Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. John Garand: The Forgotten History of the Man Who Invented the Iconic M1 Garand Rifle

 

“In my opinion, the M1 rifle is the greatest battle implement ever devised.” — General George S. Patton

Today is John Garand’s Birthday! Any gun nut – er, “firearms enthusiast” – worth their salt has heard of the M1 Garand (it rhymes with “errand,” by the way). This .30-06 semi-automatic rifle is one of the most iconic American firearms of all time, and was the standard-issue weapon for American infantry troops during World War II and the Korean War. Drill teams and honor guards continue to use this in the present day, such is its role as a symbol of the American military.

Fewer, however, know about the life story of the man behind the weapon – John Garand, a Canadian-American engineer and weapons designer. Born one of a whopping 12 children on a Quebec farm, Garand’s father relocated the entire family to Connecticut following the untimely death of the clan’s mother in 1899. All six boys in the family had the official first name St. Jean le Baptiste, however, John Garand was the only one of them who used “Jean” as his first name. The other five used their middle names.

The invention bug ran in the family, with several of his brothers sharing his penchant for innovation. Garand learned how to speak English while working in a textile mill sweeping floors. He later worked in a shooting gallery where he developed an interest in firearms, which, when combined with his naturally innovative nature and machining skills picked up in the textile mill, got him a job at a Providence, RI, tool-making company in 1909. In 1916, he relocated to New York City, where he continued working as a toolmaker, and practiced his rifle skills at shooting galleries on Broadway.

New York was still part of America in 1916.

John Garand: An American Citizen

Garand became a naturalized citizen in 1920.

It was in 1917, the same year that the United States entered the First World War, that Garand took his interest in firearms and aptitude at machining and made them into a vocation rather than an avocation. The United States Army was on the lookout for a light machine gun, and the then-more-honestly-named War Department purchased Garand’s design toward that end. Garand himself was given a position with the United States Bureau of Standard. His design was not produced until 1919, the year after the war ended, but Garand was given a government job at the Springfield Armory, which he kept until his retirement in 1953.

Garand’s goal might sound unremarkable to us today, but it was a fresh innovation at the time: The U.S. government charged him with creating a gas-actuated, self-loading rifle for the infantry and a carbine capable of ejecting the spent cartridge while also reloading a new round based on a gas-operated system.

It took him 15 years to meet the Army’s specifications, but he eventually did it with the M1 Garand. The Garand rifle replaced the bolt-action M1903 Springfield as the standard-issue weapon for infantrymen in the United States military. All told, a whopping four million of these were handed out during the Second World War. No less an authority than General George S. Patton wrote that “In my opinion, the M1 rifle is the greatest battle implement ever devised.”

John Garand’s Non-Monetary Rewards

Garand never received any royalties for his work on the rifle. A bill was eventually introduced in Congress to award him $100,000 in thanks for his work, but it failed to pass. He died in 1974, in Springfield, MA, where he is interred in Hillcrest Park Cemetery.

He did, however, receive non-financial accolades for creating the rifle that would define a generation of American infantrymen. He received the Meritorious Civilian Service Award in 1941, the inaugural Medal for Merit (jointly with Albert Hoyt Taylor) on March 28, 1944, and the Alexander L. Holley Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The U.S. Army Ordnance Corps Hall of Fame inducted him the year after his passing in 1974.

While the weapon was used in World War II and the Korean War, it saw action in a number of other conflicts around the world, including the Indochina War, the Vietnam War, the Six-Day WarIran-Iraq War and even the Syrian Civil War. Indeed, there seems to be few conflicts since its invention that the Garand has not been involved in. This is largely due to the weapon’s astonishing durability.

The Garand Rifle

The M14 was officially adopted in 1957, but it was not until 1965 that the changeover was complete, which was limited to the regular, active-duty Army. The Army Reserve, Army National Guard and the Navy continued to use the weapon well into the 1970s.

