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I never really liked the design of a Garand. Back in the days when I thought a .223 rifle to have harsh recoil, the idea of firing a 30-06 cartridge seemed scary. The awkward-looking operating rod gave the Garand a lopsided appearance. The balance looked all wrong. Most importantly, the loading seemed unclear and perilous. The prospect of losing a thumb on loading and getting hit in the eye by an ejected clip assured that I was not planning to own a Garand anytime soon.

Store signWhat I did want was an M1 carbine, mainly because the simplicity of its operation and its looks appealed to me. I used to have a Mini-14 which used a similar action but the Ruger rifle was poorly made and unreliable even with factory magazines. The M1 one was to replace the feel of the Mini-14 while an AR15 would duplicate its functionality. Around Christmas time 1999, I could not find a single carbine anywhere. While on vacation in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, I was poking around a gun shop when I saw not one but two Garands on a rack. One was a full-length wood stocked original (or a reproduction, I didn't know the difference back then), the other a chopped plastic-stocked abomination. That last one felt balanced and right to me and I walked out of the store with a lightened wallet and a heavy sack containing the rifle and half-dozen en bloc clips.

Garand ammunition

30-06 in en block clips

My first lesson was about the price of 30-06 ammunition. I bought forty rounds simply because I hated the idea of an unusable gun. I did not dare to load the rifle lest it slam-fire on loading. While loading the clips, I reflected on my reasons for buying the gun.

Open action

side view

top view

I certainly did not get it as a defensive weapon. I regarded the round as excessive and the mechanism as clumsy. I did not hunt nor did I target shoot with rifles. While I liked the solid feel of the Garand, I certainly did not choose it for any practical reasons.

I chose it because of a short story by Irwin Shaw that I read a couple of years earlier and which I have re-read frequently since. It was called "Act of Faith". Although I disagreed with the ending of it, a particular page struck in my mind and made me spend money on a clumsy, over-muscled artifact from the more primitive times.

Act of Faith by Irwing Shaw

It just so happend that most of my grandmother's family was wiped out by Germans in 1941. They did not get to see the liberators nor could they fend for themselves for they lived in the Soviet- and later Nazi-occupied Belorus...and neither of the masters would permit them weapons for self-protection.

rotary bolt

1942 Springfield receiver

My Garand was born in March 1945. For this reason, it is unlikely that the rifle now in my safe had been carried by a GI avenger through the gate that proclaimed "Arbeit Macht Frei". Few of the concentration camps were in the West of Germany anyway. It probably had a less glorious past. Its future remains to be determined.

Getting a clip from bandoleer

Trying to avoid M1 thumb

My rifle is nicknamed "8-ball" because each en bloc clip contains eight rounds of ball ammunition.

My M1 speaks for me Hi-res

These days I understand why Patton was so fond of Garands. This ugly duckling of a rifle has become my favorite weapon. Its accuracy, good balance and formidable power bring joy to my heart. I only wish this rifle had been in the family sixty years ago: the young woman in whose honor my mother was later named might have had some chance against the Einsatzgruppen thugs. Some people still fought back despite the lack of suitable weapons...

Other fellow Americans have different reasons for owning Garands. Read up on the history of that fine rifle, too.

And another overview by Stacy Foster.

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Fight, flight or surrender : Depending on others : Wearing arms : Homedefense : Real guns? : Martial Arts

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