The man who started it all was born in Canada on January 1, 1888, and emigrated to Denisonville, CT, while just 10 years old. A decade later young John was working for Browne & Sharpe, a tool and gauge maker, and at 26 he relocated to Providence, RI, to take a job with the Federal Screw Corp.
When Garand moved to New York City, he found an interest in the development of small arms. His first project caught the attention of the U.S. Navy Bureau of Invention, who pressed him to relocate to the National Bureau of Standards to further his development of a mechanism that would solve common problems often associated with automatic gun fire. It was while working there that Garand met Maj. Lee O. Wright of the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps.
With Maj. Wright’s support, the Army chose to sponsor Garand’s efforts and move him to Springfield Armory in Massachusetts. There, Garand shifted his research from improving machine guns to the development of semiautomatic rifles.
The first working Garand rifle became useless when the U.S. Army changed ammunition specifications in 1925. To prevent such a catastrophic design failure in the future (should the Army make another change), Garand revised the first design to use gas pressure from a fired cartridge to operate the rifle’s action. The result became what we now call the gas-operated M1 Garand. The Army officially designated it U.S. Rifle, Cal. .30, M1 on January 9, 1936.
John Garand continued on at Springfield Armory, working in many technical capacities. He continuously improved tooling and manufacturing processes that related to his M1 rifle. The only problems ever reported with Garand’s manufacturing process or the finished product could always be attributed to another engineer working to modify his design.
Notably, Garand was also able to apply his skill in design to the development of what became the M1 Carbine. He retired in 1953 and resided in Springfield, MA, until he died in 1974.
- Though it has unfortunately become one of the most expensive regularly available surplus arms, it is without doubt the most magnificient. This is the rifle Gen. Patton dubbed, “The greatest battle implement ever devised.” It was the first semi-automatic standard infantry arm to be fielded by any nation, and is said to have had a significant effect on the outcome World War II.
Chambered for the legendary .30-06 cartridge, the M1 Garand feeds via a true “clip” that contains eight cartridges and is inserted from the top of the action, functioning as a part of the action itself. Ammo for it ain’t cheap, because there’s little surplus left, but shooting an M1 Garand is an experience every American should have Owning one—or several dozen—is a must for vintage military arm collectors.
One of the coolest aspects of the M1 Garand is surplus rifles can be purchased by mail order from the CMP by any American citizen with a clean background. A background check is run by the CMP, then the rifle is shipped directly to your home. Imagine that—you can still purchase a gun by mail order and have the postman deliver it.
Another fun way to pick up an M1 Garand is to visit one of the CMP stores where you can browse to your heart’s delight among rifles that reek of historic prowess, pick the one you like best and purchase it.
Prices range from around $500 for a rack grade, up to thousands for rare sniper rifle configurations. Good-shooting, mixed-part rifles in very good shape can be had for around $1,000.