”

CMP South Store

As a matter of fact, the CMP has two such stores. The CMP North Store is located at Camp Perry in Port Clinton Ohio. But the CMP South Store is located in Anniston Alabama, just a little over an hour’s drive from Atlanta Georgia. I thought that it would be way-cool to make the pilgrimage to the CMP South Store while I was in Atlanta.

Several years ago, I was bitten hard by the collector bug for military surplus rifles. That fever has mostly subsided now, but at the time, I was buying multiple specimens of the same type of rifle. I sought to fill out my collection by having examples from different makers, different production years, or other “variations”. I already have one Garand, by maker Harrington & Richardson Arms. I did not yet have a Springfield Armory, a Winchester, or an International Harvester. But like I said, the collector fever has mostly subsided as I have been slowly selling off the multiple specimens in my collection. I simply did not have a burning desire to buy another Garand.

But I wanted the experience of going to the CMP store and buying something — some rifle, not just some ammo, or a book, or some other accessory. So I asked my sons if either of them would like for me to pick out a Garand for them. Ben answered that he couldn’t afford one right now, but Sam answered in the affirmative. Cool! If they both would have said “no”, then I probably would have bought myself a second Garand!

The inside of the store

My business meetings ran from Wednesday through Friday, but I arranged to stay over for Saturday and to fly home on Sunday. So bright and early on Saturday morning I set forth on my journey to Anniston.

No, I was not expecting some bright and gleaming citadel on a hill. What I found when I drove up was a pretty nondescript industrial-looking metal building with nothing but a non-imposing round CMP seal sign on the side to announce that I was at the right place. Unless you knew what you were looking for, this place would never cause a casual observer to look twice at it. Maybe that’s purposeful.

When I found the entrance around the side, there was a small entrance room with a window, where a worker popped out his head and asked, “May I help you?”

“Uh, yeah. I’m here to pick out a Garand.” Noticing the manilla envelope in my hand, he asked, “May I see your paperwork and ID?” After I handed it over, he gave it a cursory look-see, and satisfied that I basically had my schtuff together, he pressed a button which unlocked the door to my right which allowed me to enter the main room which contained the racks and racks of rifles for sale.

I was directed around the corner to another counter and another staff member. I was told to take my paperwork now to this guy who would look it over in more detail, and that if I had any questions on any particular rifle that this was the guy who could answer them for me.

The M1C rack

So that’s what I did. This gentlemen verified that I had all my requirements in place: proof of age and citizenship (passport photocopy); proof of marksmanship activity (certificate of participation in an official CMP match); proof of membership in a CMP-affilated organization (I had just renewed my ASR&PA membership online); notarized CMP “Order Form and Purchaser Certification and Agreement”.

The only thing that he held onto was the four-part order form. Having seen my other proofs, he did not need those papers any further. He scribbled some stuff on my order form and directed me to yet another window in the opposite corner of the room. There, a lady would run my background check as I browsed the rifles to make a selection. This was definitely a different kind of gun shopping experience than I had ever had before!

Sam and I had discussed what rifle I should pick out for him. Basically I talked him into getting a Service Grade Harrington and Richardson. My reasons were these: Service Grade is going to be the best shooter. If you go to a lower grade, you’ll get a rifle with looser barrel specs for throat erosion and muzzle wear. If you step up to a higher CMP grade, you will pay more, but you will not get better barrel specs. Instead you might get better cosmetics and/or better “correctness”.

As for the Harrington and Richardson (HRA) make, I explained to Sam that all HRAs are post war. HRAs will have all the improvements built in to them that were made to Garands over the years. The late Garands will likely have the least overall wear and tear.

There were three makers post war: Springfield Armory (SA), Harrington & Richardson, and International Harvester (IHC). The highest numbers were made by SA, next was HRA, and finally, IHC made the fewest. As a result, collector interest in post-war Garands is highest for the IHCs, but still the number of HRAs is relatively small at less than 450k out of the total Garand production of 5.5 million. The HRAs seem to be a very much under-appreciated make right now, and I figure that once the well of CMP HRAs dries up, their value may climb nicely.

So now it was time to browse the racks. I was in no hurry. Field Grade, Rack Grade, Service Grade, Correct Grade, M1Cs, M1Ds … Springfield, Winchester, Harrington and Richardson … Daisy competition air rifles, Krags, M1917 Enfields, miscellaneous bolt action barreled receivers (no bolts), chromed and non-chromed drill rifles … What fun!

