Monday, February 16, 2015

Garand Development Plan

Do you know how to make a Garand better? You can’t. A Garand within specifications is about as good a general purpose rifle as you could hope for. What you can do is make a Garand better for your specific purpose. Think a Garand is too short? You can add some length to it. Think a Garand is too long and heavy? You can reduce its length and weight. Want it chambered in a heavier or milder cartridge? That can be done. Add optics? There are several solutions depending upon your desire. It’s even possible, in theory – I haven’t tested this out yet myself – to make a Garand float! It’s not as easy or versatile as a shooter de la poodle an AR to optimize for your tastes, but a Garand can do a lot of things as is, and it can do a bit more with some work.

To illustrate I’ll walk you through what I’ve done and am doing (or at least currently plan to do) to some of my Garands:  

Garand 1 circa 2006
Garand 1 

 I wanted to set it up for the finer things in life, namely shooting very small little patterns of holes in paper from a long ways away. I have read that a Garand in .30-06 will top out at around ¾ MOA, with 1 MOA being a more practical goal. I know how well I shoot and for my skill level I’m happy with 2 MOA. (Really, 1 MOA is nice from a table top, but step away from that bench and try for a 1 MOA group at 600 yards. Or try to keep 5 shots inside a 1 inch circle at 100 paces. I gaurun-damn-teeya it won’t be the rifle holding you back. [Of course by you I don't mean you.])

I started off replacing the stock with a laminate from Boyds (currently they only seem to offer walnut stocks for the Garand). It was 98% inlet so I whittled the rest myself and finished the wood with a few coats of BLO topped off with some spar urethane. I replaced the SA op rod with a NM version and swapped out some springs. I added a Schuster adjustable Gas Cylinder Lock Screw (not just so I could use non-mil spec ammo but so I could tune the gas system to an individual load for better accuracy). Then I added National Match rear sights and an Alley Globe front sight. I put on a Masen recoil pad to increase the length of pull and a T-37 flash hider just cause. I peened the splines on the barrel, made sure there were slight gaps twixt all the right parts and nothing was rubbing in an unseemly fashion (which I admit was counter-intuitive; my entire career as a musician was spent encouraging folks to rub unseemly parts together, even to the point of calling it dancing...). I acquired a National Match Service Rifle sling from Turner Slings. Then I started working up handloads for it. If I did my part I could get down to 1 and ¾ MOA (slung up and prone). That was more than I hoped for, but the barrel was getting long in the tooth. It was creeping up on 6,000 rounds through it and I figured replacing it was in order. By that time I realized my eyes weren’t exactly spring chickens either.

Garand 1 circa yesterday
I sent the bare receiver to Griffin & Howe to have them install one of their side mounts. They’ve been making and installing scope mounts on Garands for around 70 years, so I figured they’d have an idea of how to do it by now. They were real friendly to deal with and the whole process took around 3 weeks. Once that was back I sent the whole rifle off to Krieger to have them install one of their stainless steel heavy barrels with a 1:11 twist. While they were at it I told them to go ahead and glass bed the rifle, but not to permanently attach the front handguard (which is normally what’s done when building a match rifle).
It seems Krieger ain't in danger of running out of work as it took roughly 7 months for them to make and fit my barrel. They do good work, but it takes a while.

: An SA M1905 & 3 AF&H M1's
As an aside, I agree with Thomas Jackson’s and Chesty Puller’s appreciation of the bayonet, and Garands with permanently attached front handguards can’t be gripped by them lest they break, rendering bayonet work less than adequate, so my Garands don’t have permanently attached front handguards. As another aside, that longest bayonet in the pic to the left is an M1905, not an M1942. It was made by Springfield Armory in 1914. I stumbled across a deal on it as it had little collectors value. The original scales are off of it for refinishing, and a spare M1 grip set is in its place. The rest are American Fork and Hoe M1 Bayonets, made between 1943 and 1945.

The Griffin and Howe mount has 1 inch rings, whereas the mounts they did for the military back in the 1940’s had mostly 7/8 inch rings (they did make 1 inch rings for the Marine Corps 1952 variant on the M1C, but those were made in relatively small numbers). The problem I ran into was that most modern scopes with 1 inch tubes have turrets that extend on the right side of the scope. This dangles them over the action of the Garand. The ejected empty brass likely wouldn’t be a problem, but the empty clip hitting the scope’s turrets is not something I want to risk. This means either getting a custom scope (with the windage turret moved to the left side of the tube) or taking a scope and turning it 90 degrees clockwise. The latter option limits reticle choices to fine crosshairs or simple duplexes.

