Overrated guns of history: the M1 Garand

M1 Garand

Let’s get one thing straight, first and foremost. I love the M1 Garand. They are fun to shoot, great to own, and are an incredibly important piece of our national history, and our pop culture landscape. Thanks to the early Call of Duty games (remember when Call of Duty was about killing Nazis? Pepperidge Farm remembers), Band of Brothers, and Saving Private Ryan, even kids with no family connection to the war can identify the M1 Garand and it’s distinct “ping” when it runs out of ammo. But was it really as great a gun as we seem to think it was?

Here’s the part where everyone points out that the M1 Garand was the best battle rifle of WW2. That’s technically true, but it’s also like being the tallest midget (something I’d have experience with) or the prettiest girl at the bar at 2am. The competition wasn’t exactly that stout. The closest thing you have to a legitimate contender is the German K98, which held less ammo, took forever to reload, had terrible sights, and was a bolt action. Sure, its action is the base for a ton of great modern bolt guns, but it was obsolete as a war implement by 1916. Then there’s the Arisaka, whose primary use by the Japanese army was a mounting device for their absurd bayonets. We also have the Carcano, whose most notable accomplishment was sparing us from the beginning of a Kennedy dynasty. As you can see, the M1’s competition for “best battle rifle” just wasn’t that tough. Finally, the Mosin, which was so awesome that Soviet soldiers would ditch them at the earliest opportunity for a PPSh-41.

band of brothers shifty powers m1 garand

One of the interesting artifacts of our pop culture memory of World War 2 is that everyone thinks the Garand was great and that the M4 Sherman tank was garbage, when the reverse is actually true. The M4 was a great tank, and the M1 Garand was just sort of okay. Think about the M1, really critically for a moment. The operating system is weird, and was actually susceptible to environmental damage due to the weird, exposed operating rod, it was impossible to top off a partial clip, and it has a safety that requires you to put your finger in the trigger guard to disengage. We can’t forget that it would also occasionally destroy the user’s thumb if you weren’t careful when loading it. M1 thumb HURTS.

In fact, you could have replaced every single M1 Garand that was issued to soldiers and Marines during World War 2 with an M1 Carbine, and the outcome of the war wouldn’t have changed one bit. That’s because our machine guns, the heart and soul of a WW2 infantry unit, were a lot better than the competition. The Browning M1919 and the BAR were every bit as legendary as we think they are, and in fact probably deserve most of the credit for winning the war that is attributed to the M1 Garand.

Post war, the M1 Garand was directly responsible for the development of the M14 rifle, which was a horrible money pit of rifle-development that still plagues the military today, due entirely to nostalgia. The Garand did establish a perfect 1-shot stop record against hippie protesters during the 60s, but let’s be honest here, it was rendered hopelessly obsolete in 1947 when the Automat Kalashnikov burst forth into the world.

But we still love it, because even thought it probably wasn’t as great as we all remember, we still kicked Axis ass all over the world with it.

(Edit: It’s been brought to my attention that I forgot the bitchin’ Lee Enfield, and that’s correct, I did. In fact, the Lee-Enfield only strengthens my point that the Garand is overrated. The LE holds more ammo, was easy to reload, could be topped off in the middle of a fight, and its bolt action could be manipulated so quickly that you could achieve firepower parity with a Garand. Thanks to commenters for pointing that out.)

79 thoughts on “Overrated guns of history: the M1 Garand”

  1. This is so full of Troll, I applaud your unabashed trolldom and nominate you the trolliest of troll gun bloggers. The Kennedy trolling put it over the top for me.

    1. Actually, what he forgot is the Lee-Enfield. Both main versions had two _more_ rounds than the Garand, and they can be worked fast enough that not being semi-auto is not a handicap. In fact, I would call it a tie between the Garand and the No4 MkI for best rifle of Big Mistake 2.

      Of course, this is all just trolling for comments, anyway.

      1. You know, I did forget the Lee-Enfield. Not out of any malice or anything just sort of an oversight. If anything, the LE MkIV strengthens my case that the Garand wasn’t as great as we all remember.

