The CMP: America’s Civilian Armory, by Uncle Mike

The M1 Garand, as a modern day tactical rifle, has many alleged faults. You can find that they may be only perceived faults. Here are a few alleged faults: No detachable magazine, obsolete, too heavy, and limited magazine capacity. I think that these perceived disadvantages can be actual advantages. It has no magazines to lug around. It is easily obtainable, especially from the CMP, with sturdy construction, and a great set of sights. Also this rifle is cost effective and reliable with available ammo. The 30-06 is one of the most popular cartridges.

An eight shot clip may not be ideal in today’s climate of unlimited ammo for military. Unlike the military, civilians don’t have a supply line or unlimited ammunition. The clip has advantages. First, it’s semi-indestructible. Run over it with your truck and you’ll probably get a flat tire. In the prone position, there’s no longer a magazine protruding from the receiver. You don’t have to lug around a bunch of empty magazines. With some simple manipulation the internal magazine can be topped off. Just pull back the slide. Partially eject the clip, and then place a few rounds in the clip. It’s not easy, at first, but it can be done, easily. When you learn to operate your rifle, correctly. Like loading, 8 plus 2 rounds for a match, string of ten. Place the empty clip in the magazine well; then place two rounds on the follower and close the action.

The “obsolete” nature of the rifle’s design can be looked on as a tried and tested battle rifle. It has been tested in the deserts of North Africa to the jungles of the Pacific and the arctic cold of Korea. A well maintained and lubed M1 Garand Rifle works in all conditions, as proven by its long service.

The heavy nature of the M1 Garand is a reassuring heft, made from steel and wood. At 9.5 pounds, it’s not that much heavier than the modern day battle rifle carried by today’s troops. It’s also an accurate rifle that can get solid hits at 300 yards and beyond. It has some of the best iron sights on any rifle. Because of the ubiquitous nature of the Garand, there are plenty of after-market upgrades– Tritium front sights, stock pouches, grab and go ammo carriers, and a variety of two and three point slings.

Unlike many rifles available today, the Garand receiver is forged steel made in a government armory or a government-inspected major manufacturer, such as Springfield, Harrington & Richardson, Winchester, and International Harvester. The later two are hard to find at this time. The CMP has announced it has a limited amount of International Harvesters but has not released them at this time. The real deal is available from the Civilian Marksmanship Program. They will send the rifle to your house, in most cases, for a nominal shipping fee. You can get a good shooting rifle, priced between $625 and $995. The various grades are divided by wear on the rifle. The higher the grade the more the price. The highest being the CMP Special at $1100, with a new barrel and new commercial stock. With a new finish and barrel you have a new rifle.

There are some simple qualifications to receive your “new” rifle. You must be a U.S. citizen, belong to a CMP-affiliated club where you show firearms activity, and pass a background NICS check. There’s a list of clubs on the CMP web site. None in your area? Join the Garand Collectors Association for only $25 a year. You get a great quarterly magazine and can study the history of your new rifle. The NRA is not considered an affiliated club, but my local club makes membership mandatory for all members, which is not a bad idea. The shooting component can be satisfied by US Military service, law enforcement service, or shooting in a match. My local club has a CMP Clinic that ends with a shooting match and is great fun and very informative.

The CMP promotes marksmanship and safety, and it uses the profit from rifle sales to run the various national matches, like Camp Perry, in Clinton, Ohio. They also have ammo, targets, training aids, shooting equipment, and Garand parts. With surplus M 2, 30-06, and other calibers including 30 Carbine ammunition available, it’s a great way to feed your new rifle. For those that like the .308 vs. the 30-06, the CMP now has a .308 Garand.

Over the years I’ve owned several Garand rifles, and I’ve never had any major problems with the rifles that I’ve obtained from the CMP. I did receive a rifle with a broken rear sight that they fixed immediately. They stand behind what they sell. The CMP publishes a short booklet, “U.S. Rifle, Caliber .30, M1 ‘Read This First,’“ which talks about field stripping, ammunition, safety, loading, unloading, firing, care, and cleaning. It has such nuggets as “When all else fails, read the Instructions.” All this in a 37-page booklet. It comes free with every CMP M1. It’s written in plain English and easy to understand.

