The M1 Garand was officially designated as United States Rifle, Caliber .30, M1 and later simply abbreviated as US Rifle, Cal. .30, M1, was the first semi-automatic rifle to be generally issued to the infantry of any nation. Called “the greatest battle implement ever devised” by General George S. Patton, the Garand officially replaced the bolt-action M1903 Springfield as the standard service rifle of the United States Armed Forces in 1936 and was subsequently replaced by the selective fire M14 in 1957.
It’s creator, Canadian-born John Cantius Garand, was to become a iconic American firearms inventor. He went to work at the Army’s Springfield Armory and began working on a .30 caliber primer-operated breech. In the summer of 1924, twenty-four rifles, identified as “M1922″, were built at Springfield, At Fort Benning during the summer of 1925, they were tested against models by Berthier, Hatcher-Bang, Thompson, and Pedersen, the latter two being delayed blowback types. This led to a further trial of an improved “M1924″ Garand against the Thompson, ultimately producing an inconclusive report. As a result, the Ordnance Board ordered a .30-’06 Garand variant. In March of 1927, the Cavalry Board reported trials between the Thompson, Garand, and ’03 Springfield had not led to a clear winner. This led to a gas-operated .276 model patented by Garand on 12 April, 1930.
During the spring of 1928, both Infantry and Cavalry Boards ran trials with the .276 Pedersen T1 rifle, calling it “highly promising”, shared by the Thompson. On 13 August 1928, a Semiautomatic Rifle Board carried out joint Army, Navy, and Marine Corps trials between the .30 Thompson, both cavalry and infantry versions of the T1 Pedersen, “M1924″ Garand, and .256 Bang, and on 21 September, the Board reported no clear winner. The .30 Garand, however, was dropped in favor of the .276.
Further tests by the SRB in July 1929, which included rifle designs by Browning, Colt-Browning, Garand, Holek, Pedersen, Rheinmetall, Thompson, and an incomplete one by White, led to a recommendation that work on the dropped .30 gas-operated Garand be resumed, and a T1E1 was ordered 14 November 1929.
Twenty gas-operated .276 T3E2s Garands were made and competed with T1 Pedersen rifles in Spring 1931. The .276 Garand was the clear winner of these trials. The .30 caliber Garand was also tested, in the form of a single T1E1, but was withdrawn with a cracked bolt on 9 October 1931. A 4 January 1932 meeting recommended adoption of the .276 caliber and production of approximately 125 T3E2s. Meanwhile, Garand redesigned his bolt and his improved T1E2 rifle was retested. The day after the successful conclusion of this test, Army Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur personally disapproved any caliber change, in part because there were extensive existing stocks of .30 M1 ball ammunition. On 25 February 1932, Adjutant General John B. Shuman, speaking for the Secretary of War, ordered work on the rifles and ammunition in .276 caliber cease immediately and completely and all resources be directed toward identification and correction of deficiencies in the Garand .30 caliber.
On 3 August 1933, the T1E2 became the Semi-Automatic Rifle, Caliber 30, M1. In May 1934, 75 M1s went to field trials; 50 were to infantry, 25 to cavalry units. Numerous problems were reported, forcing the rifle to be modified, yet again, before it could be recommended for service and cleared for procurement on 7 November 1935, then standardized 9 January 1936. The first production model was successfully proof-fired, function-fired, and fired for accuracy on July 21, 1937.
Production difficulties delayed deliveries to the Army until September 1937. By September 1939, Springfield Armory had reached an output of 100 per day. Despite going into production status, design issues were not at an end. The barrel, gas cylinder, and front sight assembly were redesigned and entered production in early 1940. Existing “gas-trap” rifles were recalled and retrofitted, mirroring problems with the earlier M1903 Springfield rifle that also had to be recalled and reworked approximately three years into production and foreshadowing rework of the M16 rifle at a similar point in its development. Production of the Garand increased in 1940 despite these difficulties, reaching 600 a day by 10 January 1941, and the Army was fully equipped by the end of 1941.
Following the outbreak of World War II in Europe, Winchester was awarded an “educational” production contract for 65,000 rifles, with deliveries beginning in 1943. The British Army looked at the M1 as a possible replacement for its bolt-action Lee-Enfield No.1 Mk III, but it was rejected when rigorous testing suggested that it was an unreliable weapon in muddy conditions.