Another problem is the rear sight of the Garand projects enough to interfere with the ocular bell of a scope. 1.6 inches (around 40mm) is about as much diameter as can be had without the scope making contact with the elevation knob of the rear sights.
At the moment, I have an old Tasco 4x32 on it. It has fine crosshairs and its dimensions are such that it'll work in the G&H mount whereas the other scopes I have on hand won't (due to the ocular bell being too wide). I'm still looking around though, as ideally I'd like a 2.5x10 with some sort of range finding provision. There are a few options, but I may try to contact Burris and see if their custom shop is willing to take on this project, or find a custom scope maker.

Garand 1 w/ Tasco 4x32 & M1905 bayonet
Because the scope is offset to the left, a cheekpad that extends to the left is necessary. Replicas of the G.I. cheekpad are available and I purchased one. I do have some leather lying around though and am in the process of making one of my own, a little different than the G.I version, but it's still a ways from completion.

The entire rig (minus bayonet) pushes 12 pounds. I'm not very worried about recoil. I have removed the Masen recoil pad but plan on replacing it with something that allows me access to the buttstocks storage spaces. Recoil was never an issue, I'd just want a pad for an increased length of pull.

I've also removed the T-37 flash hider. Ya can't mount a bayonet with a flash hider on, unless you can find and afford one of the BM59 bayonets that will fit a Garand (and be warned, not all models of BM59 bayonets will fit a Garand). I have thought of having the muzzle rings on my bayonets enlarged so I could use the T-37 or a muzzle brake, but for the moment I've opted to try a quick detachable flash hider and muzzle brake made from an M7 grenade launcher. It's removable so I wouldn't have to disassemble the front of the gas system and switch out parts to mount a bayonet - just unlatch the flash hider/muzzle brake and slide the bayonet on. It should get here in the next week or so and I'll have a better idea if it'll be a workable solution.

Garand 2: the Mini-G w/ Ultimak rail and M1 bayonet
Garand 2
I replaced the stock with a laminate from Dupage Trading Company. I lapped the bolt then sent it off to Tim Shufflin who runs Shuff’s Parkering. I had him do a modification he calls the Mini-G. What this guy did was figure out how to make a Garand run with a 16 inch barrel. With 8 inches of length chopped off the 10 pounds drops down to ¼ under 8. The barrel I sent with the rifle was a Krieger chrome moly 1:10 I found on sale. It already had a .308 Winchester sized gas port but since I was going to have the barrel shortened this wasn’t a problem. I had Krieger short chamber it in .30-06 and Shuff finish chambered and indexed it. I also had him add on an Ultimak rail in place of the rear handguard as well as Parkerize the whole rifle. I can’t speak highly enough of his quick turn around time (about 2 weeks) or the friendliness of his customer service. The Mini-G conversion includes a Shuster adjustable Gas Cylinder Lock Screw, which is necessary to get it running because of the alteration in bore volume from it being shortened. A regular Gas Cylinder Lock Screw would cause problems with such a short barrel and the higher port pressures therein.

I replaced the front sight with a Smith Enterprise tritium front sight and have one of the aforementioned quick detachable flash hider/muzzle brakes coming for it.

At a svelte almost 8 pounds I'm thinking of modifying a recoil pad to fit the butt plate. Actually I plan on making a cuff of sorts so I can have some more storage options and I may try to incorporate a recoil pad into that so I could still access the butt trap without having to use tools. Once I finish the cheek pad for Garand 1 I'll have a better idea of how to proceed.

Top: Garand 1 Bottom Garand 2 (idn't it just pwecious?)
The balance of the rifle is a lot different. I knew it would be before I sent it to have 8 inches lobbed off the front, but knowing it and feeling it are two different things. When I throw the rifle up to my shoulder, I have to consciously resist the urge to yell "Pull!" and try to track a following double from the grouse station. If only I could find a suitable place to hunt with a safe enough backstop, this thing would be great for pheasant! (and I only partly kid).

