Monday, July 11, 2005

Gun Fever

The sport of highpower rifle shooting, like other fringe sports, attracts a large number of strange competitors. Whether in New York, California, North Dakota, or Texas you'll run into them. Though most are streaked with varying degrees of oddity, most that I have met have been bitten by the same genus of bug: a full-heart, unabashed, overflowing, profess-it-to-the-world love of guns. It's like a sickness infecting the participants, a rare brain fever whose symptoms can be treated, but for which there is no real cure. A sufferer will get the shakes, develope a pit in the stomach, and will be unable to focus or concentrate. The only real way to momentarily curb the symptoms is to purchase a firearm. This will break the fever for a time (months? weeks? days?) and bring relief to the shooter.

Lucky for these sufferers the United States Government has provided one of many means whereby these gun lovers can satiate themselves. In 1916 the U.S. Congress created the CMP (Civilian Marksmanship Program). Its purpose is mainly to promote the safe use of firearms, to educate the public, and assist youth that are interested in marksmanship who may, in the future, be interested in military service. One of the services provided by the CMP is the sale of M1 Garand Service Rifles. These are the genuine article. Actual rifles that were made by the U.S. Governement for combat and were either used during WWII, the Korean War, and sometimes in early Vietnam.

Collectors of the M1 can pick one up and tell you who manufactured it, what type of wood the stock is made of, what the date was, condition of its various parts, and where it has been the last 50 years. I met a fellow this weekend who, in the course of the last few years, has ordered seven of these rifles from the CMP. When he was shown, by a fellow shooter, the one that had just arrived in his own mailbox, this guy started to itch, his eyes started to wander, and soon the fever had set in. I won't be suprised when he shows up in two months with number eight. The CMP, after all, only has a limited supply of these (though we're not sure how many), and they will all be gone someday (though we don't know when). Above all, you never know when it comes right down to it, whether those seven M1's you have in the safe are really enough.


Krysta said...

Interesting. Do you know if the CMP is still active? I would be interested in reading more about that program and how it is doing today.

Les M. Blake said...

The CMP is still active, but as of 1996 it is no longer run by the government. It is now run by the Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice & Firearms Safety, Inc. Here is a link to the official website: