This month we are going to deal with the family of weapons based on John Garands design. The weapons we will discuss are the M1 Garand, the M-14/M1A, and the Ruger mini 14/30. While the above share a common heritage, they are greatly in many ways.
The M1 Garand has been described by Gen. George S. Patton as "The greatest Battle Weapon Devised by Man". As originally invented the M1 Garand was chambered to fire the 30-06 cartridge. Some were later converted to fire the 7.62/308 cartridge. Still later some were fitted with new barrels to fire the .270 Winchester cartridge. Weapons firing the 7.62/308 cartridge were converted to fire it by 2 methods. First by inserting a sleeve in the existing 30-06 chamber. This was found to be an unsatisfactory solution as the sleeve was occasionally ejected with the spent brass. The second method was by re-fitting the weapon with a new barrel chambered in 7.62/308. Weapons converted to 7.62/308 also require a filler block be fitted in the receiver to compensate for the shorter length of the new round. When the weapon is used with military specification ammo, it is both accurate and robust. When the weapon is used with re-loaded ammunition, great care must be used to ensure the ammunition is within military ball specifications. If the ammunition is loaded higher than specified pressures the operating rod can be easily bent and the weapon rendered in-operable. Too low a pressure and the weapon will not cycle properly. The M1 Garand is capable of sniper grade accuracy, and the military has utilized 2 model of this weapon in that capacity. The only problems some people have with using this weapon in a sniper role is that the scope must be mounted off centered on the left side of the weapon to facilitate loading and ejection of cartridges. One of the most accurate M1 Garands I have ever fired was one barreled for the .270 Winchester cartridge.
The M1 Garand is, in my opinion, an excellent choice for the survivalist for a hunting rifle as the 30-06 cartridge is capable of bringing down all the big game found on the North American continent. As a modern battle rifle the M1 Garand is limited by its heavy weight and inability to take high capacity magazines without extensive and expensive modifications. Some M1 Garands have been modified to take 20 round magazines. This has been done by both individuals and the government of Italy. Individuals have modified the Garand to take BAR magazines, M-14 magazines, and BM 59 magazines. I have seen the quality of these modification that have run from flawless to CRIMINAL. One particular rifle was brought to me that had been so sloppily done with a torch cut Garand receiver that it had areas of light coming through the receiver where it had been sloppily welded together from pieces. Had the owner tried to fire it, the rifle would have killed him immediately. The rifle was bought at a gun show in Little Rock, Arkansas from an individual during the last push to outlaw "assault rifles". If you are contemplating the purchase of one of these weapons, check it out carefully!!!!! The surplus weapons converted by the Italian government designated the BM 59 are excellent weapons. Magazines for this weapon are scarce, and when found, expensive.
The second weapon we will discuss is the M1A, which is the semi-automatic version of the full automatic M14. The M-14 was developed by the U.S. Military to replace the M1 Garand as the military felt the M1 Garand was too heavy, needed a replaceable box magazine, and capable of full auto fire. Semi auto weapons modeled after the M-14 have been made and/or imported by various companies. I have handled and fired weapons by: Springfield Armory, Smith, Smith Enterprises, Armscorps, Federal Ordanance, Maunz, Norinco, and PolyTech. These weapons have run the gamut from superbly accurate to ones that I was afraid to fire with a rope from 100 yards away. Before someone screams "He hates the affordable Chinese ones", I would like to say, Wrong! I tied the rope to the Fed Ord one. What scared me about it was the appearance of sloppy workmanship. I, to this day, do not know if this particular rifle was assembled by Federal Ordinance or an individual from a Fed Ord Receiver. As to the M-14 clones manufactured in China, I have heard stories praising them as the best thing next to sliced bread to having witnessed and examining one that had a cracked bolt locking lug at around 1700 rounds. This particular rifle was sent to Smith Enterprises for re-heat treatment and having a U.S. Military bolt fitted. Since being returned to its owner the weapon has had over 2300 additional rounds fired through it. Accuracy and wear shown by this rifle is comparable to any other weapon with over 4000 rounds fired through it. While it would not be my choice of weapons, I would not be afraid of it, "Provided" it had been re-heat treated and a U.S. military bold fitted by either Smith Enterprises or Fulton Armory. Soft bolts have also been encountered in weapons from Springfield Armory and some were subject to recall to the factory a few years ago. To Springfield Armory's credit the affected weapons were voluntarily recalled and the bolts replaced with new bolts at no cost to the owner. If you have a Springfield Armory M1A and are worried about whether your is one of the one affected, call or E-mail Springfield Armory and they will be glad to help you. I have carried the M-14 from the target line to behind enemy lines, and it has never failed me.
As for magazines for these weapons, I have used surplus U.S. Military, Chinese, and Thermold in various weapons. I have not encountered any problems with either the U.S. surplus or the Chinese ones. I have had numerous jams and failure to feed problems with the 10 Thermold Magazines that I tested about 4 years ago. They did make an excellent fire starter however.
The last weapon we will take up, in what I consider the Garand family of weapons, is the Ruger Mini 14/30. This weapon can be found in calibers .222, .223, and 7.62x39. The Ruger is lightweight to the extent that I would classify it as a carbine rather than a true battle rifle. It comes in 3 basic models. The original Mini 14, the Ranch Rifle, and the GB model. The original comes with a good rear sight which is adjustable for elevation and windage, but a front sight that looks like it came off a "Ray Gun" from a 50's Sci-Fi movie. The ranch rifle comes with the same frontsight and a flimsy real sight as this model was designed for use with a scope. The GB model comes with the good rear sight and a sturdy well protected front sight, similar to the front sight found on the M-14. This model was designed for Law Enforcement and Military Sales. It is also the only model that comes standard with a very good flashhider. The Mini 14/30 comes standard a 5-round magazine. While this is satisfactory for hunting, it can be death for the survivalist. Originally only Law Enforcement and the military were "Permitted" to purchase the factory 20 and 30 round magazines. It was only after the introduction and high sales of aftermarket magazines that the Ruger Company started selling the factory high capacity magazines to the public. I have found aftermarket magazines that both work and don't work from the same manufactures. I wish there was a specific brand that I could recommend and just say buy these, but that would dishonest and dangerous. The only way to find magazines that work for your weapon, is to buy and try magazines until you find enough that work in your weapon to satisfy your needs. All the factory high capacity magazines that I have used have worked well, but they are currently very high priced when they can be found.
All things considered, any of the above weapons are excellent choices for the survivalist, provided one realizes that no one weapon is the perfect choice for all situations.
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