The M1 Garand is the epitome of the American battle rifle. It’s the weapon that won World War II, carried by millions of men in combat with an action that was both simple and beautiful in design. And for most of the honor guards in the United States, the men and women in uniform who perform that most sacred of duties at the funerals of our country’s lost heroes, it’s the weapon of choice for the traditional 21 gun salute. But the economy has hit everyone hard, and one Native American honor guard in South Dakota has had to resort to using the Soviet SKS as a replacement. And that’s ruffled more than a few feathers . . .

For those who are wondering, the SKS is the original battle rifle of the Soviet Union after World War II. It was the replacement for the Mosin Nagant, and in service until the AK-47 went into production. It’s chambered in the same 7.62×39 cartridge, but very different looking. It was one of the favorite weapons of the Viet Kong in the Vietnam conflict, killing thousands of Americans in its time and still in use against American forces today. SKSs are actually still used as the ceremonial rifle at the Russian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow, carried by the Russian honor guard. In other words, it’s not the weapon you’d want attending your funeral if you were a Vietnam vet being put to rest.

An editorial in the Rapid City Journal picks up with the righteous indignation:

Who could imagine the sound of enemy fire would signal the last rites for our honored dead? In what may be among the most ironic acts of official neglect and insensitivity of the past seven decades, the Russian SKS rifle is now used in ceremonial service by some honor guards as the last sound our Native American veterans and their families hear as veterans are laid to rest across South Dakota. It is an act of omission and ignorance.

The honor guard used to use M1 Garand rifles from the local National Guard outfit, but for some reason that seems to have stopped. These days, the only weapon these volunteers can afford to own and feed are Soviet in origin.

Those good volunteers go from event to event firing salutes, raising the flag, honoring those who honored us with their service. He was there with the last survivors of the Enola Gay. He was there with the last Marines who hit the beach at Okinawa. He is there every week for some soldier, sailor, Marine, or warrior of the wild blue, and every week he raises his SKS to fire the only weapons and ammunition his unit can afford, both of which they pay for out of their own pockets.

The South Dakota National Guard used to loan Garneaux M1 Garands, perhaps the most beautiful soldierly rifle ever shouldered to present arms, and the rifle that won World War II for America and our allies. The Guard stopped some time ago for reasons that don’t make a lick of sense so don’t anybody try to explain. Just don’t.

7.62×39 blanks are cheap and plentiful. Take it from someone who has dabbled in WWII reenacting — Soviet blanks are everywhere, mainly thanks to the Czechs. But .30-06 blanks and M1 Garand rifles are a little harder to come by, and when you’re buying them by the dozen you don’t seem to be getting the same price breaks that you once could.

The writer of the editorial lays the blame for the Soviet send-off for our troops squarely at the feet of the governor, Gov. Dennis Daugaard, saying “this is something he can do with a stroke of his pen.” The guns are still at the National Guard base after all, state property that isn’t doing any good on the rack. And a donation of 12 rifles to a good cause sounds like a good idea, and a cheap price to pay for giving soldiers the right send-off.

The author sums it up pretty well: “Anything less is inexplicable, insulting, unacceptable.”

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79 Responses to South Dakota Honor Guard Using SKS Rifles Instead of M1 Garands Thanks to National Guard Reluctance

  1. What a load of hogwash. Too expensive to feed a few, more expensive blanks into the M1’s they already own?

    Although it is called the 21 gun salute (not the 21 M1 salute), I do see how some vets would be offended. Given the subject/topic, whats a little bit of $$ out of respect of their service?

        • As I recall, its three volleys of 5 rifles for a total of 15 rounds. When I was on active duty in Hawaii, we used to send details to do the salute and presentation of colors at funerals for vets, and lord help you if you screwed up that mission.

      • That would be correct, buuuuut 21 gun salutes are given at funerals to ALL service members. This is symbolic of the fact that every one is equal in death. Doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, strong or weak, good or bad, president or piss-on. We all die.

    • Thats dammed disgusting.
      Our Vets last honor being the sound of an SKS…….

      Arnet there a few hundred thousand M1A1s sitting in Korea that Our Commander and POS wont let us buy just sitting there??
      Dont we own them anyway as in bought and paid for??
      Just another shamefull act O wont own up to.
      And our Vets and their families suffer for.

        • “The US has a right to determine who gets to buy them from the Koreans”

          And it’s a damn shame that they have that power. I believe that if a firearm is eligible for C&R status stateside, that it should in turn gain instant immunity from all US import laws.

        • Sorry, Mark, but these rifles were GIVEN to South Korea as part of the defense agreements between the 2 nations. They were offered to us as historical collectibles, but according to our illustrious Secretary of State there wou;ld be a great risk of them being acquired by criminals. And millions voted to reelect these assholes.

      • ..wow, any assinine excuse to “blame Obama?” What does importing worn out WW2 and Korean era M-1 garands have to do with volunteer honor guards using SKS rifles? They are volunteers and the local national guard is not under any obligation to furnish firearms to them, especially PIECE fully functioning battle rifles!!!

        Besides, at about $200-300 A , the SKS may be a embarrasment t use but its the thought that counts. A- holes like you wud slobber yourself to grab loads of those exported M-1s and push the prices up past $1,000- still out of the vlolunteers budget

        Instead of ranting useless political spew, how about contacting the honor guard and offer to DONATE to their group?

        • +1K
          We don’t [just] blame (D) O-hole. We blame all the POS (D)-bags that voted for him. That’s right, you suck.

          If you live in a blue state you may be part of the problem, if you have a (D) after your name, are a liberal, or a rino THE PROBLEM IS PART-OF-YOU, YOU ARE PERMENENTLY DAMAGED, AND YOUR MOTHER OWES US AN ABORTION.

  2. Indeed the mighty Garand is a respected thing of beauty, but there’s no denying they’re both true soldiers’ rifles. I wouldn’t take that strong an offense.

    Heck, I just bought myself a beautiful Norinco SKS today, as a matter of fact. The Garand is simply out of my league, price-wise.

      • True, most of them never invaded a country for no reason but to throw their weight around. Seems like that makes them better than us.

        • About the sort of EXPLETIVE DELETED we should expect from someone running around posting under a faux-German SS handle.

          The SKS was toted by soldiers of the USSR. You do remember the USSR? The nation that invaded Poland (twice), Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Mongolia… That imposed communist dictatorships on half of Europe. That sponsored terrorists across Europe, Africa and the Americas. That murdered at least 20,000,000 of its own citizens, and threw tens of millions more into prison camps to perform slave labor for decades.

          EXPLETIVE DELETED

    • Eh what… the CMP is your friend.

      A field grade M1 can be had for $525.

      A special grade M1 (new barrel, new stock) is $995 which is pretty damned good for _any_ semiauto 30-06, period!

    • I take it you never served most especially in combat. As a 23 year veteran of the US Army Infantry I would be EXTREMELY offended if an Honor Guard was using a rifle used BY OUR ENEMIES TO KILL AMERICANS to render a final salute. I have watched fellow soldiers wounded or killed with similar weapons to the SKS POS.

      • I served in the Army and in Vietnam for 22 months. For 18 of those months, I carried an AK-47 and would not be offended to have AKs or SKSs fired in salute at my funeral. But, I respect those who would be offended. Actually, my plan is that friends of mine will fire a salute in my behalf at the local gun range and they will use whatever firearm they choose, rifle, pistol or shotgun.

  3. An M1 from CMP is $525 — and SKS on GunBroker and other places is running $450. Exactly what is out of your league?

    • +1
      As someone who has taken more than his fair share of the offerings from the CMP it seems that every time I go and fire on of my lovelies at the range I end up giving out their website to an interested person. It must be the worlds best secret.

      • The Guard’s Garands were likely recalled by the Army to be shipped to Anniston to meet the demand for Garands from CMP-abusers like you who think that the purpose of the CMP is to feed your hobby with subsidized M1s rather than to train Americans in marksmanship.

  4. This is wrong.

    Seriously.

    Is there a way we can donate money so they can get real American guns to honor our vets?

    I mean, its not like M1s are rare or anything, they aren’t that expensive. Someone should set up a donation bin thing online. Seriously there should be enough gun blogs and enough gun owners who are willing to give away 10 or 20 bucks to get American Heroes the honor they deserve.

  5. Having had people try their damndest to KILL ME using the SKS (though the AK 47 and RPG 7 were far more popular…and the IED was the weapon of choice) I will come back and haunt the person who uses an SKS at my funeral.

  6. LMAO!

    Soon the leader’s US Army will be equipped with a Mosin Nagant for every third man.

    Just for the **** of it, these guys should sing the Internationale while parading around with their SKSs.

