(Apologies to all for the premature launch of this post at 0600 this morning. It was originally supposed to go there, then it was moved to the 1100 spot but the night shift botched the job. Those responsible have been sacked. Your comments and poll elections should be preserved.-Ed.)
The rifle had been praised wildly on the occasion of its adoption. Years of testing had proven its superiority, and it offered a revolution in rifleman’s firepower. Some of the claims made for the new rifle were:
- Greater accuracy in combat conditions;
- a greater volume of fire, firepower equal to five of the old rifles;
- more effective against modern threats;
- less demanding of training time;
- lower recoil, and negligible fatigue from firing;
- average size of production rifle groups, 1.75″ extreme spread at 100.
- accuracy “better than the average service rifle, compares favorably with [a customized target] rifle”; and,
- “every organization so far equipped has submitted enthusiastic reports of their performance under all conditions…”
Despite that glowing report from the men responsible for the decision, reports began to trickle in of unusual, crippling, and intermittent stoppages, and this reinforced many servicemen in their reluctance to give up their Ol’ Betsy for this new piece of technology.
Answer after the jump!
The answer was the beloved “greatest battle implement ever invented,” the US Rifle Cal. .30, M1, the great Garand.
All the praise came from an article written by Major G..H. Drewry for The American Rifleman in August 1938. Drewry, an ordnance officer, recorded 30 years of efforts by that department, beginning during the Great War, which had wanted a self-loading firearm to meet eight “simple” requirements. By 1924 every single rifle tested had fallen short. The requirements were:
- Must be self-loading, and work with the service .30 cartridge;
- Must not exceed nine pounds;
- Well-balanced for shoulder-firing;
- Simple, strong, compact, easy to manufacture (yeah, this was one requirement according to Drewry);
- Magazine must be able to feed from clips or chargers;
- Must be entirely self-loading (yeah, they said that already);
- Must “preclude the possibility of premture unlocking.” Preferably a fully-locked-on-firing firearm;
- Must not require special oil, grease, or lubricated cartridges.
This laundry list sounds like a catalog of pain Ordnance had had with earlier semi-auto experiments, and in 1924 they decided to give the designers a little broader scope to work with caliber. In other words, “make a good enough gun and we’ll change the round, despite our vast ammo stocks, to suit.”
Not surprisingly, Springfield Armory found that the best contestants were the two submitted by two engineers then at Springfield, John D. Pedersen and John C. Garand. Historically, Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur gets the credit for the decision to adopt Garand’s rifle in the .30 service caliber, but Drewry adds this explanation of how that came to pass, crediting Garand’s initiative.
In the meantime. Mr. Garand, who has been in the employ of the Ordnance Department at the Springfield Armory for the past eighteen years as a designer of automatic weapons. completed a test model o f a semi-automatic rifle designed to function with either the caliber .30. Model 1906, or the caliber .30. MI, servicecartridge. This rifle appeared so promising in its preliminary tests that the decision to adopt the caliber .276 was held in abeyance. The results of continued tests of the caliber .30 weapon were so excellent that the caliber .276 project was abandoned altogether and the caliber .30 weapon as developed by Mr. Garand was adopted as the standard shoulder weapon of our Army. This action was taken in January. 1936.
The largest delay, per Drewry, was due to the need for thorough troop testing in all seasons.
We did mention a jamming problem, and even though Great Uncle Dan never mentioned it, the M1 definitely had one. Here’s Drewry’s explanation of the feed, from mid-1938:
The rifle functions equally satisfactorily with the Caliber .30, MI Ammunition, and the Caliber .30, M1906 Ammunition. Ammunition may be loaded into clips either at the factory or in the field, using a special loading machine, or in an emergency. may be loaded into the clip by hand. There are two staggered rows of four rounds in each clip, and it is immaterial whether the topmost round in the clip is on the right or left. The clip can be inserted into the rille either side up.
The precision of his explanation can be understood by pointing out that he was introducing this rifle for the first time to most of his readers.
But soon, soldiers were experiencing malfunctions with their M1s. Each of these problems has a lot of old wives’ tales attached to it, but they all have simple solutions. Here are some common M1 problems and what to do about them:
First Round In a Clip Frequently Misfires
This is caused, usually, by riding the operating rod handle forward, leaving the barrel this much out of battery. An M1 cannot fire out of battery (and well it shouldn’t). Let the op rod fly, or if you must ride it forward for tactical reasons (not that anyone shoots an M1 for tactical reasons 80 years after its adoption), make sure it goes fully home.
Seventh Round Jam
The problem usually struck on the second-to-last round in a clip, and it became known as the 7th Round Jam. This caused a bunch of rumors and legends, and sometimes an old M1 hand will tell you that what Drewry said above, about the orientation of the cartridges in the clip, isn’t true. What’s funny is that one guy will tell clips should be loaded top-round-left, and another guy will tell you top-round-right. Actually, except for one small stitch in time, Major Drewry, may he rest in peace, is right: either way works, except in a few thousand M1s made in approximately 1938-40.
It turned out that a running change on the production line had altered the internal machining of the receiver and reduced support for the clip when it was down to two rounds — and the clip had been loaded top-round-right. (So the 7th round was on the right, too). When hit by the bolt, the 7th round then popped rather than slid out of the en-bloc clip, and hit the breech face of the barrel or receiver, rather than going into the chamber.
The solution? Change the procedure at Springfield Armory back so that the clip retained its support, and in the meantime, sit down a bunch of privates in front of the ammo stockpile, and have them inspect all en-bloc clips, and load any that are top-round-right so that they were top-round-left.
Within a couple of years, the flow of wartime M1s had drowned the few thousand prewar guns, and ammo makers were given the green light to load clips any-which-way. You can do the same, unless you’re shooting some 1939 collectors’ piece.