John F. Kennedy’s M1 Garand Up For Auction

Kennedy-Garand-01

For the collector of firearms owned by famous people in history, Rock Island’s next auction holds a weapon that could be the centerpiece of any collection: An M1 rifle, the “deadliest rifle in the world”, owned by John F. Kennedy:

This M1 started from one of those depots, the Erie Ordnance Depot in Port Clinton, OH to be precise, but was far from a random selection.  The rifle picked for [the VIP] bears a late production 6+ million serial number and is a Type 1 National Match M1 Garand, that has been rebuilt to a Type 2.  After the NM rifle “happened” to be selected for [the VIP], it also “happened” to make its way to Master Sergeant Raymond E Parkinson, a gunsmith assigned to the Second U.S. Army Advanced Marksmanship Unit at Ft. George C. Meade in Maryland.  Once there, much of the work took place that can be seen on the rifle to this day.  In fact, COL Lee was kind enough to detail such changes in a letter he sent to [the VIP] after the rifle was received.  The modifications, as listed in the communication, are:

  1. Adjusted the trigger in order to provide an exacting trigger pull for each shot fired.
  2. Blued all metal parts to prevent rust and enhance the beauty of the weapon.Kennedy Garand 03
  3. Applied a moisture-proof silicon finish to the stock.
  4. Applied a glass-bedding compound to the recoil shoulders of the stock in order to enable the rifle to maintain its accuracy.
  5. Air-tested the bore for correct calibration and flaws.
  6. Test-fired the rifle in a sitting position at 200 yards.

“For your information, Mast Sergeant Parkinson did the test firing and the target is enclosed.  The rifle was not test-fired from a cradle because the gun smiths did not want to scar the stock, however, the test proved conclusively that the rifle is very accurate and as good as any rifle used at the National Matches.”

Hognose at WeaponsMan.com steps in to tell us more about this rifle, and it’s well worth your time to click through and read the whole thing:

The VIP was the then-Junior Senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy. While the Kennedy family has made the most extreme gun control central to their political identity since his death, JFK was a proud veteran, gun owner, and shooter. The carefully polished rifle does not seem to have been fired much; soon, Kennedy was embroiled in the Presidential campaign, which he would win in late 1960. It’s unknown if he took the rifle along to the White House, but it’s now at Rock Island Auctions and is going on the block next weekend, complete with a thorough and impressive provenance.

This M1 shows the telltale signs of a rifle originally made via mass production and then enhanced by hand. The markings lack the natural raised edges that are the byproduct of stamping dies, as the metal’s surface was polished after the markings were applied (these processes would be done in reverse order for a custom job, leaving the raised surface as a testament that the finish is original). The bluing shows off the gun’s original finish better than dull parkerizing would – this ironically highlights both mill and forging marks. The edges have a slight “melted” look, instead of being crisp and sharp; the result of either careless polishing or the initial production that created the rifle in the first place. The bedding also highlights one of the quirks of Garand’s 1920s design: Field-stripping the gun requires removal of the stock, and the ruination of the bedding (needless to say, the lucky person who does buy this gun should under no circumstances field-strip it).

These characteristics are part and parcel for a National-Match-rifle-turned-presentation-piece, and don’t detract from the gun’s value which lies in the person who owned it, and not the object itself.

If you want to purchase this historic piece for your own collection, the rifle will be up for auction in RIA’s September Premier Auction, from the 11th-13th of that month.



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • Tom – UK

    Can someone please let me know why removing the stock would ruin the bedding and whether this applies to all bedded rifles?

    • Mike G

      Generally, bedding is a custom, one-off job in which a compound is applied to the interior of the stock, which then hardens around the shape of the receiver to remove all play between action and stock. Oftentimes, you would have to “break” the action out of the bedding to be able to remove it, and once it had been removed in this fashion, it would be impossible to replace. There may be a bedded rifle or two out there where you could get away with it, but it is, by in large, never done.

      • DetroitMan

        It depends on how the bedding is done. Most M1’s are bedded in a way that allows the removal of the rifle from the stock, because it’s necessary for stripping the rifle. Removing and reinstalling the action puts wear on the bedding, but doesn’t break it. When a match grade M1 wears out its bedding and loses accuracy, it is re-bedded.

