As noted, I purchased this M1 before I knew much about them. All I really knew and cared about was that any Garand was better than no Garand. But as also noted, I like to try to learn as much as I can about the various arms that I have. To that end, I purchased Bruce N. Canfield's book titled Bruce N. Canfield's Complete Guide to the M1 Garand and the M1 Carbine in order to learn more about the rifle I procured and about the history of the Garand in general. It should be noted that the conclusions and evaluation presented here is based on information taken from this book. Information presented relating to dates of manufacture for various components, variations, and so forth were also taken from this text.
One thing I really like about this book is the myriad of detailed photographs carefully illustrating the elements being discussed in the text. This information helped me to very quickly learn that while the rifle I have is completely servicable, it is not what the author defines as "collectible" since, rather than being complete with all period appropriate fixtures, this rifle has undergone alteration and maintenance. There are two or three potential reasons for this. The most likely is that this was a post-production rebuild from parts on hand.
So what do I know about this rifle? Well, I can't learn all there is to know about the assembly of this rifle without taking it apart and at the present time, I'm not quite willing to do that so I'll have to evaluate what I can get my hands on first.
First the receiver. This is an obvious starting point because that's where the serial number will be found and it's the serial number that is the first clue to when (and by whom) the rifle was made. Mine, as you can see, is 275xxx. There were litterally millions of these rifles made, numbered mostly sequentially (at least during WWII.) The fact that my receiver has a 6 digit serial number indicates that this was most deffinitely WWII production. According to the tables in the text, this serial number indicates that ths receiver in my rifle was manufactored at the Springfield Armory in early June of 1941.
You can see from the image that the bolt recess (just below and just forward of the sight adjusting knob) is rounded as it should be for a rifle of this period. The operating rod (the bit you grab to cock the rifle) also has a squared front as it should. for a rifle manufactured during this period at Sprinfield.
With the bolt open, a look inside the receiver, viewed from above, clearly shows the follower. Note the left-hand side of this item. Earlier followers had a "tail" extending a little off to the left. Some made by other manufacturers during this period also have this. Since my rifle does not, that again indicates that this part is from the appropriate period.
This leads us to the barrel. Seen here, the stamp indicates that this barrel was produced by the Springfield Armoury in August of 1943. Unfortunately, this is more than 2 years after the receiver and suggests that these two parts were not originally mated together. Note the proof mark just to the right of the start of the taper.
Next comes the trigger group. As you can see, the back of the trigger guard was clearly formed from stamped sheet metal rather than milled as in earlier rifles. This is consistant with a rifle manufactured either late in the war or after. Just in front of the trigger is the safety stop. If you follow this up to the top of the assembly, you will see it curve forward and end in a point. Although it would appear on the opposite side from the view presented here, the exposed part of the safety also shows no drawing number. It is entirely possible that the trigger group seen here is an original unit with correct parts although of a later era than either the receiver or the barrel.
The trigger guard has a stamp indicating the Springfield Armoury as it should and also has the "cloverleaf" hole (hidden by the trigger's upper extension) and has the narrow pad behind the hammer.
If you look at the plunger (the diagonal cylinder), you can see that the forward attachment point is seated in a notch in the hammer. The shape of the end of the plunger is another item used to authenticate this assmembly. Some variations had ears around the hammer presumably to try to prevent side-to-side motion of the plunger. For a trigger assembly of this period, the fitting is correct.
Next, we should look at the muzzle of this rifle. Examine the very forward section, where the bottom tube connects to the barrel and supports the front site. There were two types of gas systems used on the M1. The so-called "gas trap" used in early models was later refined into the more familar "gas trap" system. My rifle has the later system. The seat for the bayonet can also be observed in this image. If I can find one, I intend to get a bayonet and scabbard appropriate to this weapon to complete the presentation.
Another clue to the originality of the rifle is the locking screw on the gas port. The "poppet" screw seen here was a design change necessary to allow operation of the M7 grenade launcher. Later versions (post WWII) of this were changed to not only allow operation of the launcher but to also allow the rifle to continue to operate normally when the launcher was attached. This eliminated the need to remove the grenade launcher if you wished to use the rifle with standard ammunition. This change was not made until early 1944, well after even the barrel on this rifle was made, and naturally took some time to come into universal use. It should not be found on this rifle if all original parts were present.
This is not the only problem here. The rear site, as seen earlier, is of the post-WWII type. (A very few were made at the tail end of the war but most were made afterwards.) This is a much better site configuration than found on earlier models but is not correct for a WWII manufactured rifle.
If you look at the receiver group you can see below and to the right of the drawing number the fork on the follower rod. You can see that the depth of this fork is substantially more than the diameter of the pin it connects to. This so called "deep-fork" rod was used on late WWII and post-war rifles. The reason for the depth was apparently due to the rod disengaging from the follower at times. It is stated that replacing this rod was one of the items done during post-war overhaul of this rifle.
