It helped defeat totalitarianism during the Second World War, soldiered on through the Cold War, and is now one of the most popular military surplus firearms on the market today.
This is five things you don’t know about the M1 rifle.
The M1 Garand Was the First Standard Issue Semi-automatic Rifle for the U.S. Military
In service from 1936 till 1957, the M1 Garand was the first standard issue semi-automatic rifle adopted by the U.S. military. This is a gas operated system that functions by virtue of an operating rod that cycles the weapons bolt after each pull of the trigger.
Now, during World War II, the Axis powers, Germany, Italy, and Japan, all used manually operated bolt action rifles as their standard issue rifle. So the M1 Garand with its self-loading action gave U.S. troops a distinct volume of fire advantage because they were able to fire eight rounds without moving their hands from the firing position.
The M1 Garand Was Originally Chambered for a Different Cartridge
Although the M1 Garand was chambered for the M2 .30 caliber cartridge during its service life, it was originally designed to fire a different cartridge—the smaller .276 Pedersen. This is because during the years that followed the First World War the U.S. Army began to assess the combat performance of all its infantry weapons and the cartridges they fired. In doing so the U.S. Army realized that smaller bullets moving at higher velocity created greater amounts of trauma on impact and were, therefore, more destructive and more ideally suited for the modern battlefield.
When John Cantius Garand, an engineer at Springfield armory, first designed the M1, he designed the rifle as a 10-shot semi-auto chambered in .276 Pedersen. However, the Army ultimately elected to abandon the .276 Pedersen cartridge and instead continued to use the M2 .30 caliber which had already been in service since 1906.
Garand modified his design to fit the M2 .30 caliber and when he did so the larger size of the cartridge meant that the rifle could no longer accommodate 10 shots, which is why it was ultimately reduced to an 8-round capacity.
The M1 Carbine Design Is Based on the M1 Garand Design
The M1 Garand was the U.S. Military’s standard issue infantry rifle during World War II, and while it demonstrated itself to be a robust, reliable, and effective weapon with no significant shortcomings, it did soon inspire a new design.
In 1941 Winchester Repeating Arms introduced the M1 Carbine. The M1 Carbine is lighter, smaller, and requires a different cartridge, but it’s short-stroke gas piston and rotating lock and bolt were based on the Garand system. These two weapons served side-by-side throughout World War II and the fact that the Garand’s operating system could lend itself to another caliber so readily reveals just how exceptional that rifle’s design was.
An Agricultural Machine Company Produced the M1 Garands for the U.S. Government
To fulfill government contracts during the 40s and 50s the M1 Garand was produced by four manufacturers. The Springfield armory as well as three civilian companies: Winchester Repeating Arms, Harrington & Richardson, and International Harvester. The last of which was best known for producing tractors and other agricultural machinery. Between 1932 and 1957 these manufacturers produced a combined total of approximately 5.5 million M1 Garand rifles with International Harvester producing just under 338,000.
The M14 Is Effectively a Product Improved M1
In the late 1950s, the M14 rifle began replacing the M1 Garand as the standard issue rifle for the U.S. Military. The M14 is effectively just a product improved M1 Garand rifle. The big differences are that it fires a different cartridge, the 7.62 NATO, and it feeds from a detachable 20-round box magazine. In addition to that the M14 is capable of firing in fully automatic mode, something the M1 was not.
Despite these differences, though, you can clearly see the influence of the M1 Garand in this weapon.
Today the M1 rifle continues to hold an esteemed place of legend in military history. Its impact on the Second World War was so immense that one of the top military leaders of the era called it the greatest battle implement ever devised. Do you know who said that? One General George Patton. That’s who.