Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Firearms: the M-1 Garand

Every once in a while I will break from the sartorial focus of this site and look at something a bit different.

No matter what your political or philosophical view on firearms, I'm sure we all can appreciate the history and beauty of important rifles of the past, such as the WW2 American M-1 Garand (named after its inventor). In this post, we will give this rifle a quick look.

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What you see above is the "the greatest battle implement ever devised" according to General Patton. And he may have been right.

The M-1 Garand was so important during the Second World War because it was a semi-automatic in a war dominated by bolt-action rifles. It was the first semi-automatic battle rifle ever put into major use by a world power.

Bolt-action rifles like the German K98 Mauser, the British Lee Enfield, the Russian Mosin Nagant and the Japanese Type 99 needed to have the bolt manually operated before each round could be fired, giving soldiers decent firepower compared to weapons of the past. But next to the semi-automatic M-1, the bolt-action rifles could not compare. With the M-1, each pull of the trigger released one .30 caliber round without the bolt having to be operated manually. Not only that, but the internal magazine could hold 8 rounds before needing to be reloaded. This gave the American soldier a huge amount of firepower.

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The stylized photo above shows the en-bloc clips that hold 8 rounds. These were inserted through the top of the reciever into the internal magazine.

To do this the bolt was locked open. While the clip was inserted the bolt would unlock, stripping the first round off the clip. This unlocking, though, created a bit of a problem for the soldier. If the soldier did not get his thumb out of the way of the bolt, it would get slammed and pinched between the bolt and the reciever. This caused excruciating pain, swell the thumb and perhaps make the thumbnail fall off. This badge of honor was called "M-1 thumb" and was in a way a rite of passage. Anyone who 'earned' this experience quickly learned how to avoid it in the future.

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Disassembly of the M-1 is relatively easy, especially for a semi-automatic firearm. Field striping the M-1 is not difficult and can quickly be learned by the inexperienced shooter. The M-1 is a gas-operated rifle, meaning the expanding gas that propels the round down the barrel is siphoned to strike the face of the operating rod. This rod is driven back and pushes the bolt backward with it, resetting the hammer and trigger, ejecting the spent shell casing and allowing the bolt to strip off a fresh round on its return trip.
Shooting the M-1 is great fun. The .30-06 round can be intimidating to new shooters, however, the M-1's semi-automatic workings lessens the recoil since the bolt and operating rod take some of it. The M-1 is also a heavy rifle, about 10 pounds, so some of the recoil is also dampened by the weight.
The sights are easy to use. The M-1 has a "peep" sight. With peep sights, the shooter looks through a hole in the back sight and lines up the front post sight with the target. Anyone with an eye can use the M-1's sights.
Caught the brass in mid-flight.
The M-1 Garand fought through the Second World War, the Korean War and the early years of the Vietnam War. Today, it is still seen in the hands of rebels around the world, from Columbia to Iraq, and it is the pride of civilian shooters like myself. That record is testimony to the M-1's design and ability to accurately put fire downrange. The M-1 will live on for decades to come in the hands of shooters and soldiers who love it and put it to use in the protection of lives.


Steven Dodd said...

What's the scoop on this particular rifle? Is this a replica or a refurbished rifle? How did you come across it?

Will said...

This particular rifle was constructed by a friend from spare parts he had laying around. The reciever is new, the stock is a new Boyds, all the rest is USGI. The barrel is dated 1955. A 'franken-rifle', if you will.

We purchased it from the friend who assembled it. A great shooter, never had any trouble with it.

morgan said...

If you're interested in acquiring an M1 (Garrand or Carbine) Join the Civilian Marksmanship Program ... Once you complete the application process you'll be able to purchase surplus pieces directly from the Gov't. I've got a Garrand from them and it's fantastic!

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