Osprey author Leigh begins a new series examining the small arms used by US forces in the Second World War. This week he looks at the iconic M1 Garand, the semi-automatic rifle that served the US military throughout the war and was the principal infantry weapon of the US Army and Marine Corps.
The Garand was a gas-operated, semi-automatic rifle chambered for the heavy .30-06 Springfield round (7.62x63mm) capable of theoretical accuracy out to ...more than 1000 yards. The weapon was fed from eight round clips allowing the shooter to quickly reload and fire eight rounds as quickly as he could pull the trigger. General George S Patton famously remarked that the Garand was “… the greatest battle implement ever devised.”
Semi-automatic rifles were still in their infancy as general issue infantry weapons during the Second World War with limited numbers of the German G41 and G43 seeing service along with the Russian SVT-40. The semi-automatic Garand meant that the average US infantry squad could deploy an impressive amount of firepower although whether it proved particularly battle-winning was open to question. The squad firepower, whilst enhanced by the Garand, was reduced by the squad automatic weapon- the Browning Automatic Rifle or BAR which fed not from a belt, but from a 20 round magazine.
The Marine Corps carried the older M1903 Springfield until stocks of the Garand became available mid-war. Surprisingly, some Marine veterans preferred the M1903 due to its perceived greater accuracy. A myth that developed during the war was that the distinctive ‘ping’ of the spent metal clip ejecting from the Garand had led to the death of service members as it alerted nearby enemy, a claim which does not seem to be backed up by any evidence (Aberdeen Proving Ground did however begin development of a plastic alternative).