Saturday, June 1, 2013

Fulton Armory* M1 Garand Review


Fulton Armory* M1 Garand Review

Introduction

The M1 Garand has become one of the most recognizable firearms in the history of firearms. The ironic part about the M1 being the standard service rifle of the U.S. Military was the fact it was designed by a Canadian. John C. Garand began designing the M1 rifle in 1919 and didn’t finish until 1928. The M1 has one of the most storied histories in firearms and because of its reliability and accuracy, General George S. Patton dubbed it, “The greatest battle implement ever devised”. Now it is our turn, to decided if that is still a true statement.


...A History

Throughout American history, the rifle has always been the go-to firearm of any outlaw, cowboy, or soldier. Up until the implementation of the M1 Garand, the Springfield Armory M1903 was the rifle that was standard issue for the U.S. Armed forces. After World War 1, it was decided that a new type of rifle should be designed to gain a further advantage over the enemy and in 1919, trials began on the new rifle. Interestingly enough, it was decided that the soldiers on the front lines weren't engaging enemies out to past 200-300 yards and thus the potent .30-06 Springfield cartridge was not needed. A new cartridge, designated the .276 Pedersen, was designed as a replacement and thus, new rifles were to be chambered in that cartridge. John Garand worked with Springfield Armory to design a rifle to win the new trials and ultimately it came down to the improved “T1” designation which was tested in August 1928 against the .30 Thompson semi-automatic rifle. It wasn’t until 1932 that it was decided to be the clear winner in all the joint military tests (after many revisions) and final work went onto the rifle. While the .276 Pedersen cartridge looked promising, Army Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur made the decision to re chamber the rifle in .30-06 for the simple fact there were millions of .30-06 rounds left over from the Great War, as well as it being much easier to re-tool existing machinery for lighter bullets instead of a whole new cartridge. The M1 ball round was initially tested, but the 173 grain projectile was tough on the gun, and the excessive operating pressure of the cartridge wreaking havoc on the gas system of the M1 warranted a new type of .30-06 cartridge. Dubbed the M2 ball round, the new 152 grain bullet excelled in the new rifles and the U.S. Military officially adopted the United States Rifle, Caliber .30, M1 in January of 1936.

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Design

The M1 rifle was a marvel of modern engineering. It was the first rifle to use a gas operated rotating bolt design. Up until then, the semi-automatic rifles being tested used a delayed blow back design that didn’t fare well in tests. The rifle used a clip-fed design which then was revolutionary, but today seems archaic. The ‘En-Bloc’ clip hold 8-rounds of .30-06 Springfield ammunition (the .276 Pedersen models held 10 rounds). The clip is inserted from the top of the rifle and then ejected upon the last fired round making a distinct ‘ping!’ noise. Pre-1939 Garands used a ‘gas-trap’ type system that was very complicated and difficult to manufacture. It was dropped very soon after adoption for a simple drilled gas port. Either way, gases from the fired round exit a hole in the barrel and then push a long piston operating rod back which unlocks the bolt, the bolt rotates and the fired brass is ejected. 
The sights on the rifle are fully adjustable for windage and elevation via the rear disks. It has a small ‘peep’ aperture for the rear sight and a standard military post for a front sight. The rifles weigh in at a hefty 10 pounds, but that weight helps dampen the recoil of the robust .30-06 round. It sports a 24” barrel and is accurate out well past 600 yards. The trigger on military models is two-stage and breaks around 6 pounds. The military versions have standard walnut stocks and were parkerized. Most of the time the Military used a Zinc-Phosphate parkerizing solution that gave a grey-green color to the metal. In some cases a Manganese-Phosphate parkerizing was used that game a more black finish. Most surplus rifles round today will have the former. 

