The CMP Expert Grade M1 Garand: Initial Review
Earlier this summer when the ever popular CMP Service Grade M1 Garand (what many consider to be the platonic ideal of what the CMP has to offer) went out of stock, many began hurrying to place orders for the next step down, the Field Grade. When the Field Grades went the way of the Service Grades at the beginning of November, others began to wonder if the CMP’s supply was beginning to run thin. While I tend to be an optimist, having followed the CMP for the better part of 8 years, it’s not the topic I want to talk about today. While much ado was made regarding the loss of the Field Grades, the CMP quietly listed a new offering that hasn’t ever been seen before on their site, the Expert Grade.
I assume anyone who’s bothered to open this article and read it likely knows about the CMP and how it works already, but just for the sake of inclusion, here’s a very brief primer:
The Civilian Marksmanship Program (earlier known as the DCM, Office of the Director of Civilian Marksmanship) is a federally funded organization founded in 1903 to promote military marksmanship among civilians and continues organizing competition shoots to this day with an emphasis on the youth. After WWII, the CMP sold off surplus government Springfield, Krag, and 1917 Enfield rifles for dirt cheap to civilians. Back in those days, the rifles were commonly sporterized or salvaged for the actions to make custom precision rifles due to how cheap they were compared to a commercial Remington 700 or Winchester Model 70.
Shortly afterwards in the 1950’s, as issued service grade Garands as well as National Match modified Garands started becoming available from the DCM and this rifle has stayed the bread and butter of their successor’s (The CMP) sales to this day. Since the Garand is the most modern US military rifle that can be surplused out in their entire as-issued state (M14s, even ones that were converted from select fire to semi auto only, are still considered machine guns to the ATF), these have become popular for historical collectables, competition rifles, or simply fun guns to get at a decent price.
The prices have of course increased over the years but ever since I discovered the CMP back around 2012-2013 the prices have stayed mostly the same, with the entry level Field Grades going for $650, the flagship Service Grades going for $750, and Correct Grade or other more collectable options going for over $1000 (breakdown of CMP grading criteria here: https://thecmp.org/sales-and-service/m1-garand/ ).
The Grade that hooked me first when I actually went through the relatively intensive process to buy direct (see requirements on the CMP site here: https://thecmp.org/cmp_sales/eligibility-requirements/ ) was the Special Grade. These Garands had new Criterion barrels, a new walnut stock, and a reparkerized USGI receiver with all other major parts reparked USGI as well. Generally these were around $1000-1200 (mine I think was $1050 back in 2015). These were offered in 30-06 or .308 and appealed to me as it was essentially buying the closest thing on the market to a brand new production M1 Garand that was all mine. I would be able to account for and track every round that went through the barrel.
The Expert Grade
I recently found myself in the market for a semi auto battle rifle after the sale of a problem child FAL left me with a couple thousand rounds of M80 ball. After looking at the usual suspects (PTR91 and M14. AR10 was not the niche I was looking for), I found that buying a CMP Field Grade, a Criterion .308 barrel direct from CMP, and the gunsmith labor to rebarrel it would put me right under a thousand dollars for an accurate, fun to shoot, milsurp battle rifle that unlike a precision AR10 build has (please know I am slightly ashamed to actually type this) soul.
I submitted my order to the CMP in late August and then saw in early November the news about the Fields being sold out and the Experts now being available. Considering the Expert Grade .308 was pretty much exactly what I was wanting to do for basically the same price but considerably less wait time, I called into the CMP and got my order switched from a Field to an Expert and now (exactly 3 weeks later) it arrived on my front doorstep.
Similar to the Special Grade I purchased all those years ago, the Expert Grade is advertised by the CMP as a USGI receiver (NOT reparkerized), with a new commercial made barrel (not specified as Criterion) and stock set (not specified as walnut). Another way I’ve seen it put is it’s a “Service Grade Special” meaning good to very good condition USGI parts with a new barrel and stock set.
I believe that description is accurate based on what I received. After opening the box, I immediately checked the receiver which showed a Springfield Armory 6 digit wartime serial number that while clearly not refinished, was still in pretty decent shape. Most of the major parts I could find with MFG markings (trigger assy, bolt, op rod, etc.) were Springfield made parts, but I’m not well versed enough in Garand batch numbers to know if they were all in the same year (I suspect they weren’t).