        1. the m4 sherman was garbage when i was younger i knew a tanker and he and 2 other GREAT m4’s rolled up over a french hill found a german tank and started to blast it..guess what did not happen the german tank did not have any damage adn the one round fired at one of the GREAT sherman plowed right through it front to back and lifted it off the ground..the m1 carbine was more less to keep fire down range and the round its self was never really meant to be a man killer though it could and did kill people..soo 30carbine with about the same or less than 9mm vs 3006?? there is no way you have any actual education on this or the war in general

          1. the M4 was called the “ronson”. I believe the best variant was the British Firefly, with a very good gun (17 pdr) though top heavy but with a Diesel engine. The M1 Garand, in my humble opinion is an excelent rifle, but lacking ammo capacity and unable to be partially reloaded. I will vote for the Sturmghever 44 (AK father)for the best battle rifle in ww2, as the Wermacht proved in the last part of the war against the Russians. Kar 98 is an excelent rifle, precise and soldier proof, though many believe the Smelly was a better battle option. One comment, german snipers many times used the Mosin Nagant. Ugly but precise and impervious to ill treatment by soldiers in Russian weather.
            The most important item is the indian not the bow (this is a literal translation of an Argentine proverb) Good markmanship is better than shooting a lot ammo (Jeff Cooper).
            I

          2. Only the M-4A2 used a diesel engine. The USMC used some in the Pacific. The rest were sent to the UK, (some) and the USSR, (most). According to “British and American Tanks of WW 2”, by ARCO, by Chamberlain and Ellis. all Firefly’s were of the A1, A3, and A4 versions. Let me know if you have other information.

    2. Damn, and I even had a joke just for that. Thanks for reminding me, I ninjer edited the post to include the Mosin joke.

  2. But, but, but, Patton!

    “the greatest battle implement ever devised” 🙂

    And he was a tank driver.

  3. How dare you insult the M1 Garand! Lol. Yeah I know it wasn’t perfect but most grunts liked it. And yeah the Lee-Enfield in the right hands is a sight to behold.

    You’re comment about our machine guns being superior leads me to wonder if you’ve forgotten about the MG42?

    1. I haven’t. I’d actually list the MG42 as one of the most overrated guns of the entire war. It wasn’t very accurate, the cyclic rate was far too high, and it ate barrels like crazy. The best thing you can say about the MG42 is that we took the best parts of it and made it into the M60, we ditched the dumb stuff and the result is one of the best crew served MGs ever made.

      1. I can’t tell if you are still trolling or not with calling the M60 one of the best crew served MGs ever.

      2. I beg to differ, the M60 was is and ever will be the biggest piece of junk next to the M16 platform ever bought . I know I carried both in combat.

      3. As a machine gunner in the Marines I have to agree. The best thing the MG42 did was create a new class of General purpose machine guns

        1. Correct. The US attempt to copy the MG-42 was screwed up by the contractor. It also seems that at the time precision stampings were not as simple as people thought. As the Soviets found with their first, stamped attempt with the AK-47.

      4. please remember the MAG, used by many NATO forces and according friends in the Argentine Forces most precise. I believe there are many new versions tending to make her lighter.

  4. Click bait, click bait, rolly polly click bait, click bait, click bait, eat it up yum! EPIC TROLL!

    Yesterday was gamer this, reload from concealment par times that, hider/revolver nonsense, moon clips, speed loaders, split times, etc. My brain hurts.

    1. It’s crazy, right? Almost like I’m running a business whose primary revenue stream is advertising, but I occasionally like to indulge my passions.

      1. Honestly my first thought on seeing the headline. “Looks like Caleb’s fishing for more click-throughs.”

        Yeah it worked.

  5. I think at the time pitted against the German bolt rifles and in the sheer numbers we produced them it was highly regarded historically. By no means a perfect rifle by its design. Yes other weapons outshined it, but even today a platoon is outfitted with men using different rifles for different purposes. Even its adoption was a shift in military thinking that said putting many rounds on target was a advantage, when in WWI and before, the thought was men would waste ammunition with an semi-auto weaoon.

  6. “We also have the Carcano, whose most notable accomplishment was sparing us from the beginning of a Kennedy dynasty.” I have been saying the same exact thing for years… The only good thing JFK did after WWII was play 6.5 mm catch in Dallas…. “The Garand did establish a perfect 1-shot stop record against hippie protesters during the 60s” The M16 maybe the Poodle Shooter but the M1Garand is the Hippy Shooter! Oh and Caleb “being the tallest midget?” That right there is comedy troll gold! You win the internet today…

    1. Are you really serious about Kennedy? Why? Is it because he was a “democrat?” or because of the politics of his brother Ted? What did he do that was so bad?

  7. I have a M1 Garand and think it’s a great gun for what it is. My love affair with the Garand has more to do with owning and being able to shoot such a historical firearm. And by the way they are a blast to shoot.

    However Caleb is likely right about it not being as good a firearm as history remembers and as some of the Garand’s fans remember. The Garand was a gun of its time with many of the short comings associated with that period like no detachable magazine, only an eight round clip, and no way to top off the magazine.