The U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Teamthe U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, the United States Air Force Academy Cadet Honor Guard and almost all Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), as well as some Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) still use the weapon when drilling.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and the M1 Garand has no shortage of copies to boast. The Japanese Type 4 is basically a wholesale copy of the weapon, albeit adapted for a caliber more popular in Japan. At the request of NATO, Beretta produced parts of the Garand, including one that was licensed to an Indonesian company. The American M14 is little more than an improved, select-fire version of the M1 Garand, boasting a 20-round magazine chambered for .308. The Ruger Mini-14 is likewise based on the Garand, as is a commercial version of the weapon produced stateside.

Certain American citizens who meet requirements set forth by the Civilian Marksmanship Program can own the real deal.

Garand’s carbine, sadly, remained a prototype.

While not as famous as Thomas Edison or Henry Ford, John Garand is no less important in the history of American innovation. Indeed, his genius might well be responsible for the resounding success of the American war effort. If you value the freedom you hold as an American, take a moment to remember the life of John Garand, a man of humble beginnings whose innovation holds a resoundingly far reach in American and world history.

John Garand: The Forgotten History of the Man Who Invented the Iconic M1 Garand Rifle originally appeared in the Resistance Library at Ammo.com.

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  1. Randy Webster Member

    I used to go shooting with a buddy who had M1’s manufactured by all but two of the 11 companies that made them in WWII.

    Incidentally, you can stand 3 feet to the side of the muzzle and feel the shock wave when an M1 fires. It amazes me that any infantrymen could hear after the war.

    • #1
    • January 1, 2020, at 4:19 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  2. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I used to fire my uncle’s M1, the first time when I was nine years old. It almost knocked me down.

    • #2
    • January 1, 2020, at 4:56 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  3. Kozak Member
    Kozak Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    On my list as my next firearm to get.

    • #3
    • January 1, 2020, at 5:04 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  4. KentForrester Moderator

    Interesting post, Ammo.

    I was issued an M1 in 1958. I never liked it because it was so heavy. I wanted to carry the smaller and lighter M1 carbine. Even better, I wanted a pistol, but only the officers carried those in their neat little holsters.

    Alas, I had no say in the matter, and it never came up for a vote.

    I qualified, at first, Marksman on the M1 (later Sharpshooter) and barely made Expert on the carbine, so I was never plucked out to be a sniper. Besides, I was in a Signal Corps outfit in peacetime Germany, and they wouldn’t let us shoot anybody.

    • #4
    • January 1, 2020, at 5:14 AM PST
    • 11 likes
  5. PHCheese Member

    I had the M14 in basic training in 1968. The next class of recruits were issued the M16. The M14 left a bruise on my shoulder. The M16 was like shooting a BB gun in comparison .

    • #5
    • January 1, 2020, at 6:59 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  6. Arahant Member

    Happy birthday, John Garand!

    • #6
    • January 1, 2020, at 8:33 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  7. Arahant Member

    Ammo.com: the then-more-honestly-named War Department

    Oh, yeah. Don’t get me started on that.

    • #7
    • January 1, 2020, at 8:34 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  8. Tex929rr Coolidge

    I truly disliked the M16’s we carried in my service time; 60’s issue, no forward bolt assist. I own some AR’s now but for a long time greatly preferred the Garand-ish Mini platform. I still have a Mini-14 and a Mini-30 (7.62×39). I still like the minis but they are like having a Beta Max in a VHS world.

    And I guess I have always pronounced Garand wrong. Always heard it with the accent on the second syllable.

    • #8
    • January 1, 2020, at 10:43 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  9. Randy Webster Member

    My dad had an M1 carbine. As best I can recall, it was 30-30.

    • #9
    • January 1, 2020, at 10:53 AM PST
    • 1 like
  10. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The Junior ROTC at my high school had M14s for the drill team and a little basic weapons maintenance training. I could field strip and reassemble one blindfolded. 

    • #10
    • January 1, 2020, at 10:56 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  11. Arahant Member

    Percival (View Comment):

    The Junior ROTC at my high school had M14s for the drill team and a little basic weapons maintenance training. I could field strip and reassemble one blindfolded.