  7. This may actually be more of a federal issue than a state issue. While the state governor can call on the National Guard in an emergency, I believe that most (if not all) National Guard members are actually employees of the Federal government, not the state government, and their equipment belongs to the Feds as well.

    Stoking the fire a bit, I can’t help but think that the local VFW or American Legion must have a rifle team that could loan rifles out. And this then makes me wonder if there’s not some kind of turf battle/pissing contest going on that has been conveniently left out of this article…

    • My brother and I were members of the VFW way back in the 70’s. The Honor gaurd was strictly volunteer and there were never any shortages to go. Our VFW post had O3 springfields that had been given by the G for just such use.

      The most important guy on the detail was the bugler. Any dummy can do the manual of arms with the rifle, but it takes some actual talent to man that bugle.

  8. Just thought everyone should remember that there are 10s of thousands of M1s sitting in Korea because the Grabber-in-Chief won’t let them come back to the people who paid for them….

  9. I’m pretty sure the Marines still use M14’s for their funerals. And M16’s in some places. I don’t know of anyone using the Garand. They look a lot alike and I don’t look very closely, so I could be wrong, but that’s my recollection.

    But then, Marines take a lot more interest in vetaran funerals than the other services, I believe.

    • “But then, Marines take a lot more interest in vetaran funerals than the other services, I believe”

      It is “VETERAN” and no the Marines do not have a monopoly on support at funerals. ALL services are utilized for funeral details but they usually pull from where the resources are most plentiful. If you are near a larger installation then the representatives come from there. If it is too far from a base then the local reserve or in some cases veteran organizations (VFW, AL) or even the ROTC will be used depending upon the wishes of the family.

    • Actually, the Marines that cover Arlington use M1s, and use M16s elsewhere. Most National Guard Honor Guards, and the Active Army at Arlington and Ft Sam Houston use M14s. The Army Reserve uses M16s or M4s, whatever the unit has. The Air Force uses M14s pretty much everywhere for Honor Guard duty. The Navy and Coast Guard use M14s at Arlington, and M16s everywhere else.

      • Geez. Try holding a 4-month old and accurately type what you mean. 1903 is obviously bolt action. Point is these are both suitable and legal for most if not all.

  10. Our Governor never seems to suprise me anymore with his stupidity and mainly not getting of his ass to do the right thing. The only time he gets active is when he’s up for re-election. This is a total shame on us SD’s

  11. The SVT-40 was the Soviet battle rifle of WWII. The SKS saw no use during the war. It saw very little use in Russian hands overall.

    That said, I love my Yugo M59/66 A1. Best $200 I ever spent.

  12. That’s just so wrong, on so many levels, that I scarcely know where to begin.

    Governor Daugaard needs to get the travesty squared away immediately.

    Further, the South Korean Garands and M1 Carbines need to be repatriated to their rightful owners, the U.S. taxpayers, and sent to the CMP, as expeditiously as possible. No qualifications, no excuses, no ATF or State BS.

  13. I read the editorial very carefully and it seems to me that these are not military funerals at all, but civilian funerals for deceased veterans. If true, then I’m not sure what to think. Their families could have requested and received military funerals. All veterans have that right. Then they would have had all the official military honors. They chose not to. The “Wild Horse Butte Intertribal Tokala” doesn’t sound very official to me.

    I’ve served on funeral detail (we used M16s). I know what’s involved and why military honors matter, but this story is not what it seems at first blush.

  14. I did honor guard when I was on shore duty at Great Lakes NTC. We used M14’s with blank firing adapters, 3 volleys from 7 rifles. Veterans families can request a military honor guard at a funeral. There were times when we would drive for 4-5 hours to do a funeral downstate or in Wi. This doesn’t sound like the military is sending anyone, these vets could be someone who served in the guard, if so I would suspect it was at the state level. Yes, using a russian rifle just isn’t right.

  15. Spoke to a buddy who does honor guards with the American Legion. Says the Army does 99 year leases on the M1’s to any valid vet organization. Got 15 just last week for an organization. Something don’t sound right here.

  16. the SKS is a good basic infantry rifle. that being said, the Garand is much better, and made in America, so it should be the rifle used to honour our dead.

  17. You would think that somebody could talk Springfield Armory and/or Colt into donating some M-14 type M1A rifles and/or AR-15 rifles for these types of services.