The M1′s semiautomatic operation gave United States forces a significant advantage in firepower and shot-to-shot recovery time over individual enemy infantrymen in battle (German, Italian, and Japanese soldiers were usually armed with bolt-action rifles). The impact of faster-firing infantry small arms in general soon stimulated both Allied and Axis forces to greatly augment issue of semi- and fully automatic firearms then in production, as well as to develop new types of infantry firearms.
Much of the M1 inventory in the post-World War II period underwent arsenal repair or rebuilding. While U.S. forces were still engaged in the Korean War, the Department of Defense determined a need for additional production of the Garand, and two new contracts were awarded. During 1953-56, M1s were produced by International Harvester and Harrington & Richardson. A final, very small lot of M1s was produced by Springfield Armory in early 1957, using finished components already on hand. Beretta also produced Garands using Winchester tooling.
The M1 proved an excellent rifle throughout its service in World War II and the Korean War. Surplus M1 rifles also armed many nations allied to the USA postwar, including West Germany, Italy and Japan. Some Garands were still being used in the Vietnam War in 1963; despite the M14′s official adoption in 1957, it was not until 1965 the changeover from the M1 Garand was completed in the active-duty component of the Army (with the exception of the sniper variants, which were introduced in World War II and saw action in Korea and Vietnam). In other components of the armed forces, such as the Army Reserve, Army National Guard and the Navy, Garands continued to serve into the 1970s.
The Garand is loaded with a full clip of eight rounds. Once all eight rounds are expended, the bolt will be automatically locked back and the clip ejected (with a distinct metallic ping), readying the rifle for the insertion of a fresh clip of ammunition. Compared to contemporary detachable box magazines, the M1′s “en bloc” clip is light, simple, and only has to be oriented with the rounds pointing forward prior to charging the rifle (the clips have no top or bottom).
Once the clip is inserted, the bolt snaps forward on its own as soon as thumb pressure is released from the top round of the clip, chambering a round and leaving it ready to fire. The right hand should be placed in front of the operating rod handle in order to prevent the bolt from closing on operator’s thumb (resulting in “Garand thumb” or “M1 thumb”) and after the clip has been pressed into position in the magazine, the hand moved quickly forward allowing the bolt to snap forward under pressure from the operating rod spring. The operating rod handle may be smacked with the palm to ensure the bolt is closed.
The M1′s safety is located at the front of the trigger guard. It is engaged when it is pressed rearward into the trigger guard, and disengaged when it is pushed forward and is protruding outside of the trigger guard. Contrary to widespread misconception, partially expended or full clips can be easily ejected from the rifle by means of the clip latch button. It is also possible to load single cartridges into a partially loaded clip while the clip is still in the magazine, but this requires both hands and a bit of practice. In reality, this procedure was rarely performed in combat, as the danger of loading dirt along with the cartridges increased the chances of malfunction. Instead, it was much easier and quicker to simply manually eject the clip, and insert a fresh one, which is how the rifle was originally designed to be operated. Later, special clips holding two or five rounds became available on the civilian market, as well as a single-loading device which stays in the rifle when the bolt locks back.
In battle, the manual of arms called for the rifle to be fired until empty, and then recharged quickly. Due to the well-developed logistical system of the U.S. military at the time, this wastage of ammunition was generally not critical, though this could change in the case of units that came under intense fire or were flanked or surrounded by enemy forces. The Garand’s en-bloc clip system proved particularly cumbersome when using the rifle to launch grenades, requiring removal of an often partially loaded clip of ball ammunition and replacement with a full clip of blank cartridges.
It is recommended that very slow burning powders and heavy bullets not be used in the Garand. This is an issue especially important to handloaders, as the pressure curve of slower propellants can put too much pressure on the gas piston, bend the operating rod, and adversely affect the Garand’s accuracy. The Garand is best used with bullets of about 150 grains weight, as in “Ball, Caliber 30, M2″ ammunition. However, there are several adjustable gas cylinder plugs available that vent excess gas out of the gas cylinder, reducing the pressure on the operating rod.
The M1 Garand was the direct predecessor of the M14 rifle, which replaced it. The Japanese began development of a modified copy of the Garand, the Type 5 Rifle, near the end of World War II, though it never reached production status. During the 1950s, Beretta developed the BM59 series of rifles, which would also be produced under license in Indonesia as the “SP” series. Ruger produced the Mini-14 rifle, which utilizes a reduced-size operating system and a different gas system.
Despite similarities in naming, there is no relationship between the M1 rifle and the M1 carbine, other than a similar rotating bolt design. Additional confusion can arise from the development of several other weapon systems… “M” being an abbreviation for Model, such as the M1 submachine gun or an M1 tank.