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.

Sniper Origins

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.

Historical M1903 Sniper Rifle Images
Specialized models of the M1903, starting as soon as 1908 and running well into the 1950s, were used as a battlefield sniper weapon.


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.

M1 Garand Sight
The standard Garand, with its excellent sights, could prove very accurate in the hands of skilled marksmen, such as these rooftop inspectors of the 290th Infantry Regiment during the Battle of the Bulge.

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.

M1 Garand Sniper Rifles
The M1C and M1D both used offset scope mounts to keep the action capable of accepting an en-bloc clip through the top of the receiver. Both could be used with flash hiders such as the T37 pronged model and the M2 cone type. (Photo: Chris Eger/


1950s Calling 

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.

M1D Garand Sniper Rifle
The rifle in general mounted an M84 telescope sight, a fixed power 2.2x scope with an early BDC, and carried an adjustable sunshade and eyecup. Other sights were the older M82 as well as the Weaver K4 60B, the latter usually bought with unit funds and seen on Marine or National Guard rifles.

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.

CMP M1D Sniper Garand
This M1D currently in the Vault includes an original DD Form 1348 that was processed in 1997 and other paperwork attesting to its background, including the original shipping wrap, order letter, and packing list. (Photo: April Robinson/


CMP M1D Sniper Garand
Without the optics, cheek rest, and flash hider installed, the only giveaway from a distance that a Garand is an M1D is the tell-tale mount installed on the barrel.


CMP M1D Sniper Garand
The barrel-mounted optics base allows the M1D to still be top-fed via en-bloc clips while allowing the rifle to use its original iron sights if needed – something the M1903A4 did not.


CMP M1D Sniper Garand
The barrel is marked S-A-8-52, showing Springfield Armory production circa 1952, while the bolt assembly is marked D25287-2SA with heat lot code of RE4C. The receiver’s serial number is 3021548, putting its production in the June 1944 range. (Photos: Alex Reville/


CMP M1D Sniper Garand
Accessories include an M84 telescope with inspection card from 1955, lens covers and case, M2 flash hider, canvas sling, leather cheek pad, and cleaning equipment.

If you like interesting guns with some history behind them, be sure to check out our Military Classics and Collector's Corner sections for more like this!

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