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M1 Garand .30 Caliber Semi-automatic Rifle

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Principal Rifle of World War II

M1 Garand

M1 Garand rifles from the Swedish Army Museum.

The principal U.S. service rifle of WWII, the M1 Garand proved to be effective and reliable although complicated and expensive to manufacture.

The M1 was self-loading and could be fired as quickly as the trigger could be pulled. With its accuracy and high rate of fire it became the preeminent battle rifle of the war. General Patton called the M1 Garand "the greatest battle implement ever devised."

Development of the M1 Garand

Soldier with M1 Garand in Guam.

Soldier with M1 Garand in Guam.

The semi-automatic rifle was a development of World War II, and the United States was in the forefront of its development. The M1 Garand was developed at the Springfield Armory in the 1920s and 1930s, and adopted as a U.S. infantry rifle in 1940 and by the Marine Corps in 1941. Many M1 Garands went to Great Britain as part of the Lend-Lease program prior to December 7, 1941. In great demand by the U.S. military, there were some shortages of the rifle until late in 1943.

John C. Garand's, design for the M1 was well developed and required very few changes. "Thus the last M1 looked very much like the first".1 The rifle fired a .30-06 round which was in standard use by U.S. troops at that time. Unlike the bolt action of its predecessors, it was reloaded automatically by gas pressure. It used an eight-round clip which had to be full or it couldn't be loaded.

Manufacturing the Garand

The rifle was manufactured by Springfield Armory and Winchester Repeating Arms Company during the war. Rifles built from 1937 to 1939 had a system which trapped escaping gas to be used to operate the reloading mechanism. It is interesting to note that some of these early pattern Garand rifles were actually used in combat during the opening days of the war, particularly in the Philippines.2 In 1940, the design was changed to include a port drilled in the barrel to take off the necessary gas, increasing the rifle's reliability.

Advantages of a Gas Operated Semi-automatic over a Bolt Action


The M1 Garand gave a soldier an advantage over an enemy using the older bolt action rifle. With each shot the hammer on the Garand was automatically cocked and a new shell was positioned in the chamber after the spent shell was ejected.The soldier never lost sight of the overall target picture to operate the bolt as the next round was automatically loaded. A well trained soldier could place 32 rounds per minute on target, more than twice the number of rounds that could be well aimed and fired from a bolt action rifle in one minute.3

Most U.S. combat soldiers were supplied with the M1 Garand during World War II. Approximately 5,500,000 were manufactured during the war; sniper versions M1C and M1D, were produced in small numbers. The M1 Garand continued in U.S. service until the 1970s.


1 Chris Bishop and Ian Drury: editors. Combat Guns, an illustrated encyclopedia of 20th Century Firearms. Secaucus, NJ: Chartwell Books Inc., 1987, p 132.

2 Bruce N. Canfield. U.S. Infantry Weapons of World War II. Lincoln, RI: Andrew Mowbray Publishers. 1998, p. 86.

3Kevin R. Hershberger, Guns of War: the Evolution of Firearms, from the First Crude Matchlocks to the Modern Infantry Weapons of Today [DVD] Timeless Media Group, 2007.