Similarly, if you look at the junction of the handle to the tube on the operating rod where the drawing number is stamped, you can see a semi-circular cutout to the left of it. This relief cut was part of later manufacturing techniques to eliminate cracking that began at the earlier hard corner. This was not part of the manufacture of a WWII era weapon but, again, was part of the post-war overhaul so there are not many unaltered rods to be had. The drawing number marked on this part closely resembles one on an unmodified rod that Canfield pictures in his text from his own collection. I take this as confirmation that this rod is of an appropriate era to both the receiver and the barrel and that it underwent modification during the overhaul.
The next problem we find is with the marking on the bolt. The "HRA" shown here is representative of the Harrington & Richardson Arms co. Harrington did not begin manufacturing the M1 until the Korean conflict erupted. This bolt should most deffinitely not be on this rifle and is a major indicator that other internal components have also likely been changed. The aforementioned lock screw and site are possibly simply field upgrades (if one assumes, for example, that this rifle was returned to the armoury between WWII and Korea and then reissued) but the bolt being so far off deffinitely says that these are either repairs done while the weapon was in service or, more likely, post-production alterations done after the weapon had transfered to private hands.
This is further evidenced by the stock. There is no cartouche visible on either side, nor is there the defense acceptance stamp. My eyes can find no evidence of these markings, as if they were simply never there to begin with. It should be remembered though that these stamps were fairly light and it could well be that they simply wore off through the years. It is also possible that this is not the original stock but a replacement. This tracks with the earlier discrepancy between the receiver and the barrel. The problem here is that the text doesn't mention that it's even possible to find an M1 stock without either a cartouche, defense acceptance stamp, or both. A stock that was cleaned and/or repaired during overhaul could have had the original markings sanded off but new markings would have been applied. Therefore, I have no idea where this stock came from. It is likely that it was surplus stock and was not mounted to a rifle that was accepted into military service. If this is indeed the case, it may be impossible to date it.
One interesting feature on this stock is found by the trigger assembly. If you look closely, you can observe a line where a damaged portion of the stock was cut away and new wood glued in to build it back up. Such repairs were apparently common to rifles that made their way back to the armoury. And, as long as it holds up, it's certainly cheaper than building a new stock.
On earlier rifles, the barrel channel was a bit over two inches long. Later rifles had this shortened to just over an inch and a half. My rifle falls within that range. Earlier rifles undergoing post-war overhaul would have had this channel shortened to this length.
On this stock, the only visible markings to be found are the proof stamp and the number "94" that has apparently been stamped by hand, and with a fair degree of force. It is probable that this number is an inventory number (a "rack number") associated with the unit it was issued to. There is also a small "3" stamped onto the stock under the butt plate. Unfortunately, I do not know if there is any significance to this mark.
Next, we can examine the butt plate. Although this is a seemingly small part, it does hold value for authenticating the weapon. In my case, you can see how the outside edges are somewhat rounded off, rather than ending abruptly. This was typical of plates made at Springfield as well as those made by Harrington. It is not possible to tell exactly who produced this one as there are generally no markings on this part but the part shows a fair amount of age that seems to match the overall rifle. Of course, the butt plate is more likely to be banged up than just about any other portion of the rifle so one should expect it to be in less than pristine condition. As a side note, the tools that would have been contained under the access panel are not unexpectedly no longer with this rifle. I'm going to endeavor to find a surplus kit that's at least near to the period.
Another item of interest is the sling. This sling deffinitely shows signs of age and certainly seems to have been with the rifle for a good, long while. The pattern and density of the knitt also seems consistant with a WWII era sling as illustrated in Canfield's book and the hardware appears to be correct however, the does not say at all whether this is original or not. If it is, that's certainly a very desirable bonus, but given how much else is far from original, I'm going to pretend it is although I kind of doubt it.
My conclusion, after this examination, is that this receiver was originally made in 1941 at the Springfield Armoury, prior to the formal entry of the U. S. into WWII and later married with the 1943 barrel. It is therefore most likely that this rifle is merely a hodgepodge of parts taken from other rifles. I suspect that the stock was either damaged or cracked and was replaced, possibly with one of a lot made specifically for that purpose. It is likely that the bolt suffered some damage, probably long after production ceased and while in the hands of one of the former civilian owners, and was replaced with one from a non-servicable rifle.
In any event, the receiver is largely period correct, bearing in mind overhaul, and evidence suggests it is entirely plausible that the barrel and receiver were mated together during the overhaul. The trigger group is apparently from a later period although without complete dissassembly and access to more detailed information than is at my disposal, it won't be possible for me to tell if everything is correct and when it was likely produced. The barrel is not matched to the receiver although being of WWII production and at Springfield. This is still suitable for "period correct" assembly. The bolt is obviously from much later on, probably Korean era and possibly slightly later. As for the stock, there simply is no way to tell that I have discovered. One way or the other, it's been around quite a while so it is entirely possible that this is an original WWII production stock that underwent post-war overhaul and subsequently was dragged half-way across Korea. There is simply no evidence to suggest it's true period of origin, just enough to show that it apparently was attached to one or more rifles that was assigned at one time to an active unit and probably was out of storage for more than just target practice by some weekend warrior.
