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M1 Garand

Semi-automatic rifle

M1 Garand

The M1 Garand is arguably the most successful self-loading rifle ever issued

 
 
Country of origin United States
Entered service 1937
Caliber .30-06 Springfield (7.62x63 mm)
Weight (unloaded) 4.31 kg
Weight (loaded) 5.1 kg
Length 1 100 mm
Barrel length 610 mm
Muzzle velocity 853 m/s
Practical rate of fire 14 - 24 rpm
Magazine capacity 8 rounds
Sighting range 1 097 m
Range of effective fire 457 m

 

   The Springfield M1 Garand is a self-loading rifle first fielded by the US military in the 1930s, and passed-on to many other nations. It is one of the most iconic US firearms of World War 2 and the early Cold War, and it was produced in vast numbers. Although it was certainly not the first self-loading service rifle ever fielded, there is little doubt that the M1 Garand was the weapon most responsible for validating that concept in operational service. General George S. Patton famously stated that "In my opinion, the M1 Garand is the greatest battle implement ever devised".

   Historically, the US armed forces have always had a rather grim track record in service rifle procurement. The US Army's tirade against the introduction of repeating rifles during the American Civil War, failure to arm all of its soldiers with lever-action rifles during most of the latter half of the 19th century, the introduction of the gimmicky and mediocre Krag-Jorgenson rifle in the late 19th century, and the failure to issue the M1903 rifle en masse by the time World War 2 started (to say nothing of the First World War, where US troops went "over there" armed with British-designed P14 rifles instead) are all typical examples. And while the M1 Garand eventually became a satisfactory rifle, its development did little to resolve these bad procurement habits, and it almost arrived too late for World War 2.

   Development of what became the M1 Garand began in the 1920s, following several of US Army evaluations of many rifles designed by renowned firearms engineer John C. Garand, and numerous competing models made by Berthier, Hatcher-Bang, Thompson, and Pedersen. The finalists were the M1924 Garand, and the Peterson T1, which were also each offered in two calibers; the .30-06 Springfield (7.62x63 mm) round already used by the US armed forces, and the new .276 Pederson (7x51 mm). Both rifles performed well in .276, but the .30-06 Pederson T1 was found to be sub-par, and the .30-06 M1924 Garand was disqualified. The best performing rifle was the M1924 Garand in .276 (designated T1E1), and it was declared the winner --- however, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Douglas MacArthur intervened directly, and forbade the acquisition of the .276 Pederson round, on grounds that the US Army still had a large stockpile of .30-06 ammunition.

   The .276 M1924 had to be modified back into .30-06, in a process that wasn't completed until 1933, and was re-designated as the T1E2. However, numerous problems occurred with the M1924 during field testing in 1934, forcing John Garand to go back to the drawing board again. The corrections finally paid-off, and the Army finally cleared the M1924 for service on November 7th 1935, and formally type-classified it as the M1 Garand on January 9th 1936. Though while the development of the M1 Garand was finally complete, introducing it into production soon proved problematic, and several components had to be modified for assembly line construction. Production began at a rate of only 10 rifles per-day in 1937, though the first deliveries occurred in September of that year, with production increasing to 100/day by 1939. Further changes were implemented in 1940, not only to improve the weapon, but also to further increase the production rate. Despite these efforts, many rifles had to be recalled as defects not identified in testing began to surface in operational use; notably, problems with the "gas trap" grenade-launching system. Though by the end of 1941, M1 Garand production exceeded 600 rifles/day, and the US Army had almost fully replaced their preceding rifles.

   The M1 Garand's appearance is distinguished by straight-through wooden furniture that also wraps around the top of the weapon between the action and the middle barrel bracket (a sign of the times the weapon was developed in), a distinctive sloped rear handguard in front of the magazine, a straight and narrow handguard in front of the rear handguard, and sights that are forked and rounded when seen from the side. The baseplate of the magazine is visible from the side, but does not protrude below the weapon. The charging handle is short, flat, square-shaped, and located on the right side of the action. The furniture does not wrap entirely around the forward receiver section, part of which is exposed on the side of the weapon. There are three barrel brackets each with a separate sling swivel on the forward and rear bracket, an additional sling swivel on the bottom of the buttstock toward the rear, and the front sight is mounted atop the forward barrel bracket. A bayonet stud protrudes forward from the front handguard to the sight bracket.

   The metallic portions of the weapon are made entirely of steel. The receiver is made from drop-forged steel, as is most of the barrel assembly, but the gas tube is made of stainless steel. Several different types of wood were used for the M1 Garand's furniture, though the two most commonly used were Birch and Walnut. The rifling is a conventional groove-and-land type, with a right-hand twist of 1-in-10 inch (254 mm). Early model rifles have four grooves, while late models have only two grooves. The buttstock is hollow and contains a cleaning kit, which is accessible via a hinged, spring-loaded door on the buttplate.

