In the waning days of 1928, John C. Garand filed a patent application for a “High Speed Firing Mechanism.” At the same time, he was working diligently at Springfield Armory in Massachusetts, developing the rifle that would soon bear his name.
The patent, which was granted in November 1930 and assigned to the Lyman Gun Sight Corporation, was for a change in the firing pin and spring design for the M1903 bolt-action rifle.
The firing pin was to be modified to accept a “relatively stiff spring” made of chrome-vanadium wire that was to have a keystone shape when viewed from a cross-section. When the wire was wound into a spring, the coils would compress and change shape to a square because of the pressure exerted upon it. The now-square shape meant that each of the spring’s coils would be in full and direct contact with one another.
Modifications to the firing pin included flattened sides for less contact friction with the bolt and less overall weight. This would result in a faster fall time of the firing pin, which would give the shooter less time to inadvertently move the rifle off target once the trigger was pulled.
Generally speaking, less time to pull off target is a good thing, but this is where Garand really got down into the minutiae of things.
He measured the average fall time of an unaltered M1903 to be 0.0057 seconds. His new design would reduce the fall time to 0.0022 seconds, which is a full 3.5 milliseconds faster. For reference, it takes the average person 0.0300 seconds to blink. That makes it highly unlikely – or, hell, I just go ahead and say it: impossible – for anyone to perceive the acceleration in firing speed from Garand’s new design.
It should come as no surprise that his High Speed Firing Mechanism didn’t catch on. There are no known records of the military performing any field tests with it and there’s certainly no indication that they ever even came close to adopting Garand’s new design. That’s probably a good thing, too, because if it had, who knows what kind of other crazy stuff he might have come up with! Instead, he kept working on another, more practical design for a semi-automatic rifle.
(Thanks to Corey Wardrop of the Institute of Military Technology for bringing this patent to my attention.)
Logan Metesh is a firearms historian and consultant who runs High Caliber History LLC. Click here for a free 3-page download with tips about caring for your antique and collectible firearms.