    Yeah, not to mention the old Queen Anne’s Salute.

    • #11
    • January 1, 2020, at 10:58 AM PST
    • 1 like
  12. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    The Junior ROTC at my high school had M14s for the drill team and a little basic weapons maintenance training. I could field strip and reassemble one blindfolded.

    Yeah, not to mention the old Queen Anne’s Salute.

    I’m surprised we never killed anybody.

    • #12
    • January 1, 2020, at 11:05 AM PST
    • 1 like
  13. Arahant Member

    Percival (View Comment):
    I’m surprised we never killed anybody.

    As long as nobody was behind me, everything was fine.

    • #13
    • January 1, 2020, at 11:12 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  14. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Randy Webster (View Comment):
    Incidentally, you can stand 3 feet to the side of the muzzle and feel the shock wave when an M1 fires. It amazes me that any infantrymen could hear after the war.

    My future brother-in-law had a muzzle loading rifle and I went with him to go target shooting once. Although I am right handed, the vision in my right eye is much worse than the left, so I shoot left handed. That meant that the powder flash from the rifle went off right into my face. It took me a while to figure out why the b-i-l could keep shooting the damn thing.

    • #14
    • January 1, 2020, at 11:14 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  15. Arahant Member

    WillowSpring (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):
    Incidentally, you can stand 3 feet to the side of the muzzle and feel the shock wave when an M1 fires. It amazes me that any infantrymen could hear after the war.

    My future brother-in-law had a muzzle loading rifle and I went with him to go target shooting once. Although I am right handed, the vision in my right eye is much worse than the left, so I shoot left handed. That meant that the powder flash from the rifle went off right into my face. It took me a while to figure out why the b-i-l could keep shooting the damn thing.

    My granduncle built several left-handed black powder firearms that my father (another left-hander) had. I don’t know where they wound up, maybe with my left-handed brother.

    • #15
    • January 1, 2020, at 11:39 AM PST
    • 1 like
  16. Steve C. Member

    Ammo.com: The U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Teamthe U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, the United States Air Force Academy Cadet Honor Guard and almost all Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), as well as some Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) still use the weapon when drilling.

    In 1974, my ROTC unit had M14s. In 1975, in it’s infinite wisdom DA took them away and replaced them with plugged M1903s. I suppose they were ascared of someone breaking into our arms room. Even though it was equipped with a security system and literally next door to the campus police office.

    Needless to say those of us on the drill team were quite disturbed. We had devoted hours to spiffing up a select group of M14s, including stripping, staining and polishing the wooden stocks to a high luster. Plugged rifles have terrible balance.

    I can also state with metaphysical certitude: if you voted for Gerald Ford, do not show your co-workers you can still do a Queen Anne Salute. Your knee will thank you later.

    • #16
    • January 1, 2020, at 12:28 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  17. Arahant Member

    Steve C. (View Comment):
    I can also state with metaphysical certitude: if you voted for Gerald Ford, do not show your co-workers you can still do a Queen Anne Salute. Your knee will thank you later.

    Great. Now you tell me.

    • #17
    • January 1, 2020, at 2:23 PM PST
    • 1 like
  18. Steve C. Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Steve C. (View Comment):
    I can also state with metaphysical certitude: if you voted for Gerald Ford, do not show your co-workers you can still do a Queen Anne Salute. Your knee will thank you later.

    Great. Now you tell me.

    Experience is the best teacher.

    • #18
    • January 1, 2020, at 4:33 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  19. Skyler Coolidge

    Garand was a good guy and all, and I love my M1 Rifle. But I’ll see that quote and raise it:

    “The deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle.”
    Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing, U.S. Army
    Commander of American Forces in World War I

    • #19
    • January 1, 2020, at 5:38 PM PST
    • 1 like
  20. dukenaltum Member

    Nice reminder of a great Man and fine wewapon. 