   While most of the M1 Garand's metallic components are parkerized with a dark finish, this was impossible to apply to the gas tube, which was made of stainless steel. The gas tube was thus usually stove-blackened or painted to reduce its reflectivity, though this finish often wore-off quickly in the field. However, many M1s made especially for ceremonial use or sale to civilians have lighter finishes as well.

   The M1 Garand is gas-operated, with a rotating bolt that has two locking lugs, and the gas tube is piston-actuated with a long stroke gas piston. It is not a selective-fire weapon, and will only produce a single shot with each pull of the trigger. The safety switch is located on the front of the trigger group; it safes the weapon when toggled rear (inside the trigger group), and unsafes the weapon when toggled forward (outside the trigger group). The gas tubes in pre-1940 M1 Garands had gas traps, which proved excessively expensive, maintenance-intensive, and unreliable; these were replaced in all subsequent rifles with much simpler gas blocks, though this also made the weapon slightly heavier and more front-heavy.

   The magazine of the M1 Garand is internal, fixed, and has a capacity of 8 rounds. It cannot be removed without stripping the weapon, usually during cleaning and routine maintenance. Loading the magazine is accomplished using "en bloc" clips (sometimes incorrectly described as "en bloc magazines"), which hold 8 rounds and are loaded directly into the magazine (military firearms with fixed magazines are typically loaded using stripper clips, with the rounds pushed downward into the magazine, after which the empty clip is discarded). This system was something of a compromise between stripper clips and detachable magazines, resulting from an Interwar Era US Army mandate that its rifles not have magazines extending below their bases. It was believed that protruding magazines would cause water, dirt, debris, and so on to enter the weapon when it rested on the ground; that they would snag on things easily; that they would interfere with rifle drills; and also that detachable magazines would be lost too easily by soldiers in the field. These beliefs were rather peculiar, not only because such weapons on foreign armies seldom had these problems, but also in light of US experience with the Model 1918 BAR automatic rifle introduced decades earlier, and the M1 Carbine that was in development while the M1 Garand was being procured (both used detachable box magazines).

   The en bloc clip is instantly ejected when the rifle fires its last round, and there are no others to chamber. This system has the advantage of allowing a rifleman to immediately load a new clip without having to remove the previous spent one, which speeds-up the reloading process. However, the en bloc clip has several notable drawbacks as well. First, it is impossible to recharge the en bloc clip with fresh rounds while it is loaded into the rifle, so a rifleman needing a full magazine --- but still having rounds left in the one already loaded --- must eject a clip with rounds already in it. Second, recharging the en bloc with new rounds is a slow and awkward procedure that is especially difficult (to say nothing of dangerous) to attempt in combat, and is usually done outside combat using special reloading machines. Finally, when the clip is ejected along with the spent casing from the last round, it emits a loud and very distinctive "ping" sound; it was quickly noted in combat that enemy soldiers came to recognize this sound as an indicator that a soldier using an M1 Garand has just expended his magazine, and source of the infamous "ping" sound would thus attract heavy fire. From these experiences, it is clear as to why developers of military firearms discarded the en bloc clip concept after World War 2, in favor of the now-universal detachable box magazine.

   The sighting system consists of a front barleycorn sight and a rear aperture sight. The rear sight is adjustable for ranges of 100 yards to 1 200 yards (91 meters to 1 097 meters), in 100 yard increments, and also for windage in 1 MOA increments. The battle zero setting is at 200 yards. Both sights were flanked by rounded "ears", which provided both vertical and horizontal protection from collisions that could potentially damage or distort their equipment.

   The M1 Garand accepts a variety of bayonets, though the most commonly used model since the Korean War (and the last designed especially for the M1) is the M5. This dagger-like bayonet has a 152 mm long blade with a spear point, a 152 mm long edge on the front of the blade, and a 76 mm edge on the back. A push-button release allows the M5 to be fixed or removed from the M1 in seconds, without using any tools. The M5 cannot be used on any rifles other than the M1 Garand and some of its derivatives. The M1905 bayonet (with a much longer 406 mm blade) made for use on the old M1903 bolt action rifle was also compatible with the M1 Garand, and was the primary bayonet for the M1.

   Also usable on the M1 Garand were the M7 grenade launcher and the accompanying M15 sight used to aim it. The launcher is fitted to the muzzle of the weapon, and the M3 Grenade cartridge (a blank round made especially for this purpose) is used to launch the projectile. A variety of grenades were fielded for the M7, including HE-FRAG, HEAT, and smoke, which had an effective range of approximately 350 meters. Though these are safe to launch from a shouldered rifle in standing, kneeling, and prone positions, the preferred position was with the butt of the M1 Garand against the ground and the grenade aimed at a high angle, not unlike a mortar. Particularly notable is the M1 rifle grenade adaptor, a projectile which could hold a variety of regular hand grenades, effectively turning them into rifle grenades. Though the M1 rifle grenade adaptor had the obvious advantage of allowing a grenadier to carry lighter munitions that could also be thrown if necessary, they could also create a rather awkward situation if the blank cartridge misfired and the spoon fell off --- or if the grenade was accidentally fired into an enemy fighting position before the pin was removed.

   The primary munition for the M1 Garand is the M2 Ball, a type of Full Metal Jacket round. The penetration and stopping power of the M2 Ball round are immense compared to modern assault rifle ammunition, and at a range of around 50 meters, it will actually penetrate 12.7 mm of mild steel; at arond 200 meters, it will penetrate 914 mm of solid Oak wood. Given this performance, its understandable why the US military was reluctant to abandon the .30-06 round. The M2 armor-piercing round naturally has much better penetration performance, and is rated to penetrate 22 mm of rolled homogenous armor at around 100 meters; the M14 armor-piercing incendiary round has the same penetration, but also a pronounced incendiary effect. The M25 tracer round could also be fired from the M1 Garand, though they were normally only fired from machine guns. A variety of .30-06 blanks, dummy rounds, and match rounds were also available.

   Many M1 Garands were later converted to fire 7.62x51 mm NATO instead of .30-06, notably those operated by the US Navy, and the armed forces of Italy and Argentina. While both rounds share many qualities, the differing trajectory and shorter reach of 7.62x51 mm NATO eventually necessitated new sights. Moreover, the US Navy had attempted to use an insertable chamber adaptor for the otherwise standard M1, as a shortcut to avoid having to replace the entire barrel but without success; they eventually had to replace the barrels anyway.

   The first conflict the M1 Garand was used in was World War 2, and it instantly became one of the most iconic firearms of that war. It was one of the few major technological advantages the US possessed over the Axis at the beginning of the war, and it quickly made them regret their lukewarm interest in self-loading rifles during the Interwar Era. Great praise of the M1 from soldiers, commanders, and eventually historians followed its combat results, and made every armed force in the world soon after rethink the potential of such a weapon in their own ranks.

   The M1 Garand was also used heavily in the Korean War, where it was the primary service rifle of the United Nations forces in South Korea. It once again confirmed the value of self-loading rifles in combat, and their performance advantages over bolt-action rifles; Korean Pepple Army and People Liberation Army troops did have the self-loading SKS and SVT-40, but never in sufficient numbers, and they relied mostly on Mosin-Nagant rifles and PPsH-41 submachine guns. However, new issues with the M1 also arose in that war, in particular that most of the examples sent to Korea were badly-worn surplus from World War 2. Marksmanship training for US rifleman had also declined to inadequate levels of proficiency; for example, US soldiers fired 40 000 rounds for every kill with small arms fire --- twice as many as in World War 2, despite essentially using the same weapons, which further degraded the effectiveness of the M1 Garand. The US Army was also forced to develop a new bayonet (the aforementioned M5) based on experience in Korea, because the cold weather warfare that was so frequent in that conflict demonstrated that the bayonets already in use were very difficult for a soldier with heavy winter gloves to fix and remove (an especially serious problem in the Korean War, as US soldiers fought several pivotal battles in close quarters using bayonets).

   A decade after the Korean War, the M1 Garand also saw some use in the Vietnam War, though by this time the M1's obsolescence had become painfully clear. It was quickly superseded in front line use by the M14, which itself was retired a few years later by the M16, both of which offered superior handling, ergonomics, and firepower in the closed terrain that typified combat conditions in this war. It is also perhaps fortunate for the Army of the Republic of Vietnam and its allies that the M1 Garand was replaced in such a timely manner, because the Viet Cong guerillas and Vietnamese People's Army soldiers soon after began using AKMs.

   By far, the most surprising aspect of the M1 Garand's combat history is that its still unfolding. Many surplus examples have been provided to civilians and militia in Afghanistan (some of which have unfortunately been captured and put to use by the Taliban), and many observers have been astonished to see that the Free Syrian Army is using them in combat against the Syrian armed forces as well. M1 Garands have also made many appearances in the Iraq War; while the examples used by Syrian rebels were almost certainly supplied in quantity from the West, the origin of the Iraqi rifles is still unknown. Those seen recently in Syria are especially notable, because none of them are as "shopworn" as one would expect from a military surplus rifle; this suggests that either these were civilian-remanufactured copies produced in later years, possibly in other calibers (such as 7.62x51 mm NATO).

   Many nations have operated the M1 Garand, as the US supplied millions of surplus examples to allies and favored states for decades following World War 2. Known users include Argentina, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, China, Cuba, Denmark, Ethiopia, France, West Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Laos, Liberia, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, South Vietnam; Taiwan; Thailand; Turkey; United States; Uruguay and Venezuela.