A more serious point is that I do think that the short stubby barrel will make this thing absolutely lovely in 200 yard reduced ranged High Power Matches. I wouldn't be surprised if it did well at the 600 yard line either, despite the loss of fps. (Depending upon the load the muzzle velocity from a Mini-G will be around 150fps to 300 fps less than out of a standard 24" Garand barrel, with all other things being equal). One hindrance at long range may be the shortened sight radius; it should alter the clicks from 1 moa to 1.26 moa (if I did my 'rithmatic right - and it never hurts to second guess my mathematical acumen.), which would work out to a hair over seven and a half inches per click at the 600 yard line. The X ring of the 600 yard target is only 6 inches across and the 10 ring only 12. Then again, if I get to the point where that's a problem I'll be real proud of myself.

I plan on acquiring an Aimpoint Micro T1 with a 4 moa dot for this one when I can free up the budget enough. As perverse as it may seem, I'm thinking the Aimpoint would be the ticket for quick shots, especially under, say, 150 yards, and the iron sights used for more precise and/or long range work. When I get the Aimpoint I'll play around and see what seems to work best.

Garand 2
At just under 8 pounds this puts it just a hair over Cooper's maximum acceptable limit for a Scout Rifle. It's short enough and has sufficient power though it's not in his preferred 7.62x51 NATO. I do seem to recall Cooper saying a scope wasn't mandatory, and the Aimpoint I plan to acquire would satisfy the purpose of a scope in this context. While the rear sights are not ghost ring, the aperture on a Garand is fairly quick to pick up and the sights are sufficient for shots beyond 600 yards. It lacks a Ching sling but again I think a web sling while different in form serves the same function almost as well.

So without looking too critically I'd say this is about as close to a Scout Rifle as any semi-automatic can get. This is all a happy coincidence; if I were trying to make it an actual Scout I'd use a walnut stock instead of laminate to save weight (plus use some judicious sanding to shave ounces), have it chambered in 7.62x51 NATO, drill out the rear aperture to make it a ghost ring, opt for a long eye relief scope, and weld a third swivel to the floorplate of the trigger housing to facilitate a Ching sling.

Garand 2 is just a hair shorter than the AK

I won't do those things, but someone could use a Mini-G and modify it so it would fit the parameters Cooper listed. A Garand Scout Rifle is possible. But for my purposes I'm happy with what it is now, which is just a very handy Garand that you could incidentally properly call a pseudo-Scout.

Garand 3 w/ Ultimak rail and M1 bayonet

Garand 3
I replaced the stock with a laminate from DuPage Trading Company. Then I replaced the rear handguard with an Ultimak scope mount and switched out the front sight for one with a tritium stripe.

For this one I'm leaning towards a Burris 2x7x32, but I haven't ruled out the Bushnell Trophy XLT 2x6x32. Those scopes would add either 13 or 11 ounces respectively which will bring the weight up to just over 10.75 pounds.

Garand 3

I won't do too much more to it, as it'll make a very fine trunk gun just like it is.

Garand 4

Garand 4 w/ M1 bayonet
 I intend to leave as is for the moment, under the pretense of using it in any As-Issued Service Rifle matches that I may stumble into. It's in a CMP stock, which I believe they get from DuPage. I plan to refinish it when I have some time as it does
have a nice little bit of figure to it. Currently it weighs in at just about 9.5 pounds.

That's how the Garands are now, but I'm not quite done with them.

Springs. When in doubt it's always a nice idea to replace springs. I've heard a good rule of thumb is to replace the op rod spring every 2,000 rounds or so. Replacing the others around this time wouldn't hurt, and keeping the springs that were replaced as last ditch spares (should there be a parts drought) ain't a bad idea as long as they seem functional. (Why replace springs that are functional you may ask? Because a spring may still have enough tension to allow a Garand to function, but not enough to protect it from accelerated wear. I don't have a supply system with an arsenal at the end to replace receivers should they get banged about too much from being under sprung, so I replace springs often.)

I plan on giving the NM treatment to the trigger groups in all the rifles. I'm not interested in reducing the pull weight so much as in making everything nice and smooth and crisp.

Properly timed gas cylinder locks are very cool to have. Unfortunately it's a trial and error process. You basically have to have a lot of them on hand, and just try each one out on a particular rifle until you find one that times correctly. It may or may not time correctly on another Garand, so you have to repeat the process for each rifle. At some point I'll bite the bullet and buy a handful of gas cylinder locks and find ones that fit properly. 

