My M1 does my talking!

18 11 2012

The M1 Garand ( bug first bit me about 2 years ago when I fired a beautiful WWII-era Springfield Armory specimen owned by my dad.  Nothing quite like the experience of narrowly avoiding the infamous Garand Thumb, only to have the en bloc clip thrown in your face after 8 quickly-disappearing yet relatively expensive rounds – but damn it was fun!  As you may know if you’ve read some of my older posts, after shooting the M1 I decided to first pick up a Springfield Armory M1A, which along with its M14 sibling are basically a .308, magazine-fed version 2.0 Garand.  This past spring, while working at a facility about 20 minutes from Camp Perry (home of the North Store of the Civilian Marksmanship Program, or CMP) I decided to get my paperwork in line and pick up an M1 Garand of my own.  Why buy a Garand when I have an M1A?  Maybe because I’m a history buff.  Maybe because they’re relatively inexpensive and the numbers are limited.  Maybe to keep my M1A company in the safe.  Maybe all the mileage checks burning a hole in my pocket.  No matter the reason – I wanted one!


The paperwork involved is not as involved as some may think, and you can even mail order rifles if you don’t mind someone else picking one out for you.  See their website for the official details, but the basic list includes proof of citizenship, membership in an affiliated club, proof of training that involves some live fire, and a picture ID to prove age.  For these I used my passport, joined the Garand Collectors Association for $25 (includes a great quarterly magazine and the CMP keeps the GCA membership records at the store so a membership card isn’t even required), showed my Ohio CCW permit to take care of the training requirement, as well as my driver’s license for age verification.  The obvious advantage to actually driving to one of the two CMP stores is that you get to peruse hundreds of firearms and pick out the one that fits your needs and desires while also saving yourself the shipping costs.

Walking into the CMP you will find racks and racks of rifles, sorted by “grade” and manufacturer.  I highly suggest doing your homework on the CMP site and forums ahead of time, while being realistic about what your desires are for the firearm.  My goals were to have a good shooter (1) that looked good to me (2) and was historically as accurate as possible (3).  Everyone’s goals and priorities here are different, and everyone’s opinion on what “looks good” can vary too.  I was close to picking up one of the CMP-refurbished models known as a “Special Grade”, but I didn’t care for the color of the new stocks and the additional price associated with the new stock and barrel.

After spending a good amount of time looking around and letting the excitement wear off, I found an HRA “Service Grade” that appeared to have the original barrel (1954) and the original parkerizing on the receiver and bolt (dark olive green, not black).  But again, those played into my third most important goal – historically accurate.  The stock was a dark walnut with some scratches and dings, but with a great cartouche (this is the military proof mark stamped into the stock) and a great dark walnut color.  That satisfied my second most important concern, the looks.  Finally, the tag on the rifle showed that it had been “gauged” a 0+ at the muzzle and a 2 at the throat.  These numbers indicate how much wear the barrel has, with 0 being brand new for both measurements – so this barrel was almost like new!  The throat measurement also has a huge impact on likely accuracy, and this was as good as I expected to find without stepping up to the aforementioned re-barreled Special Grade.

Once I found what I thought was the perfect rifle, I took it up to the desk.  There were two gentlemen working that afternoon, and both were more than happy to partially disassemble the rifle and diagnose what I had found.  They showed me that I had a WWII-vintage Springfield Armory trigger group that looked complete (including hammer) but re-parkerized, what appeared to be the original HRA barrel, an HRA operating rod, and an HRA bolt.  Everything but the Springfield trigger assembly appeared to have its original green parkerizing, which is a plus for collectors (and me if I ever decided to sell).  Finally, they indicated that the cartouche on the stock was HRA and was in great shape.  I had effectively found a gem in the Service Grade rack.

At this point I asked them to reserve it behind the counter for me.  You write your name on a little red tag which is fitted to the end of the firearm, and then you can go back to browsing the selection.  As you feel the need, you can walk rifles up to the counter and ask to compare them to the one you have reserved already.  I did this twice just to verify I had found the one I wanted – but neither of the other finds compared favorably in any way.  At the end of the day, I decided to move forward with the HRA I had found.  Included in the purchase is a green plastic carrying case, a certificate of authenticity, a manual, and some other assorted goodies such as an 8-round enbloc clip.

