A few days ago I had an exciting trip to the shooting range. What made it so exciting was I had an opportunity to shoot an M1 Garand. Looking back into my years in the military I was a photographer in the USAF and the only military rifle I had to qualify with in Europe was an M1 Carbine. Temporary duty trips mandated other firearms however.
I did take many trips to the range to fire an M14 in the military caliber designation of 7.62×51 NATO, or for the civilians that is .308 Winchester, and since the Viet Nam War the M14 has been my favorite, centerfire, semi-automatic rifle; fully automatic, not so much.
Because of my encounter with the M14 and research that I did on the .308 I was motivated to go to the Rod and Gun Club on my base and purchase a .308 Winchester caliber rifle fitted with number one wood, and jeweled bolt, in a brand new FN, Model 98 Mauser Action that I have and use to this day. It always has and will continue to shoot more smoothly and accurately than my meager capabilities will produce.
For the folks that are not familiar with the M1 Garand let me give you a brief history. The M1 Garand was officially designated as U. S. rifle, caliber .30, M1 and from that description one cannot help but know it is a US military rifle. It is a semi-automatic rifle chambered for the .30-06 Springfield and weighs nine and on-half pounds empty.
The M1 Garand was used in the US Army from 1936 to 1959 and named after its designer John Garand and it was the first standard-issue semi-automatic military rifle. It officially replaced the bolt-action M1903 Springfield in 1936. The M1 was subsequently replaced by the selective-fire M14 starting in 1959 however the M1 continued to be used in large numbers until 1963 and to a lesser degree until 1976.
It is a gas-operated, clip-fed, semi-automatic rifle that is loaded by inserting a metal clip containing eight rounds into the receiver. After the eight rounds have been shot, the empty clip automatically ejects with an audible “ping” noise and the bolt locks open. You then take another eight shot clip, insert it into the top, quickly moving your thumb because if you don’t the bolt will slam shut on it and can do a job on your thumb that will not soon be forgotten.
I always looked at the M1 Garand as a well-built rifle and 30.06 Springfield was and still is one of the finest calibers going in my opinion. It was replaced by the .308 Winchester in the military mostly because the .308 was shorter and would cycle faster in semi-and fully automatic weapons but was still pretty close to a .30-06 in ballistics.
As I got comfortable with the M1 I immediately found I could see surprisingly well through the peep sight which is always a pleasure for an old man and had no problem lining up on the target bullseye at one hundred yards. I put the target center dot on top of the front sight, squeezed the trigger, and with an almost gentle nudge from the rifle on my shoulder I did not have to look as I knew I was dead on the bullseye and followed with seven more shots in the same circle. I relaxed after finishing off the clip and was smiling like a Cheshire cat; I had found another true love, and reached for another clip.
Story & Photography by Larry J. LeBlanc