    A gunsmith with extensive experience with the M1 assured me that the original prototype for the M1 was fire select: semi-auto and auto with a twenty and thirty round detachable box magazine and that the top clip feed system was forced on the gun because the war department didn’t believe that the average GI could handle the detachable magazine or the weight of the fully loaded rig. I have seen the box magazine claim documented elsewhere but never the full automatic feature. 

    If true it would have dominated the battlefield even more than it did becoming the first assault rifle before the Sturmgewehr 44 but firing a more accurately with a very lethal round. 

     

    • #20
    • January 1, 2020, at 5:41 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  21. Joe Boyle Member

    I went through BCT with the M14 in’68. On to MP AIT where I ended up with orders for beautiful RVN. Second stop in RVN training was the M16 range to qualify. They divided us into two ranks, scorer and shooter. I shot first, zeroed and qualified. My shooting buddy was a rather plump major. I was a private. The Major hit nothing. Zero shooting, qualification tables, 50 meters, 300 meters, nothing. At the end I handed him the blank score sheets, saluted smartly, and walked away.

    • #21
    • January 1, 2020, at 5:49 PM PST
    • 1 like
  22. Skyler Coolidge

    Joe Boyle (View Comment):

    I went through BCT with the M14 in’68. On to MP AIT where I ended up with orders for beautiful RVN. Second stop in RVN training was the M16 range to qualify. They divided us into two ranks, scorer and shooter. I shot first, zeroed and qualified. My shooting buddy was a rather plump major. I was a private. The Major hit nothing. Zero shooting, qualification tables, 50 meters, 300 meters, nothing. At the end I handed him the blank score sheets, saluted smartly, and walked away.

    That’s really hard to do.

    • #22
    • January 1, 2020, at 6:03 PM PST
    • 1 like
  23. Skyler Coolidge

    Ammo.com: The American M14 is little more than an improved, select-fire version of the M1 Garand, boasting a 20-round magazine chambered for .308.

    I’m pretty sure it’s chambered for 7.62mm, not .308. Unlike the difference between .223 and 5.56mm, I’ve always been taught that there is an important difference between .308 and 7.62mm.

    But I’m no expert on calibers and I will stand corrected if anyone knows better.

    • #23
    • January 1, 2020, at 6:09 PM PST
    • Like
  24. Skyler Coolidge

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    My dad had an M1 carbine. As best I can recall, it was 30-30.

    No, the M1 Carbine is not 30-30. It is .30 Carbine.

    The 30-30 is used in lever action rifles such as the Winchester 1894.

    • #24
    • January 1, 2020, at 6:13 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  25. Steve C. Member

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Ammo.com: The American M14 is little more than an improved, select-fire version of the M1 Garand, boasting a 20-round magazine chambered for .308.

    I’m pretty sure it’s chambered for 7.62mm, not .308. Unlike the difference between .223 and 5.56mm, I’ve always been taught that there is an important difference between .308 and 7.62mm.

    But I’m no expert on calibers and I will stand corrected if anyone knows better.

    It is 7.62. 

    • #25
    • January 1, 2020, at 7:22 PM PST
    • Like
  26. Steve C. Member

    dukenaltum (View Comment):

    Nice reminder of a great Man and fine wewapon.

    A gunsmith with extensive experience with the M1 assured me that the original prototype for the M1 was fire select: semi-auto and auto with a twenty and thirty round detachable box magazine and that the top clip feed system was forced on the gun because the war department didn’t believe that the average GI could handle the detachable magazine or the weight of the fully loaded rig. I have seen the box magazine claim documented elsewhere but never the full automatic feature.

    If true it would have dominated the battlefield even more than it did becoming the first assault rifle before the Sturmgewehr 44 but firing a more accurately with a very lethal round.

     

    Never heard that before. I do recall reading that originally the Ordnance Dept wanted a rifle in .276 caliber (not sure if that is exact) but McArthur mindful of large stocks of .30 06 on hand ordered the caliber changed.

