The M1 Garand (formally the United States Rifle, Caliber .30, M1) was the first semi-automatic rifle to be generally issued to the infantry in any nation. In 1936, it officially replaced the bolt-action Springfield M1903 rifle as the standard service rifle of the United States military (the M1903 retaining a valuable role as a sniper rifle), and was subsequently replaced by the select-fire M14 in 1957. However, the M1 continued to be used in large numbers until 1963, and to a lesser degree until 1966.
The M1 was used heavily in World War II, the Korean War, and, to a limited extent, in the Vietnam War. Most M1 rifles were issued to American troops, though many were also lent to other nations. It is still used by various drill teams and is a popular civilian firearm. The name "Garand" is pronounced variously as [ˈgʌrand] or [ˈgærənd]. According to experts on the weapon, the latter version is preferred.
Though the U.S. Army became interested in self-loading rifles with the Bang and Murphy-Manning of 1911, and there were trials in 1916-8, the M1's origin properly dates to 1919, when armies around the world were realizing standard rifle cartridges were more powerful than necessary for typical engagement ranges, leading to heavier weapons than really required. The Army trials in the 1920s had a .256in minimum caliber requirement, compared to the .30-06 then standard.
Firearms designer John C. Garand, working at the Army's Springfield Armory, began with a .30 caliber primer-operated breech. Twenty-four rifles, identified as "M1922", were built at Springfield in summer 1924, and at Fort Benning during the summer of 1925 they were tested against the Thompson autoloading rifle, Berthier, Hatcher-Bang, and "highly promising delayed blowback Pedersen rifle". This led to a further trial of the improved "M1924" Garand against the Thompson, ultimately producing an inconclusive report. Therefore, the Ordnance Board ordered a Garand variant .30-06, while in March 1927 the Cavalry Board reported trials between the Thompson, Garand, and '03 Springfield had not led to a clear winner, leading to a gas-operated .276 model.
During the spring of 1928, both Infantry and Cavalry Boards ran trials with the .276 Pedersen T1 rifle, giving it high praise (despite its use of waxed ammunition). 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 came back with 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 deisgns by Brauning, 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 tested at these trials in the form of a single T1E1 prototype 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 ammunition. On 25 February 1932, Adjutant General John B. Shuman, speaking for the Secretary of War, ordered work on the weapons 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 until September 1937. Springfield reached an output of 100 per day early in September 1939. Despite its production status, design issues were not at an end. The barrel and gas cylinder assembly were redesigned and entered production in early 1940. The problem proved so thorny, that even the M1941 Johnson rifle had to be deferred so Springfield could concentrate on the problematic Garand. Production increased in 1940 however, reaching 600 a day by 10 January 1941, and the Army was fully equipped by 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 tested the M1 Garand as a possible replacement for its bolt-action Lee-Enfield No.1 Mk III, but rejected it after trials to simulate combat conditions.
John Garand presents his rifle to Army officials.
The M1's semiautomatic operation gave United States forces a significant advantage in firepower and shot-to-shot response time over individual enemy infantrymen in battle (German and Japanese soldiers were usually armed with bolt-action rifles). General George S. Patton called it "the greatest implement of battle ever devised." 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 weapons 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. Most recently, the M1 was produced by Springfield Armory, Inc. of Geneseo, Illinois. This civilian variant is offered in either .30-06 Springfield or .308 Winchester chambering.
The M1 proved an excellent rifle throughout its service in World War II and the Korean War. The Japanese even developed a copy for their own use near the end of World War II, which never reached production. Surplus M1 rifles also armed many nations allied to the USA postwar, including 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 WWII 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 or longer; photos of Ohio Army National Guard troops at the Kent State shootings in May 1970 clearly show them holding Garands.
Some military drill teams still use the M1, including the U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Team, the Norwegian Royal Guards Drill Team, almost all Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and some Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) teams of all branches of the US military. Modern Drill Team M1s are permanently disabled by having a metal rod welded into the barrel. Exhibition teams often use fiberglass stocks in place of wooden ones, the latter being heavier and more prone to breakage when dropped.
 Design and mechanics
The M1 Garand with important parts labeled.
The M1 rifle is a gas-operated, semi-automatic, clip-fed rifle. By modern standards, the M1's feeding system is archaic, relying on clips to feed ammunition, and is the principal source of criticism of the Garand rifle. Officials in Army Ordnance circles demanded a fixed, non-protruding magazine for the new service rifle. At the time, it was believed that a detachable magazine on a general-issue service rifle would be easily lost by US soldiers (a criticism made of British soldiers and the Lee-Enfield 50 years previously), would render the weapon too susceptible to clogging from dirt and debris (a belief that proved unfounded with the adoption of the M1 Carbine), and that a protruding magazine would complicate existing manual-of-arms drills. As a result, inventor John Pedersen developed an "en bloc" clip system that allowed ammunition to be inserted from above, clip included, into the fixed magazine. While this design provided the requisite flush-mount magazine, the clip system increased the rifle's weight, and prevented it from being fired without a clip, such as while reloading.
Garand's rifle was originally chambered for the .276 Pedersen cartridge, charged by means of 10-round clips. Later, it was chambered for the then-standard .30-06 Springfield. With this new cartridge, the Garand had a maximum effective range of 500 yards (457 m), with the capability of inflicting a casualty with armor-piercing ammunition well beyond 880 yards (approx. 800 m). Because of the larger diameter of the .30-06 cartridge, the modified magazine held only eight rounds.