So what does one pay for a practically new 1954-manufactured M1 Garand?  $625.  I challenge anyone to find a semi-automatic .30-06 (or even .308) that is equally as ruged and durable for less money.  To top it off, surplus ammunition is dirt cheap (at least in the world of .30-caliber high power).  The CMP offers Greek-manufactured surplus M2 ball ammo for $98/200 rounds loose in an ammo can.  For a large caliber experience, in my opinion this setup simply can not be beat.

Here is my M1 “Patricia” on the left next to my M1A “Rebecca” on the right.  The trigger mechanisms are nearly identical, although the receiver on the M1A is a little shorter due to its inherent use with .308 as opposed to .30-06.  The gas system was also shortened on the M1A and given an “on/off” valve on the gas block to allow for manual-only operation of the action.  The hand guard on the M1A is fiberglass which is typical of most M14’s, while the M1 is almost completely enclosed in walnut.  The sights are practically identical between the two, and although the M1A does have a flash hider the M1 still has its factory bayonet lug that was removed from the M1A as a result of an AWB (CA?).

The M1 Ladies

A word about ammunition – be careful.  These firearms were designed around the US Military’s definition of M2 Ball, and most commercial rounds have newer and faster-burning powders, and at times heavier bullets – either of which can damage the firearm and possibly even you.  Besides surplus ammunition, both Federal (American Eagle) and Hornady make ammo specifically for the M1 Garand – both the CMP and I recommend that these rounds are all you fire from your Garand!  In a comparison test I ran this past summer I found the Greek ammunition’s precision to be very good compared to the Hornady, and when considering the price the Greek is – in my opinion – the hands-down winner.  You can see a typical can of it next to Patricia in the picture below, with an empty enbloc clip to the left of Patricia on the table.

Another word of caution if you want to fire fewer than 8 shots – always load from a clip!  The firing pin in the Garand is not constrained during forward bolt movement, and if you load a round into the chamber and let the bolt close there is a good change for what is known as a “slam fire” in which the firing pin smacks the primer and ignites the round before the bolt is fully closed.  This can be extremely dangerous!  If you want to shoot fewer than 8 rounds you can purchase modified 2-round and 5-found clips, or insert a fully loaded clip, fire your string, and eject the unused rounds using the lever on the left side of the receiver.

So there you have it – my first personal experience with the Civilian Marksmanship Program.  It was obviously positive, and something tells me I’ll be back for more.  Hopefully if you are reading this, you’ll be convinced to join the ranks of happy CMP customers.  Stay safe, and happy shooting!


Daisy 853 O-Ring Replacement

9 06 2011

I am always looking for ways to stretch the money I put towards shooting.  As a result I spend as much time as I can shooting pellets instead of live ammunition.  It is cheaper than even .22 LR, and requires the same basics – muscle control, posture, breathing control, good form, etc. – if you want to consistently get anywhere near the 10-ring.  Recently one of my Daisy 853 pellet rifles stopped functioning (yes – plural – makes for some fun simultaneous competition with the wife!).  After charging the pump lever, a small “hiss” could be heard near the breach and after the requisite 3 seconds or so to load the rifle and get into firing position there was nothing left to propel the pellet.

Daisy M853


So with it no longer functional it was time for one of my favorite phrases – let’s take it apart!

If you found this post thinking I was going to walk you all the way through disassembly and the repair – my apologies.  I am here only to add a small addendum to the following text.  However, if you own one (or more) of these rifles you owe it to yourself to purchase Tom Johnson’s “Sporter Tips – Care & Servicing”, available from the CMP at the following link.  It covers disassembly, reassembly, care & cleaning, and even how to upgrade the action.  It’s certainly worth the $2.00 list price.

The only problem I found with that book – he fails to indicate how to obtain spare parts, or even what commonly-available parts will work.  After disassembly I determined that a small bur on the Pump Tube Frame had torn the O-Ring on the Pump Lever Assembly (Diagram in the above book, and FYI he refers to the O-Ring as a “Washer”).  After taking care of the burr with a round stone, I took the cut o-ring down to my local NAPA Auto Parts store, and they informed me that the closest thing they had was a metric 19 x 2.5 mm O-Ring.

I reassembled everything tonight, and it appears to be functioning perfectly.  So there it is – the most common wear item on these rifles is replaceable with a $0.67 part from your local NAPA store.  Thanks to this repair, my air rifle setup continues to provide inexpensive practice with inexpensive maintenance, repair, and ammo costs.