    An automatic box fed M1 would have suffered from the same accuracy problems as the M14. Browning’s .30 Automatic Rifle (BAR) weighed almost 20 lbs. and its primary purpose was suppressive fire. 

     

    • #26
    • January 1, 2020, at 7:39 PM PST
    • Like
  27. Skyler Coolidge

    Steve C. (View Comment):
    An automatic box fed M1 would have suffered from the same accuracy problems as the M14. Browning’s .30 Automatic Rifle (BAR) weighed almost 20 lbs. and its primary purpose was suppressive fire. 

    I’m not a big fan of automatic fire in a rifle. It’s just a way to waste ammo faster. If you aim, you are better off than spraying in automatic fire. Automatic fire is good if you have a tripod and a T&E mechanism, and that’s mostly it.

    • #27
    • January 1, 2020, at 7:54 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  28. Joe Boyle Member

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Steve C. (View Comment):
    An automatic box fed M1 would have suffered from the same accuracy problems as the M14. Browning’s .30 Automatic Rifle (BAR) weighed almost 20 lbs. and its primary purpose was suppressive fire.

    I’m not a big fan of automatic fire in a rifle. It’s just a way to waste ammo faster. If you aim, you are better off than spraying in automatic fire. Automatic fire is good if you have a tripod and a T&E mechanism, and that’s mostly it.

    Recently I’ve been reading books by and about RVN LRPs and LRRPs. The absolutely hair raising of exploits are well worth a read. Anyway my point. When these patrols made contact, most of the time their only course of action was E and E. The start of the E and E was everybody(all 5 of them) blow the claymores, throw two hand grenades, fire two fully auto magazines, and then the foot race was on. Seems fully auto served a purpose. There were many accounts of one magazine on one dead bad guy but it’s hard to be critical. As VP Biden would say I wasn’t there man.

    • #28
    • January 1, 2020, at 8:28 PM PST
    • Like
  29. Skyler Coolidge

    Joe Boyle (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Steve C. (View Comment):
    An automatic box fed M1 would have suffered from the same accuracy problems as the M14. Browning’s .30 Automatic Rifle (BAR) weighed almost 20 lbs. and its primary purpose was suppressive fire.

    I’m not a big fan of automatic fire in a rifle. It’s just a way to waste ammo faster. If you aim, you are better off than spraying in automatic fire. Automatic fire is good if you have a tripod and a T&E mechanism, and that’s mostly it.

    Recently I’ve been reading books by and about RVN LRPs and LRRPs. The absolutely hair raising of exploits are well worth a read. Anyway my point. When these patrols made contact, most of the time their only course of action was E and E. The start of the E and E was everybody(all 5 of them) blow the claymores, throw two hand grenades, fire two fully auto magazines, and then the foot race was on. Seems fully auto served a purpose. There were many accounts of one magazine on one dead bad guy but it’s hard to be critical. As VP Biden would say I wasn’t there man.

    Fair enough. I wasn’t there either, but just because that was what they did doesn’t mean it was the smart thing to do. What was the point of firing two magazines at full auto? What were they aiming at using full auto? If you’re not aiming, it would be unusual to hit anything. If you’re just making noise, what’s the point of that? Maybe the point was to make a lot of noise to frighten the enemy? That’s a valid point. From my comfy desk in my centrally heated and air conditioned home, I would probably prefer to use well aimed shots quickly. I have a lot of confidence in my ability to aim my rifle and hit targets within 200 yards reliably and reasonably quick aiming. I don’t have any confidence of hitting anything extra by switching to full auto. 

    • #29
    • January 1, 2020, at 9:00 PM PST
    • Like
  30. Pony Convertible Member

    I have a CMP M1 Garand. Unfortunately, is pretty rough. It functioned, but the stock is pretty beat up, and the barrel was shot. You could drop a .30 cal bullet into the muzzle and it would slide all the way through it. It has a new barrel now.

    • #30
    • January 2, 2020, at 5:47 AM PST
    • 1 like