I found this article a while back and wanted to write a post about it. Guns and gun laws have come under quite a bit of scrutiny lately some of it is warranted while some I think can be contributed to false information perpetuated by a liberal media with an agenda. I say that because the media should be responsible for reporting the news and facts, not opinion or slanting stories to push an agenda. As I always say do your own research and come to your own conclusions, don’t let anyone push you towards a conclusion. Be informed and do your own research!
I want to talk about a gun, but not just any gun the legendary M1 Garand. The reason I want to talk about this gun is because of the place it holds in American history. Now, there are many famous guns for a variety of reasons. Winchester has the Henry Repeating rifle that was credited for “winning” the Wild West. While that gun is also a part of a darker period of American history, but that is a discussion for another time. There are so many guns that each have their place in American history the Colt 1911, the infamous M16, and M2 Browning are just a few that all have their place and in some way changed the world. But I would argue that none have the cultural significance or iconic stature that the M1 Garand holds. So what is so important about this rifle?
After WWI there was an increased need for the individual soldier to have more fire power. In the past a soldier had a bolt action rifle with a, usually, 5 round magazine that fired a rather large round. This meant that the soldier would have to fire, use the bolt action to cycle the weapon manually ejection the spent casing and loading a new round. The soldier could continue this for 5 times, or shots, after which they would have to manually reload the magazine. This was very inefficient in terms of fire power and could prove deadly for the soldier who was reloading at the wrong time. Machine guns were present in WWI but they were massive things they had to be mounted on a tripod and cooled with water. What I mean by cooled is that the barrels would get so hot after rapid firing that the metal would become soft and melt. This is very dangerous for obvious reasons. So to combat that problem the barrels were water cooled to keep them from melting, or the Germans would carry extra barrels and change them out as quickly as possible when they overheated. But a fully functional hand held machine gun firing a rifle round was 20 years away at this point. Enter the M1 Garand.
This rifle was a modern miracle of its day. It allowed a soldier to fire 8 rounds in rapid succession, it also made reloading easy with “stripper clips” that quickly reloaded the weapon and cut down the reload time from a minute to seconds. This greatly increased fire power from 10-15 rounds a minute to 50-60 rounds a minute. That was a monumental improvement. So much so that upon the breakout of WWII general George Patton hailed the weapon: “the greatest battle implement ever devised.” And would argue that all things being equal that statement still holds true to this day. Another and very important aspect of the rifle was that it was reliable, this is almost more important than accuracy for a weapon on the battlefield. The reason I used the word infamous to describe the M16 above was because, while the weapon was no doubt revolutionary in design and weight, in Vietnam the rifle had a ton of problems that cost American soldiers their lives. The humidity of the jungle along with the powder in the ammo caused malfunctions that cost lives, but that, again, is a story for another day.
The Germans during the war carried the traditional Mauser Rifle which was bolt action rifle. They also carried a sub machine gun called the MP 40 which fired the 9MM round. The Americans had the Thompson Sub Machine Gun (Tommy Gun, which so many gangsters of the 1930’s made famous) which fired the massive APC45. These were among the first automatic weapons that soldiers personally carried into battle. But both of these rounds were relative small compared to the 30-06 rifle round that the M1 Garand used. What I find interesting is that all parties involved in WWII had some type of sub machine gun, which is basically a machine gun that fires pistol ammo, but it was the Germans that invented the modern “assault rifle.”
The Sturmgewehr 44 was the first true automatic rifle, and the AK 47 would follow a few years later after the war. Personally I do not think the invention of the Stg 44 would have turned the war, but it certainly left its mark on the world as now every Army force in the world uses a variant of this weapon. It is worth noting that this rifle was only in service for a few years at the end of the war so I do not think the Nazis had ample time or resources to mass produce the weapon as they would have liked.
While the Germans had the Stg 44, the Americans had the famous Browning Automatic Rifle or better known as the BAR. While this weapon performed well on the battlefield, it did have its limitations. I would say first and foremost was the weight. It weighed anywhere from 16 lbs to 24 lbs, that is a lot of weight to have to carry around all day. I would also say that the rifle fired the same 30-06 round as the M1, but the automatic fire would have certainly worn down the shooter, because this is a very large round. After a few hundred rounds I would say a soldier’s shoulder would be pretty sore. The BAR was again one of the weapons that helped the Americans win WWII, and certainly an iconic weapon, but it did have its limitations.
I have held a M1 and I thought it was heavy, compared to a modern AR 15 (8.5 lbs). It weighs in at about 12 lbs, which is not super heavy but still when you are tired I would say that rifle gets heavier and heavier. But the M1 is made of wood and iron vs plastic and aluminum. The M1 is on my list of rifles to one day purchase, not because I need one, but because the gun is a part of American history. It took on the Nazis and fought against one of the most evil, tyrannical empires the world has ever seen. To me, and I think many would agree with me, it is a symbol of freedom, hard work, true grit, sheer determination, and to an extent American can do attitude. That to me is what makes this rifle so amazing. This rifle deserves a small parade and a position next to the Kentucky Long Rifle, the gun that helped defeat the British in the American Revolution, as a weapon that certainly changed history. I would say that these two iconic weapons helped shape not only American history, but World history. Next time you are watching a WWII movie or documentary be sure to take notice the weapons and you will certainly hear the famous “ping” of the M1 Garrande when the rifle is empty.