Thus spoke George Patton Jr.
I'll admit, I like old things, and I like learning history. I especially like old firearms, and most especially of all, I like old military arms. So many were present at pivotal times in human history, and even the most jaded imagination can almost hear the human voices speaking from beyond time when one holds the military rifle of a previous generation.
That is why, when I opened the rifle case which appeared in my home this Christmas, I was stunned; left almost speechless. What lay before me was a pristine M1 Garand rifle. Manufactured in the mid 1950's by Harrington and Richardson, and kept intact for longer than I've been alive, the rifle was an answer to a life long desire.
I now own a Garand. Those words have a meaning to me I can't describe. Made in the millions, seeing the United States through several wars, and now coveted and loved by myriad shooters, the M1 Garand was a game changer in the way the world armed it's soldiers.
The United States changed the way battle was waged over 200 years ago. Where time honored tradition called for lining up soldiers like automatons, and marching them en-masse towards the enemy.... who was doing the exact same thing. Whether it was Roman swords and shields, Swiss Pikemen, or British Redcoats with their muskets and bayonets.... the play book stayed roughly the same. The United States took a different attitude, where each soldier was expected to display some intelligence, and when needed wage war on a more individual basis. Small unit tactics became the norm, with soldiers becoming rifleman who actually aimed at specific targets rather than volleying 200 musket balls at a time in the general direction of the enemy.
Fast forward many generations to the late 1930's, and we find John Garand, an employee of a US arsenal, designing a gas operated semi automatic rifle. While certainly not the first automatic feeding rifle designed, it was arguably the first one built to equip an entire army with. The US model holds each soldier as being a rifleman, with the power to choose and dispatch individual targets, and thus having the ability to make good use of the substantial increase in firepower the M1 rifle offered. While other nations were still arming their soldiers with slower bolt action rifles, the United states moved towards each individual soldier being a formidable force on the battlefield. The M1 Garand played a big part in that. A trained Garand rifleman could sustain twice the rate of aimed fire as a bolt action armed soldier. This ability was magnified by a training system that pushed each soldier hard to master the rifle all the way across it's useful range.
This poor writer is not equipped to delve into the details and history of the M1 rifle. Thankfully, better people have taken up that task, and many fine works are out there. Bruce Canfield's book graces my shelf, and was valuable as a resource in researching my own Garand. There is also a Garand collectors association which promotes and supports owners of this fine historical weapon. It should be noted that membership in the Garand collectors association meets the requirements to register and purchase from the CMP.
What can I report about my new Garand, and the joys of owning it? The words are hard to find... but after a lifetime of wishing I owned my own M1, I can say this... It's everything I ever thought it would be, and far more.
Holding the rifle is like holding history in your own hands. This alone makes it worthwhile, even if it's never to be fire again. Joyfully, that is not the case, and this rifle has... and will... be shot. On that you have the promise of Carteach.
My first time shooting it was a military rifle match at our local club. Heeding the advice of several 'old farts' (knowledgeable experts) at the shoot, I preset the rear sight to a certain point. Given only four rounds to adjust sights before scoring began, I managed to shoot a 364/500 1x over the course of the match. This is not my best, but it's above average for me, and considering it's the first time every firing this rifle, or any Garand for that matter, 'Ol Carteach is mightily pleased. I suspect it's the quality of the rifle design and manufacture that has more to do with the decent score than my own skill. I also suspect this rifle will challenge me to be a better shooter... and I am going to love every minute of it.
Many gun owners will know of what I say next; this rifle needs a name. For me, it's one of those 'grail' firearms that mark a milestone in life. That calls for a name.
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