Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Garand myth, debunked!

Author and fellow blogger Michael Z. Williamson has penned a wonderful article about the M1 Garand rifle, recognizing its quality in the context of its times, but debunking many of the myths that have grown up around it. His commentary is frequently profane, but also very funny. Here's a sample.

Let me start by saying I have nothing against the Garand for what it was — a forward-looking design for the 1920s. John C. did a fine job with the technology of the time, and it's not his fault what happened after.

Mr Garand designed a stripper fed, gas operated self-loading rifle in a mid-sized caliber. It was very advanced, and the only advantage it lacked was a detachable magazine, which was still a subject of discussion at the time — the SMLE had it. The Mausers and Mosin Nagants did not. As designed, it had moderate recoil, and could be topped off by shoving extra rounds into the top of the action, as with every other battle rifle of the time.

Then the Army took a crap in it. I can't blame Garand for this, because the Army crapped in almost every weapon it got given in the 20th Century, then complained about the taste.

. . .

Google the term "M1 Thumb." Then google "Garand Thumb," just to make sure you've got the full report. You'll find about THREE MILLION hits. Now google, "thumb jammed in M16." I'll wait. Google "thumb jammed in FAL."

If I have to stick my hands into a heavily sprung action that is capable of smashing my fingers, and risk smashing my fingers, to load the weapon, IT IS DEFECTIVE. There is no argument you can make to the contrary. If a car required reaching under the fan belt to fuel it, and might spontaneously start, smash your fingers and set you on fire, IT WOULD BE DEFECTIVE. If a gun might smash your fingers to paste on the off chance you might happen to want to put ammo in it, it is defective. Don't tell me you can avoid it with the proper dance card and samba lessons — I'm in the middle of a firefight. It's not a "Design feature." It's not a "Beta improvement." It is a CRITICAL F****** DEFECT.

There's more at the link. Go read.



TJIC said...

I only ever used the M1 to drill with in ROTC, but, yeah, M-1 thumb.

Stupid design.

(yes, yes, maybe it was good for the time...but anyone who says that loading stripper clips from the top and then releasing the bolt w your !@#$-ing thumb is better than the M-16 is an idjit)

Jerry said...

That is why my Garand has a Holbrook Device installed.

raven said...

Sounds like he smashed his thumb recently.

for the record, I have NEVER smashed my thumb loading an M1- the drag on the cartridge in the clip is enough so the blot has to be given a slight tap to get it to strip off a round and go forward. And yes. the rifle has new springs...
I suspect 99% of smashed thumbs come from unloaded rifles , and folks sticking their fingers in the action while cleaning with the bolt latched back.-- at least, that's how I got my M1 thumb.

Comrade Misfit said...

Army Ordnance has screwed up almost every rifle ever introduced from maybe 1800 on. The trashing of John Garand's original design is just one sad example.

Crucis said...

I've had my Garand for about a decade. I've shot, I'm unsure howmany, thousands of rounds through it at CMP matches. I've not once had M1-thumb, nor has anyone when I've been at a match.

I firmly believe the M1-thumb issue is vastly overblown. Yes, it exists and can happen if you're careless. A lot of accidents happen when you're careless.

Stretch said...

Got an M1 this spring.
Did I pay too much? Probably.
Do I feel cheated? Not at all.
Aside from the historical nature of the weapon I've always wanted one for the following reasons:
Uncle Bob, the Aleutians.
Uncle Jack, South Pacific.
Uncle Jim, Ardennes, Remagen, Chosin
Father-in-law Joe, Ardennes, Remagen.
I think of them every time I fire it.

Bob@thenest said...

I have three of them, 2 of 1944 and 1 of the 50's. Never a thumb hit while in actual use on any of them, only once when maintaining, and once was enough to teach the valuable lesson. I have no issue with it.

MikeinAppalachia said...

The guy (Williamson) has some good points, but I don't understand his slur of the M-14. IMO, the 14 "solved" the loading problem of the M1, could be fired on full auto, tolerant of moisture and dirt like the M1, etc. Williamson seems to think that an idiotic decision based on a perception that the average draftee was no longer strong enough to carry a sufficient amount of 7.62 after only 15 years of service of the M-14 indicates it had "flaws".

Toejam said...

The USMC issued me an M-1 in 1961. It was love at first sight. Easy to field strip, clean and maintain. It was accurate, dependable and even had it a stacking swivel (lacking in the M-14)

Went through boo-coup rifle inspections, qualified as expert a couple of years running till they took it away and issued me an M-14. At first I resented the loss of my "piece", but after a short courtship I found the '14 was pretty good too.

Never ONCE did I suffer "M-1 thumb". The answer is simple: **focus on the mission**. You can't be dreaming about getting laid when your thumb pushes the bullet guide down and the bolt slams forward.

FOCUS people!

That applies to every task you perform.

Tam said...

Oh, we love what we love and overlook the faults...

1) As mentioned, a purely defective loading/ammunition-feed system. The rifle can't be topped up. It may try and eat your thumb.