    With the benefit of hindsight I kinda understand how the Garand came to be, however the M14 makes no sense when you really think about it. However, there are still huge numbers of M14 fanboys that love that gun and refuse to look at its shortcomings.

  8. With the firearms this trollmaster “over looked” and his snarky statements about the killing of a President , and the deaths of some American collage students, i have no respect for this butt wrinkles opinion. He may know a bit about different firearrms but he’s a disrespectable clown.

    1. So, a collage student is someone who’s studying the technique of an art production, where the artwork is made from an assemblage of different forms, right?

  9. Even if, in VERY well trained & talented hands, a SMLE can generate about the same firepower that an average soldier can with a Garand, the latter has a significant advantage that nobody has yet mentioned: the shooter does not have to move his arm to reload after every shot. When firing from concealment, this motion helps mark the shooter’s position … a potentially fatal problem.

  10. You forgot that they had to download the .30-06 to keep it from beating the op rod to death.
    (In the Garand’s defense, it only had to be better than the Mauser, the Arisaka, or the Carcano, and it was. It’s okay to be the tallest midget in the circus, if you’re in a midget [“little person”] basketball game.)
    I’ll bet you’re beating the cold now, what with being tied to the stake with burning faggots (the real meaning) around your feet.

    1. I have often wondered how this rifle would be remembered if it had gone into production chambered in the intermediate .276 Pedersen cartridge as originally intended. Would it have performed as well in combat? Better?

    2. The M1 was designed to run standard military loads of the day, which in turn were limited by the gunpowders available at the time. In the last 70-80 years we’ve come quite a long way in this regard.

  11. Caleb, you’re a racist. You claim to be short yet you tower over me by what, four inches? You’re the same height as Michael J. Fox, I’m the same height as Danny DeVito. Don’t be trying to be something you’re not just to gain an edge in trolling.

      1. Okay, now I just want to see a buddy cop movie with Danny DeVito and Michael J. Fox as the stars.

  12. Frankly, the BAR is the most overrated auto rifle of WWII. It was designed for a WWI tactical concept that was truly insane, trench assault by advancing fire on the walk. It was too heavy for an auto rifle, and its bottom magazine made it ungainly in prone fire.

  13. Ok I’m gonna be That Guy.

    How did you not mention the Lee-Enfield when comparing the Garand to its contemporaries?

    Afghan tribesmen are still using WWII SMLE’s, I haven’t heard of many carrying Garands.

  14. The Arisaka was not just a mounted pole for a bayonet. It was the best bolt action rifle fielded during ww2 and yes I’m including the SMLE in that comparison.

      1. The Arisaka was the most durable battle rifle fielded during the Second World War (strongest action, chromed barrel(some models), those metal tang extensions on the stock that strengthen the wrist area) and could be built faster and maintained easier then any other rifle. From a longistical perspective it can’t be beat.

        Japanese infantry were at a disadvantage not necessarily because of their equipment, but because they could not be supplied and supported as well as their opposition.

        Also, if anybody wants to talk underrated guns from ww2 I would like to submit the Hungarian 35M into consideration.

        1. Having owned the German 8×57 version, I found it no better than a K-98k. The front of receiver bolt was also more awkward than the 98k.

          1. Yea, they made some changes to the G98/40 from the 35M and not for the better. Gone was the Mannlicher chargers system and the easier to use straight bolt handle.

          2. I never fired a M-35h or the M-43h. I can only comment on the one I fired. It was unpleasant enough I only shot it one time for about 20 rounds. But thanks for the response.

          3. The 43M was nothing more then the G98/40 redesigned to mount the Hungarian bayonets so if you have handled one, you have effectively handled the other.

        2. I suspect that some, if not all of Calebs comments were just to start a debate/argument. Still fun.

    1. The Arisaka was the “strongest” military action. But even the improved Type 99 was a clunky rifle. As to the comment elsewhere that the M-1 Garand was the king of a pack of midgets, for it’s time the M-1 was the king of the mountain. The only combat infantry arm to better it was the Stg 43/44. Which was essentially a new concept at the time. FYI, the Soviet 7.62×39 M-43, which they still claim as an original design is so identical to to the German Geco M-35. I suspect that they would chamber interchangeably. The 8×33 Polte round was chosen because during the war it was easier to produce than the Geco round would have been

  15. “We can’t forget that it would also occasionally destroy the user’s thumb if you weren’t careful when loading it. M1 thumb HURTS.”

    It’s very difficult to get M1 Thumb when loading, though:
    http://www.garandgear.com/m1-garand-thumb

    “Post war, the M1 Garand was directly responsible for the development of the M14 rifle, which was a horrible money pit of rifle-development that still plagues the military today, due entirely to nostalgia.”

