Quite possibly the best weapon to come out of WWII!
Built like a Sherman tank, accurate to 1,000 yards and affordably priced on the surplus market, the battle-worn M1 Garand might be the most overlooked survival gun to be had.
What makes the M1 Garand the “greatest battle implement ever devised”?
- The M1 Garand was the first semi-auto rifle issued to American military personnel.
- The rifle is a long-stroke gas-piston-operated firearm, similar to the AK-47.
- The M1 Garand’s operating handle doubles as a forward assist.
- The M1 is top loaded, fed with an eight-round clip of .30-06 Sprg. ammunition.
- Its magazine can be topped off; however, this is not recommended.
- The M1 weighs between 9.5 and 10 pounds, depending on the wood used for the stock.
Genuine U.S. Government surplus M1 Garands are still available through programs such as the Civilian Marksmanship program.
There are semi-automatic rifles that do not have a pistol grip, collapsible stock or a detachable magazine, and the granddaddy of them all is the World War II-era M1 Garand.
The M1 Garand was the first semi-auto issued to American fighting men when our enemies and allies were still carrying bolt-action rifles little different from those of World War I. This revolutionary design was adopted by the U.S. Military in 1936 after more than a decade of development and even then saw some key changes before ending up as the rifle carried to victory in WWII and Korea.
In fact, the M1 Garand was so successful that it continued to see use in Vietnam and with reserve troops into the early 1970s, although it had been officially replaced in 1957 from front line service. Even then, the Garand was still in use with the militaries of a dozen friendly nations that we equipped, including the Greek Army well into the 1980s.
Designed by Canadian-born John C. Garand, a long-time Springfield Armory engineer, the rifle that bears his name is a long stroke, gas piston-operated, eight-shot clip-fed semi-automatic rifle chambered in the same .30-06 cartridge as its predecessors, the 1903 Springfield and the M1917 Enfield.
The long-stroke piston on the M1 is like that found on the AK-47 and constitutes a long steel operating rod that is one piece with the charging handle and joins the rotating bolt, which features two locking lugs on its face.
When firing, the operating rod, handle, and unlocked bolt move back as one unit, improving the rifle’s reliability in field conditions but also negatively affect precision accuracy. In addition, the bolt handle can serve as a forward assist to properly seat a round. Nevertheless, the M1 was considered very accurate and was used in the sniper role with scoped variants as well as in modern competition.
It is possible that Mr. Garand may have come up with different features on his rifle if left to his own devices, but the terms that the military contract called for set the stage. The most off-putting feature to our modern eyes is undoubtedly the clip mechanism, which was demanded instead of a removable magazine.
Although many people use the terms interchangeably, a clip and a magazine are not at all the same. A magazine holds the ammunition to feed into the gun; a clip holds the ammunition to be loaded into the magazine.
The M1 has a fixed internal magazine, which is fed from the top by a spring metal clip holding eight rounds. Without the clip, the M1 becomes a single-shot weapon with the shooter only being able to load one round at a time.
The eight rounds are staggered in the clip, and there is no top or bottom, so it doesn’t matter on which side the top round is located (which is handy for a battle rifle). On the last round fired, the clip automatically ejects, and the bolt locks to the rear.
Retracting the bolt and depressing the clip latch located on the left side of the receiver manually ejects a full or partially full clip. Magazines can be topped off, but this is not easy or recommended, and it is far better to eject a partially expended clip and replace it with a fresh one. Both 2- and 5-round clips are commercially available.
Operating the M1 is simple, but takes a bit of practice at first. Once the bolt is locked to the rear, a full clip is inserted through the top of the receiver and pressed down. The bolt then automatically releases to go forward and load the first round. It is best to do this with the thumb of the right hand while using the palm to hold back the bolt handle, otherwise the bolt could slam onto your thumb with some force, causing the infamous “Garand thumb.”
Moreover, the safety catch is somewhat novel and reminds me of those found on SKS rifles. To engage the safety on the M1, depress the metal catch in front of the trigger guard toward the trigger. This moves the steel tab into the trigger guard, partially blocking access to the trigger.
When you are ready to fire, simply place your finger on the trigger and push the safety bar…