The classic. The ‘PING!’. Everything you need to know about the M1 Garand…
To many, the M1 Garand is a historic icon, having enabled US soldiers to out-perform enemies during WWII and subsequent wars. Adaptations and the move to automatic weaponry made the Garand obsolete in warfare, but it is still prized among collectors and enthusiasts, given the rifle’s proven success record and historical value. It has been deemed the number one infantry rifle of all time by the National Rifle Association and for good reason.
The M1 Garand was the first of its kind, having introduced a form of gas charging system that allowed the bolt to automatically reload the next round using the force of the previously spent round. The semi-automatic charging system is a long-stroke piston with a charging handle.
This is the same technology used in many automatic weapons today. During WWII, it was a significant advantage for US soldiers during WWII – especially against enemies on the battlefield who were mostly issued bolt-action rifles limited to 5 rounds.
Trials of the experimental system began in early 1931 and after a series of modifications to strengthen the bolt system and develop an appropriate round, the rifle was approved and commissioned in 1937.
Variations and modifications were rampant post-WWII as the rifle began to be used by other countries as a result of several hundred thousand rifles loaned out to allied forces around the world. Nearly 50 countries employed the use of the M1 Garand after WWII. Some loaned rifles were still used for active duty armories of other nations until the mid-1970s.
Springfield Armory started production at a rate of 10 rifles a day, eventually ramping up to 10 times that by 1939. By 1940, production reached 600 rifles a day to meet the demand of a fully armed US military by 1941. It was produced for 23 years and nearly 5.5 million were made, arming US forces through the Korean War and portions of the Vietnam War.
Weighing a hefty 9.5 lbs. empty, it tended to absorb much of the recoil from the 30-06 rounds. Variations after WWII included the 7.62X51 NATO round, which were received with mixed reviews and lesser performance. The standard .30 caliber round during WWII had superb stopping power, and that round was chosen because of surplus rounds on hand that could be put into service quickly if needed.
The rifle was originally designed to handle a smaller, 7MM round and needed to be modified to accommodate the .30 caliber. However, the larger round put a strain on working components as the bolts tended to crack in early testing. Once resolved, the rifle proved extremely effective on the battlefield and was deemed “the greatest battle implement ever devised” by General George S. Patton.
Overall length is 43.5 inches including a 24-inch barrel with a 1:10 twist, M1905 bayonet receiver, and a 5.5-7.5 lb. trigger pull. It can send 40-50 rounds down range per minute with a muzzle velocity of 2,800 feet per second. The M1 holds 8 rounds, which are top-fed with an en-bloc clip into the magazine. This feature is significantly different than standard magazine reloading in modern semi-automatic rifles.
However, it can also serve as a single-shot rifle by using the charging handle and is still highly regarded as an accurate range weapon. It came standard with adjustable rear sights capable consistent accuracy at up to 1,200 yards.
The front sight is a single vertical bar designed to be fixed to the center of the peep sight. The rear sights allow for windage adjustments and elevation. The left knob has graduations of 200, 400, 600, 800, 1000, and 1,200 yards for range while the left side has the odd yardage ranges 100, 300, 500, etc. Windage adjustments are one minute of angle for each click, which is an inch on target for each 100 yards. The ease of use and accuracy afforded with the adjustable sights made riflemen far more accurate at long distances.
The combination of rapid fire and consistent accuracy made the Garand a deadly force in the hands of US soldiers. Upon completion of the rifle training course, a rifleman was expected to generate a group smaller than a silver dollar at 200 yards with open sights on a 10-inch movable target, or about the size of an adult chest. At 500 yards, the group was expected to be smaller than 3 inches in diameter on a 20-inch bulls-eye. Some marksmanship opportunities still exist today for enthusiasts of the M1 Garand at various levels of competition.
Riflemen generally carried 160 rounds of the 8-round pre-loaded clips, and each round had to be fired before the clip could be ejected. The final round resulted in an audible ping, indicating that the rifle needed to be reloaded. The design allowed soldiers to fire the weapon while marching toward an opponent without the intermittent pause to manually eject and reload another using a typical bolt action. Extraction failures were generally related to extremely dirty components or ammo and resolved in most cases by proper care and cleaning while in the field.
Cleaning kits were supplied in the butt end of the rifle, which included a cleaning rod, brush, combo tool, oiler, brush, and barrel reflector. These tools are located in a small compartment within the buttstock and were designed to remain with the rifle at all times, enabling field cleaning whenever troops had an opportunity to stand down.
Some variations of the standard issue included a “Tanker” version with an 18” barrel and folding buttstock, a few sniper rifle versions, and NATO variations with barrel modifications to incorporate 20 NATO rounds in a detachable magazine. The M1 was superseded by the M14, a fully-automatic version, which was put into service briefly before the development of the M16.
Currently, civilians have access to purchase a select number of refurbished rifles through the Civilian Marksmanship Program website as a result of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the CMP and the US Army in 2018. Original issue price was $85 in the 1940s, or about $1,230 in today’s currency. However, some rare editions fetch auction prices in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Now end the read with some good PING sounds: