Hot Gear Friday: The M1 Garand

It’s Memorial Day Weekend – so today, I’m highlighting the “hot gear” most familiar to “the greatest generation”.

It’s the M1 Garand, America’s standard infantry rifle from the mid-thirties until the late fifties.

A rugged, solid, deceptively compact rifle in .30-06, with a simple gas action, it was the rifle the US military carried in World War II and Korea; indeed, the first men to use it in combat were the North Dakota National Guardsmen of the 164th Infantry Regiment on Guadalcanal about whom I wrote last year for Memorial Day; fighting at the Matanikau River and Bloody Nose Ridge in 1942 (the Marines, being far down the supply chain as they were, still carried World War I-vintage M1903 Springfields, of which more in a later installment).

I’ve shot a few Garands – indeed, I’ve come || <---this close to buying Garands a couple of times.  They’re sweet, accurate rifles; the only problems are the peep sights, which I can’t stand,  and the top-loading, eight-shot, “all-or-nothing” block clip magazine.

The rifle was such a solid, reliable concept that when the world started changing to high-capacity magazines in the late ’50s, the Army simply rechambered it for the shorter .308 Winchester round, tacked on a 20-round box magazine, made a few mechanical changes (including “selective fire”, the ability to fire in full automatic, like a machine gun), and called it the M14 – which still serves today, and is reportedly especially favored in the desert for its long range, accuracy and hitting power compared to the relatively lightweight M16/M4.

And since it’s Memorial Day, I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight some more gear; the M1911A1 pistol…:

…which was designed almost 100 years ago during America’s last insurgency against a seemingly-intractable Moslem insurgency, in the Philippines.  Designed to knock a charging, drug-crazed attacker down with no questions asked using a big, bulbous .45 round that was designed for relatively minimal efficiency (so as to leave its kinetic energy in the first thing it hit), it’s mechanically simple but metaphorically rich; “everyone speaks Colt”, it’s said, since the sound of that big metal slide racking a round is reportedly usually enough to scare burglars into the next zip code.  It’s on my agenda for one of these next tax refunds – along with a nice jacket.

And no Hot Gear “Greatest Generation” edition would be complete without the red-headed stepchildred of the bunch – the Browning Automatic Rifle…:

…which was what they’d call a “squad automatic weapon” today – designed to put a hail of lead over your target so they’d keep their heads down so the guys with the Garands could close in and lob grenades at them. I’ve never shot a BAR, although I met a guy at a re-enactor show who owned one, and took it apart for me.  It was big, heavy, and used a sliding-block bolt that wasn’t at all unfamiliar to me, shooting my Ljungman at the time.  My overriding impression – having been on a brief jag of learning about machine-tooling metal at the time – was “this receiver is one big beautiful piece of metal”.  Which was true, although in wartime not necessarily a good thing.

Quite the opposite of today’s final Hot Gear submission, the M3 Grease Gun:

Designed in the middle of World War II to be cheap, simple and easy to manufacture, it was almost entirely built of stampings; only the barrel and bolt were actually machined.  So bone-simple was it that it didn’t even have a cocking handle;  you stuck your finger in the ejection port into a hole in the bolt and hauled it directly back yourself.  I’d read about this for years, of course; but when I actually got a chance to shoot an M3 back in 2000, it actually wasn’t as weird as I’d thought it would be.  And – for the record – there are few things as cool as firing something on full-automatic; (I fired ten shots.  In three bursts.  Booyah).

So – thanks, veterans!

35 thoughts on “Hot Gear Friday: The M1 Garand

  1. And yet, interestingly, that greatest generation, supported, until their deaths, the New Deal, and the changes that accompanied it which resulted in wage compression, few wealthy people, and few poor ones too.. go figure.

  2. To be honest Mitch, you’ve left out the Thompson and the much more ubiquitous Carbine – both of which deserve a spot before (in the Carbine’s case) and after (in the Thompson’s) the M3.

    If you wanted to expand into ‘cool’, I’d put up the Bangalore Torpedo – true predecessor to today’s mine-field breaching technologies

  3. Mitch, my father used a BAR in 1945 as a 17 year old Marine on Okinawa. After the Marines and the war, he joined the Air Force. He would tell you anything about the Air Force, and would talk about Basic Training (Paris Island – yikes), and his buddies in the Marines, but would never talk about the war or the BAR. The only time I ever heard him talk about it was once while he was talking in his sleep, and he was yelling about the barrel “going red”, and that he needed another. Later I learned that they would fire the thing non-stop until the point that the barrel would start glowing red hot, and they would warp. I’m glad he never told me the real details about what they went through. But I am glad that they did it, and we all need to remember that this weekend for the boys and men who didn’t come home.

  4. I remember reading in Ambrose’s “Band of Brothers” that Dick Winters ended up with an M1 that someone – Forrest Guth, I think – had filed the tripper housing in such a way as to make it fully automatic. I know another blogger who does have a Garand; I think someday soon I’m going to have spring for some ammunition for it and see if he’ll let me shoot it.

  5. And yet, interestingly, that greatest generation, supported, until their deaths, the New Deal,

    …and yet would be nauseated by today’s Democrat party.

    To be honest Mitch, you’ve left out the Thompson and the much more ubiquitous Carbine – both of which deserve a spot before (in the Carbine’s case) and after (in the Thompson’s) the M3.

    Perhaps, but for HGF I tend to stick to things I have some actual background with. I’ve never shot a Thompson (a guy can dream) or a carbine. If it appears in HGF, I’ll have played it, worked with it, recorded on it, shot it, or at least held it.

    If you wanted to expand into ‘cool’, I’d put up the Bangalore Torpedo – true predecessor to today’s mine-field breaching technologies

    Perhaps, but they were fresh out of them at Bill’s in Robbinsdale.


  6. I got one o’ them .45’s. Not particularly good as a home defense weapon. Great to have at your side when a hun drops into your foxhole, I suppose.

  7. Not particularly good as a home defense weapon.

    I dunno. They point well for me, the sound of the thing racking is intimidating as all get out, and if that doesn’t do the trick one hit will usually do the job.

    I want one!

  8. I’ve got a Thompson version of the 1911. Made sometime in the 80’s, I believe.
    You can’t tell if there is a round in the chamber unless you pull back the slide & look. If you’re in a hurry & pull too hard you may end up putting a round in the chamber you think you just verified as empty.
    If you hold your thumb in the wrong place the slide will break it when you fire — and it’s not difficult to put your thumb in the wrong place.
    If you’re lazy and keep one round in the chamber with the hammer on it, you’ve got a gun that will fire if you drop it. Mine has a grip safety, but that just means you can walk around all day with a round in the chamber & the hammer ready to drop. Great for the guy in the foxhole, not really useful for the home owner.
    It is also wildly innacurate. The floating barrel makes it more reliable, but if you clamped it in a vise you’d be lucky to land seven shots in a six inch circle from 25′.
    The 1911’s stopping power is kind of a tricky issue. If you use fmj rounds they don’t deform much & will go right through your unlucky target. If you use lead tipped rounds you can drop a buffalo, but you’ll foul the mechanism sooner. And the gun has a greater chance of jamming.
    On the other hand it looks deadly in a way that Glocks & Parabellums don’t. They look like toys compared to the 1911. Also it would work better as a club.

  9. “Not particularly good as a home defense weapon.

    I dunno. They point well for me, the sound of the thing racking is intimidating as all get out, and if that doesn’t do the trick one hit will usually do the job.

    I want one! ”

    I have a S&W .357 next to me at night Why? Because Mr. Bad Guy may decide NOT to give me a chance to rack a slide to intimidate him. And besides, I believe that I may very well be in “react” mode and may not remember “did I rack the slide or is there already one in the tube?” Or, perhaps, Mr. Bad Guy is hitting me already and the fine motor skill of placing the firearm in my hand then using my off hand to pull back the slide may very well be beyond what the current situation allows. And it takes time, time that Mr. Bad Guy has time to respond.
    A wheel gun is a point and pull device. Simple, direct, and effective exactly when I need simple, direct and effective.
    BTW,I carry a Kimber polymer Pro-Carry 45 ACP. Double stack 10 round magazine JHP’s 230 gr.

  10. You see, all our honored veterans needed was some good ol’ American firepower, not more of those big gubmint librul benefits.

    God bless you John McCain for denouncing traitor Webb’s GI “Bill.”

    Reagan is spinning in his grave over Webbokrat.

  11. I got to put 3 magazines thru a Thompson M1928A1 one day – lots of fun but the gun’s default mode is anti-aircraft fire until you get a grip on the “climb”. once you get that under control you really can mow down trees with it. oh and don’t touch the barrel afterwards.

  12. Baddabing blathered: “See how AC further disparages an entire generation of soldiers and war heroes!!!”

    Angryclown thinks it’s entirely appropriate for soldiers to have access to all manner of weaponry. Fat-assed Midwestern wingnuts? Not so much.

  13. You see, all our honored veterans needed was some good ol’ American firepower,

    You’ll note that this feature is called “Hot Gear Friday”. In it, I cover…hot gear – guitars, guns, keyboards, recoding equipment and – in the future – whatever else grabs me.

    The discriminating reader will note that it is not called “Debunking New Deal Mythologies” or “Answering Spin”. I could start categories and ongoing threads for each, of course…

    …but for now, we are talking about hot gear.

    In this case, the gear that our Greatest Generation used to defend this country and all those gummint benefits.

  14. Terry and AmEx,

    Yep on all counts. Single-action autoloaders, critical stress and adrenaline are a tricky mixture. Going through the CCW process has made me at least a part-time wheelgun believer.

    And/or DA automatics. One of these next few tax refunds has a SIG22x (in .45) written all over it.

  15. …and yet would be nauseated by today’s Democrat party.

    So you say, but honestly, as Dwight Eisenhower said in a letter to his brother in 1954, “Anyone who wants to undo the New Deal is either an eccentric, or stupid.” So, candidly Mitch, I’d say you’ve made a statement whose facts are neither in evidence nor supportable. In fact, they’d more likely be aghast at the Republicans and how far afield they’ve swung.

  16. BTW – I’ve fired all three weapons (M3, M1, M1914 Colt) – Garande is a nice weapon for it’s period, certainly better than the bolt action rifles the Brits and Germans carried- the Colt – decent – clunky, hits hard, inaccurate, but any pistol has that shortcoming – the Colt more than others though-the M3 – did the job they intended. It was supposed to be a weapon tankers used to clear the area around em’ if they had to bail – in that, it had to be small, with a high rate of fire (and therefore inaccurate). It jammed some – not many subs of the period didn’t. It was inferior to the Schmeiser – but lots of our stuff was a notch down and yet very functional.

    Actually, I’d take a shot/poke at the BAR. It’s advantage was that it penetrated FAR better than the M1 – meaning, if you shot it at a wooden building, it went through, and through one guy behind the wall and into his friend. It carried a real mental morale boost, but.. it had a woefully small magazine, and those were, by all accounts a bitch to reload in combat, or you had to carry about 40 of the mags.. not really cool. We needed something like the MG42 – but never had it, and that was in fact, a shortcoming of American ground forces. (as far as ‘merikan firepowr’n’all goes).

    The Americans found stuff (built stuff) that worked pretty well, then built the hell out of it. It’s not the case that our stuff was the best in the field – it was in a few cases to be sure – but the Sherman, and the BAR, had superior counterparts in other armies. I’d guess the GI’s would have taken the Bren, honestly, given a chance.

  17. AC=always correct – or appropriately caustic… I’m not sure it’s not both.

  18. Peev,

    President/General Eisenhower was certainly entitled to his opinions. I’ve known a few other people of the era who disagreed.

    To get somewhere close to on topic again – back in 1990, I ghostwrote a book of WWII memoirs for a guy who’d fought in the Hürtgenwald. He was one of many former DFLer/NewDeal types who were nauseated by what the Dems became after ’72.

    Y’know – the Democrats who elected Reagan.

  19. “Not particularly good as a home defense weapon.”

    Nothing could be further from the truth! 1911A1 is my primary carry and defense weapon. Kept in the “cocked and locked” condition (which is the way it was designed to used) it may well be the fastest and most effective weapon to put to use available in a moment of need.

  20. AC:
    “Good lord you’re an idiot, Badda.”

    Perhaps, but I have never insulted an entire generation of soldiers, unlike you. 😆

  21. My wife’s got a 1911–I bought it for her one Mother’s Day in honor of the Million Mom March. It shoots like a dream, especially with Wilson combat magazines. Highly recommended for home defense, though my wife prefers the even more intimidating sound of a Model 870 racking a 12 gauge shell.

    Well done today, Mitch. Maybe I’ll see you at Bill’s some day.

  22. A suggestion, Mitch? Howabout an occasional feature called ‘bad firearms’, featuring guns that are dangerous to fire or just plain silly.
    I had a crazy friend once who carried (illegally) a .357 derringer.
    Ludicrous. It’s a murder weapon and in order to hit anything with it you’d have to be so close to the victim that you’d get not only his DNA all over you, but recognizable parts of his anatomy as well.

  23. Bike Bubba-
    I can’t find any info on the 1911-I. Is that ‘Mark One’ or is it some eccentric model, like a 1911 with a .38 barrel?

  24. If you are looking for a low price on a mil-spec 1911, go here:

    I bought two at the same time, serial numbers separated by only one digit. I like them.

    To buy them, you will have to arrange shipping to a licensed dealer. I believe Bill’s will do the transfer for about $20-25.

    I shot 6 rnds through a BAR on the fantail of the USS Gray in ’75. As I recall, it was fun.

    If you like to browse, you can look at their big ads in Shotgun News on their home page.

  25. I’m not sure what’s wrong with the .45 as a home defense weapon. (I’m unfond of safety switches, but that’s another issue.) Big, slow bullets with adequate but not over- penetration; what’s not to like? My bedside gun is a .44 special; just about the same ballistics.

  26. Peev, Bar and the M1 fired the same ammo. 30-06 would penetrate equally, BAR’s advantage was the rate of fire.

  27. Terry, methinks you need to go over basic punctuation again. :^) The “I” in my previous post is a personal, first person pronoun. The gun is a Kimber Custom stainless II.

    It’s a beaut.

  28. I myself own an M1 Garand, passed down from my late grandfather. It is by far my favorite and most valued (but not the most expensive) firearm in my collection.

    I’ve shot it many many times and am repeatedly amazed at it’s capabilities. How a weapon was made so many years ago prior to all sorts of weapons technology improvement and is still arguably one of the most accurate rifles ever built. Who ever said progress goes forward???

    I’m also amazed at how loud this thing is. How my grandfather tolerating dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of these things firing all around him and not have his eardrums explode is beyond me.

  29. Pingback: Truth v. The Machine » Archives » Totally all nude gun pr0n XI

  30. Pingback: Shot in the Dark » Blog Archive » Hot Gear Friday: The FN FAL/SLR

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.