Image courtesy of army.mil
Reserve color guard honors World War II veterans at a football game Nov. 8, 2010 in WWII uniform, with M-1 Garands
Guns & Patriots asked Garand expert Dr. Walter J. Kuleck, a board-member of the Garand Collector’s Association and author of several authoritative gun manuals, what tweaks can give your Garand its best competition accuracy.
“First off, you need to make sure that the rifle is kept clean and lubricated with a high quality grease. If you don’t have a basic platform to start with—a clean, solidly assembled rifle–it really doesn’t matter what you do to it from there on,” said Kuleck, a doctor of psychology who spent many years as a Boeing engineer.
The former engineer said improving the accuracy of any rifle requires three critical points: the barrel, the fit of the stock, and what happens at the front end of the gun.
“If the barrel is rusted or pitted or defective in some way, you’re not going to get anywhere in terms of improving the accuracy,” he said.
The second critical accuracy point, the stock, may need adjustments to tighten its grip around the receiver, said Kuleck.
“The stock is held between the receiver and the trigger group. That is to say, when you field-strip a Garand, you swing down the trigger guard and remove the trigger group—that’s got the hammer, the trigger, the safety—the stock then comes off and you have the barrel of action, in other words the receiver,” he said.
“If that fit isn’t tight—in other words, if the receiver’s allowed to move around in the stock just a little bit—the accuracy is going to be materially affected, negatively,” he said.
When the Garand was standard military issue, finding a perfect stock for a rifle was easy for armories because they had so many Garands available, said Kuleck.
Today, when stock-fit decays, Garand owners can use glass reinforced resin or fiberglass bedding to tighten their aim, he said. “That enables you to get a perfect, lasting fit between the stock and the barrel receiver.”
Kuleck said the final focus area of the gun for accuracy enhancement lies on the front end of the gun: a study by the Marines showed that even just placing a penny on the top of the front end of the barrel by the sight would dramatically alter rifle accuracy.
“You would shift the place the bullets were hitting by feet at 600 yards,” he said.
The front end must always return to the same place with respect to the rifle–this means making sure that the gas cylinder does not bind on the barrel, because if it does, when the barrel heats up the cooler cylinder ring will bend the barrel, he said.
“On a service rifle, you want the front hand guard to rattle a little bit back and forth because as a rifle heats up, if it’s all jammed in there, it’s gonna have a similar effect—it’s gonna begin to warp as it gets hot. So on a match rifle, what you do is you secure the rear of the handguard to the metal piece that surrounds the stock, called the front-end ferrell,” he said.
Typically a gun-owner could secure the ferrell with glue, or drive screws in through the back and then glue it into place—while ensuring that the handguard does not have the freedom to touch the back of the gas cylinder, he said.
Tweaking those three critical points will help hone the inherent accuracy of the rifle, but a shooter must also find ways to reduce user error, Kuleck said.
“You can’t stop there. The interface—I hate that word, but some places it just works–between the shooter and the rifle is extremely important, and the two important elements that I’m talking about are the sights and the trigger,” he said.
Sights should enable the user to adjust placement with respect to the bulls-eye, so size matters: choose a sight that’s too big, and the shooter can’t tell where it is under the bulls-eye, while too small means hard to see through, said Kuleck.
Standardized Garand national match sights end up somewhat smaller than normal service rifle sights, and have a bit of a taper from back to front to reflect any glare forward rather than back towards the shooter’s eye, he said.
A smaller back sight aperture creates a sharper image, and for accuracy the aperture is adjustable so each click in the horizontal direction is one half minute of angle—half the normal adjustment for a battle rifle, said Kuleck.
“One minute of angle translates to one inch at a hundred yards, two inches at two hundred yards, three inches at three hundred yards, and so on,” he said.
The trigger forms the final accuracy-enhancing aspect of the gun/user interface, said Kuleck.
“If the trigger has a lot of what we call creep—in other words, you have to really move it a long way before it goes ‘bang’—rifle shooters don’t like that very much because it allows—it keeps you from discharging your rifle when you want to,” he said.
The weight and delay of pulling a single-stage four-pound trigger, for example, might cause a shooter to lose aim while the gun fires, said Kuleck.
To make a trigger pull more smoothly, Kuleck said owners can modify their Garands by filing or stoning trigger surfaces, enhancing a two-stage trigger pull and eliminating creep in the second stage.
“Two-stage means that you have two distinct trigger pulls: you have one trigger pull that has to move to it, and has a certain amount of resistance, and then a second pull when it’s very short without any movement, with a little bit more resistance,” he said.
“If the first pull takes up two pounds, and then you have to pull another two and a half to make the trigger release, make the hammer release, why, it feels like a two pound trigger—it doesn’t feel like a four pound trigger,” he said.
When making modifications, gun owners must take care not to jam their handguard between the gas cylinder and the stock ferrel, file the trigger too far, or forget to use release compound, allowing glass bedding to adhere to the metal parts of the gun and gluing the stock onto the receiver, said Kuleck.
Any of these mistakes can ruin the rifle, he said.
For directions on installing glass bedding in a rifle, Kuleck said he recommends Scott A. Duff’s book “The M-1 Garand Owner’s Guide,” and his own book, “The M-1 Garand Complete Assembly Guide,” details trigger modification and troubleshooting sight installation.
Kuleck recommends Fulton Armory, Brownell’s, and Midway USA for rifle parts, he said.
Shooters should remember that they cannot use modified Garands in some competitions like the John Garand matches, but if they do choose to modify their gun, they should be patient, said Kuleck.
“If anything isn’t working like it should, put it down, walk away, come back the next day with fresh eyes, and you may see, ‘Well, I see why that’s happening.’”