Scot’s Product Review: Scoping the Garand

Recently, you were treated to my diatribe on the wonders of the U.S. Semiautomatic Rifle, Caliber .30, M1, better known as the Garand after its designer, John C. Garand The brief synopsis is that I really like the thing. It fires the hard hitting .30-06 cartridge, which is fully capable of handling any game on the American continents (though I might like something bigger for the large bears), and it can deliver match grade long-range accuracy when tuned. In service grade with a fresh barrel, Garands often shoot just as well as a modern sporting bolt action rifle.

The Garand isn’t perfect and does have a few drawbacks. Weight is one; we like things to be svelte these days, though the Garand’s heft ensures it can take and give abuse freely. Another shortcoming is the lack of a detachable magazine and the requirement to use proprietary eight round enbloc clips to load it. If you run out of clips, you have a single shot. The design makes it very difficult for most of us to top off the magazine. It is usually easier to eject a partial clip and replace it. Some of us have been trained to top off whenever possible, and the Garand frustrates us.

The final and perhaps most important drawback (and what this article is all about) is that it is hard to put optics on. Optics makes it easier for anyone to get hits. They can extend the range we can use a rifle as well as gather light in the twilight so we can see better. Many optical sights even provide illuminated reticles, so we can hit in the dark. In short, optics are good.

The typical spot to mount an optic, however, is directly over the rifle’s receiver. If we do that with the Garand, it gets in the way of feeding in those enbloc clips. When the military decided to issue the Garand to snipers, they mounted the scope offset to the left side of the rifle. This is okay if you are right handed, buts it’s extremely awkward if you are a lefty, like me. If you are right handed, S&K Scope Mounts offers a mount for the Garand, though it requires removal of the iron sight. S&K makes good stuff, and I’ve reviewed one of their mounts before. However, I like to keep the iron sights as backups, but since it is offset to the left it won’t work for me.

There have been, from time to time, replicas of the mounts used on the M1C and M1D sniper rifle available. Originals are scarce collector’s items, hard to find, and even harder to afford. They allow you to keep the iron sights, but the ones I’ve seen use a 7/8 inch diameter scope, which isn’t a very common size for center fire rifle optics. That size is most often used for budget .22 rimfire scopes that probably won’t hold up to the beating the .30-06 would provide. There are some replica scopes made for these mounts, but I suspect that design compromises were made to get them to fit into the 7/8 inch mounts. I haven’t actually used any though, so I could be wrong.

So, woe, what is one to do with their Garand crying out for optical sights, if giving up the iron sights is not an option and we aren’t right handed? Well, one solution does pop up; it’s the UltiMAK Garand mount, which is a U.S.-made product from Moscow, Idaho.

The UltiMAK places the optic ahead of the receiver in the Scout position, which was defined and popularized by Lt. Colonel Jeff Cooper– a Marine and the founder of what is now called the Gunsite Academy in Paulden, Arizona. Since the scope or other optical sight is well ahead of the receiver, there is no issue with loading the rifle, and it can be placed directly over the bore. I’ve written about Scout scopes before and will reiterate a bit here.

To many, a scope mounted this far forward looks odd, but it affords advantages to the shooter. The biggest advantage is that the scope does not block your vision, and it is easy to use it with both eyes open. Your situational awareness is much better with this sort of mount than one that places the scope close to the eye.

There are also disadvantages. The main one is that if you go to much more that a 3-power scope, you will start having to concentrate your vision through the optic and lose your broader awareness. This varies from person to person, and some folks can handle more magnification than others. It isn’t as much of a drawback as it seems, though, from most practical shooting positions. While higher magnification makes it easier to shoot tighter groups from the bench, where most of us do the majority of our rifle shooting, in other positions too much magnification can be a problem. Things start bouncing about, and we have trouble staying on the target. A fair limit for me is about 3-4 power, so the Scout type scope works well for me. You may be able to do better, or you may do worse. You do need to try shooting in more positions than the bench to know for sure. If you hunt and expect to defend yourself, a bench may not be available.

Another problem I have had with this type of scope mount has been when the sun is low and coming from behind me. Sometimes it will cause flare on the rear element, which makes it hard to see through the scope. It doesn’t work as well in low light for me, either. It seems that in low light I need to exclude everything except what is in the scope, which is the opposite of what I want in better light. Other shooters I have talked to say this isn’t a problem for them, so it is probably a personal matter.

The final issue I have encountered is with semiautomatic rifles when the rear element of the scope is close to the ejection port. Nasty stuff, like combustion products and vaporized lubricants, come out, and can obscure my view when they get on the rear element. This was enough of a problem using a Scout Scope with a mount on an M1A that I gave up the idea.

