Civilian Marksmanship Program:

Army Funded Report Addresses Various Aspects of the Sale of Surplus Firearms

GAO-19-555R: Published: Jun 20, 2019. Publicly Released: Jun 20, 2019.

Additional Materials:


Diana Maurer
(202) 512-9627


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

Since 1996, the Army has transferred over 700,000 surplus firearms to the Civilian Marksmanship Program, a federally chartered corporation that sells those firearms and promotes marksmanship & gun safety.

We reported on this program in February 2019; the Army also did a similar review, carried out by the RAND Corporation.

We separately reviewed RAND's report and found that it addressed all required elements and had some notable differences from our report. For example, while the Army told us there were no unreimbursed costs, RAND found that transferring firearms cost the Army about $300,000 over 5 years. The Army is now reviewing these costs.

The Civilian Marksmanship Program sells surplus M1911 handguns

Guns resting on packing materials

Guns resting on packing materials

Additional Materials:


Diana Maurer
(202) 512-9627


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

What GAO Found

GAO found that the RAND report, An Evaluation of the Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice and Firearms Safety, about matters related to the transfer and subsequent sale of the surplus Army firearms to the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) addressed all five elements required in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018.  

To accomplish this, RAND 

  • assessed how effectively CMP fulfilled its mission, 
  • compared CMP with other nonprofit organizations with similar missions, 
  • evaluated the benefits the Army received from CMP,
  • assessed CMP’s current and prospective funding models if the Army were to stop providing surplus firearms for sale, and
  • identified the costs and potential profits to CMP associated with the transfer of surplus M1911 handguns.

GAO found no significant issues with the methodologies RAND used to evaluate CMP, but identified some inconsistencies in how RAND reported some of the information about CMP. For example, when reporting on CMP’s effectiveness and comparing CMP to similar organizations, RAND at times combined data from CMP and its affiliate clubs and other times reported data from CMP and its affiliated clubs separately. According to RAND officials, the data were reported in the format they were provided to RAND. RAND also did not consistently specify whether calendar year or fiscal year data were used in its analyses, which can result in differences. However, according to RAND officials, steps were taken during their assessment to ensure that data were accurately aligned based on the timeframes used in the RAND report.

The findings of the RAND report on CMP had three notable differences from GAO’s February 2019 report on CMP in areas where both reports had overlapping scopes. However, these differences did not impact RAND’s conclusions: 

(1) RAND identified about $300,000 from fiscal year 2013 through 2017 in unreimbursed costs to the Army for the transfer of surplus firearms, whereas GAO reported in February 2019, that, according to Army officials, there were no unreimbursed costs. In May 2019, Army officials informed us that they were examining the costs RAND identified and that their review would be completed by the end of fiscal year 2019. 

(2) RAND valued what it referred to as CMP’s Core Endowment Fund at about $242 million as of the end of fiscal year 2017, which was significantly higher than GAO’s reported value of $188.6 million. However, unlike the value reported by GAO, RAND’s valuation included CMP’s property and inventory, among other assets, less liabilities. 

(3) RAND identified about $240,000 more in startup costs for CMP’s program to refurbish and sell surplus M1911 handguns than GAO reported in February 2019.  GAO determined that the higher amount reported by RAND was due to the inclusion of costs into 2018 not included in the scope of the GAO report in addition to costs that were not described in CMP’s internal financial documents we reviewed or in our discussions with CMP officials. 

Why GAO Did This Study

Since 1996, the Army has transferred more than 700,000 surplus rifles and handguns to CMP. CMP is authorized to sell certain types of surplus Army firearms to U.S. citizens, including M1 .30 caliber rifles and more recently M1911 .45 caliber handguns.  CMP is a federally chartered, nonprofit corporation that, among other things, instructs U.S. citizens in marksmanship; promotes practice and safety in the use of firearms; and sells surplus Army firearms, ammunition, repair parts, and other supplies.  

The NDAA for Fiscal Year 2018 required the Army during fiscal years 2018 and 2019 to transfer surplus M1911 handguns to CMP, including not fewer than 8,000 in fiscal year 2018 and not more than 10,000 in any fiscal year.  The Act included a provision for GAO to review certain matters related to CMP, while also requiring the Army to conduct a parallel evaluation of CMP using a federally funded research and development center.  The Army included the evaluation as part of a task order under an existing contract with the RAND Corporation. GAO issued its report on February 14, 2019 and RAND issued its report on January 23, 2019.

The NDAA for Fiscal Year 2018 also required GAO to review the RAND report. GAO (1) assessed whether the RAND report addressed the five elements specified in the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2018 and identified any limitations with RAND’s methodologies for addressing the elements, and (2) explained any notable differences between the RAND report’s findings and GAO’s February 2019 report. 

GAO reviewed the RAND report, An Evaluation of the Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice and Firearms Safety, to determine whether the report addressed each of the five elements specified in the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2018 and to identify any methodological concerns that would potentially affect RAND’s conclusions. In addition, GAO compared RAND’s assessment of the benefits and costs of the CMP to the Army against the elements of an economic analysis as defined in GAO’s Assessment Methodology for Economic Analysis. GAO also identified any notable differences between the RAND report and GAO’s February 2019 report, and met with officials from the Army, RAND, the Defense Logistics Agency, and CMP to discuss RAND’s methodologies and results.

For more information, contact Diana Maurer at (202) 512-9627 or

Jul 30, 2020

Jul 27, 2020

Jul 23, 2020

Jul 22, 2020

Jul 20, 2020

Jul 16, 2020

Jun 25, 2020

Jun 23, 2020

Jun 18, 2020

Looking for more? Browse all our products here