What comes to mind when you hear “M1 Garand”? Marines storming the beaches in World War II? NRA high power matches? The Civilian Marksmanship Program? A certain flannel clad father figure? The list of possibilities is long and varied, just like the history and use of this workhorse of American engineering. Today, I want to add something to that list: Gun Safe Staple. I’m sure many of you reading this right now either already have, or already plan to buy, the rifle carried by US GI’s across the globe, but I’m willing to bet that, like me, you didn’t buy it for real practical applications. You might have bought it for its history, its iconic profile, or the beautiful engineering, but today, I want to discuss why I think the M1 Garand has a place in every gun safe, and what this mighty weapon can do for you, practical and otherwise.
I’m not here to discuss the history of the rifle or any of the technical specifications, though you should certainly watch Ian McCollum's video on the M1 Garand to appreciate this tool. No, dear reader, instead we will discuss what this brown rifle can do for you.
Why I Love the M1 Garand
Oh let me count the ways.
Let's start at the surface: the profile of the weapon. I have yet to find someone who doesn’t like the look of the iconic rifle. Even governments seem to love it, as I am not aware of anywhere in the United States where this semi-automatic rifle is illegal to possess. (As always, check to ensure compliance with all applicable laws before buying any firearms.) The rifle looks unintimidating, and most people would assume this actual weapon of war is grandpa’s hunting rifle. (Which it may well have been.)
Within the classic wood and steel exterior, crafted better than any artist could have conceived, is a handy, ergonomic, and comfortable weapon. The weapon has excellent balance, with a center of gravity just forward of the receiver. The rifle handles well and points naturally, and doesn't feel as heavy as the ten pounds advertised. The 8-round en bloc clips are light and portable, allowing for easy packing and carrying. Of course, the preferred way to carry them is in a bandolier, for style points. While you are getting that bandolier, go ahead and pick up a bayonet, a great field tool, and one of the finest slings ever designed. When used properly, the M1 Garand’s sling enhances the accuracy of this capable machine.
9-Hole reviews on Youtube confirming the accuracy potential of the M1 Garand.
Designed for an American military where every infantryman was a marksman, the 24-inch barrel provides excellent practical accuracy and lets the powerful 30-06 cartridge stretch its legs.The full-powered 30-06 battle rifle cartridge is more powerful than even the ubiquitous .308, and is capable of taking any game in the United States. For the cost and availability, I would challenge anyone to find a mightier cartridge than the 30-06 in a semi-automatic rifle. The carriage is so strong, even the strongest armor plates, Level 4, are only rated to stop 1 armor piercing 30-06. Just make sure you buy a $40 adjustable gas port for your rifle to ensure you don't damage the rifle shooting heavier bullets. When in doubt, only shoot ammo specifically made for M1 Garands, either surplus or modern ammo.
Speaking of aftermarket, the age of the rifle has allowed the industry 80 years to develop a sturdy aftermarket for the M1 Garand. One controversial option is a rail mount. Various manufacturers make short rails that replace the rear sight and allow users to mount red dots. Somewhat less controversial is replacing part of the handguard with a rail section, allowing the user to mount a scout-style scope for magnified optics. These options require no permanent modification to the rifle, so have at it guilt free.
Downsides of the M1 Garand
Regardless of the above, we must acknowledge and understand the limitations inherent to the system.
Wood and steel make for a sturdy, but heavy rifle. At ten pounds, the rifle is a chonker. Best drink an extra protein shake before heading out the door. This weight, combined with the 24-inch barrel makes CQB extremely difficult. Is it possible? Sure. But in real life, I’m going to sling that rifle and use a pistol every day. CQB is also limited by the difficulty mounting a light, an all but mandatory accessory, on the Garand.
Although the rifle brings significant firepower as a semi-automatic 30-06, the rifle is limited by its 8-round en bloc clips. To my knowledge, there is no way to expand beyond the 8 rounds like magazine fed firearms. With enough effort, even the budget friendly SKS can be adapted for higher capacities. The reloads are also awkward if you are trained on magazine fed weapons, but this can be mitigated with training.
I'm sure there are more downsides, but seeing the brevity of this section compared to the one above it makes me happy. Tell me in the comments more about why I shouldn’t like this rifle.
So here we are, the section where I tell you about the practical applications for this rifle so that you can nod thoughtfully and think with cold calculation about the job this tool will do for you or the role it will fill so that you can justify spending your hard earned money on this entirely useful weapon.
And that is partially true. I’m a huge fan of the rifle as a general purpose rifle. You can use it for hunting, target shooting, a brush gun, and even, in a pinch, home defense. Who doesn’t like a good generalist? But that’s not the main reason there should be a Garand in every gun safe.
That reason is how much fun you will have with it.
I have never seen anyone pick up this historic rifle without smiling. As an American, hefting and shouldering this rifle brings up images of GI’s liberating Europe and islands in the Pacific. Handling the Garand is smooth and intuitive, and it feels as if the rifle knows how you want it to move before your neurons even fire. Shooting the rifle, you feel the kick and force of the mighty beast roaring and thundering and hurtling its projectile down range. Finally, after 8 trigger pulls, the distinctive *ping* fills your ears. As the clip soars through the air, you slam another clip into the smoking receiver and do it all again.
Remember why you are here, why you got into this hobby in the first place. Because it was FUN and COOL. It wasn't because everything was perfectly practical. The little imperfections created charm and character. Maybe it’s time to return and remember what brought joy in the first place. Something as awesome as a gun like the M1 Garand.
Let’s do this.
And when you need no compromise firepower in a handy, obtainable package, the M1 Garand will have your back. That's why when the mechanized killer robots and radioactive zombie bears rise to usher forth the apocalypse, I will meet them not with my tacticool AR or my rugged AK. It will be with my M1 Garand, complete with sling, bayonet, and bandolier.
Maybe even a 1911. Just for fun.