Memorial Rifle Squad Ain’t Happy about Change of Weapon

Everyone knows that old saying: if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.  Well, that’s precisely how the Fort Snelling Memorial Rifle Squad feels about its U.S. Army-issued Springfield rifles.  They ain’t broke, so don’t fix em. 

See, the Army wants to reclaim the squad’s 1903 Springfield bolt-action rifles and replace them with M-1 Garands.

But members of the squad are hoping to keep the tradition of using the older Springfields – for its signature three-volley salute, a ceremonial aspect of funerals held at Fort Snelling Cemetery since 1979 – alive. 

“When it filtered down to us that somebody had read a manual someplace and decided that he was going to issue, per law, M-1 Garands, and take [the Springfields], well, we started screaming, because we don’t want M-1 Garands out here,” armorer and bugler for the squad, Howard Tellin, told Minnesota Public Radio. 

Although it can be argued that the semi-automatic M-1 Garand is a superior rifle, General George S. Patton called it simply “the greatest battle implement ever devised,” there’s a counterargument to be made regarding qualities like mystique, nostalgia, report, etc.  

John Sobaski, a Vietnam-era machine gunner, told MPR “I like the action that it makes, the sound that it makes.”  He added, “It sounds a little more traditional.”

And Bob Nelson, a resident of Apple Valley, also admires the distinct sound the old Springfield makes when fired. 

“They sound the best. M-1’s, they have a mellower sound. And we think it’s really a nice tribute to our veterans that we are having the honors for that they go out in style and class,” Nelson told MPR. “Also, the rifles that they are trying to give to us, they don’t hold up as good.”

To help ensure the squad gets to keep its preferred rifle, Tellin enlisted the help of 2nd District GOP Congressmen, Joe Kline. 

Rep. Kline, a former Marine and member of the House Armed Services Committee, sent a letter to Army Secretary John McHugh asking him to reconsider the issuance of the M-1. 

“The Army sent back a response to my letter and said they’re going to look into it,” Kline told MPR. “We’re going stay on top of it, and I hold out some slight optimism that we’ll be able to prevail in this.”

If that doesn’t work, Kline said he is also planning on introducing legislation to keep those old 1903s at Fort Snelling. 

(Photos courtesy of MPR/ Tim Nelson)