By EC in CA
Loyal readers of this humble periodical will recall that from time to time we venture to provide our thoughts on new models of firearms before they are available for purchase at your neighborhood hardware store. This past month, we had the pleasure of testing a new rifle developed for the U.S. Army. Since you may never get a chance to operate one, we invite you to turn the page to learn how our afternoon at the Army’s armory in Springfield, Massachusetts went . . .
The military’s current rifle, the venerable M1903, is a five-shot repeating rifle operated with a bolt-handle mechanism. In the nearly two decades since our boys put away the German Empire for good, there have been many advances in the realm of modern mechanics. This has led our military leaders to seek a new rifle to replace the current one.
The bidding, testing, and selecting process for the new rifle was, as described by my sources within the Ordnance Department, rigorous and thorough but straightforward and impartial. In the end, the Army brass has decided on a rifle that they will call the U.S. Rifle, Caliber .30, M1. Designed by a Canadian fellow named Garand, it fires the same .30-’06 cartridge as the M1903—which you are sure to know already is the minimum size and gunpowder load needed for effective use in modern warfare.
What has the Department of the Army thinking this new mechanical wonder is so swell? First of all—semi-automatic operation. The tried-and-true reliability of a bolt-action mechanism is now being replaced with a gas-operated auto-loading system. My sources indicated that reliability of such a system was and still is a concern, but ultimately the glamour of modern conveniences won out.
The other gee-whiz feature of the M1 is its insertable clip for the ammunition. Rather than loading the cartridges one-by-one, the clip holds an impressive capacity (eight rounds!) and loads the whole lot in one motion. After locking the bolt back, the soldier simply lines up the clip and presses fully downwards, inserting the clip until his thumb is inside of the action. This new method of loading appears to be quite simple and pain-free. Additionally, Mr. Garand was smart not to design the rifle with a protruding magazine- such a contraption would be easily lost by a soldier in the heat of hostilities.
As for performance, the M1 rifle shoots and handles rather admirably. At a mere ten pounds, this lightweight piece is ready to be carried over the trenches and through the forests. The accuracy of its fire is nearly as precise as its predecessor, likely due to a similar sighting and aiming system. And, lastly, when one fires the final cartridge, the gun produces a satisfying ringing sound as it ejects the clip. This feature is likely to be a great aid to the firer to re-load his weapon.
Despite our skepticism of the necessity of the fancy mechanisms that dominate the design of the U.S. Rifle, Caliber .30, M1, we concede that it is indeed a good firearm that might very well be a satisfactory replacement for the M1903. But the truth about guns is that they are simply mechanical objects—it’s how they are used that matters. Given our decisive victory over the Kaiser and his nefarious cohorts, the powers of the world look as if they will nevermore come to arms in such a colossal fashion. And if that turns out to be the case, the M1 may never get a chance to prove its mettle on the field of battle.