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33 Responses to Question of the Day: Have You Ever Had Garand Thumb?

  1. I am disagreeing a bit with the presenter. My first military weapon was the M1, and many a new troop got “M1 Thumb” (nobody called it a “Garand” back then!), especially while standing inspections. That’s because you held the rifle with your left hand, at the foregrip. Following visual inspection by the officer, he handed the weapon back to you with the bolt open. While holding the bolt lever back with the side of your right hand, you used your right hand’s thumb to push down that follower. The bolt did NOT necessarily push your thumb out of the way in time!

    • That’s why, after depressing the follower,
      you allow the bolt to ride forward slightly,
      controlled with the side of your hand.
      You then roll your thumb out of the way,
      and then, once your thumb is clear,
      you remove your hand and allow the rat trap to spring closed.

      I once assisted a pawn shop clerk in closing a few garands he had
      in his rack. All were open as he was scared to close them and loose a finger,
      and couldn’t afford to break another pencil.
      I closed them, and showed him how to do it for himself.
      Another patron was observing this process, but
      oviously not closely enough.
      He asked to examine one of the garands, opened the bolt to
      show clear, then promptly inserted his thumb and clamped
      the rifle to his right thumb.

      He then let go of the rifle with his left hand.

      Hilarity ensued.

      • I was fortunate that it never happened to me, but some of the ones I had to treat were pretty bad. I think the worst ones were where a blood blister developed under the thumbnail.

    • Actually, you are agreeing with me.

      The video was made to demonstrate you how you do, and do not, get “Garand thumb.”

      It is physically impossible to have the bolt face smash your thumb when loading a full clip of ammo.

      It happens when doing the manual of arms on an empty Garand, just as you describe in your comment.

        • No problem, glad we cleared it up. Believe it or not, on Garand Fanatic forums there is fierce debate about whether or not you can get the actual, real-deal, bolt face smashing thumb, “Garand Thumb” by loading it, or not. These, of course, are the same people who would come to blows over drawing numbers on trigger groups, etc. They are really into Garands.

          While there are dire warnings about it happening while warning, fact is that vets who used the Garand rarely, almost never, report anything with loading, but ALWAYS talk about how it happened to some poor kid did it to himself while at inspection performing the manual of arms, or while cleaning.

          One old vet relayed a story about 1911 thumb, wherein an inspecting officer managed to close the slide on a 1911 on his index finger, leading to a memorable sight for the whole platoon of the Lt. jumping around cursing and swearing with a 1911 hanging from his finger.

  2. Nope, because I was a boot at Parris Island, where we had “by the numbers” instruction and drill on how to avoid M1 thumb.

  3. Thank you for NOT showing a picture of a mangled M1 thumb. I’ve seen them up close and they’re goddamned ugly. I managed to avoid them myself in my Garand-owning days.

  4. Bought my CMP Garand last summer, saw the youtube “sharpie gets crushed video.

    Started with the “bladed” version per CMP manual, than just modified to the push down with curled fingers. No “thumb”….

    Practice, practice practice…..I heard that if you get one, it will only ever happen once, as it is such a pronouned “learning experience”…. 😉

    It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that “PING”,,,,

  5. I’ve never heard it called “Garand Thumb” “M1 Thumb” has a much better ring to it, though, right?

    I did see some one else get one. My buddy is a gunsmith in Seattle, and he was working on a Customers M1, measuring something with a caliper. He had the action locked back, and was fiddling with something, and managed to drop the bolt on his one finger that was still in the action. Expensive German made caliper in the other hand, he immediately began yelling obscenities, pulled the top of one of his fingers out of the action, bleeding everywhere, and out of reflexive rage, banged his caliper against his work bench about three or four times, ruining it. He then looked at all the blood everywhere, his ruined caliper, looked at me and said “I’m gona call it a day.”