To me, this rifle seems in excellent condition and well worth having but is not a collectors piece having been extensively altered. However, until I can examine all of the internal components to find out just what has been changed and figure out where this stock came from, I can't know for certain whether just how far from original this rifle really is. Further, to properly conduct that examination, I need to locate documentation showing the various drawing and revision numbers that would have been used as well as the date the revision was approved so get an idea of when the earliest time a given part could be expected to appear. In any case, this is not a rifle that, as a complete unit, likely saw any sort of combat action (while the barrel and receiver almost certainly did) and thus can be assumed to have never been fired in anger.
I would also conclude that, since it is in such good condition, that for use as a target shooter, I got my money's worth and the purchase was deffinitely worth it even if I wasn't lucky enough to get something that holds real historic value beyond the fact that it's a Garand. And most importantly since it is not historically significant, I don't have to feel at all guilty about putting several thousand rounds through it over the next few years and can simply enjoy shooting it.
And speaking of shooting it, I did at last have an opportunity to take this out to the range and try it out. Since I was out with some friends doing more recreational than practice shooting, I didn't have a chance to zero the sites nor was I able to place myself at a comfortable bench and really evaluate the performance but setting the windage adjustment to center and leaving the elevation as it was when I purchased the rifle, it didn't seem to be that far off. From my precarious stance, I was still able to nail the 24 inch steel diamond out at 300 yards more than once. (And even when I missed, it was only by a foot or so.) I think that given that this was from a hobby shooter that most of the servicemen who carried this rifle would be satisfied with that performance.
So once I actually did get a chance to sight it in, how did it perform? It's a Garand, duh! Check out one of the targets I set up at 50 yards, benchrest. Ignore all the stuff to the right of center. I had taped another target over this before I realized I needed to keep it. It took me a while to get used to the sights and figure out how to compensate for what I deem to ultimately be a really poorly designed rear sight (that military sight makes it tricky — if only that ring had cross hairs in it...) but once I did, the performance of this rifle is just outstanding. No wonder the troops just loved it. Now if only they had retained the internal box magazine instead of that en bloc clip...
Once I had a chance to sit down and do a better job shooting with this rifle, I saw pretty good performance out of this 60+ year old weapon. At 100 yards, I was able to get 14 rounds in a 10 1/2 inch group. The hole in the upper right is just a tear. Remember, this rifle has military ring and post sights on it. Recalling that this rifle required me to make some minor corrections on how I held this rifle, and putting my cheek further to the rear of the stock helped to correct some of the parallax error and allowed me to hit the 18 inch steel diamond out at 300 yards most times and hit the one at 200 yards almost every time. (A most satisfying sound for a rifle with iron sights. And yes, a target with 14 holes is an odd count for a rifle using an 8 round clip. I was having too much fun to try to remember to use 2 complete clips on this target before shooting at something else.)
One thing that I was kind of surprised about is the fact that even with that very large round, the rifle didn't really kick all that bad. Part of this is deffinitely due to the weight of this weapon (topping the scales at about ten and a half pounds, something which the military initially lamented) but also because of the fact that it's gas operated. Drawing some of that gas off and having it shove a piston against a fairly taught spring most deffinitely absorbs at least a portion of the recoil. After firing a box of 20 rounds, my shoulder wasn't even hinting that it was unhappy. (It took 80 to get to that point...) There were faint marks on my shoulder, to be sure, but that was all. Oh, and for those who doubt the power of a .30-06, using Remington's 150gr spitzer point rounds clocking out with an average muzzle velocity of 2750 fps, at 25 yards, just look at what it did to a piece of 3/8ths inch mild steel plate and note how clean the other side is. Any further questions as to why armored personell carriers use thick, special formulated, and specially hardened armor? Forget the RPGs, if you get it wrong, even small arms pose a lethal threat. It would be interesting to put this plate under a rockwell gauge, harden and temper it, gauge it again and then compare the performace. My money says it would at the least bulge the plate and very likely still put about .15 inch hole in the other side.
Unfortunately, the performance of the rifle during the initial shoot was not flawless. It jammed up on me twice. Each time, the point of the round that should have gone into the chamber had stuck high and left. I suspect that this was most probably due to the particular clip than anything else. To me, it seems as though the round was not cleanly stripped from the clip with the back of the shell getting hung up, causing the round to misalign. I've since marked my clips so I can try to track this if it happens again. (If it only occurs with one specific clip, that clip gets discarded.)
Additionally, there was one misfire. The hammer fell quite audibly but the firing pin never engaged the round in the chamber. There were no marks on it at all to indicate that the firing pin had come forward. (The round was good and did subsequently fire after being loaded into another clip.) This only happened once so I am not at all sure what may have caused this. I will only say that when I conducted my initial examination of the bolt, I was somewhat concerned that the firing pin might be one or two hundredths of an inch shy of what it should have been after being dry fired but I do not have sufficient experience to really know what the pin on a Garand should look like when it's in place. It seems more probably, however, that the bolt simply didn't close quite all the way. This could have been a function of the charge in the round possibly not delivering the right pressure to the gas tube (resulting in the bolt not opening all the way and therefore not closing with the appropriate force.) These rifles are somewhat finicky about that. Could also just as easily be a weak spring.