    I’d be curious to see some data, but I suspect that for a USPSA/IDPA-style stage, an M1 has a decent chance of beating an M14/M1A if there’s at least one reload.

    I love my Garand, and I really want to start competing with it. That said, I’d rather take a more modern rifle if my life were on the line. 🙂

  16. My Father-In-Law said that he would ditch his M-1 for a BAR after landing on an island. He also kept a 1911 hidden away between battles so he could carry a pistol. He dragged phone lines on the battlefields, and on Iwo, his Ka-Bar was in one hand while he dragged line with the other as he went hole to hole. How many holes does it take before you get tired of sticking your Ka-bar in a Jap? He kept his head down and came out without a scratch.

  17. As far as self-loading rifles go, the M1 has some fairly significant flaws. In addition to those you mentioned, the design leaves many of the critical working parts (bolt, most of the op-rod, etc.) exposed to the environment, and the operating system is extremely picky about the pressure curve of the ammunition used.

    On the whole though, compared with the other military self-loading rifles of the day, the M1 rifle was better in pretty much every way that mattered: It was simpler, cheaper, more reliable, and fielded in much greater numbers.

    The M14, on the other hand, is a shining testament to the fact that politics are everything when it comes to military trials and contracts.

  18. OK guys. History lesson. The M-1 was designed to take 10 rounds of .276 Pederson ammo. In the 1920’s when designed, the M-1 magazine could not drop below the stock. Though it’s true the en block clip had been found wanting. Ten 276’s take up the space of 8 30/06’s. Hence the peculiar #. The sights are a wonder for a standard infantry rifle. I love the Lee Enfields, #’s 1 and 4. But try maintaining aim with a full power bolt gun. Easy with an M-1. Time of introduction. The M-1, despite a # of problems met the test. Not so the K-43 or SVT. As for the M-1 carbine being up to the task? Wake up man. It’s a pistol cartridge. Intended to replace the 1911 PISTOL. Despite what some pundits say who hate the 5.56/M-16, the Carbine is NOT a viable battle rifle. And let’s not forgret the Carbine shares that same ‘awkward’ bolt system. Of note; Chief of Staff Gen Douglas McArthur nixed the 276 Pederson on the grounds Congress would not approve a change of caliber during a depression. Certainly correct. Further, considering the efforts made to replace the 30/06 with the 7.62 Nato round it is probable the US Armed Forces, Army & Marines would not have approved the lesser round. In the “what if’s” of history, if the .276 Pederson had been adopted it would have proven adequate and likely still be our standard round. An acceptable assault rifle could have been made for the 276 as was not really possible with the 308. No 223 nor 308. I agree with HSR47 about the M-14. It seems our military learned none of the lessons of WW 2. And we should remember that the M-16A2 is as close to an M-14 as you can get. Sights, weight, loaded and empty. Even the length of pull was increased for a target shooter in shirt sleeves on a bench rather than a soldier in flack jacket and other equipment.

      1. I would sincerely appreciate just a hint about the differences, if possible. I do not mean to imposse.

      2. I will sincerely appreciate you give an idea or abstract about the book/author, if possible.

  19. “We also have the Carcano, whose most notable accomplishment was sparing us from the beginning of a Kennedy dynasty.” What an incredibly stupid thing to say.

    1. Yeah, because we’re still not rid of the damn things, those spawn of Joe. Had JFK been able to crash and burn (ala LBJ) during his second term, and then put to pasture, we may have avoided the whole beautification of him, and Teddy in the senate.

    1. If the ST44 had ever made it to general issue, it would win the competition for best rifle of WW2 every time, hands down. But it was never issued in large enough numbers to really be considered for the conversation.

  20. The Garand was the tallest midget, but we could’ve gone taller. Imagine if every soldier was issued a Colt Monitor or a Remington Model 8 with 20 round magazines instead. They were good enough to kill Bonnie and Clyde and I think either could’ve replaced the M1, M1 carbine and the full-size BAR.

  21. As far as winning the war….that was our logistics more than our armaments anyhow. We had the ability to marshall manpower and effectively supply an army that outstripped the Axis. Combine that with the fact the USSR was absorbing a substantial part of the Nazi forces and *that’s* why we won, not the technical merits of our battle rifle.

    I’d have to argue that ignoring the competition isn’t good either. It kind of gives you a feel for where main battle rifles were at that point in time. I mean, you take the best 1940s era car and it’ll out performed by any modern car right? Doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a good car–given the tech and know how of the time it was superb.

  22. Are there any good books about the relation between the military and its weapons contractors, particularly firearms contractors?

