The Garand: Almost As Good As A Real Rifle
Jun 25, 201112:30PM
Ah, I can feel that hate now. Fanbois always hate it when you inject facts into an argument.
Let me start by saying I have nothing against the Garand for what it was—a forward-looking design for the 1920s. John C. did a fine job with the technology of the time, and it's not his fault what happened after.
Mr Garand designed a stripper fed, gas operated self-loading rifle in a mid-sized caliber. It was very advanced, and the only advantage it lacked was a detachable magazine, which was still a subject of discussion at the time—the SMLE had it. The Mausers and Mosin Nagants did not. As designed, it had moderate recoil, and could be topped off by shoving extra rounds into the top of the action, as with every other battle rifle of the time.
Then the Army took a crap in it. I can't blame Garand for this, because the Army crapped in almost every weapon it got given in the 20th Century, then complained about the taste.
McArthur made a logistical decision to stick with .30 caliber, as it was the Depression and all the loading equipment was set for that. Now, I'm not blaming him for that decision…except that I'm blaming him for that decision. "Gee, I like your Corvette, Mr Earl, but it really should run on diesel." Then, of course, we found out that Infantry officers aren't really very smart about such subjects as metallurgy or physics (or counting above 21, but I digress), and that the op rod couldn't take the punishment of "Full power" .30 cal loads (that term is meaningless, btw, but fanbois love to toss it around), so the loads were reduced in power to baby the system. (So, the fanbois definition of "full power" was changed to meet the lighter load, and again for the .308. There's nothing more consistent than the apologetics of this crowd. They're now conceding that .276, as Garand originally intended, or 6.8mm, might be considered "full power." Another 80 years and we'll actually bring them into the 1950s).
But wait! That en bloc clip Mannlicher came up with in the 1880s is all the rage with the Italians! Let's use that instead of stripper clips! Why? I dunno. It makes the action more complicated, and means SHOVING YOUR HAND INTO THE ACTION TO LOAD. Cue fanbois whine of, "If you know the proper places to hold each of your fingers, the proper motions, and dance steps, you can insert it WITHOUT injuring yourself!"
Google the term "M1 Thumb." Then google "Garand Thumb," just to make sure you've got the full report. You'll find about THREE MILLION hits. Now google, "thumb jammed in M16." I'll wait. Google "thumb jammed in FAL."
If I have to stick my hands into a heavily sprung action that is capable of smashing my fingers, and risk smashing my fingers, to load the weapon, IT IS DEFECTIVE. There is no argument you can make to the contrary. If a car required reaching under the fan belt to fuel it, and might spontaneously start, smash your fingers and set you on fire, IT WOULD BE DEFECTIVE. If a gun might smash your fingers to paste on the off chance you might happen to want to put ammo in it, it is defective. Don't tell me you can avoid it with the proper dance card and samba lessons—I'm in the middle of a firefight. It's not a "Design feature." It's not a "Beta improvement." It is a CRITICAL FUCKING DEFECT.
To be fair, I will at this point dispense with the largely myth theory that the "ping" of the ejecting clip will tell the enemy where you are. I suppose it might occasionally be an issue, but in the midst of a firefight, that's not likely to be an issue—the enemy will be keeping his head down as much as you are.
But it does bring us to the other matter of loading. I've had fanbois insist against reality that, "The Garand can be loaded with one hand without losing sight picture."
Really? You can secure a clip, reach up over the action RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOUR FACE, press it down in so it hits the release, avoid smashing your thumb and still have a sight picture and finger on the trigger? Well, no, actually you can't.
M16: reach forward with index finger, press release to drop empty mag. Pull finger back to trigger. Use left hand to insert fresh magazine, roll hand and slap bolt catch. Eyes still on target, finger on trigger before the round loads, and no need to stick fingers into the fanbelt. Any other modern rifle is similar.
But wait! There's more on this loading ritual. The Garand has some cute little quirks, and by quirks I mean "additional Army-mandated defects." That en bloc clip holds 8 rounds. Because it's a double stack, it ONLY holds eight rounds. If you have really new, springy clips, you can get away with 7. Say it with me: "Eight shall be the counting, and the counting shall be eight! Count not six, unless it be followed by seven and eight. Nine is right out!" If you're down to 6 rounds of ammo, it's a single shot rifle. You could refill your clips, except its other cute trick (see above) is to throw the empties across the landscape. Hah! Why would you need to reload? Certainly, in the modern world one dumps mags if one has to. It's nice, however, to have the OPTION of sticking one into your belt for later re-use. Or, going, "gee, I think I've fired more than eight rounds out of my rifle. In fact, I think I may have fired twenty-five. Why don't I drop, load and continue shooting with another thirty, and redistribute those remaining five later?"
Good luck with the Garand. Now, as he designed it, you'd just slap another stripper of five in the top and be done. But no! That made too much sense for the Army. Cue fanbois: "Just release the partial clip and put in a fresh one."