    • Yup, empty magazine is the way Garand thumb happens. I’ve *almost* had it happen, but got my thumb out of the magazine area quickly enough but did get knicked. Even that was more than enough.

  6. I gave a teammate Beretta butt once, when I sent my slide home on his Nomex clad butt. My lanyard was still tethering us together when he turned around and punched me.

  7. Back when I was stationed in California, I got a great case of it. We used to go over to the Carmel Gun Club and shoot at their matches every once and awhile. It’s easy to keep your thumb out of harm’s way when you’re cleaning or just target shooting, but when you’re in a timed competition that bolt will let you create all sorts of new curse words.

  8. I had had my thumb caught in the bolt of numerous firearms, including a Thompson SMG and a No4 Enfield. Ironically, the only weapon I’ve never had my thumb slammed by is a Garand. Probably because I’ve heard about “Garand thumb” my whole life and I was terrified every time I loaded a clip.

  9. No, because I saved up for a while for my CMP Garand. While waiting, I read everything I could. And then borrowed a few guns from friends to practice with. By the time I was shooting it a lot, I knew what I was doing. That said…it has been awfully close a few times.

    • Well played, sir.

      You can get a nice one for around $600 from the Civilian Marksmanship Program.

      Just had mine out yesterday, there is something really, well, magical about them.

  10. Not as of this writing, though I’ve owned and/or carried around a half-dozen over the years, worked on/re-assembled/otherwise-handled perhaps 3 dozen more ( J have a part-time gunsmithing business) – it’s something one heard about early, in general, in one’s handling of the rifle, under (as mentioned above) the topic of “M1-Thumb, How To Avoid”, and also could (in my case, anyway) near-instantly recognize why the “…Avoid” part was a really good idea.

    Once had a near-miss in the form of “M1-G.I. Glove”, though – add one part Wintertime FTX (Field Training Exercise) to one part slightly-oversize G.I. black horsehide Issue Winter gloves to one freshly-cleaned, slightly-loose-actioned ROTC-training M1 Garand, and stand by for action –

    Bolt only savaged the tip of the GLOVE’s thumb, I’m happy to say – my flesh-and-blood opposable digit escaped unscathed.

    Close, though…

  11. The only time I got Garand thumb was the time I was trying to show my friend how to NOT get Garand thumb. I was teaching him to shoot my Garand and was demonstrating how to load the clips without hurting your thumb and I foolishly stuck my thumb into the magazine to show him how the action worked when I accidentally pressed down on the follower, allowing the bolt to slam home with my thumb inside. It hurt like hell and I learned a valuable lesson, “Don’t stick your hand inside a gator’s mouth in order to teach someone how to not get their hand bit off by a gator.”

  12. I’ve owned probably 25 to 3o of them and shot ’em plenty. No. My old Battalion Commander grabbed my weapon and showed me right from the git go – using the edge of his hand ‘karate chop’ style to hold the op rod back. Good to go, GI.

  13. Nope, never been bit by my Garand. But I was taught correctly and shown what would happen if I screwed it up by my trainer at the the time. He had control of the action, inserted his thumb and SLOWLY allowed the bolt forward. He then showed me again how quickly the bolt went forward without his thumb in the action. I figured it out pretty quick that it would hurt.

  14. I bought my M1 at a gunshow in Visalia, California 2 years ago before the fascist politicians that run this state outlawed the legal transaction of C&R firearms between adult citizens. Enough politics, I’m in college and I had a few drinks with my roommate tonight and had my Universal M1 Carbine laying around as I usually have it, but then I got my Garand out of its bag since the receiver’s serial number is dated to 1943 and is a piece of history as opposed to a commercial reproduction I call my toy gun.

    Long story short, we’ve been drinking I show my roommate my Garand, he pulls back the bolt to see how an en-bloc clip is loaded in, and I stuck my thumb in the action without holding back the bolt. My baby bit me between my thumb and nail, it bled a little but some more vodka and it feels like i slammed it on the door or something. Oh well.

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