    1. The one that comes to mind is “The Great Rifle Controversy”, Stackpole Books by Edward C. Ezell. It describes in detail the tortuous process in the adoption of the M-14 and M-16. Any of his “Small Arms of the World” also contain information on this subject.

  23. For that matter, do you honestly think that the difference in firearms made a considerable difference in the war, over and above Hitler’s disastrous military strategies?

    1. Yes ‘N.M.’ it does matter. It matters a lot. Would we have won the war without the M-1? Of course. But US equipment, from rifles to B-29’s were made for “MASS PRODUCTION”. And most of them worked. And worked well. We tended to keep things like M-4 tanks in production too long. You could ship 3 M-4’s for the shipping as opposed to 2 M-26’s. And the Axis Powers often produced military equipment that was too expensive or difficult to produce. And many didn’t work at all, despite being mass produced. Having said that, all of the warring nations produced ‘duds’. But would you rather have gone into battle with an M-1 Garand or a K-98k or Type 99 Arisaka.

      1. I assume then, and I’m not suggesting otherwise, just asking for confirmation, that evidence suggests equally that in terms of firearms the US had a considerable advantage over Axis powers. In other words, that losses in battle somehow reflect these differences. I guess I wonder how you’d go about determining that. Undoubtedly, in terms of industrial power, Germany was metaphorically blown out of the water. But reading a biography of Hitler, I’m struck by how late the US was in getting involved and how things were already looking quite badly for the former … and how his megalomania was his worst enemy.

        Thanks for the reference to the book.

        1. You are welcome. You raise some interesting questions. The German infantry was based upon the MG’s 34/42. The riflemen were protection for the MG’s. The US was opposite. The MG’s and BAR’s were support for the riflemen I wish I remember which of my many books mention that. As for your point on the US being late to the party. The US has a long tradition of avoiding international conflicts. Thus we had standing military forces equal to Chile. While not getting into the reasons for WW 1, the American people felt that our European allies had been ungrateful. Remember that they probably would have lost in 1918 without our intervention. Few understood the true nature of Hitler and the Nazis. F.D.R. did. He was, and quite illegally, trying to force a war situation with either Germany or Japan. The US Navy was attacking U-Boats and they had torpedoed several US destroyers, sinking one. At the time of Pearl Harbor, a US cargo vessel was in the Dutch East Indies with a cargo of Lockheed bombers en rout to China to be flown by US pilots (Flying Tigers) with Chinese insignia to bomb Japan. Pearl Harbor made all these schemes mute. And the German and Italian declarations of war on the US solved FDR’s final problem.

          1. I agree with you EthanP, to protection of the Lend Lease convoys to mid -Atlantic and the use of force on U Boats, was a further step of the policy to radio all Uboat or German Raiders observed by the USN, can be considered an act of war by Intenational Law.
            FDR was in continous contact with Winston (Former Naval Person to Present Formal Person) so these two allies were working together.
            And they knew that cutting the oil to Japan was another form to induce a retaliation. But I beleive they never tought that the retaliation will be executed before a formal declaration of war, in spite of previous experiences with Japan.
            I also agree that America was the “arsenal of Democracy”. The weapons produce and designed were excelent.
            Rifles (M1 which replaced the American copy of the K98, the Springfield), the Grant and the Sherman, which allowed the British to succcesfully destroy the German Mk II and even III in North Africa, new planes such as the Boston, the P40, the Catalina, and the P51 which was produced by a British requirement.
            Finally, returning the original topic, the M1. I believe that the best proof of the excelency of this rifle is that the Marines were trading everything under the sun to obtain an M1 from the recentely arrived GI at Guadalcanal!!

          2. One thing often overlooked about Pearl Harbor was what a revolution in naval tactics it was. Prior to Yamamoto’s use of 6 fleet carriers with more than 400 aircraft, nobody had used more than 2 with about 150 planes. After Pearl Harbor, the world belonged to the Carriers. It’s one of the reasons the Battleship Admirals could scoff at carriers until Dec 7, 1941. The Idea that a small # of carriers could pose a threat to the Big Boys seemed laughable. The Bismark had been a single ship. The Italian fleet had been at anchor. And everyone “knew” Pearl was too shallow for torpedoes. The fact that so was Taranto was lost in the contempt for the “Eyetye’s”. A similar contempt was held for the “Japs”. Everyone “knew” they couldn’t see, balance, etc. Oh sure, they could beat up the Chinese who were after all, just more “slant eyes”. They couldn’t defeat “white men”. That disappeared within a week of Pearl Harbor.

          3. Beyond The Beachhead by Joe Balkowski discusses the difference in organization between US and German squads and their weapons.

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