They actually had Service Grade Winchesters, only about 8 or so. These are listed as sold out, unavailable on the CMP website, but here were several in the CMP South Store. If I were still of a collector mindset, one of these would probably have come home with me.

The rack of Service Grade HRAs

They had plenty of HRAs, in a spectrum of grades up to Service Grade. But when I finally got around to browsing the Service Grade HRA rack, I was a bit disappointed. Basically, I was looking for one very much like mine. Mine has a G.I. walnut stock that has almost no dings or gouges. There was nothing like that in the rack. All the walnut stocks had dings.

But wait! Not all the Service Grade HRAs in the rack had walnut stocks … a number of them were stocked with a lighter colored wood - birch - and these stocks looked brand new. That caused me to recall a change in the description of Service Grade on the CMP website that I had barely paid any attention to:

“Wood will be either Walnut, Birch, Beech or other variety and will be basically sound but may have minor hairline cracks, dings, scratches and gouges. Wood may not match in color or type of wood. Wood may be of new production on Service Grade Garands.”

The figure of the grain on most of the birch stocks was straight-grained, but attractively mottled. However, one particular specimen caught my eye. This one had tiger-striping from butt to handguard ferrule. The handguard wood did not exhibit the tiger striping, just the normal birch mottling, but overall the wood was quite stunning.

I picked it up and examined it, and put it down again. I looked once more up and down the rack for a nice walnut stock and did not see one. Then I looked over my shoulder to see if anyone else had noticed me hefting that beautiful tiger striped Garand — wondering if anyone else was casting lustful eyes at this beauty and heading this way ...

That was it, the decision had been made. This was to be Sam’s Garand. I picked it up and walked it up to the counter. There I asked Knowledgeable Guy, “What’s the deal with this stock?”

He explained that the supply of Garands with nice G.I. walnut stocks was pretty much exhausted now, and that was the reason that some Garands that met Service Grade standards for the metal were now being equipped with new birch stocks. He pointed out the CMP stock cartouche on the left side above the trigger.

Some of you may know about the relatively new “Special Grade” CMP Garands. As described on the CMP website, “This is a completely refurbished rifle consisting of an original M1 Garand Springfield receiver, new production Criterion barrel, new production American Walnut stock and handguards, and new web sling. Receiver and most other parts are refinished USGI, but some parts may be new manufacture.”

Well this $625 Service Grade rifle looks pretty much like the $995 Special Grade, but it is all original except for the stock. In fact Knowledgeable Guy told me that this rifle should be totally “correct” except for the stock - meaning that all the parts should be correct for 1955 HRA manufacture (the date on the barrel). The finish of the metal on this rifle is all very nice with just a few scratches on the gas cylinder.

I asked whether they still came with a web sling included. The answer was no, but I could buy one if I wanted to. I was directed to a nearby table with a box of used web slings. They all looked pretty grungy, but right next to this box was another box full of new production leather M1907 type slings.

These slings are made by Turner Saddlery for the CMP. In fact, they are embossed with the CMP seal and “CMP” in big block letters. The price was $40. So I added that to my order as well. I figured that Sam wouldn’t complain too hard about this, that I had just added $40 to his bill. Note that these slings are currently not available from CMP online either. Another store-only item.

And while I was there I decided to buy something for myself as well. While I spent quite a bit of time looking at an original M1895 Krag rifle for $450, I just ended up adding an ammo box filled with 200 rounds of Greek surplus .30-06 to the order for $100.

Now came the question of, “I’m here in Anniston/Atlanta, but I live in Phoenix. I’m getting on a plane to go home tomorrow. How do I get this stuff home with me?” I already knew the answer. Yes, I could have walked out the door then and there with all the stuff I just bought. But then I would have to shlep it all to, and through the airport, and check it through as baggage. Not only would that entail the physical hassle, but also extra baggage fees, plus I would have to pay Alabama sales tax.

The only logical answer was to have it shipped home to meet me. That also meant that I wouldn’t have to pay Alabama sales tax. So that’s what I did. The only problem was that when I got home, my other son Ben and I were going to head off for a week in the woods. We were hoping to find a cooperative turkey that would walk in front of our shotguns. I would not be home to meet the shipment …

Continued in Part 2

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