John Cantius Garand and the M1 Rifle
John Garand was born in St. Remi, Quebec, Canada, on January 1, 1888, moving to Connecticut at age ten. Working in a textile mill two years later, he soon patented a telescopic screw jack as well as an automatic bobbin winding machine. He later took a job at Brown & Sharpe, a tool-making company in Rhode Island.
His design for a light machine gun was eventually chosen by the US War Department for use by the Navy in 1917 and he obtained a post with the US Bureau of Standards. After the 1917 model, which was built in 1919, the 30-year old Garand was hired as a consulting engineer at Springfield Armory and subsequently become a US citizen.
In the early 1920’s, many designs were submitted for a self-loading rifle, but none met the army’s rigid requirements. In 1924, Garand offered a design that was approved for further testing. The resulting semi-automatic rifle was patented by Garand in 1934. This weapon became the famous M1 Rifle. Gas-operated, it was 43 inches (109 cm) long and weighed 9.5 lbs (4.3 kg). The .30 caliber, 8-shot, clip-loaded weapon proved to be a better infantry weapon than the old standard bolt-action Springfield rifle, firing up to four times as many shots at 100 rounds per minute, and contributed greatly to the Allied victory in WW II.
The US Army adopted the rifle in 1936 and production began in the Summer of 1937; the Marine Corps adopting the rifle in 1940. The Garand had less recoil than the US Model 1903 bolt-action Springfield, making it an ideal weapon for the average soldier, and it delivered greater firepower. General Douglas MacArthur, a strong supporter of the M1 Rifle, wrote from the battlefields of Bataan, that the rifles were “performing in an outstanding manner” and operated “without malfunctions under combat conditions for as much as seven days consecutively without attention.” Gen. George Patton wrote in January, 1945, “In my opinion, the M1 Rifle is the greatest battle implement ever devised.”
Photo: Manufactured at Springfield Armory, Springfield, Massachusetts on July, 31, 1931, this hand made, gas-operated, semi-automatic experimental rifle by John Garand was the prototype .30 caliber rifle that developed into the US M1 Rifle.
For inventing the US M1 Rifle and numerous other innovations, Garand received no award other than his modest Civil Service salary, never earning more than $12,000 a year in his 34-year service with the U.S. Ordnance Corps. A bill introduced in Congress to grant him $100,000 failed to pass. He was, however, awarded an Award for Meritorious Service in 1941 and a U.S. Government Medal for Merit in 1944. More than six million M1 Rifles were manufactured before the rifle was phased out in 1957.
Garand signed over all patents of his invention to the U.S. government. Garand remained in his consulting position until his retirement in 1953, and died in Springfield, Massachusetts, on February 16, 1974, at the age of 86. On June 27, 1980, in the presence of Mr. Garand’s wife and two children, the Honorable Clifford L. Alexander, Jr., Secretary of the Army, officially dedicated Room 2E680 of the Pentagon Building as the Garand Memorial Conference Room. The M1 Rifle was never officially named after its inventor, but to million of veterans and users, the venerable M1 Rifle will always be known as the Garand Rifle.
Duff, Scott A., The M1 Garand: WORLD WAR II, South Greensburg Printing Co., Inc, Greensburg, PA 15601, 1993, p.3.
Pyle, Billy, The Gas Trap Garand, Collector Grade Pub., Inc., PO Box 1046, Coburg, ON, CANADA K9A 4W5, dedication page.
Springfield Armory NHS archives
The M1 rifle was first used in competitive shooting in the Marine Corps Pacific Division Match held at Pearl Harbor on February 26-27, 1946. This was followed by other matches held by the Marines. Most of the early improvements to the accuracy of the M1 were developed from field experience and carried out by Marine armorers on selected weapons.
In the Spring of 1948, the Ordnance Dept. began studies to improve the accuracy of the M1 rifle as an eventual replacement for the ’03 Springfield in the National Matches. In March of 1953, the Ordnance Dept. was directed by the Chief of Ordnance to furnish 800 M1 rifles for use in the National Matches. The rifles selected were hand-picked from newly manufactured weapons that had workmanship and accuracy superior to the average service weapon. Since Springfield Armory was still making Ml’s, only hand-picking of superior quality weapons and some minor gunsmithing were needed to bring the weapons to required standards.
A meeting at Springfield Armory in September 1956 resulted in the funding of an engineering program to improve the M1 National Match rifle. Improvements and changes were implemented by an evolutionary process from 1954 through 1963, until the M1 was replaced by the M14. National Match rifles were built from newly made rifles, or rebuilt from previously made NM rifles. By 1959, production of new M1 rifles ended and all subsequent M1NM’s were made by rebuilding existing rifles or from parts stock on hand. This explains some of the very low and very high serial numbers that are found. The rebuilding operation required considerable inspection, refinishing and refitting to eliminate parts which were excessively worn, or which had been altered in the field for some reason. Every rebuilt rifle, however, was re-barreled and restocked.
In early 1959, the application of glass bedding to improve stock fit and accuracy came under study. Prior to this, the fitting of wood components essentially followed procedures developed by Marine armorers through experience. Glass bedding was first used on M1 rifles made during 1959 for the 1960 National Matches, and was continued on the M14NM.The bedding compound was applied to routed-out areas at critical receiver contact points, assembled to the receiver and cured. After excess compound was removed, the stock was stamped with the last four digits of the receiver serial number to prevent accidental interchange.
IDENTIFICATION OF SPECIMENS
Because of the evolutionary nature of the NM program, identification and verification of specimens is extremely difficult. The abundance of National Match parts, and the premium placed on the rifles have made “parts guns” and forgeries commonplace. The only positive way to verify a specimen is to have the original documentation for the rifle. (Of course, another clue would be to check the fits and accuracy of the piece. Few forgeries would have the accuracy of an NM rifle.) To the best of our knowledge, serial numbers of the weapons were never recorded until the actual assignment or sale of a rifle, and then apparently not retained for permanent records.
The earliest production National Match rifle had few identifying characteristics to set it apart from the standard M1 other than its precision assembly and its shooting ability. They did not have the front or rear “NM” sights, nor did they have glass bedding. Few, if any, components bore the “NM” stamp of later models. They would, however, have high serial numbers and barrels dated no earlier than about 1952, since they were selected from current production.
SERIAL NUMBER RANGE
The majority of the rifles were selected from new production lots in the 1950s and serial numbers of earlier specimens should reflect that. After 1959, many of the earlier weapons were rebuilt, always with a new barrel, and some used receivers were selected. (This accounts for low number NM rifles, but with barrels dated later than about 1959 and marked “NM”.) Some new receivers were also selected from spares stock, thus accounting for serial numbers higher than 6084145, the last production M1 made at Springfield Armory.
Year New Rebuilt Total Year New Rebuilt Total
1953 800 0 800 1954 4184 499 4683
1955 3003 314 3317 1956 5050 550 5600
1957 4184 499 4683 1958 1295 731 2026
1959 2877 2652 5529 1960 8663 8663
1961 1410 1410 1962 4500 4500
1963 3639 3639
Hatcher, J.S. The Book of the Garand, Sportsmans Press, 1948.
U.S. Army Materiel Command, National Match Rifle brochure, 1964.
Springfield Armory annual reports, 1953-1964.