The barrel I can confirm is Criterion like my old Special (date code showed a manufacture date of October 2015) and the stock is walnut and not a hackberry or other low quality wood as some feared.
What you get: CMP hard case with the rifle inside, purchase receipt, CMP shipping checklist, a 2 hour CMP range pass, certificate of authenticity, and a toe tag with the following info on it: muzzle and throat readings, serial, inspection date. Also included was a chamber flag, 1x en bloc clip, and a CMP Garand user manual.
Its important to note that the new stocks (which I believe are made by Dupage Trading Co.) that ship on Expert Grades have little to no finish on them whatsoever. This gives the wood a very dry feel on your hands that is begging for a tung or boiled linseed oil finish. It smells damn good though, for what that’s worth.
Since from what I can see online it looks like I’m one of the first people to receive one of these Expert Grades. I wanted to go ahead and keep this review pretty surface level so people interested in these and scouting online for information on them can read this and see exactly what an example of this grade will look like. I also hope it will answer some of the frequently asked questions I’ve seen about them online (what barrel make, what stock material, finish condition of the receiver and other major parts, what comes in the box, etc).
I plan on doing a more in-depth review on this rifle after I get some rounds downrange and hopefully some oil rubbed into the stock. I especially want to focus on it as a .308 Garand specifically as I feel they are an underappreciated offering in the CMP catalog. You don’t hear much about them as most people are interested in Garands as collectables and you don’t see them enjoy the same kind of enthusiasm as other Cold War battle rifles like the FAL, M14, and G3. I greatly enjoyed my 30-06 Special Grade when I had it, but ultimately gave it up due to cost of ammo and lack of availability once my first tin of Greek HXP ran dry. I have great expectations for this Garand not only in ammo cost and felt recoil, but also in overall fun factor.
A reader made an observation that “Service Grade Specials” were in fact an actual grade of CMP rifle from the past and my using the term to describe these Expert Grades loosely under that moniker could cause confusion. In an attempt to scale back on that, I wanted to provide below a breakdown of four very similar grades of CMP rifle that are close to each other but have differences: The “normal” Special Grade, the Expert Grade, the old Service Grade Special, and another grade currently being offered by the CMP currently, the Rack Grade Special. Below I will include their descriptions as written by the CMP as well as a condensed summary that I made for each.
Special Grade (Normal)
CMP description: This is a completely refurbished rifle consisting of an original M1 Garand Springfield or HRA 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. Receiver may have pitting.
Summary: New barrel, new stock, sling. Reparked receiver, most other parts either reparked or new manufacture. Possible pitting.
Special Grade (Rack)
CMP description: This is a partially refurbished rifle with a refinished M1 receiver, new production criterion barrel, new production American Walnut stock and handguards, and new web sling. Receiver is the only part of the rifle that has been refinished. Remainder of the other parts have NOT been refinished. Receiver will have heavy pitting above the wood line.
Summary: New barrel, new stock, sling. Reparked receiver, all other parts new rack-field grade and not refinished. Almost certainly heavy pitting above and below wood line.
Special Grade (Service)
CMP description: HRA/SA collector grade metal in excellent almost new condition. Walnut stocks and handguards and associated hardware are new manufacture. NOT original HRA manufacture.
Additional CMP description: Over the past few years we have accumulated approximately 200 HRA M1 Garands that were in excellent condition and 100% correct, but lacked wood. Since we have no hope of ever receiving this many correct or collector grade stocks and handguards, we have decided to install the newly manufactured CMP walnut stock sets and sell this batch under a unique item number.
Summary: Correct grade (all matching numbers, original finish, like new) Garand imported without stock. Put in new CMP stock with repro hardware. No pitting, no refinish.
CMP description: Bore condition will be “as new”, and barrels will gauge “as new”. The balance of parts on EXPERT Grade Rifles will match all service grade criteria, showing less wear and a better cosmetic appearance than a Field or Rack Grade. Cosmetic condition will be good to very good. Rifle finish may vary, exhibiting normal wear and/or color variation among the metal parts. May have some visible pitting, frosting, or other minor cosmetic deformity on the metal parts.
Summary: New barrel, new stock, no sling. Receiver not refinished, metal parts not refinished but in Service grade (good) condition. Likely minor pitting.
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