Right rifle, right place, right time
The M1 Garand (rhymes with errand) gets its name from its inventor, John Garand.
Coming into service in 1936, it was meant to replace the model 1903 Springfield bolt action rifle.
It is a semi-automatic rifle chambered in the 30.06 cartridge. In fact, both the Garand and the M1903 were retained and fought side by side in World War II. The Garand became the standard-issue rifle of U.S. forces in World War II and the Korean War. It served with distinction until officially being replaced by what I like to call its “son,” the selective fire M14 in 1957.
Like most military rifles of the 1930s, the Garand was loaded from the top of the breech, with the bolt locked to the rear. But unlike bolt action rifles, which held four or five rounds, the Garand held eight (one other rifle held 10, a bolt action, the British Enfield, but did not have near the power of the Garand).
These eight rounds were held together in a spring steel en-bloc clip. This clip functions as part of the action of the rifle, and is ejected with a melodious “prang!” upon the eight rounds fired. Then reaching into a bandoleer, a soldier would pull out another en-block clip with eight rounds and load the rifle again.
Many a World War II vet has sat around with combat brothers and reminisced about the Garand.
At the time of its development, most of the world’s military leaders opinions were that there was no way that a semi-automatic rifle could be used with any reliability or accuracy.
How wrong they all were. In the hands of the brave men who went to war to defeat Hitler and Hirohito, the Garand gave them a superior rate of fire on the battlefield, in a weapon as robust as a tank.
My dad said when he was in the Philippines and Okinawa, after a day of fighting, he would go down to the river to wash off. He would open up his Garand, wash the mud out of it, load it and fire a round into the bank and go on patrol. He said he knew the gun would fire no matter what.
There has been much debate in gun circles over the years as to the best battle rifle ever invented.
Space age materials resulting in lighter and faster shooting weapons are being used to give our military the best equipment in the world today. But when you look at the sheer magnitude of World War II with all its different battle terrains and weather from jungle rains and mud, to hot desert and sand, to hard frozen ground with snow and sleet — the theater was a challenge.
There was no going back to the drawing board, the gun had to work. The M1 Garand was right there with those heroes of yesteryear putting the hurt on the Axis powers.
Would we have won the war without the Garand? Oh yes, there is no doubt. But the Garand helped get it done faster, and proved that when pushed, America is going to push back and push back hard.
Cecil Beal has been involved with firearms through business and collecting most of his life.