The UltiMAK offers the possibility to mount the scope further forward than the mount I tried on the M1A, so I was intrigued with it. Most often, an intermediate relief scope is used for Scout rifles. This is a scope with seven to nine inches of eye relief, and it usually puts the rear element just ahead of the ejection port. Some mounts, like the UltiMAK, allow us to put the scope further forward and to use a pistol scope, which can have over 20 inches of eye. I chose to use a Burris 2x pistol scope that I will eventually get around to reviewing. It has moved from project to project and been quite satisfactory on everything I’ve used it on. This one gives a very generous 10-24 inches of eye relief, which means I was able to put it well forward of the ejection port. I have had no problems with anything dirtying the rear element.

Another benefit from getting the scope further forward is that I think I can create a sunshade to help with the problem of low angle sunlight. On the M1A, using a shorter eye relief scope, a sunshade would have interfered with ejection. That mount, a factory version from Springfield Armory, also limited how far forward the scope could go, so the pistol scope was not an option with it.

Installing the mount was relatively easy, if one is able to disassemble their Garand for a detailed cleaning. The instructions provided by UltiMAK were quite good, though I was unable to remove the operating rod without also removing the gas cylinder, which was something I did not see in the instructions. Other than that, they were quite clear and included good text and a sufficient number of clear, sharp photos of adequate size. They were in color, which helped.

I had no issues with the installation, but I am pretty comfortable with this sort of thing. If you aren’t, a decent gunsmith should have no problems with it. I spent about an hour, and that included futzing with the scope rings. The only sad part is that you have to remove the rear handguard, and that was the only sort of pretty piece of wood on my battered old Garand from the Civilian Marksmanship Program. Getting the handguard off was the toughest part of the installation for me. It is held to the barrel with a stiff clamp. If you have a large enough pair of snap ring pliers, it should be easy. I used a punch and levered it off on one side and then the other. UltiMAK suggests removing the gas cylinder, front handguard, and the lower band if you can’t get the clip off, but getting the clip off is a lot less trouble in my view.

The mount attaches to the barrel with two clamps and four screws. The screws are accessible after reassembly of the rifle and UltiMAK suggests checking them after firing 50-200 rounds. Mine have not loosened.

One thing I wish UltiMAK provided was a recommended torque setting for the screws. They say to tighten them as tight as most people can tighten the screws with the provided wrench. I’m not happy with that. They correctly note that most people don’t have torque wrenches, but what about those of us who do? They give you an extra screw in case you break one from over tightening, but I was more worried about stripping the threads in the mount, as it is aluminum while the screws are steel.

I used Weaver medium height rings to mount the scope on the 1913 Picatinny rail UltiMAK machines into their mounts. While there are specific scope mounts for Picatinny rails, they also work with Weaver scope rings. The cross bolt is slightly undersize on Weaver mounts, but it has never been a problem in my experience. I found the Weaver medium rings to be slightly higher than necessary, and I suspect that Warne or Leupold low quick detachable rings (QD) would work and position the scope as low as one can go. I’ll try to report back on this once I can afford some more scope rings. I really like the idea of rings that can easily be removed without tools in the event of scope failure, since the Weaver rings require a tool. The Warne and Leupold QD ones have a lever that can be turned by hand.

One of the popular modifications to the Garand is shortening the barrel to the so called Tanker length. In World War II, a common calling was for a shorter rifle, so a requirement was issued for an 18-inch barreled version. A few were made up in the Pacific, and some might have been used in combat. The war ended before more was done. It is an appealing concept, and gunsmiths have been turning them out for years. UltiMAK warns, however, that some versions will not work with their mount. They say that it is quite possible to accommodate their mount with a Tanker, but it has to be allowed for in the conversion. If you have a Tanker, beware that the UltiMAK mount may not work with it.

I purchased the mount I tested at a good price from a friend who had never gotten around to using it and needed to clear out some space. They go for $185 new from UltiMAK. Mine appears identical to the one currently on the website. They are nicely crafted from a light weight alloy and anodized with a smooth and even matte black finish.

I have had no issues with the mount and scope. The 2 power scope allowed me to shoot better groups with the Garand than I got with iron sights, which wasn’t much of a surprise. I had gotten four inch groups at 100 yards with the excellent iron sights; however, they shrank to three inches with the scope. Remember, I am not the best shot, and these weren’t match grade loads tuned to the rifle. Further, the gunsmith who did the tech inspection before I shot the rifle called the barrel “shot out” and recommended replacing it.

I really like the mount and the Scout scope on the Garand. While the rifle is capable of serious long-range accuracy, I see it as a 300-400 yard weapon in my hands. That distance is, however, beginning to push the limits of a 2 power scope. I would like to try it with a bit more magnification and am considering trying to acquire the Burris 2-7x handgun scope. If I do, I’ll report back. In the meantime, the UltiMAK mount and the Burris pistol scope is a huge improvement for me over the iron sights. I particularly like how low the mount places the scope, which means you can get by without raising the height of the comb.

The mount would be equally suitable for a red dot sight. UltiMAK warns that if you choose that route, you need to get a quality sight that can handle the recoil of the .30-06. It is possible to position this type of sight so you can use the iron sights without removing the optic.

The UltiMAK website offers some useful information as well as a selection of similar mounts for other rifles.

– SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor, Scot Frank Erie