Guns: Getting the Garand, Part 4 - CMP M1 Garand review and range report
I ordered a CMP M1 Garand awhile back (check out Getting the Garand, Parts 1, 2, and 3), and I finally got the chance to try it out at the local rifle range. Here are my impressions...
The M1 Garand is a study in trade-offs. The other military rifles of the day were bolt-actions - Mausers, Lee-Enfields, Mosins - with roughly similar dimensions and capabilities. The Garand's gas operating system enables quick follow-up shots and one-handed operation, at the cost of considerable weight and bulk (a Garand weighs almost two pounds more than a SMLE Mk III - doesn't sound like much, but it's very significant for an infantry soldier).
I've had a good amount of experience with other WWII bolt actions, so it was going to be fun to see if the Garand lived up to its bigger-than-life reputation. This was my first time shooting the Garand for any extended period of time, so I headed to the 50 yard range to get a feel for the old warhorse:
Loading the Garand isn't hard, per se, but the process is definitely archaic, and probably the main disadvantage to using the M1 as a main battle rifle in 2012. You push in the famous en-bloc clip as far down as you can, using your hand to block the charging handle from moving forward. Once it's all the way in (and I do mean all the way, otherwise you get a jam), smack the charging handle forward to chamber the first round. It takes a bit more practice than using a traditional stripper clip, that's for sure.
Aside from the fussy loading procedure, shooting the Garand is a joy. The rifle is extremely heavy by today's standards (10 pounds unloaded with no accessories). All that weight, however, soaks up recoil, and the M1 is actually a fairly pleasant way to send .30-06 downrange.
Don't get me wrong - the muzzle rise is still extreme enough to nullify any speed edge at longer ranges, and the other WWII bolt actions weren't as slow as some people think they are. That being said, I could see how the Garand's rate of fire would be a huge advantage in close quarters - say, inside the crumbling remains of an apartment building in Salerno.
The M1 has a good trigger for a military gun, and, like most U.S. service rifles, it sports excellent aperture sights. This translated to accuracy that was well within combat standards, considering that I was using surplus Greek M2 ball ammunition. My first groups were decent, about 2ish inches, which translates to 4 MOA:
As I got used to the gun, I started tightening my shooting up considerably. Let's put it this way - even in the 21st century, you do not want to be on the wrong end of Mr. Garand's battle implement:
The jury is still out on reliability - I only fired 64 shots through the Garand, with the total rounds count limited by time and barrel heating (don't want to wear it out too quickly). I didn't notice any hesitation in the action, save for an annoying tendency for the en-bloc clips to weakly eject into my face - PING!
Conclusion? If you have an extra $650 laying around and you meet the CMP eligibility requirements, send off for a Garand. You can thank me later.