The Civilian Marksmanship Program

The Civilian Marksmanship Program has been promoting marksmanship through firearms training, safety, competitions and youth programs for over 100 years.

The Civilian Marksmanship Program

For those seeking firearms training and the challenge of competition, there are multiple groups out there. Most, however don’t think about the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), a federally chartered organization for firearms training, competition and safety. 

The stated mission of the Civilian Marksmanship Program is to promote marksmanship through firearms training, safety, competitions, and youth programs.

Established in 1903, the CMP has a rich history and continues to operate today, providing opportunities for civilians and military personnel to learn and excel in the sport of shooting.

The CMP was created by the U.S. Army, which recognized the need for civilian marksmanship and established the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice (NBPRP) and the National Matches, which we’ll get to later. The goal was to improve the marksmanship skills of American citizens in the event that they were needed to serve during times of war. 

During the first three decades of its existence, the Congress increased the scope of the program through a series of legislative actions, which authorized: a Director of Civilian Marksmanship, an affiliated club system, rifle competitions, annual National Matches that would include the National Rifle Association (NRA), and the sale of weapons to affiliated club members.

By the early 1990s, the Army took a look at the program it was running and didn’t feel it was getting much bang for its buck. Although the budget was a modest $5 million per year at its peak, the service chose to disentangle itself from day-to-day operations of the group. 

The CMP as we know it today was established in 1996 as a federally chartered 501(c)(3) non-profit group. The law which created the Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice and Firearms Safety, Inc. (CPRPFS, the formal legal name of the CMP) mandates three key functions for the corporation:

  1. To instruct citizens of the United States in marksmanship.
  2. To promote practice and safety in the use of firearms.
  3. To conduct competitions in the use of firearms and to award trophies, prizes, badges and other insignia to competitors.

The program is governed by a board of directors consisting of representatives from the U.S. Army, the NRA, and other shooting organizations.

CMP operates primarily through affiliated clubs, but it also owns facilities in Alabama and Ohio. The most significant is the CMP Talladega Marksmanship Park located in Talladega, Alabama. It offers over 500 acres with a wide range of amenities, including rifle and pistol ranges, shotgun fields, and a recently added electronic target system.

Another prominent CMP facility is the CMP Marksmanship Center in Anniston, Alabama, with indoor and outdoor shooting ranges, classrooms and a retail store. The indoor range provides a controlled environment for year-round marksmanship training and competitions, while the outdoor range offers various distances for rifle and pistol shooting.

The CMP also fields mobile range units that travel to various locations nationwide. These units provide a unique opportunity for individuals who may not have access to a dedicated shooting facility to participate in marksmanship programs.

As far as training goes, CMP remains loyal to its core founding. The organization offers a wide range of educational programs and training courses designed to teach individuals of all ages and skill levels about firearms safety and marksmanship fundamentals.

A key focus of the CMP is its dedication to youth marksmanship. Through its junior shooting programs, the CMP provides training, competitions and scholarships for marksmanship achievements.  The CMP also supports college shooting programs across the country, providing financial assistance and resources to colleges and universities with shooting teams.

The most exciting CMP offering for many is the sale of surplus military firearms to the public. These surplus arms are made available to eligible individuals and generally date from World War One or Two and consist of M1903 Springfield rifles, M1 Carbines, M1 Garand rifles, and even M1911A1 pistols. In some cases, they are weapons which were given to allied nations and have been later returned to the U.S. For example, at one point there were some M1 Garands which were used by the Republic of Korea Army.

Most seek out these firearms for their collectible aspect, seeking a piece of American history. However, the CMP ensures that these firearms are safe and in proper working order before they are sold, so they can definitely be taken to the range. But don’t be surprised if they need some TLC once obtained. While the prices are fantastic, there are currently limits on how many of certain types can be purchased in a year. Additionally, CMP sells non-surplus firearms and air rifles to facilitate marksmanship training. Firearms can be purchased at one of their range locations, or via web ordering.  There are waits for certain types of firearms because they are only released as they become available from the Department of Defense. 

In order to buy one of these surplus firearms, you’ve got to jump through a few hoops.  They are pretty straightforward but require an investment of time toward marksmanship. Generally, you must be a U.S. citizen, a trained member of a CMP-affiliated organization, and have not been convicted of a felony.

In addition to firearm sales, the CMP also organizes and sponsors various marksmanship competitions throughout the year, with the pinnacle being the National Matches, held annually at Camp Perry in Ohio. 

The National Matches at Camp Perry are almost as old as the CMP itself. Since 1907, the National Matches have attracted shooters of all levels, from beginners to Olympic-level competitors. The five-week long event includes various disciplines, such as rifle, pistol, and shotgun shooting.

Although the National Matches attract a wide variety of competitors, there are multiple events, including individual and team competitions, as well as matches specifically designed for juniors, military personnel, and law enforcement officers. The matches are conducted with strict adherence to safety protocols and rules set by the CMP, offering consistency year after year. 

Competitors face challenging courses of fire that test their marksmanship abilities, precision, and speed. The matches often feature long-range shooting, rapid-fire stages, and timed events. 

Everyone who participated in the National Matches comes away with something. Aside from winning various stages within the overarching event, individuals can also earn “leg” points toward the coveted excellence-in-competition (EIC) badge.  Leg points can also be earned at other nationally recognized competitions. For novices, camaraderie is extremely high and there is a great deal of coaching from more experienced shooters. 

Finally, the CMP has also expanded its reach beyond the United States and actively participates in international marksmanship events and supports international exchange programs. The organization has hosted foreign teams and shooters at its competitions, fostering international camaraderie and promoting the sport of shooting on a global scale.

For more information on the Civilian Marksmanship Program and to find an affiliated organization near you, visit


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