We’ve published a few stories on the M1 Garand here at Guns.com, so I thought it would be fun to do a more personal review of one of these classic American battle rifles that found its way into our Certified Used Vault

There’s no question the M1 Garand is still cherished by collectors and shooting enthusiasts alike. But is it still relevant today? How well has it stood the test of time? Let’s take a closer look.


Table of Contents

Video Review
Quick History
Specs & Features
Personal Experience
Pros & Cons
M1 Garand Today

Video Review

 


Quick History

 

M1 Garand presented to the designer
John C. Garand himself holds a special presentation M1 in 1952. (Image: SANHS)


I’ve already dug deeper into the M1 Garand’s specific history. So, we’ll keep it brief here, and I’ll link to a more detailed article below. For me, one of the truly special things about the M1 Garand isn’t even about its specific design. It’s the fact that after generations of bolt-action rifles, the U.S. military decided to go all-in on its first, standard-issue semi-auto rifle. 
 

Springfield M1 Garand Rifle
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 during World War II. 
 


There were some other designs vying for the top spot – such as the well-liked Johnson rifle – but John C. Garand’s design won over the U.S. Army procurement contract, making the M1 Garand the main rifle to start reaching the hands of American GIs right as the world tumbled toward World War II.


Related: Ode to the M1 Garand – America's Beloved Battle Rifle
 

Springfield M1 Garand Rifle
High praise from a man like Gen. George S. Patton is about as good as it gets as far as testimonials on truly great combat firearms. (Photo: Library of Congress)


The Army’s move and the rifle’s performance through World War II and Korea made the M1 – specifically designated "U.S. Rifle, Caliber .30, M1" – one of the most loved rifles in American history. More than five million rolled off American assembly lines.
 

Specs & Features

 

Springfield M1 Garand Rifle
Gas from the gas cylinder (bottom right) pushes the gas piston and operating rod (top) back, rotating and unlocking the bolt (bottom left). There's a mechanical beauty to the design that is also very enjoyable to experience while shooting. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


There are plenty of modern variations of the M1 Garand design, from the M1A to the Ruger Mini-14, but the true genius behind the design was the unique semi-auto action. It was a gas-driven system that used a drilled gas port to cycle the action with a long-stroke piston and operating rod. Two locking lugs held the bolt in place for firing and rotated to unlock the bolt for reloading. 

The rifle also continued a long American commitment to marksmanship and sported some of the most refined and adjustable sights on any battle rifle during World War II. There was a peep sight that was easy to adjust at the rear for windage and elevation, and the tip of the barrel sported a bladed front post guarded by metal ears. The rear-mounted peep sight also gave the gun a long sight radius for improved accuracy.
 

Springfield M1 Garand Rifle
The sights were fantastic and highly adjustable compared to most of the Garand's peers. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Springfield M1 Garand Rifle
It wasn’t uncommon to see soldiers in WWII walking around with their trigger finger inside the trigger guard. While that’s a no-no by most modern safety standards, it did make the gun very fast to bring into action and return to safe in a pinch thanks to the trigger safety system. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


This all made for a fast and accurate sighting system that should be familiar to anyone who has spent time shooting iron sights on an AR-style platform even today. Running eight-round en-bloc clips loaded through the top of the receiver, the M1 also brought speed for loading and shooting. Even the trigger-guard safety was surprisingly fast, especially if you compare it to most of the lever or pull-twist safeties common at the time.
 

Springfield M1 Garand Rifle
Fair warning, because I have yet to meet an avid M1 fan who has not gotten “Garand Thumb” by letting their digits linger a bit too long in the action while loading. That is easily preventable if you actively hold the bolt handle to the rear with the base of your hand while loading. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Springfield M1 Garand Rifle
Loaded clips could also be ejected with the clip-ejection latch on the left-hand side. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


Not everything was sunshine and roses with the Garand’s design. Frankly, it was a bit hefty at 9.5 pounds for a gun that hosted just eight rounds. The disassembly process was also somewhat more involved than many modern designs. Topping off the internal magazine with additional rounds was also a bit difficult and slow because of the en-bloc clips.

Here are some general specs:

Weight: 9.5 pounds
Length: 43.6 inches
Caliber: .30-06
Action: Semi-auto, long-stroke gas piston
Sights: Adjustable front post and rear peep
Capacity: 8 rounds
 

Springfield M1 Garand Rifle
Heck, there was even a nifty storage area in the stock for a cleaning kit...or snacks and cigars. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Springfield M1 Garand Rifle
For fun, here's a look at how it all works inside the M1's internals. (Image: Garand's original patent)


Range & Reenacting Experience


Garands are among my favorite guns to shoot. They're just enjoyable and accurate. In fact, the rifles are still routinely featured in shooting competitions specifically meant for only M1s. However, the rifle’s weight is absolutely noticeable when you have to actually carry it for more than a range visit. At 9.5 pounds and with a length of 43.6 inches, this gun was no ultra-light AR-style platform. Reloading it also takes some practice and isn’t as fluid as swapping magazines. 
 

Springfield M1 Garand Rifle
I've had the pleasure of running the Garand through some testing and reenacting over the years. (Image: Authors reenacting collection)


I found that the recoil was manageable, but it was a tad heftier than most of my WWII bolt-action guns. It’s not terrible. There’s just a lot going on inside the gun, and the .30-06 is a potent round. Speaking of which, the original M1 Garands were not really meant for the heavier .30-06 hunting loads you often find on shelves these days. Originally, issued ammo used bullets weighing around 150 grains.


Related: Two Allied Workhorses – Enfield No. 4 Mk 1 vs. M1 Garand Rifle


While the M1 has a reputation for reliability, my early experience with the platform was somewhat inglorious. I started shooting the M1 while I was in college, and I enjoyed some long sessions on the range in the summer. After that, I got into reenacting and discovered there are some aspects of the rifle that come out when you get off the range and start shooting it in harsher conditions.

The first time I ever used a Garand for reenacting, I naturally forced a jam on my first reload with my gloved hand. It pays to train for more than the range, and my summer range visits did not translate into a cold snowy morning in Wisconsin. On my next reenactment outing, I discovered the curse of sand. While reloading through the open top breach, the open action is exposed and very easy to fill with sand falling off your gear. These are all operator issues, and the gun became easier and easier to wield with practice. 
 

Springfield M1 Garand Rifle
The en-block clips are not hard to use. In fact, they are rather ingenious and offered a quick method to load the gun with mass-produced, disposable clips that could be preloaded and delivered to troops in the field. But to really make it work, the Garand must have it's clip, and it didn't lend itself to topping off the internal magazine. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Springfield M1 Garand Rifle
This particular M1 was made by Springfield Armory, but there were several manufacturers pumping out Garands and parts during World War II to fill the need for more rifles. As a testament to the design and America's sheer manufacturing might, the end products were guns that could share parts made from many manufacturers, and that is a common feature on most of these surplus guns today. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


I found the sights to be fantastic. Reliability was also solid when I did my part. It is a bit of a chore to takedown and oil/grease the rifle when you compare it to many more modern designs. It’s also a chore to try and reload if you haven’t fully cycled through the entire eight-round clip. But for when it was introduced and given the need to create millions in a short period, you cannot help but respect the design. 

I’ve put over 1,000 rounds through various M1 Garands over the years. I wouldn’t recommend shooting it in a polyester Hawaiian shirt, as I recently did. That attire is a bit too slippery and thin for the recoil, but it was still a blast.
 

Pros & Cons

Here’s a quick summary of my pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Historically and mechanically interesting
  • Reliable
  • Accurate
  • Reasonably available as military surplus today
  • Enjoyable to shoot
  • Ergonomic safety

Cons:

  • Heavy weight at 9.5 pounds
  • Slightly aggressive recoil and muzzle climb
  • More complicated to disassemble 
  • Limited to eight-round en-bloc clips
  • Watch your fingers or the bolt will eat them when loading
  • Not originally built for heavier bullet weights over 150 grains
  • Open top action can collect debris
     

M1 Garand Today
 

Silent Drill Marines with M1 Garands
The Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon still dazzles with its M1 Garands. (Photo: Lance Cpl. Brandon Aultma/U.S. Marine Corps)


You can actually see the M1 Garand in use today. The rifle has certainly claimed its share of deer over the years, but it’s also still on display with the U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon. Indeed, the M1 is still featured on the Corps’ expert shooting badge.

More than that, it remains well liked for iron-sight shooting competitions. Thanks to groups like the Civilian Marksmanship Program, there are still places to compete with the M1 and surplus guns entering the market.
 

Military Ribbons
The Garand's accuracy is still respected and continues to earn it a place on the Marine Corps' expert marksmanship badge. That's a nice nod, but so is the fact it is still used in shooting competitions today. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


As mentioned above, the guns are also a regular at reenactments, and they are not uncommon as the rifles used for drill and ceremony. They exited general service with the U.S. military in 1957. Though, some of the descendants continue to serve in limited capacities. Plus, with more than 5 million produced, they continue to pop up from time to time with militaries around the world.

The M1 may be outdated, but it certainly isn’t irrelevant in my mind. Mechanically and historically interesting, they are a collector’s gem. They aren’t making any more, and they aren’t getting cheaper with time. So, if it’s a gun you want in your collection, I’d lean toward snagging one sooner rather than later.


Like cool old firearms like this?
Check out our Military Classics and Collector's Corner for more.

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