  18. I understand the passions. To me, it is secondary if the rifle used was Kar98, LeeEnfield, Arisaka, MosinNagant or an AK-47. The important thing is, was the deceased given full honors?
    At the funeral for Lord Nelson at Saint Paul’s in London, hanging in the copula were
    the captured banners of the French and Spanish navy.

  19. Sadly enough, this sort of thing is not entirely unheard of- back in 94 one of my units guys died in the line of duty in a accident. At his widows request, we were given the task of rendering military honors at his graveside service. No problem, we grabbed our M-16’s , blank adapters, and blanks. Was just getting ready to head to the cemetery when we were stopped and told to put the M-16 up- our higher headquarters was told they didn’t want to have the image of NG troops with assault rifles out. Instead, they sent us over a half dozen 1917 Enfield’s that none of our guys knew the manual of arms for……..

    • Bullshit.

      What unit? When and where? What National Guard unit even has any M1917s?

      I’m accusing you of being a lying sack of shit.

      • CMP has had occasional sales of 1917s that they get from various Guard arsenals. They certainly have had them come in from the Guard since 1994, which is when the poster stated that he was issued one. When I bought my H&R M12 target .22 from CMP about a decade ago, they were selling just such a batch of 1917s. God alone knows where they dug them up, but they had them, and it was a batch of more than 100. Unless the Regular Army had them, which is far less likely than their having been in the deep dark recesses of a Guard armory in BFE. The CMP gets batches of those, and even 03’s and 03-A3s, though less so lately as the last remnants make their way to Anniston.
        .
        That alone allows for the possibility that the poster may indeed have been issued a 1917 for honor guard duty.

  20. Why not use ar 15 or m16s ? At least it’s still an American rifle , readily found in the national guard armory (16s any way) and blanks are plentiful , I get the honored past of the grand but if you’re going to change it at least keep it American to honor American soilders ,,,,,,

  21. The only reason the honor guard is denied proper implements is because they have “Native American” in their title. If it was a member of a “protected” people (ie black) or they were a white honor guard, they would have what they need and then some.

  22. There is a program, run by the US Army, covered here:

    http://www.amvets.org/programs/ceremonial-rifles-tacom-and-static-displays/

    which allows veterans organizations to obtain rifles for such purposes.

    As for the M-1 rifles and M-1 carbines in Korea, the records which sort out which were loaned and which were purchased are, like many things in that country, horribly mismatched, misplaced, or mismanaged, with most of the people involved in such transactions long dead.

    The reason they are so difficult to get returned is that those which were sold are property of the ROK government, while those which were loaned are still property of the US Army. It’s quite the clusterfeck.

    It has nothing to do with the Chocolate Jesus.

  23. The amount of moral outrage is astounding. Read the Actual Editorial. they make it sound like a civilian funeral group for Vietnam Vets “Wild Horse Butte Intertribal Tokala”, if that’s the case then the NG has no obligation to help this group out. Combat Veterans have a right to a Military Funeral. if the families choose to have a civilian funeral with a 3 gun volley that is not the NG’s prerogative. The Editorial also goes on to say that the reasons for the NG’s refusal to supply the M1’s is rubbish but won’t actually tell the reader what the reasons are. Is it shitty that this group of Veterans are using SKS(s)? yeah, maybe.but has this organization contacted AMVETS.org for the M1s that they can lease? sounds like they messed up somewhere.

    • The “real reason” for no Garands is almost certainly that the Guard no longer has any on hand, since the National Guard’s weapons belong to the US Army and the Garand has been obsolete for decades. Nor is likely that the National Guard has any blank cartridges to hand out to non-military funeral firing parties, since Lake City Army Ammunition Plant is running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year — and has been for years now — to provide live ammunition to soldiers going into combat.

  24. and the comments on the editorials are retarded as well.

    “When I was in the Army Reserve, my M-16 was made by ….. (Mattel). No kidding. It had the same toy-company logo.

    Having said that, I go along with the writer on this issue as well.”

    …..lol some bum who obviously never served in the United States Military but watched too many TV shows where the Grizzled combat Vet calls the M16 a Toy and smashes it. I can’t believe people are STILL reccling decades old urban legends.

  25. Have they tried contacting local veterans’ organizations like AMVETS, VFW, American Legion, etc.? Often these clubs have their own military rifles for parades, funerals, 21-gun salutes, and other military ceremonies. Even if they do not, they are often willing to raise funds and make donations for veteran’s causes. This would definitely qualify.