Two of Garand's patents, showing the original gas trap design and revised gas port system.
Two of Garand's patents, showing the original gas trap design and revised gas port system.
Garand's original design for the M1 used a complicated gas system involving a special muzzle extension gas trap, later dropped in favor of a simpler drilled gas port. Because most of the older rifles were retrofitted, pre-1939 gas-trap M1 Garands are very rare today and are prized collector's items. In both systems, expanding gases from a fired cartridge are diverted into the gas cylinder. Here, the gases met a long-stroke piston attached to the operating rod. The operating rod was therefore pushed rearward by the force of this high-pressure gas. Then, the operating rod engaged a rotating bolt inside the receiver. The bolt was attached to the receiver via two locking lugs, which rotated, unlocked, and initiated the firing cycle when the rifle was discharged. The operating rod (and subsequently the bolt) then returned to its original position.
An M1 Garand en bloc clip loaded with eight .30 caliber rounds.
The weight of the M1 varies between 9.5 lb (4.31 kg) and 10.2 lb (4.63 kg) unloaded (depending on sling type and stock wood density), a considerable increase over the previous M1903 Springfield. The length was 43.6 inches (1,107 mm). The rifle is fed by an "en bloc" clip which holds eight rounds of .30-06 Springfield ammunition. When the last cartridge is fired, the rifle ejects the clip and locks the bolt open. Clips can also be manually ejected at any time. The "en-bloc" clip is manually ejected by pulling the operating rod all the way to the rear, and then depressing the clip catch button. Much criticized in modern times, the en-bloc clip was innovative for its time. The concept of a disposable box magazine had not been embraced and en-bloc clips were cheap and reliable. It was even harder and slower to reload the M1903 rifle. Modern arguments ignore that the only contemporary rifles with the ability to easily top-off a magazine were the Johnson M1941 and the obsolete Krag-Jørgensen.
The rifle's ability to rapidly fire powerful .30-06 rifle ammunition also proved to be of considerable advantage in combat. In China, Japanese banzai charges had previously met with frequent success against poorly-trained Chinese soldiers armed with bolt-action rifles. Armed with the Garand, US Infantrymen were able to sustain a much higher rate of fire than their Chinese counterparts. In the short-range jungle fighting, where opposing forces sometimes met each other in column formation on a narrow path, the penetration of the powerful .30-06 M2 cartridge enabled a single U.S. infantryman to kill up to three Japanese soldiers with a single round.
Ejection of an empty clip created a distinctive metallic "pinging" sound. In World War II, reports arose in which German and Japanese infantry were making use of this noise in combat to alert them to an empty M1 rifle in order to 'get the drop' on their American enemies. The information was taken seriously enough that U.S. Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground began experiments with clips made of various plastics in order to soften the sound, though no improved clips were ever adopted. During the Korean War, American soldiers supposedly used the sound to their advantage, noting the enemy would reveal themselves when they heard the clip eject, and would carry and throw empty clips as a decoying tactic. However, these reports are largely unsubstantiated, and, in reality, clip ejection noise in the larger cacophony of infantry small arms combat likely had little effect in most engagements.
The Garand was one of the first self-loading rifles to use stainless steel for its gas cylinder, in an effort to prevent corrosion. As the stainless metal could not be parkerized, these gas cylinders were given a stove-blackening that frequently wore off in use. Unless the cylinder could be quickly repainted, the resultant gleaming muzzle could make the Garand and its user more visible to the enemy in combat. The M1 Garand was designed for simple assembly and disassembly to facilitate field maintenance. It can be field stripped (broken down) using only a rifle round.
Inserting an M1 "en bloc" clip.
The Garand is loaded with a full clip of eight cartridges. 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 pressure is released from the clip, chambering a round and leaving it ready to fire. It is advisable for the operator to ride the bolt forward with his hand (in order to prevent the bolt from closing on his thumb, resulting in the very common "Garand thumb" or "M1 thumb"), and to strike the operating rod handle with his 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 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, not to mention the added delay in returning fire. 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. It is also possible to modify the clip latch, disabling the clip ejection function, and thereby allowing the weapon to be charged like a traditional top-loading rifle.
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.
Both official and aftermarket accessories were plentiful for the Garand rifle. Several different styles of bayonets fit the rifle: the M1905 and M1942, both with 16-inch (406 mm) blades; the Model 1905E1 with shortened 10-inch (254 mm) blade; the M1 with 10-inch (254 mm) blade; and the M5 bayonet with 6.75-inch (152 mm) blade.
Also available was a grenade launcher that fit onto the barrel using the M7 spigot. It was sighted using the M15 sight, which fit just forward of the trigger. A cleaning tool, oiler and grease pots could be stored in two cylindrical compartments in the butt stock for use in the field. Because of the limitations of the Garand's clip-loading magazine, the rifle proved less than ideal for use in launching grenades, and the M1903 Springfield was retained for use in that role long after grenade launchers for the Garand became available.
The M1907 two-piece leather rifle sling was used with the weapon through World War II. From about 1944 onward, a green cotton webbing sling was provided, eventually replacing the earlier model. Another accessory was the winter trigger, said to have been developed during the Korean War. It consisted in a small mechanism installed on the trigger guard, allowing the soldier to remotely pull the trigger by depressing a lever just behind the guard. This enabled the shooter to fire his weapon while using winter gloves, which could get "stuck" on the trigger guard or not allow for proper movement of the finger.