2) The difficulty in mounting optics.

3) The flimsy and exposed op rod is a definite downcheck.

4) Putting the safety inside the trigger guard is idiocy of the first water.

The FN-49 and FAL are better rifles than the Garand and M14 everyplace but the neatly-mown fields of Camp Perry, but they're not OURS. Nobody defended Bastogne or stormed ashore at Iwo with an FN-49, and so we wilfully blind ourselves to their defects; we forget that the Marines who had their '03s replaced by Garands quickly took to calling the M1 "Jammin' Jenny"...

raven said...

The marines on Guadalcanal would do near anything to get an M1 to replace the Springfield. 8 rounds fast in dense jungle is a huge advantage over a 5 shot bolt gun.

IIRC, Col. John George goes into this in "Shot's fired in Anger". He was an army guy on Guadalcanal with a big interest in firearms, as a former Illinois state Rifle champion. very interesting comments on all manner of small arms.
The Garand is indeed, a pain to mount optics on, however it does predate the wide spread use of combat optics by forty years, so it is a bit unfair to criticize it on that point.
As far as topping off, that is a mysterious and rare event that only seems to occur in shotguns. Let's "top off" that Gew 98, by by opening the bolt, stripping off one or two or three or four rounds from a stripper clip, and one by one pushing them into the magazine- I don't buy it, and have never heard of it. The standard procedure seems to have been just shoot it dry and slam a new five round stripper clip in. Re. the Garand. there was a slang term reference to the "Garand reload" or some such , the gist is that if you have fired a few shots, and do not need the rest, shoot them anyway and snap in a full clip. So the Nazi has 8 rounds in him instead of 2- big deal.
It is not a perfect weapon, none are, but at the time, it outclassed anything in the world.

Crucis said...

You also have to remember that ammo for the Garand was delivered in clips, not loose rounds. Ammo was delivered in clip for the M1, 20-round mags for the BAR and belts for the MGs. Never as loose rounds.

Be that as it may, it's quite easy to manually load a round into the M1. I've also seen folks load 2 and 3 rounds into the Garand without a clip.

I've seen, I can't do it although I've tried. My FIL, a D-Day vet, could but I never learned the knack.

Gewehr98 said...

My FN-49 slamfired on more than one occasion. Bad design, and once they cleaned it up to give it a proper detachable magazine, it became the FN-FAL.

My AG-42B Ljungman would make one think M1 Thumb is a minor boo-boo.

The trick is to keep dangly bits out of the ouchy parts of a gun. The DCM taught me to load my M1 Garand using the heel of the right hand approach. Can't say as I've ever had M1 Thumb thanks to the training. My USAF CATM instructors also reminded the troops to keep their appendages out from behind the moving slide of our 1911s and M9s. This caution was duly observed, save for one LtCol who ended up barking his thumb and getting chastised for leaking corrosive blood all over his issued M9.

If you ever get M1 Thumb, chances are the immediate technique feedback from the blunder will prevent repeat performances.

I competed in NRA High Power for many years with my M1 Garand, and eventually moved to an M14NM. I quit that sport prior to the AR-15 takeover. I had a belly full of the poodle shooter when qualifying every year, no need to inflict agony on myself for fun when it was part of the day job to begin with. My go-to gun isn't a Garand, but it ain't an AR, either. This year it's my minimalistic wire sidefolder SAR-1. Different strokes for different folks, run what you train with, etc.

As for gun faults, Google "M16 jammed in Vietnam". Try Dick Culver's site. Hell, I've got a Colt Competition HBAR that chokes inside of 200 rounds thanks to f@&$ed-up tolerances. Google "FN-FAL sand cuts". Google "Glock Unsupported Chamber". Google "M14 uncontrollable in full auto". IOW, no firearm's perfect, regardless if issued by Uncle Sam or handed to Thomas Atkins. John C. Garand wasn't John Moses Browning, but his invention gave George S. Patton a genuine chubby, and there are many WWII and Korea vets who have no issues with grabbing the M1 Garand first for business (My dad being one of them). It may not have won WWII by itself, but it certainly helped.

And MZW, I'd never compare an M1 Garand to the current M4 poodle shooter, they were designed in different eras for different purposes. It's as if one wanted to write a gunrag article comparing a S&W Schofield and a Glock 19. Apples vs. apples, and all that happy horseshit...

Anonymous said...

First, the US Rifle M1 is not a stripper-fed piece. The clip accompanies the rounds into the magazine and is ejected shortly after the last round. I've been shooting M1s since the late 1960's and I have never caught my thumb; the possibility exists, however, one of my cousins did so at Parris Island. There are many complex evolutios taught to soldiers, and they are acomplished every day without failure. Loading the M1 with ammo and not fingers is one of them. For the record, I have caught my thumb in a bolt but it was in a Browning P-35 High Power.

Learn the manual of arms and use it the correctly, the same way every time and you won't pinch your appendages.