After receiving your rifle and reading your booklet, you will need to clean and lube your rifle. Then take a trip to the range. I sight my rifles three inches high at 100 yards. I use the old pumpkin on a stick sight picture. I raise the elevation and then count the clicks back down, so I know what my zero is. When I get the result I want, I loosen the rear sight elevation screw and put the 100 yard hash mark at my zero. Tighten it down and your all set. I usually write down the number of clicks, in case the rear sight loosens. For us old guys, you can place white paint or use a china marker in the notches of the rear sight for easy visibility and manipulation. You can also mark the windage scale behind the rear sight. A neat little item is a Tritium front sight available from Brownells. There is more about this later.

When your rifle is clean and well lubed, you will find your ejected empties in a neat little pile in front and to the right of your muzzle. As your rifle gets fouled, you will see this ejection pattern change from a forward bias to a straighter, 90-degree angle. This often occurs in a poorly-lubed rifle.

Those familiar with the M14 or the popular M1A, produced by Springfield Armory, Inc., will find the safety and sights on the Garand very familiar. The safety on your rifle is a well thought out system. The safety in the trigger guard, protruding to the rear, is safe. When forward and out of the trigger group, the safety is off and the rifle is ready to fire. Also, the rifle will not fire unless the bolt is locked and the firing pin is aligned in the slot in the receiver bridge.

The CMP and most gunsmiths advise use of the specific GI 30-06, M2 , M72 Match loading or those commercial loads specifically designed for the M1 Garand. The CMP Armorers specify, if you use commercial ammunition, nothing heavier than 180 grains. There’s a small part that can help you, if you want to use a non-recommended load. It’s a vented gas plug. There are several models available. The one I use has an open gas plug with an Allen screw fitted to the center. You open it all the way, venting all the gas, and slowly tighten the screw until you get positive ejection and reloading. My experience is that this can be done in three or four shots. Frankly, I have one but don’t use it much. With fairly cheap M2 ball ammunition available, I see no need for commercial loads. As a reloader I am sorry to say that most of the problems I’ve seen with Garand rifles and ammunition has been due to reloads. The CMP booklet has a chapter called, “A Grim Sermon On Reloading”. They don’t encourage it.

I think that the M1 Garand is a well-balanced, powerful battle rifle. I’m not recommending you sell your ARs, M1As, or AKs, but for the average shooter it is a good possibility. By putting a Tritium front sight on your Garand it gives you a low-light sighting option. One of the points that helps in accuracy in your Garand is a tight gas cylinder lock up. One of the unintended consequences of my Tritium front sight installation was the tightening of this area. I went from three minute of angle to two by increasing the tension on this area. Some of the other points of accuracy improvement are a tight trigger group lock up and a good muzzle.

Don’t carry your ammo in a paper bag! There are several ways to carry your loaded clips. One is the GI ammo belt. These are being reproduced in the original khaki, green, or black. Also, bandoliers are cheap. I’ve been told that WW II GI’s liked to carry spare ammo in bandoliers and not in their ammo belts. Olangapo Outfitters makes a handy stock pouch that holds two loaded clips. They also make an upgraded 10-pocket ammo belt and what they call the Grab and Go Garand bag. It is carried to the side of the shooter, like a half SKS chest ammo carrier.

A good sling is a must. You can get an original style 1903 style leather sling from Turner Slings. I have one, but I am considering going to a web sling. It’s lighter and simpler to use. You can also get a modern two or three point sling from Specter gear. Scope mounts are available from the traditional M1D configuration, a side mount to a scout scope. Mounts are being sold by several manufacturers– B Square, Ammega Ranges, and Ultimak– available at Brownells.

“Tactical” is an elastic term. It can cover a wide group of firearms. For self defense everything has been used from the pistol and shotgun rifle to clubs and rocks. Painting a rock black and hanging a flashlight from it doesn’t make it an ideal self defense weapon. If your preferred platform is the AR or AK system, well and good. The M1 Garand has a unique place in American history and doesn’t scream “Black Gun” or “Tactical”. It has an eight round clip, so there is no 10 round “hysteria”. It’s also a lot of fun to shoot. You’ll be at the range more than in combat. In the eventuality that you need to defend yourself, the M1 Garand will not let you down.