The American military throughout the 20th Century used a variety of dedicated sniper rifles converted from standard infantry weapons, and the M1D "Sniper Garand" is one of the hardest to find today.
American military history, as far back as the pre-Revolutionary War colonial militia units such as Roger's and Goreham's Rangers, prized marksmanship with their personal Pennsylvania rifles, going far and beyond what was achievable by soldiers armed with smoothbore muskets. By the Civil War, Berdan's Sharpshooters, with their specially-purchased Sharps rifles, were delivering on the battlefield. However, it wasn't until 1900 that a few Krag rifles, converted to use Cataract telescopic sights and Mauser-style stripper clips, became the country's first modern "sniper rifle."
Soon replaced by the M1903 Springfield, a modern .30-06 bolt-action rifle, the Army developed sniper models as early as 1908 equipped with the Warner & Swasey "Telescopic Musket Sight," and kept assorted models of scoped M1903s on hand through both World Wars and the Korean conflict.
Enter the Garand
First adopted in 1937 after years of development at Springfield Armory by John C. Garand, "U.S. Rifle, Caliber .30, M1" became the standard infantryman's weapon for the U.S. Army, continuing to serve with National Guard units as late as the 1970s. While the military fielded as many as 28,000 scope-equipped M1903A4 rifles in World War II, it was still thought a promising idea to get the Garand into the sniper rifle game.
The problem with adding optics to the Garand is that the rifle must be top-loaded with an 8-round en-bloc clip and typical mounts would block this process. The workaround for the Army was to develop an offset double-lever side mount that was offset to the left side of the receiver. The first fielded design, developed from a Griffin & Howe mount, dovetailed into a bracket mounted via a series of five holes to be drilled into the receiver and held the M81/82 scope, the military's version of the 2.5x Lyman Alaskan. A leather cheek pad helped align the user's eye with the optic. Paired with a flash hider that was often discarded in actual use, the Army classified the M1E7 prototype rifle as the M1C in June 1944 and made just under 8,000 (of 21,000 ordered) before the end of the War.
A second design, the M1E8, was developed by Mr. Garand himself and used a simpler barrel-mounted scope base that could be pinned on a turned-down barrel in less time than it took to convert an M1C. It was adopted in September 1944 as the M1D, considered a "substitute standard" should enough M1Cs not be produced. With that, the concept was shelved after the war ended in 1945.
When the Korean War and heightened tensions with Communist China and the Soviet Union sparked a reverse in America's post-WWII demobilization, the M1D design was taken off the shelf and put into production, with some 14,325 rifles ordered in December 1951 from the Army's Springfield Armory.
While over 500 M1Cs and Ds were later passed on to South Vietnam during the 1960s – and others went to overseas allies such as the Israelis and South Koreans – few legit Garand sniper rifles made it into consumers' hands. While correct C models have some serial number blocks to fall back on as they were assembled in batches in 1944, all D models were conversions of guns that were already on the rack in 1952, meaning the serial numbers vary considerably. This has led to a legion of fake M1Ds on the market produced from taking common Garands and adding (often reproduction) sniper parts. As more than 5.4 million Garands were made, this gives a lot of chances to get it wrong.
It is tough to discern legit M1Ds – after all, real ones account for less than 0.2 percent of total Garand production – with one of the few ways to get a bona fide specimen being original CMP documentation. The Civilian Marksmanship Program, a government-chartered program, had been selling Garand "sniper" models to the public as they have been turned over by the Army for the past couple of decades. With that, even the CMP rarely sees such rifles these days, and currently lists the model as "sold out" in all grades since 2018.
However, CMP-papered M1Ds do pop up from time to time.