Dear Jennifer

9 06 2011

Yesterday the young lady behind one of the firearms blogs I frequent shared how she got started in shooting and blogging, and asked her readers to do the same ( so here I go!

I grew up the son of a police officer in an extended family full of hunters and firearms enthusiasts.  That being said, my earliest formal firearms training was as a Cub Scout with Mr. Wilson on the BB range at Camp Stambaugh in Canfield, OH.  I believe I was just a Wolf scout at summer day camp, and while this seems like a lifetime ago (I guess it pretty much is at this point) I can still remember the first morning – determining which eye was dominant, walking through the commands, learning about sight picture, trigger squeeze, and breathing.  I will also never forget the smell of the piss-stained mattresses used as pads for prone position.  At the end of the week there was a ceremony and bonfire that you attended at night with your parents.  One of the awards given out that night was marksmanship, and I was one of a handful of recipients.  With my dad in attendance I was very proud to be standing up there.

During my younger years firearms were something I only came across at Cub Scout and Boy Scout camp.  Despite having a family full of firearms enthusiasts and hunters, I was too young to hunt and we just never went shooting.  When I turned 10 my dad asked if I would be interested in getting my hunting license.  He explained it would require training, a few Saturdays, and a test, and that he would accompany me through the entire process.  I was ecstatic!  After getting my license we went to my Grandpa’s house where I was familiarized with what is now my most cherished possession – my Great Great Grandfather’s 1929 Ithaca NID 20-gauge side-by-side.  After explaining the history behind it, relating a few stories from his youth of hunting with it as a boy in PA, he gave it to me on the eve of my first hunt at the Grand River Wildlife Area.  The next day, I took my very first squirrel with it.  Sadly I aimed a little low and there was nothing left of the little guy when I was done.

My First Squirrel

A few years later I found myself a summer job working on the Boy Scout Camp Staff at Camp Avery Hand near Mansfield.  I was originally hired as an assistant to the camp director, but then filled positions in the dining hall and the rifle range as needed throughout the summer.  The rifle range was by far my favorite time spent on staff.  I got to work with an eccentric and hilarious range officer named Harry who had a TV in his tent, couldn’t eat cheese, and was allergic to mosquitoes.  That summer he helped me get my rifle and shotgun merit badges as a thank you for my help on the range.

BSA Rifle and Shotgun Merit Badges

Through high school and college I continued to hunt with family members whenever the chance presented itself.  This included trips to Pennsylvania and Michigan, as well as various locations through-out eastern Ohio.  Some of my favorite memories are from these trips, especially the trip where my dad, grandpa, and great uncle (grandpa’s brother) stayed at my great-grandma’s house and hunted the same locations they did as a child, only to have her cook up what we brought home for dinner.  Being in the same locations with the same guys carrying the same shotgun they had the last time they were there was memorable to say the least!  Outside of these hunting trips, times where I had a firearm in my hands were few and far between.  At the age of 17 I shot my first handgun – my grandpa’s .38-special S&W revolver – while on a hunting trip.

The Hunters in snow

After I graduated from college with an engineering degree, I decided it was time to purchase my first handgun to further my skills and for protection at home.  After much consideration, I purchased a new Glock 17.  For the next two years I tried to get to the range once a month, but there were times where 6 months would pass by between trips.  Thanks to the space limitations of apartment dwelling, a hand safe containing my Glock and two spare magazines was all I could spare, and cleaning was done on my workbench in the garage.  After a few years my now-wife and I moved into a beautiful newer home with a half-finished basement, and I immediately staked a claim on the unfinished half.  Within 6 months I was a member of the local hunt club to allow for the use of their outdoor range, had a proper gun safe that now housed two shotguns and a .22 rifle, and had a bench dedicated to firearms.  Within 3 years I had filled the safe to capacity, had set up a pellet range in the basement to allow for more frequent practicing of my skills, and had started down the path of getting serious about my abilities as a marksman making sure to visit the range at least three times a month during the summer.  In June of 2010 I went through all the necessary steps of getting my CCW license, and continue to carry whenever possible.

Range Time

That pretty much sums up how I got to where I am today with regards to shooting sports.  In the future I hope to of course further my skills, share my experiences here, find a trap range nearby and start refreshing my shotgun skills, and get involved in some sort of formal competitive shooting with both pistols and rifles.  Thanks for reading, and thanks to Jennifer for instigating this walk down memory lane!