Really? Ready? Alright then. Release, PING!, rounds and clip scattered all over the landscape, because once that clip is out of the weapon, it won't retain less than 8 rounds. Congratulations! You won't be recovering that clip, OR THE PARTIAL LOAD OF AMMO IT HAD! (I get the impression that most of these fanbois have never actually tried all these clever tricks. I have. They don't work. Really.)
This now brings up the minor but relevant side issue of sighting. Before detachable magazines, military bolt actions loaded through the top for speed. They eject the same way. Fair enough. In the 20th Century, though, they eject out the side. Now, most of the early bolt action sniper rifles loaded single rounds under the scope, and fired the same way.
Nope. The Garand is TOO AWESOME to play by those rules. Remember: you must load an 8 round clip. It must go through the top. It must eject the same way. You'd LIKE to actually have your scope inline with the barrel, wouldn't you? BWUAHahahaha! Silly sniper! No, you'll have your scope offset to one side, bringing a whole new adjustment to the mix. The fanbois will argue that if you're a real, true, sniper you ENJOY having an extra adjustment to your point of aim. Well, I'm not a sniper…but I have beat them in competition. So on the subject of precision shooting, I'm adequately knowledgeable. No, really, the less adjustments the better. You want that scope directly above the bore and as close to the same plane as possible, not in a completely different plane requiring juggling windage and elevation even before gravity and wind come into play. I'm sure someone will argue the Garand was not intended as a sniper rifle. This is bull. All military rifles are intended for precision shooting when needed. The Garand just brings all its special quirks to the table, and leaves them there in the middle of dinner.
The Garand club can always rely on power and accuracy though. Or, at least they could rely on accuracy, until the M1A and AR15 started making it their bitch at the National Matches. These days, if someone brings a Garand to the NMs, you think, "Oh, good. So I don't have to worry about him taking top." And power…ah, yes, it's more powerful than…well, not really more powerful than .308 military loads, nor more than 8mm Mauser. It's more powerful than most 20th century loads, but that's because when actual science displaced Freudian symbolism, it was determined that being hit by a Caddy was just as lethal as being hit by a Mack Truck. The Garand does have those awesome iron sights, though, so you can shoot 1000 yards. Well, okay, the manual says the sights are rated for 460 yards. Still, that beats the M1A, which is rated for…460 yards. Well, at least it beats the M16, which is rated for…460 yards. Unless it's an M16A2, which is rated for 550 meters, or 601 yards. Well, I guess an extra 50 years of development was good for something.
Ah, but the body count! The Garand killed Germans 15:1!
Well, not exactly.
The Russian casualties are due to Stalinist leadership at least as much as German marksmanship. And it looks like 5.2 million Germans and allies vs 6.9 million Russians and allies KIA, so hardly 15:1 on the Eastern Front, where Mosin Nagants were in use.
Germany's total military deaths were under 5.5 million. So, that's 300K Germans in the West and North, by Garand, MAS 36, Lee Enfield and Springfield combined. Oh--and Mosin Nagants in some of the European and Nordic nations, and of course, Swede Mausers and such. Oops.
So it looks like the MN killed about twenty times as many Germans as the Garand. And the Garand may have scored even less than that--the Brits did a serious number, and the French really did put up a fight (check the casualty figures for major battles before you start smirking and looking like a moron), and let's not forget the Canadians. Oh, and those bombing campaigns and artillery and tanks.
The Garand does really well against charging 4'9" Japanese with stamped-steel swords, though.
Lessee: 2.1 million Japanese military deaths, and probably half of those by naval gunfire and aircraft. Then some Marines had Springfields. And Johnsons. And M1 carbines. And Thompsons. And artillery. And tanks…
So, the Garand's military accomplishments are largely hype, much like the rest of its capabilities.
It sure looks classy and elegant, though.
Well, then you won't like this: We used completely re-arsenaled Garands for about three months on base Honor Guard. Inside of a week, we had SOP of firing in three volleys of two, with the seventh man in reserve, so that WHEN, not IF, those pieces of shit both failed at the same time, we could manage to get off a bang.
These were completely refitted and speced, and looked wonderful. In theory, they were to exact tolerance. In reality, they were jamomatic garbage.
At which point, we went back to M-16s, which didn't look as historically classy, but at least went bang every time we pulled the trigger.
The Garands also jammed on loading. Regularly. I remember one time the clip refused to seat, then did. So there I am, traumatized, blood seeping into my white parade glove, next to a deceased veteran, trying very hard to stay in formation, not wince, not cry, not curse, and not fall out of timing for three volleys. I managed.
(Some guy on FB responded with "Sorry about your parade glove." I guess he missed the part about TRYING TO HONOR A DECEASED VETERAN while my rifle did more damage to me than the enemy ever did. I'll charge it off to him not reading thoroughly. I'd hate to think he was mocking a military funeral.)
