by Sgt. Dana Beesley
U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island
October 23, 2018
Gen. George Patton, Jr. once said, “In my opinion, the M1 rifle is the greatest battle implement ever devised.” The .30 caliber semi-automatic weapon was the standard-issue rifle during World War II and the Korean War. For military and civilian competitors at the National Matches in Camp Perry, Ohio, there’s nothing quite like it.
The M1 was originally created by Canadian-born firearms engineer John C. Garand. Garand developed the gas-operated weapon with a .30-inch caliber that was 43 inches long yet weighed only 9.5 pounds. The M1 became the first standard-issue automatic infantry rifle in 1936.
Over the past 65 years most M1 rifles have been rebuilt, refinished, rebarreled and repaired at least once, with few in original condition today, according to the Civilian Marksmanship website.
Robert Bell, a M1 Garand armorer for the Civilian Marksmanship Program on Camp Perry, has been servicing and equipping local veteran’s organizations and shooting competitors with M1s since he arrived on the base.
“M1s are like potato chips,” Bell said. “You can’t have just one.”
Bell said that the rifle didn’t start out as a .30 caliber rifle. It originally had a ten-round clip instead of an eight-round clip, but was modified right before production. Bell said there were only six-million M1 rifles made in the world.
The M1 Garand has two variations that have been used by the U.S. Military since 1944. During World War II, Springfield Firearms created the M1C sniper variation, which had the scope mount attached to the receiver. In June 1944, it was adopted as a standard sniper rifle by the U.S. Army to replace the M19034.
There were issues with the M1C as the procedure required to install the mounts reduced accuracy by warping the receiver. This resulted in the development of the M1D, which had a mount attached to the barrel instead of the receiver. The Marine Corps adopted the M1C as their official sniper rifle in 1951.
Bell said to this day the military can tell which rifle was formerly an M1C by it serial number. M1D’s were more popular and also more accurate than the M1C variation. Bell said the problem with both weapons was that the scope sat about an inch high and off center.
The casual dirt and grime won’t reduce the weapon’s firing power as disassembling it is simple, therefore ideal in the field, he said. The shooter can easily remove a trigger group and replace it, as it was made to be taken apart with the point of a bullet.
The distinct ‘ping’ sound that comes from the M1 Garand also makes it recognizable on the range. The sound comes from the clip striking the back of the receiver as the follower ejects it from the weapon. Bell spoke of a myth that the noise from the ping made troops noticeable to the enemy on the battlefield.
“I’ve heard people say the Germans waited for the ping before they attacked,” Bell said. “I’ve spoken to German soldiers and a couple Panzer commanders and asked them about the ping and they all said the same thing; ‘we’re getting shot at, our hearing already isn’t that great. We didn’t listen for that ping.”
The Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island Shooting Team competed in the M1 Garand Match in August 2018 during the National Matches. Team Member Cpl. Trevor Keith said the history behind the rifle is what drew him to take interest in firing it.
“I like the M1 Garand because it’s a piece of history,” Keith said. “It won a world war; when you shoot it, you can feel the history. When I first shot it, I thought it was going to be difficult to control but the weight of the gun compensated for that. They are very accurate and it’s kind of amazing that they can keep up in today’s competitions even though they are over 70 years old.”
Over the decades, Bell has worked with a variety of weapons, but believes the M1 Garand stands out as a superior weapon.
“Unless you really mess up, you can bet your life on them, and a lot of guys did.”