America’s history can be told by the battles fought and won, and in detail by the firearms employed to accomplish those victories. From the U.S. Musket Model 1795 to the modern M4A1, the Colonies, then the United States, have always sought to arm their military with the most powerful and accurate fire power.
Few implements of war have as singular a history, however, as the M1 Garand.
The M1 was designed circa 1936 (prototypes commenced in 1919) by French Canadian engineer and designer, St. Jean le Baptiste Cantius Garand (anglicized to John Garand), who worked at the Springfield Armory. The designer fell into the profession he seemed born to do:
Garand, who shortened and changed his first name to John not long after his immigration, worked in a textile mill—in the days before child labor laws—along with his siblings and learned English.
As a lad he became fascinated with firearms after working for a short time in a shooting gallery. At the age of 21 he got a job with Bowne and Sharp, and learned the machinist trade.
Fueled by his fascination of firearms and as a budding machinist, Garand dabbled in gunsmithing and design as a hobby. His passion became his vocation in 1917 when the War Department accepted his design for a light machine gun and hired him into the Bureau of Standards. Two years later Garand transferred to Springfield Armory as a designer.
The .30-06 semi-automatic rifle was designated standard Army issue in ’36, with deliveries commencing in the fall of 1937, and the real world of war advantage was indisputable:
The semi-automatic M1 soon owned World War II battlefields. Axis countries floundered with bolt-action, five-shot rifles, but the M1 not only offered faster firepower but three more rounds in its en bloc clips. Too, shot-to-shot recovery is much quicker with its semi-automatic action and a slight reduction in felt recoil due to its gas operation.
It seems the genius of this rifle was its simplicity:
The rifle is fed from an 8-round en bloc clip—originally designed and patented by John D. Pedersen in 1931.
A catch on the follower arm engages the operating rod which connects to the bolt. The operating rod controls the movement and locking of the bolt. When a full clip is inserted, the bottom of the clip engages the follower arm disengaging it from the operating rod, freeing it to move into battery under spring tension.
As the bolt moves forward, it strips a round from the clip and slides it into the chamber via a feed ramp. Just before the round is fully seated, a locking lug on the bolt engages a cam on the operating rod that rotates the bolt clockwise from the rear into a recess on the operating rod, thus locking the bolt and preventing any rearward movement.
Simultaneously, the extractor snaps over the rim of the cartridge, and the ejector plunger on the face of the bolt is pushed flush with the bolt face, compressing the ejector spring. When the bolt was retracted, an internal hammer engages a pair of hooks connected to the trigger lug. As the bolt rotates into battery, the firing pin also rotates out of a notch that prevents forward movement, thus freeing it to move forward when struck. When the trigger is pulled, the sear disengages from the trigger lug, allowing the hooks on the hammer to be freed, and the hammer drives the firing pin forward through the bolt to strike the primer.
The bullet is driven down the barrel; just prior to the muzzle is a port that taps some of the propulsion gases, activating a piston connected to the operating rod. As the rod is driven rearward, the bolt lug rides along about 5/16″ before engaging a cam that rotates it out of the locked position and into its free position allowing the operating rod to move the bolt rearward, completing the cycle.
The 5/16″ of travel allows the bullet to leave the muzzle and the pressure to decay to a safe level before unlocking the bolt. When the last round is ejected from the rifle, a latch on the operating rod frees the en bloc clip, and an ejection spring throws the empty clip from the top of the receiver—the infamous “clink” that signaled an empty rifle.
Watch this vintage video of “John” Garand talking American service rifles:
Production of the M1 Garand during World War II was phenomenal:
The M1 Garand was made in large numbers during World War II; approximately 5.4 million were made. They were used by every branch of the United States military. By all accounts the M1 rifle served with distinction.
No less than General George Patton declared the M1 was “the greatest implement of battle ever devised.”
The United States was the only country to equip its troops with an auto-loading rifle as the standard infantry weapon of WWII. It gave our troops a tremendous advantage in firepower.
And post WWII production:
After the war, many M1 Garand rifles were mothballed and put into storage. Others were loaned to allies as the Cold War with The Soviet Union heated up. When North Korea attacked South Korea in 1950, M1 rifle production was resumed.
Although the primary source remained Springfield Armory, two new manufacturers were contracted: International Harvester Corporation and Harrington & Richardson Arms. Almost 1,500,000 new M1’s were produced in the 1952 – 1957 period. It was the main United Nations infantry weapon of the Korean War.
In fact, my dad was issued and trained with an M1 Garand during his service in the Army in the early 1960’s, and to this day, though he has other rifles, would love to have an M1.
Garand Collectors notes of its phase out and reputation:
Although the M1 Garand was officially obsolete from that time [with the introduction of the select fire M14 in 1957] forward, it remained in service around the world through the Viet Nam era. It was and is truly an amazing rifle, and its inventor John C. Garand ranks among the very best of patriots. A 2008 article in NRA’s American Rifleman magazine rated the M1 Garand the #1 infantry rifle of all time.
During Obama’s tenure, sale and import of M1 Garands from overseas allies was repeatedly blocked. An Obama State Department spokesperson attempted to explain the reasoning behind the interdiction in 2012:
…the administration’s decision was based on concerns that the guns could fall into the wrong hands.
“The transfer of such a large number of weapons — 87,310 M1 Garands and 770,160 M1 Carbines — could potentially be exploited by individuals seeking firearms for illicit purposes”
But now, as of January 2018, “per the newly completed and signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the U.S. Army and the Civilian Marksmanship Program,” 99,000 M1 Garands have been repatriated and made available for sale.
The shipments were noted at Guns.com:
The Civilian Marksmanship Program has recently received truckloads of vintage M1 Garand rifles long ago loaned to U.S. allies overseas and is preparing to inventory M1911 pistols as well.
Gina Johnson, CMP’s general manager, told Guns.com via email Tuesday the federally-chartered non-profit corporation has been moving the repatriated 30.06-caliber rifles into their warehouses in recent days.
“We have roughly 86,000 rifles from the Philippines and roughly 13,000 rifles from Turkey in our possession,” said Johnson.
The M1s are available from CMP (a federally-chartered non-profit corporation) and can be found on their M1 Garand page.
The bulwark of these storied rifles “have been arsenal rebuilt, refinished, rebarreled or repaired at least once and often several times. Most will show signs of service (often considerable) and replacement of various parts.”
But for any fortunate to acquire one (or more) ROBAR can help.
M1 GARAND PACKAGES – Built on customer supplied rifles. Post Korea War only. If your Garand is from WWII or the Korean war we WILL NOT refinish it and destroy American history!
Bring your American Classic back to life with these custom packages for the M1 Garand.
There are a number of custom packages available to “bring this American Classic back to life,” including metal refinishes, new walnut stocks, trigger clean-up, installation of Ultimak Scout Mount, and more.
Almost a century ago, in 1919, French Canadian immigrant John Garand began working on prototypes, which, after nearly two decades of re-design and testing, saw fruition in”the greatest implement of battle ever devised” — the .30-06 semi-automatic M1 Garand.
Now thousands of this classic rifle, with its hard fought and well-deserved place in American history, are at long last home.