All About Guns The Green Machine

How Garand’s Rifle Became the M1

2 replies on “How Garand’s Rifle Became the M1”

The video does a good job for the most part, but does not present the all of the proper historical historical context concerning the 30-06 and similar cartridges of that era. Immediately before the turn of the 20th century, and shortly after it, there were a number of pivotal battles and military engagements which shaped the thinking of armies – and ordnance specialists – around the developed world.

Prior to the development of smokeless powder (propellant) in the 1880s, most military-issue rifles were effective inside of 200 yards, before their trajectory became difficult to manage. Bullets of the time were heavy and round-nosed, therefore not very aerodynamic in comparison to later developments.

However, when smokeless propellant was invented it became possible to drive projectiles at heretofore unheard of velocities, well over 2,000 fps. And with such velocities, it was no longer necessary to use 250-300 grain bullets for routine use. Lighter and more-stream-lined bullets, especially when they become pointed or “spitzer” type, could deliver accurate aimed fire out to ranges double or even triple that of older designs, and with relatively flat trajectories.

At the Battle of San Juan Heights in the Spanish-American War in 1898, U.S. forces had a rude awakening as to the potential of the 7x57mm Mauser in skilled hands, as Spanish regulars inflicted heavy casualties on American forces from ranges previously thought to be impossible.

And over in Africa, British regulars were learning a similar lesson at the hands of Boer irregulars, many of whom were also armed with Peter Paul Mauser’s bolt-action chambered in 7×57. At places like the Battle of Spion Kop in 1900, Boer rifleman picked off British infantry from ranges as much as 800 yards away.

With aimed fire possible at ranges out to 600-800 yards, and volley fire at ranges of up to 3-4 times that distant, rifle cartridges had to be powerful. In those days prior to WWI, when quick-firing artillery and machine guns had not yet taken over the battlefield, the riflemen served as an area denial weapon.

That is why the iron sights on rifles from that era were graduated to such extreme ranges; riflemen were expected to be able to operate as a squad or section under an officer or NCO, who would call out the range, and upon command, the section would fire as a unit. The leader, glassing the enemy in the distance, would make corrections, and so forth. This was a standard tactic during the period from roughly 1890 to the start of the Great War in 1914.

Not only were rifle cartridges powerful for the reasons above, virtually all armies chambered their standard medium/heavy machine guns in the same caliber and cartridge as used by their infantry rifles and carbines. The machine gun section took over the mission once performed by the rifle squad or section, of area denial and interdiction of long-range targets.

A new development, too, was the innovation of aircraft above the battlefield. Once the various technicians, armorers and engineers learned how to adopt machine-guns to aerial use, they were pressed into service here as well. These weapons, too, were usually in the same chamberings as their counterparts on the ground.

A light or intermediate cartridge would not have been successful in air-to-air combat, as it would have lacked the range, power and destructive capability of such stalwarts as 8mm Mauser, 303 British, 30-06, and the like.

In the instance of the design of the M-1 rifle, testing was done on .276 Pedersen, but many modern authorities and commentators confuse this cartridge with an intermediate. It was nothing of the kind. It was a full-sized, full-power long-action cartridge, one whose bullet was of caliber .276 instead of .30-caliber, but otherwise very much in line with other cartridges of the time being used in rifles and machine-guns.

General Douglas MacArthur, the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army at the time, over-ruled the ordnance board which had recommended .276 Pedersen – a decision rounded often criticized in much modern firearms literature – and ordered the new rifle to be redesigned to use 30-06.

His decision was the correct one: Times were extremely tight in the 1930s and there simply wasn’t enough in the military budget to permit the adoption of a new rifle cartridge (and perhaps MG chambering as well, ultimately). Moreover, there were millions of rounds of 30-06 already stored in government armories and warehouses, and domestic manufacturers were already tooled up and making 30-06 in quantity. His choice was a much more efficient and economical one given the times.

The 30-06 cartridge was – by any standard – a slashing success in both world wars, Korea and in a host of smaller conflicts. Then as now, it is unwise to “fix” what isn’t broken. It remains the most-popular center-fire hunting cartridge in the world here in the 21st century.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *