Saturday, January 21, 2012

The M1 Garand rifle: "The greatest battle implement ever devised."

.

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.





16 comments:

Old NFO said...

Yep, we need to get together and shoot one day, I've got two I'll bring up.

Comrade Misfit said...

One quibble: The Garand was designed in the `20s, then it was improved as testing was done. It became the standard rifle in 1936, though Depression-level spending meant that the Springfield was in front-line service for many years afterwards. The Army didn't anticipate a war in `36; the initial plan to retire the Springfield had that rifle continuing in service in the Guard until the 1960s.

If you plan to shoot commercial-grade ammo, especially with heavier bullets, you need to buy an adjustable gas port. They're cheap enough and they will reduce the chances of bending the operating rod. I've known a fair number of shooters who use them even with milspec rounds.

Borepatch said...

If I can presume to offer a suggestion for a name, your rifle needs one ancient with history and yet capturing the spirit you feel when you wield this magnificent weapon.

Charlemagne's sword was named "Joyeuse". That might be a fit.

Oh, and the name isn't French. It's Frankish. ;-)

Earl said...

Name a rifle? I like Love of Liberty, but then it does add a weight beyond the fun of shooting it well. I am surprised it took you so long, but you will wonder why you have the others around at some point. I am still learning, but am very happy with mine.

Murphy's Law said...

Welcome to the Garand community. It was my first centerfire rifle and I still consider it to be one of the best tools for the job today.Poodle-shooter .223 rifles are ok, but when you really want something shot, the .30 does it better. :-)

Andrew said...

My M1s are probably my favorite 2 rifles in my safe. They're also the reason I started to reload.

drjim said...

Congrats!
From all that I've read, and the people I've met, they truly are fine rifles.

I hope to get one through the CMP in the next few months now that I've joined the RWVA and will be attending an Appleseed shoot.
I think I'll name mine "Clint", as in "Get offa my lawn".

ASM826 said...

Gytha. It means "gift" in Old English. It is used as a girl's name.

Anonymous said...

Sir, I too have yearned for being the owner of one of those fine rifles and I hope before I pass I'am an owner of one as I have wnated one since I had owned a British 303 which imo is as formidable as the Mighty Garand. Both unique and grand.

Windy Wilson said...

Glad I wasn't the only one who feels that way about his Garand. I got mine from CMP, a Greek return. It must have gone there and not even taken an evening off to tour Athens, it was that nice.
Mine is, "The Duke"; it was almost "Sergeant Stryker", but that was kind of long. Another name might be one of the many MoH winners whose M1 saved his life. Less theatrical, but that's the name it wanted.

Mark said...

My June 1943 manufactured Garand (purchased from CMP back in 2000) is "Old Reliable" in honor of my service with the 1st Armored Division before, during, and after Desert Storm. I wouldn't trade or sell it for anything.

It sounds like you've got a winner!

Anonymous said...

I knew.a guy who engraved his custom 1911's slide with " Moljinr", the name of Thor's hammer.....

Windy Wilson said...

Gytha will be a good name if I get an Enfield. Others I have now are General Guisan, Little Sure Shot, and Belaya Smert. Simo Hayha was too hard to say.

Colorado Pete said...

Carteach, nice site.
Glad to see you have realized your dream. The M1 is an excellent position shooting rifle, and a favorite of my own. Be sure to shoot proper ammo (correct "medium speed" powder burn rate and bullets under 180 grains).

Names...? Nothing too dainty, this thing is a thunderbolt...

Tackleberry said...

I have a wonderful 1943 S.A. M-1 Garand, that was rebarreled in 2/1952, and this shoots like a brand new rifle. I have wanted an M-1 since I was a child watching ww2 movie's & then the tv show "combat". I was talking to a co-worker 2.5 years ago, & we got talking about the M-1, & he said he had one that he wanted to sell, I bought two days later when he brought it to my house!!! I got the rifle, 2 full cans of Greek ammo, & 4 box's of Hornady match ammo, all for $800.00!!!!! I got a great deal, & the rifle I always wanted. You should see the smile on the old timers face's when I let them shoot it, very, very happy.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't too fond of my M-1 Garand. Never great accuracy. I got an unissued #4 Mk2 Brit .303 and the first three shots out of the barrel (without touching the sights) had two bullseyes and a near miss at 100 yards. NEVER shot a group like that out of the M-1, and the M-1 was sold with a new barrel. Sold the .303 Brit the other day for $800 with 4 boxes of ammo. My current military rifle is an FAL that shoots sub-MOA groups with Ballistic Tip handloads. It bang-flops deer and has an A.R.M.S. slide-in scope mount that returns to zero. A more pleasant gun to shoot than the M-1 Garand or .303 Brit. 200 rounds of ammo in an afternoon of practice, some of it rapid fire, and not one bit of shoulder soreness. Try that with a .303 Brit. The FAL cleans from the chamber end like a rifle should and has a chrome lineed barrel and chamber that practivcally shoots itself clean. An FAL in Texas has never been cleaned and has fired 14,000 rounds without malfunction. Sorry, WWII battle rifle fans, the newer FN-FAL really is a MUCH better rifle.