Photo by Michael Molinaro, USAMU PAO
Sgt. 1st Class Russell Moore receives M-1 Garand trophy rifle for2010 All-Army Championship
Somewhere across America, a man sights towards a competition target 600 yards away, finger tensed on a trigger that wears his grandfather’s fingerprints.
The stock of the rifle bolstered against his shoulder may have born the snows of Northern Germany or Korea or the sweat and steam of South Pacific jungles.
Somewhere, an American is holding an M-1 Garand.
Every monumental gun has its hey-day during the century after a monumental war: the M-1 Garand is currently enjoying the height of its popularity among World War II collectors and ordinary gun users alike, said Scott Duff, author of several books featuring the M-1 Garand and advisor to the board of the Garand Collectors Association.
“The M-1 Garand is alive and well. It’s as popular or more popular than ever,” he said.
The GCA has more than 15,000 members and John Garand original rifles have sold for tens of thousands of dollars, said Duff.
Like many collectors who love the Garand because it was the weapon of their forefathers in World War II, Duff said the M-1 Garand has special emotional significance to him because it was built for Marines like his father.
“My dad was in the Marine Corps during the Korean War, and I was born in Camp Lejeune, so that’s kind of my introduction to the Garand,” he said.
Watching combat on television with his father and engaging in other activities together made the Garand important to their relationship, he said.
Fred J. Hauser, who runs Custom Firearms and Gunsmithing, a gun shop in Mound House, Nevada, said the M-1 Garand’s value lies in its role as a historic American technological innovation.
“I think George S. Patton put it best,” said Hauser, “At the time, they were the best firearm out there, ever.”
“It won World War II,” said Duff. “It was every bit as responsible for winning the war as the Higgins boat was.”
“We had an eight-shot semi-automatic rifle, by and large the Japanese and the Germans had a five-shot, bolt-action rifle, and in many cases it turned the battle,” he said.
The only firearm superior to the M-1 Garand during the World War II era was also invented by the M-1’s designer, John Garand, said Hauser.
“That would be the M-14, slash M-1A, Springfield Armory,” he said. “Those two guns—well, we still have them today, and they still are out-shooting several other guns out there for reliability and for accuracy.”
The Garand’s reliability made it instrumental all over the globe; it made important differences in the Korean War as well, said Duff.
“It didn’t matter if you were in the South Pacific with high temperatures, high humidity, torrential downpours. It didn’t matter if you were in Europe, in the winter in World War II. It didn’t matter if you were at the D-Day invasion with the salt-water and everything in the sand. It didn’t matter if you were in Korea, in that horribly cold winter the guys suffered over there. The M-1 rifle worked,” said Duff.
Hauser said the Garand primarily works today as a competition gun, not a self-defense weapon. “They’re just a kick in the pants to shoot. I own two of them.”
It is the M-1’s reliability and lower price that make it perfect for competition shooting, said H. Q. Moody, the national rifle manager for the National Rifle Association.
“A lot of shooters use them in the national championships across the course convention for shooting the 200, 300, 600 yards,” said Moody.
The Civilian Marksmanship Program has target-shooting competitions just for the M-1 Garand, said Duff.
For anyone looking to purchase an M-1, Hauser said the best M-1s he has seen come from the Korean War era.
“Look for an H and R, Harrington and Richardson, and then if you’re going to look for anything, look for the M-1C or the M-1D,” he said.
Enterprise Arms in Arizona builds incredibly accurate M-1As and M-1 Garands by hand for target shooting, said Hauser.