Upgrades

The gun reviewed is from Fulton Armory*. Now why the little asterisk (*) next to the name? I use that because the rifle isn't a 100% Fulton Armory rifle, it was made by Springfield Armory in the mid-1940’s. However, there were many things wrong with the rifle that needed to be fixed. Being from central Maryland myself, Fulton Armory was a mere 10 minuets from my house. Fulton started with their acclaimed ‘technical inspection’ and came back with some very upsetting news: almost everything needed to be replaced. The rifle was re-barreled back in the 1950’s and was in bad shape. The operating rod was worn as was the gas cylinder. There were a few other internal problems that needed to be addressed so I told Fulton to do what they needed to do. Close to $1800 later (more on that in a moment) we had a top notch match worthy rifle. The rifle was detailed stripped, re-barrel with a Fulton Armory match quality barrel made by Criterion, new operating rod, new firing pin, new sight base and adjustment disks, a few new springs and small parts and everything tightened to Fulton tolerances. What threw the price up higher was my option for higher quality parts and National Match upgrades. A service was done that removed the barrel band and epoxied a few things in place for better accuracy. National Match front and rear sights were installed as well as a National Match trigger job which allows the trigger to break at a crisp 4.5 pounds. What I love about the trigger is Fulton makes it so the first stage of the trigger pulls at a soft 2 pounds and the second stage breaks at 2.5 pounds. It is a phenomenal trigger. The sights were adjustable at 1” increments for both windage and elevation. Fulton offers a true National Match rear sight base with 1/2” adjustments.  While the prices were high for all of the upgrade, they were more than worth it in my opinion.



Performance

After an initial investment of $1000 on the rifle, and then to invest another $1800 a few years later you would think the rifle would be the best rifle ever made. Well, you’d be right! This M1 rifle is by far the most accurate semi-automatic rifle I own. The match sights and trigger offer a crisp and accurate sight picture with the perfect match trigger. 
First ammo tested was Greek M2 Ball military surplus. As expected, the ammo functioned flawlessly and gave great results out of the 24” Match barrel. Grouping was good at around 1.5-2” in 100 yards. Recoil was stout from the .30-06 but not punishing. We had no feeding issues, squibs, or ejection failures. Average velocity was a little over 2700FPS. Next up was some Hornady M1 Garand Match ammo. It was topped with a 168gr A-max bullet with velocities reaching close to 2700FPS but falling slightly short. Accuracy was astounding as it was truly a match offering. Average grouping was 1” at 100 yards with some three shot groups average a hair over 3/4”. Recoil was mild, close to the M2 Ball round. Again, no failures. We also fired some cheap (figuratively speaking) Remington UMC 150gr FMJ ammo that functioned well and gave average accuracy on par with the M2 Ball round with softer recoil. Finally, we tested my handloads. First up was a Hornady 150gr FMJ Boat-tailed bullet on top of Alliant’s Reloader 15 powder. Average velocity was 2750FPS with groupings in the same range as the M2 Ball. Some groups shot tighter than others, but overall 1-2” was what it came to be. Recoil was very mild and even with the velocities just shy of the M2 ball round, recoil felt much softer. Finally we shot my match loadings. A Hornady 168gr bullet on top of Winchester 748 powder. Peak velocity was at 2680FPS, the loading was stout and accuracy was as good if not better than the Hornady match loadings. Very satisfied with the loads. We wanted to get our hands on some DoubleTap M1 Garand match ammo that uses a 155gr Hollow Point Boat Tail bullet (possibly a Sierra Match King) but sadly, couldn't get our hands on any in time for the review. Overall, indeed a Match worthy gun.

Final Thoughts

Can you get an M1 Garand for less than $2800? Absolutely! The CMP offers sub-$1000 M1 rifles, but conditions vary. Brand new Fulton Armory rifles start at $1700, but some can go well over $3000 with the right upgrades. Their super match peerless rifles have special upgrades like glass bedded actions and Kreiger medium weight barrels. Those very well could shoot the fleas off a horses back at 600 yards (please don't try it, for the horses sake!). Fulton Armory quality is unsurpassed. The ONLY manufacturer that could come close might be MilTech, but I have not had the pleasure of handling (or even seeing) one of their rifles. If you are looking for a top quality M1 Garand that is super accurate and will last longer than you, look into Fulton Armory... you wont be disappointed. 

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