Auction begins for brokers on sale of 84,417 M1 rifles
By Lee Tae-hoon
The Ministry of National Defense has started an online auction for 84,417 M1 Garand rifles used in the 1950-1953 Korean War, ministry officials said Tuesday.
The ministry is trying to find a pair of Korean and American brokers for the deal that will market the old rifles, bought by the ministry at the end of the war, to U.S. veterans. Each rifle can fetch around $500, pushing the total price to more than $40 million.
The ministry plans to have the proceeds directly go to Daewoo Precision to pay for K-2 rifles, each of which is priced at $727.
“All of them are expected to be shipped to the United States for sale,” a ministry official said.
Onbid.go.kr, the state-run Internet auction site, says that the bidding is open until the end of the month.
The MND will hold an explanation session for potential bidders on April 23 at the Army’s 101st Supply Unit in Yeoncheon, Gyeonggi Province.
“Though the United States has agreed to allow the importation of the M1 Garand rifles from Seoul, there is a slight possibility that it may reverse its earlier decision if there is a change in gun-control laws or a changed political situation,” an official said.
Robert Kyle, a reporter at the U.S. Antique Week newspaper, estimated that M1 rifles will be offered for around $500 but more for those in better condition.
“At this point no one knows how they look, how well they were cared for while in storage, or if they have damage.” He said. “Also, it is usually required that importers stamp their name on the gun barrels to show the gun was imported. Collectors don't like these markings. I don't know if the M1 rifles will be stamped.”
Many American gun enthusiasts, including Christopher E. Hill, an editor at Survival And Prosperity, have responded positively after The Korea Times reported on Jan. 19 about the Barack Obama administration’s reversal of its 2010 decision to block the import of the wartime rifles.
“First and foremost, it's understood that revenue generated by the sale of these M1 Garand rifles will allow Korea to acquire more modern, locally-made Daewoo Precision Industries K2 assault rifles,” he said. “Upgrading Korea's defense capabilities in light of recent developments in the region might not be such a bad idea.”
He also noted that the M1 rifle has tremendous historical value in the United States as it not only represents American ingenuity in that it outclassed many of its adversaries when it first entered service, but it also symbolized America's coming of age on the world stage.
The M1 was used by U.S. troops in World War II, the Korean War and in the early days of the Vietnamese conflict.
According to the website of the Civilian Marksmanship Program, “The popularity of the M1 Garand continues to grow as hundreds of new Garand ‘Fun’ Matches are being held all over the USA each year. In the past ten years, the M1 Garand, regardless of condition, has become a very hot collectors’ item and a sound financial investment.”