   At present, M1 Garands are fiercely prized collector's items among civilian owners, typically commanding prices of $1 000 or more, even for a relatively well-worn example. M1 Garands in like-new condition often sell for many thousands of dollars, even if they aren't original "GI" weapons --- a far cry from their original World War 2 unit cost of only $45. The accuracy of the M1 Garand is still considered excellent for a self-loading rifle.

   The M1 was produced in staggering numbers, exceeding 5.5 million rifles during World War 2, and ultimately growing to over 7 million with post-war production. They were manufactured in the US by many companies, including Springfield Armory, Winchester, Harrington & Richardson, and even International Harvester; the latter firm alone produced 337 623 M1 Garands. Additional US manufacturers produced the M1 after the war, primarily for the civilian market, and foreign manufacturers such as Beretta and Breda continued to produce them for some time.

   They are also still produced for the civilian market by Springfield Armory, though it would be surprising if any armed forces ordered them today for any role other than ceremonial purposes.

 

Variants

 

   M1924 Garand: Forerunner for the M1 Garand, which went through many design alterations before being accepted by the US Army as the M1 Garand. Did not enter production or service.

   M1 Garand: Basic production model. The proportions differed slightly with each manufacturer, and 1930s models had has tubes with gas traps, while all produced since then have gas blocks.

   T26: Shorter version of the M1 Garand with an 457 mm (18") barrel and a folding buttstock; as it was intended primarily for use by armored vehicle crews, it was informally called the "Tanker Garand". It did not enter production, but some of the prototypes saw combat during the Battle of the Philippines in 1941-42.

   M1C: Sniper rifle variant of the M1 Garand, with provisions for mounting an M84 telescopic sight. The M1C is one of the rarest production variants, with 7 971 produced in the 1940s and a further 4 796 during the Korean War.

   M1D: This is basically an improved M1C, with a flash hider and a new scope mount. The M1D program was initiated after World War 2, but its development was long, and few had been issued in time to see much combat in the Korean War. Just 21 380 M1Ds were produced, making it a coveted collector's item today.

   MC52: Shorthand for "USMC 1952 Sniper's Rifle", this was an even further development of the M1 Garand into a sniper rifle. Its tenure with the US military was very brief, having arrived too late to see any notable action in the Korean War, and being quickly supplanted in the early 1960s by bolt-action rifles.

   Type 4: Japanese self-loading rifle based on the design of the M1 Garand. It was re-chambered in 7.7x58 mm Arisaka, and held a larger 10-round fixed magazine. Interestingly, this magazine had to be charged with stripper clips rather than En Bloc clips, and only 5-round clips were provided for this purpose. Only a few-hundred were completed by the end of World War 2, and the Type 4 never saw operational service.

   T47: The last in a series of development of the M1 Garand, in an attempt to evolve it into an assault rifle, the T47 was a selective-fire weapon chambered in 7.62x51 mm NATO (note that the T47 was the first firearm ever to fire this round), with a rate of fire of 700 rpm, and a detachable 20-round box magazine. It was selected to replace the M1 Garand, and after further development became the M14.

   M14: Also developed by Springfield Armory, the M14 was the successor to the M1, and was an evolution of the aforementioned M1 variant. This weapon was basically the ultimate evolution of the M1 Garand, and it saw widespread service. The M14 is a selective fire weapon, capable of semi-automatic, as well as full-automatic firing.

   Beretta BM-59: Developed in Italy, the BM-59 is a direct conversion of the M1 Garand pattern into a selective-fire assault rifle. It resembles the M14, and is also chambered in 7.62x51 mm NATO, and fed by a 20-round detachable box magazine. The BM-59 was surprisingly successful in service, being used by Italy for several decades, exported to several other nations, and even produced under license in Indonesia as the SP-1.

   Mini-14: Civilian semi-automatic rifle based on the M1 Garand produced by Ruger from 1973 onward. It is basically a miniaturized M1 Garand in .223 Remington feeding from a detachable box magazine, despite its name's deliberate reference to the M14.

   Mini-30: Mini-14 re-chambered in Soviet 7.62x39 mm ammunition.

   AC-556: Military version of the Mini-14 in 5.56x45 mm NATO with a selective fire capability.

   Also, some M1 Garands were re-chambered in .303 Lee Enfield during World War 2 (these particular rifles are now prized collectors items), and from the 1950s onward, countless examples were converted to fire 7.62x51 mm NATO instead of .30-06. Examples produced for civilians may have been chambered for other rounds as well.

   NOTE: The M1 Garand is not to be confused with the M1 Carbine (though it complemented the Garand in service), or the Johnson M1 rifle (which was a competitor of the M1 Garand). That both firearms use the same stock number and their very different chamberings are both usually described only as ".30 caliber" had only added to the confusion over time.

 

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