Back in the June 2002 issue of Shooting Times I submitted a report on the Springfield M1 Garands. These rifles were based on newly manufactured receivers using original U.S. government specifications. Also newly manufactured were the barrels and stocks. The remaining internal parts were leftover originals from the various original suppliers of M1 Garand rifles such as Winchester, Springfield Armory, International Harvester, and Harrington & Richardson. I reported in that article that these M1 Garands were to be a special run of 10,000.
In the fall of 2002 I attended a seminar put on by Springfield Inc. where I learned many new facts. Two of which are of special interest to M1 Garand fans. First, the .30-06 version of newly manufactured M1 Garands has been so well received that Springfield Inc. is going to continue it as a catalog item. Second, the M1 Garand variation in .308 Winchester caliber is now a reality. During the seminar I was able to fire a sample M1 .308 at steel targets, and I requested that same rifle be sent to my home for more extensive shooting.
The History Of The M1 Garand
Before getting into those results, perhaps it would be appropriate to backtrack a little and give some M1 Garand history. The M1 Garand was designed by John C. Garand, a Canadian-born employee of the U.S. government’s Springfield Armory. His rifle was officially adopted by the U.S. Army in 1936, but because of monetary restrictions caused by the Great Depression it was not produced in significant numbers until 1941. For example, I own an original M1 Garand made by Springfield Armory in the 16,000 serial number range, and research shows it was produced in 1939. Some M1 Garands did see combat usage early in World War II, and favorable reports on them were sent from the Philippines in the fighting done there early in 1942.
During World War II M1 Garands were produced only by Springfield Armory and Winchester. Between the two facilities more than four million rifles were made. When the Korean conflict began in 1950, M1 Garand production was again initiated by Springfield Armory, and contracts were let to both International Harvester and Harrington & Richardson. The two privately owned firms ceased M1 production in 1955, and the Springfield Armory did likewise in 1957. Altogether between 1936 and 1957 over 5.5 million M1 Garands were made.
Something common to all those millions of rifles was the chambering of the venerable .30-06 cartridge. When the military adopted the M14 rifle in 1957, it was merely a modernized version of the M1 Garand. However, its cartridge was the 7.62 NATO round, which is interchangeable with the .308 Winchester. Introduced to the American public as early as 1952, the .308 Winchester is essentially a shortened version of the .30-06 using the exact same case head dimension and bullet diameter but in a cartridge case 2.015 inches long as opposed to 2.494 inches for the older .30-06. Therefore, there was no reason the .308 Winchester round could not be adapted to the M1 Garand’s mechanism. The U.S. Navy did convert some M1 Garands to 7.62 NATO caliber by means of a chamber insert, but my understanding was that this conversion met with indifferent success because the inserts sometimes came loose.
Brand-New M1 Garands
The new Springfield Inc. M1 Garands in .308 Winchester certainly don’t suffer from this problem because their barrels are made brand new and chambered as .308s.
Except for the chambering the new M1 Garands are dead ringers for original military rifles. Barrel length is 24 inches, and the oil-finished walnut stock’s length of pull is 13 inches. All metal parts are given a Parkerized finish. The buttplate is checkered steel with a hinged door into which cleaning supplies can be stored. Sights on M1 Garands are perhaps the best ever put on an issue battle rifle. The front is a simple post .066 inch wide protected by two steel wings on each side. The rear peep sight is fully adjustable for windage and elevation. Knurled rotating knobs are click adjustable in one minute of angle increments; the one on the right side changes windage and the one on the left changes elevation. Clockwise movement on the windage knob moves the sight to the right, clockwise movement on the elevation knob moves the rear sight down.
An M1 Garand’s safety is also one of the simplest ever put on a rifle. It consists of a tab in the front of the trigger guard. When the tab is pushed rearwards into the trigger guard the rifle is on “Safe.” When it is pushed forwards out of the trigger guard the rifle is ready to fire. Like most military rifles, the M1 Garand comes with a two-stage trigger. There is about 1/8 inch of travel to the trigger before it begins its actual pull. My trigger pull scale measured this sample M1′s pull, after the free travel, at 5.5 pounds.
All M1 Garands load by means of an en-bloc loader. Military ones hold eight cartridges, and the same ones that work for .30-06 also do so for these new .308s. It should be noted that in some locales autoloading rifles are limited to five roun
ds if used for hunting. Creedmoor Sports (Dept. ST, P.O. Box 1040, Oceanside, CA 92051; 800-273-3366; www.creedmoorsports.com) markets en-bloc loaders for M1 Garands that hold two and five rounds.
I got some surprising results with the various test loads. In a recent project with one of Springfield’s M1A match-grade rifles, the very best groups came with competition-grade .308 Winchester factory loads carrying 168-grain bullets. Those same loads gave indifferent groups from this rifle while factory loads carrying lighter 147- to 150-grain bullets gave much better accuracy. The charts show the exact particulars, but this incident is a good example of why you should try a variety of ammunition in any given rifle. If I had judged this rifle’s accuracy only by those 168-grain factory loads I would have been disappointed.
Shooting the .308 Winchester version of the M1 Garand was a pleasure. The gas-operating system of this rifle tones down recoil considerably, and this .308 was a real pussycat. Through the firing of well over 150 rounds at my benchrest in group shooting and steel target plinking afterwards, there was nary a hitch. I even tested the sights by moving the groups about on a large paper target, and the group centers followed the changes made in the sights perfectly.
For shooters who would like to combine interest in a finely made historical rifle with the popularity of the .308 Winchester cartridge, Springfield Inc. now offers that option.