Gun Review: M1 Garand Rifle

For some folks, the M1 Garand is a venerated object, a potent symbol of American greatness during World War II. Some of these people make an almost holy exercise out of researching serial numbers and finding the correct elusive parts. Yea, verily, for some searcheth out the lock bar rear sight, even from the very bowels of the earth, while others locketh not the rear sight, lest they anger the spirit of John C. Garand.

For others, especially those young whipper-snappers who cut their ballistic teeth on AR style rifles, the Garand is an ancient, clumsy and heavy thing, a dinosaur thigh bone left over from the Pleistocene Era of firearms. I mean who really wants that much petrified wood on a rifle, anyway? And whaddya mean it might bite my thumb off if I don’t load it just right?

But for some real whackos like me, the Garand is a powerful and accurate semi-automatic rifle that can really bring the oomph downrange, especially if you can get your hands on the right ammo. And the right ammo would be the US military surplus armor piercing round.

Because of the way United States ammunition laws are written, .30-06 AP ammunition can be owned by us mere peasants, uh, oops, I mean civilians. I was lucky enough to purchase a couple of cans of it from the Civilian Marksmanship Program the last time a batch came up for sale.

There are plenty of Internet stories circulating about .30-06 AP ammo being more accurate than standard M2 ball ammo. Heck there’s one story of the National Matches at Camp Perry issuing surplus AP ammo due to a shortage of match ammo. So I decided to find out for myself, and document the results for TTAG’s loyal readers.

To that end, I offer up some glimpses of what my Springfield Garand can do at 300 yards using two different types of military surplus ammo.

My M1 was originally purchased from the ODCMP as a Service Grade rifle by somebody else. He then sold it to me. Later, I added an Amega Ranges scout mount and a Nikon 2.5-8X EER scope with quick-detach rings, mainly because my eyes turned about two years ago, and I now wear glasses.

I shoot my scoped Garand at 300 yards because that’s the longest range I can get to in under an hour’s drive. I’d love a chance to shoot out to 500 or 600 yards, or even farther just to see how this rig performs.

The target I shot was a piece of cardboard trimmed to sort of look like a torso. It’s 24 inches tall by 18 inches wide. I stapled an 8.5 inch X 11 inch piece of yellow paper into the center of the target, hoping the contrast with the white cardboard would give me an area to center the crosshairs. At 300 yards, however, the yellow blended in with the white background, so I wound up just holding right in the middle of the whole thing.

The first group I fired on that target was 8 rounds of Greek surplus M2 ball. The M2 round became the standard round for the Garand during WWII, and served into Korea and beyond. It’s a 152 grain, flat-based, FMJ bullet that exits the muzzle just a shade over 2800 feet per second. The Greek M2 holes are marked with a red, magic-markered “G2.” I marked it as G2 because I fired a prior group on another target, just to make sure the scope was still dialed in to 300 yards.

As you can see, all eight red G2 holes remained on the toro-sized slice of cardboard. Four of them hit the 8.5X11 inch sheet of yellow paper. Not too bad for a military-issued rifle built in 1953, if you ask me.

Then, I followed up with another 8-round clip of US surplus AP ammunition. The AP bullets are marked with black tips, and contain a steel penetrator core.

This steel core enhances accuracy allegedly because it gives the bullet an internal axis around which to rotate as it spins out of the rifling. The bullet also weighs a little more, coming in at around 163 grains, instead of the 152 of the standard M2 bullet.

Whatever the cause, the dark alchemy of AP became quickly apparent when I checked my target. Gah-Zinga! All eight of the AP rounds hit the yellow paper at 300 yards. To differentiate from the other group, I marked these with green magic marker. The biggest spread was vertical, and measured just over 6.5 inches, or barely over 2 MOA, with two rounds in one hole, right in the middle, only a few inches above the dead center of the yellow paper. That’s barely over 2 MOA with a 58-year-old, semi-automatic military surplus rifle shooting even older military surplus ammo.

I’d call that more than acceptable.

One downside of the AP ammo is that since most of it was made before the 1960s, much of it has corrosive primers. For many modern shooters, corrosively primed ammo is more intimidating and arcane than the Riddle of Steel was for Thulsa Doom.

My corrosive ammo cleaning solution is the super-secret and almost impossible to obtain mystical elixir known by the exotic name of “Windex.” The cleaning procedure itself is a dark and mysterious rite which involves squirting a few shots of this “Windex” down the barrel and onto the Garand’s gas piston, which are then wiped off and swabbed out with patches. Then I just clean it with Hoppes 9.

Despite its age, and configuration as a service rifle, not a target gun, the Garand can still perform quite impressively even at 300 yards. The last thing I’ve got to say is BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG-PING!