  26. The USSR did the heavy lifting against the Nazis in WWII. The Japanese surrendered as much due to Soviet attention to the east as to the atomic bombs.

    Afterwards, the US decides to prop up Japan. Japan bombed the US while the USSR was an ally. What reason was there to be enemies with the USSR? … ? Don’t be sheep for your politicians. Know who the the real friends and foes were and are.

    The SKS is an honorable weapon. It is not a Mauser or Arisaka.

    • The USSR conducted espionage against the US throughout the war, interned American aircraft and aircrews, threw Americans into the Gulag prison camp system where many died. And as soon as Hitler was dead, the Soviets began to do everything they could to consolidate their control of everything in eastern Europe, while providing support to communists and terrorists in western Europe.

      You should be nailed to a tree with SKS bayonets.

  27. While the SKS is a fine weapon for self defense, it’s important not to confuse utilitarian tactical considerations for ceremonial ones.

    Just because an SKS might be easier for women and smaller people to hold, is no excuse for ending a mixed message at a funeral.

    Both rifles are an excellent choice for self defense, especially in state hostile to AR or AK rifles.

  28. I’ll be dead, not likely I’ll care. Fire me up and put my ashes in a Budweiser bottle and cap it. Put it on a shelf in the back of a shack, next to the dried hide of an opossum. 2,000 years from now someone will find it and decide opossums liked Budweiser and preferred cremation. Originally, I intended to be buried in a post hole, standing up. But, my now ex wife would not sign up for the rent of a post hole digger. My optional request is to have my ashes spread over Mississippi. Just to piss them off. (Long story, none of it entirely true).

  29. The Joint Munitions Command (JMC) provides the blank ammo to VFW Posts, Marine Corps Leagues, Navy Clubs, American Legions and other Vet’s groups free of charge to perform military funeral honors and parades. This function has been performed by JMC since the end of WWII.

    For information about the ceremonial ammo program, contact JMC at 1-877-233-2515 or e-mail ROCK-JMC CeremonialAmmoRequests@ conus.army.mil. The ceremonial rifle program can be contacted at DAMI_Donations@conus.Army.mil or visit http://www.tacom.army. mil/ceremonial_rifle.

    M1 Garand Rifles can be procured through either http://www.tacom.army. mil/ceremonial_rifle or through the CMP at no cost. Yes, you will have to complete paperwork and on-line applications and prove you are a nationally recognized Vet’s organization.

    National Guard units can probably go through the same channels to get M1 Garand rifles and blank ammo but I am not 100% sure.

  30. I think that the volleys are more important than the weapon it is ejected from. It isn’t the weapon you are honoring, but the spirit and sacrifice of soldiers. There are always weapons that have been manufactured by Americans that were used to kill Americans and ditto for the other sides throughout the past two and a half centuries. One should not bar any weapon on those grounds. As a symbol for National Pride, I can understand the sentiment of the M1 Garand’s importance. However, they are merely tools for a soldier to do their job. If you can get hung up on the details of image you are forgetting that no matter what arm that soldier used, they lifted it for the reason of protecting what was important to them. I personally think that is disrespectful to trifle over what weapon was used when the soldier’s spirit is the most important to remember.

  31. While I think that the use of an SKS at a funeral for one who has served in our nations military is just plain wrong. I served in the Marine Corps for nearly 22 years, I did my fair share of funeral details, we used our M161A1 and A2’s. Why does it have to be an M1? this unit should go out and purchase AR15’s, heck a copy of an M4 the current rifle being issued can be had at Wal-Mart for around 600 a piece. I am fairly confidant that if they held some fund raisers they could drum up the cash to outfit the unit with AR’s. Problem solved.

  32. at the present time I am overhauling the eddysstone 1917 rifles that my VFW post have. we received them after ww2
    and use them with our honorguard and funerals. the post does these honors for our brothers who are barried in private cemetaries . due to a shortage of manpower the military only provide honors in national cemetaries. in our area the VFW and American Legion pick up the slack when requested.
    To obtain M1 from the army you to go through Am Vet and fill out about a dozen forms to prove that your origination is approved to have them. it takes about 6 to 8 months to obtain them. then there are restrictions on how they are stored. if you really want them and want to jump through the hoops you can obtain them. We are happy with our old
    Eddystone 1917 and will continue to use them as long as I can keep them in good order.

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