Really. We were burying WWII and Korean War vets, and the vaunted rifle of that era couldn't manage to reliably fire three times in a row in tribute. We even had clips springing across the landscape when the action cycled, which really didn't make a good impression.
Now, I've handled good Garands as well. I'm just pointing out that we had a dozen of them, tuned to what should have been perfect spec, that often couldn't get off three rounds in a row from any combination of seven rifles. The order to change back to real, working guns came after we tried to bury a colonel and had to completely reload to get off the third volley. Yeah, that went over well.
Ah, but the Garand was the first of its kind—a self-loading battle rifle.
Well, no, not really.
John Browning had the Remington Model 8 in production in 1906. The police model had a 15 round magazine, beating the Garand. It even fired in .30 Remington and .35 Remington, more than enough to be "full power."
The French Meunier came out in 1914, and was in production when the war started. Wars being what they are, it only had a few thousand pieces produced, but they fired in 7mm, with outrageous velocities. This even made a second development into the RSC 1917.
MEXICO had the Mondragon in 7X57 Mauser, patented in 1907, built under license by Sig, and used by some Germans. Mexico, being smarter than the US Army, started with the en bloc, and then went to the detachable magazine in 8…and 20…and a 30 round drum for the Germans.
And of course, the Russians had the Fedorov assault rifle before the Revolution. Again, that Revolution screwed a few things up, and production was limited. However, it did exist.
This doesn't count a dozen other designs around 1910-1920 that didn't get developed beyond early tests. So, yes, the US Army does deserve a little credit for thinking ahead, but only a little. Because one John C. Garand designed them a mid-caliber bullpup in the late 1930s, the T31, beating everyone to the concept to the best of my knowledge, they kicked him out on his ass.
So, the M1 Garand is not the Model T. It's more like the Volkswagen. Historically interesting, rather quaint, beloved of a certain set of collectors, but really not a replacement for a Corvette TR1, a Ford F150 or a Buick Rendezvous. The Wright Flyer was the second heavier than air machine (yes, really, second), but I'd not want to take one across the Atlantic. My TRS80 was a really cool computer…in 1982.
Seriously. The Garand was fielded in 1934. Soviet Simonovs were out in 1936, Tokarevs in 1938 (and I'm referring to rifles with both of those, so some of you don't embarrass yourselves). The Johnson, which could be topped up in mid-load, was out in 1941. And then that pesky MP43, STG 45, SKS and AK47 came along, rendering the Garand a museum piece in under a decade.
But, wait, there's more! You CAN fix several of the Garand's defects in a machine shop in a few minutes—a bit of grinding lets you fit BAR magazines to it, which fixes the not enough rounds to engage a squad of Japs with swords problem, and the smashing the thumb on loading problem. Of course, the Army did this…eventually…with a special program that took 20 years until 1954, used a proprietary magazine, and became one of the biggest turkeys of the 20th Century—the M14, which, I believe, still holds the record of the shortest service life for a primary issue rifle in US history, because the flaws were so apparent even the Infantry couldn't pretend it was worth a damn. (Occasional DMR use by very heavily modified M14s, while awaiting more AR10s to replace them, does not constitute "primary issue" of a rifle. So stop emailing me and looking stupid.)
And that's where it should have ended, sometime in the early 60s, with AKs, FALs, G3s and other, much superior designs in plentiful use throughout the world. But almost 50 years later, you just can't get the stake into the heart.
Now, the Garand is arguably better than the Mauser K98, but it's not better than the three Mausers you can buy for the same price, nor the 10-20 Mosin Nagants you can buy for the same price. When it comes down to it, it's a mass produced, multi-million number milsurp, which should cost about $300. At $300, it would be well worth having. And of course, unusual markings, history, etc, might justify more.
Hah. You wish. To touch a Garand, even a "service grade" with a bore that gauges more than 3 (meaning "well, used") is going to cost you $500. A pristine Mosin Nagant is about $80-$100 in 2011. A pristine Garand is about $1500 or more. For that price I can buy a really nice AR15, AR10 or an FAL and a stack of magazines. So if you want a using rifle, you're buying an antiquated relic with critical design defects for the price of something state of the art. Don't try to explain your logic. You have none. FAL beats Garand, for less money, any time. AR10 beats Garand. AR15 beats Garand, though you'll throw a frothing temper tantrum and fabricate or perpetuate all kinds of BS before you'll admit it.
The final, and perhaps most amusing bleat of the fanbois is the appeal to authority. They like to quote one George S. Patton, to whit: "I consider it the finest implement of battle ever devised."
Indeed he did say that.
Well, you know, I have documentation (shut up, yes I do), that in 25,347 BC, Ung the Hunt Leader of the Upper Cave of Mucky River said, "I consider the chert-tipped spear to be the finest implement of battle ever devised."
So there! Who are you going to argue with? The general giving a pep talk 68 years ago, or the leader giving a pep talk 27,358 years ago? Huh? HUH?
All hail the Garand! The most overrated firearm in history!
Your hate mail WILL be graded.