GarandGuy offers a modification to a Garand's gas cylinder. He reams them out oversize, then lines them with nickel to get them back down to the correct spec. In theory they should last indefinitely.

After the gas cylinders are all squared away I can work on them. Mainly this involves relieving the rear ring and tab so as not to make contact with the top of the barrel or the front handguard. Also peening the barrel's splines for optimum fit will help with accuracy.

Columbus Machine Works does op rod repair, including installing new pistons and gauge checking and straightening. It'd make sense to add new pistons after getting one of the gas cylinders nickel lined and down to minimum spec.

GarandGear offers a ported gas cylinder lock screw that allows a Garand to function with just about any type of ammo without adjustment. I plan on picking up a few. 

NM rear sights allow for 1/2 moa windage and elevation adjustments (0.63 moa in a Mini-G). Trouble is, they're getting scarce and consequently pricey. If I can find a NM/2A base and a NM windage knob I can install them on the Garands with the T105/E1 rear sights (which were standard after WW2). Barring that I have some ideas on how to modify a T105/E2 if I can find a willing machine shop around here.

Krieger makes 1:11 twist Garand barrels, but only in their heavy pattern. The Ultimak mount only works on G.I. contour barrels. What I'm thinking of doing, though admittedly this isn't at the top of the list, is having a barrel maker (such as Rock Creek Barrels or Obermeyer) to make a few 1:11 twist G.I. contour Garand barrels. One I'd install on Garand 3, another I'd probably send to Shuff's Parkerizing to replace the 1:10 twist Krieger that I have on Garand 2. I may even use one for Garand 4 and have Shuff turn that one into an M1D, but for now I'm leaving that one be (and I'm not sure if a different twist rate would disqualify it from As-Issued Service Rifle matches- the rules can be less than intuitive in spots). The idea though would be having the same twist on all my Garands would perhaps make load development a little easier, as it wouldn't be so much of a compromise to have a single load that works well in everything (though I could get lucky anyway).

I have decent quality new manufactured web slings on all my Garands except Garand 1, which has the Turner NM Service Rifle sling. I'm thinking of experimenting with a different type of sling, or I may just get more 1907 slings from Turner or Ron Brown (Les Tam makes a good sling by all accounts, but I don't think I have the 18 months to wait on an order). There's nothing wrong with web slings, and they do have some advantages over other types. I just prefer leather.

From Top: Garands 1,3,4, & 2
Refinishing the rifles (and bayonets) will occur at some point. I prefer to use Brownells teflon-moly oven cure finish for the metal, and that stainless steel barrel is a bit too shiny in its natural state. The stocks that have a factory finish on them will be stripped down. I'll apply a few coats of pure tung oil and then use a couple of coats of spar urethane on top. Since all but one of the stock sets are laminates this is a bit of overkill, but I've always been the belt and suspenders type of guy. I do have one spare stock set of new walnut that only has pure tung oil as a finish (about 7 coats), and I'll use that for any As-Issued service Rifle matches I get mixed up in. I figure about every year to 18 months I may have to rub in another coat, but that's not too much of a chore for me.

Grenade launchers and accessories. Because.

After all of that hopefully I'll be done. But keep in mind there was nothing "wrong" with any of my Garands before I started modifying them. Aside from replacing springs and barrels that were a bit worn nothing I have done or plan to do is necessary to have a functioning Garand that is reliable and reasonably accurate (under 3 to 4 moa). The alterations are simply to better serve my purposes for each rifle, and a lot of that has to do with using glass instead of, or in addition to, the iron sights because my eyesight is deteriorating with age.

As to how they shoot - that is a mighty fine question, one I hope to delve into in another post sometime soon. I am ashamed to say I haven't been able to make it to the range since I've gotten them back from various smiths. With any luck, in the next few weeks I'll be able to whittle out some time to break in the new barrels and then see how they all stack up with ball ammo and/or my old handloads for Garand 1's old barrel. After that it'll be load development-centric around here (you may seem me on the side of freeway exit ramps with a sign that says "Will Work For 178gr. BTHP/IMR4064"). I'll update this post when I have another one with some targets to look at. In the meantime, the CMP still has Garands for sale. Just sayin'.

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