        • Yes; doesn’t Kennedy’s rifle look all epoxied in place, though? I would not field strip it!

          • DetroitMan

            I wouldn’t field strip it just because of its status as a collector’s item, even if it was given the normal M1 bedding job. It’s hard to tell from the pictures what was done. I have seen bedded M1’s where the bedding compound was visible around the edges of the receiver. The silicon on the stock affects the contrast in the picture, and may have been applied over the bedding compound.

            According to the article, it was match conditioned by a US Army armorer. I have never heard of them using epoxy to attach the receiver to the stock. The armorer specifically mentions using glass bedding compound on the receiver’s recoil shoulders in his letter, which was the standard procedure. It’s not impossible that they did something extra for a president, but I doubt it.

          • You may well be right about that.

          • Ken

            The glass compound comes in an epoxy resin (like Acraglas at Brownells). You mix the resin with the hardener, and then fill it into the recesses that you cut using a router. They coat the contact surfaces on the receiver and trigger guard with a release agent so they don’t get glued in. Upon final assembly, it’s a real tight fit.

            I doubt they would have done anything “special” to JFK’s rifle as far as glass bedding. They would have done whatever was necessary for the best accuracy, just like on any other NM M1. The old school armorers were real meticulous like that and there was already a prescribed way to accurize them. The specs for the NM M1 changed over time as they came up with better ways.

          • slimsummers

            I have an old American Rifleman that has the letter JFK sent the MSGT that built the rifle, thanking him for his efforts. He did the work on his own time on a randomly selected rifle for an unknown VIP who had requested a DCM M1. At the time Kennedy was just the Junior Senator from MA. Still, the fact he bothered to send the letter at all and the contents show he was a “gun guy” who appreciated the above and beyond efforts of the armorer who took a far from perfect rifle to the fine NM rifle he received. The armorer even made a custom shipping crate/storage box for it. I wonder if it is still with the rifle?

    • Ken

      The glass bedding on these M1’s is so tight that it feels like the stock is glued on. Field stripping it will wear on the epoxy surfaces and cause it to loosen faster. A friend and I actually tried to field strip his genuine USN National Match M1. The two of us together could not pull it apart. It was still quite accurate, despite the barrel having high gauge readings. I could put ten shots of Greek surplus 7.62 NATO ball into under two inches at 100yd without really taking my time. A regular M1 is fairly front heavy and awkward to shoot offhand, but the match weights in this one made it quite easy to sink 9 rings when offhand.

      Another way to ruin a National Match M1 is to pick it up by the front handguard, They’re free floated and glued and screwed in place.

      Basically, when the stock or barrel wear out and the whole thing needs to be rebuilt, that’s when it’s time to clean a National Match M1.

      You can see why National Match M16/AR’s took over from the M14’s. The M14 is even more difficult to tune to a match rifle than the M1. Not to mention, the NM AR is more mechanically accurate and a quarter of the price.

    • Brian Fulmer

      I have a couple of match prepped Garands. I was advised by the builder to field strip only once a year or every 1,000 rds. The wear and tear of pulling the receiver out of the stock will loosen the tight fit provided by the bedding compound (Devcon and steel filings in the case of my rifles). Additional wear and tear on the gas system by removing and refitting also does nothing good for overall accuracy. You can easily clean the barrel by removing the bolt and operating rod from the assembled rifle, so it’s really not a big deal to clean and re-grease. I took one down to document the process, I’m going to do a homebrew copy with a .308 Wilson barrel and a CMP prepped NM stock. If I can get it half as clean and tight, I will be happy!

  • me

    Wow that’s nice. I would have to dip into the kids collage fund to afford this.

    • Joseph Smith

      That could end up being a house if the right people start bidding. I’d love to follow the auction to see where it goes.

    • WFDT

      What was bought with your college fund?

      • torr10

        He clearly said he had a fund for his kids collage. If he wants to fund their artwork there is no need to mention his education!

    • Collage fund might be pretty slim if you keep your spending on magazines, cardboard and glue in control! =)

  • Juden Raus!!

    “Adolf Hitler will emerge from the hatred that surrounds him as one of the most significant figures who ever lived”- Pres John F Kennedy

    • Vitsaus

      Not sure if a troll or not, but I’ll bite. Its very likely that in 100 years or more, long after those who lived through the era are all gone, there might be a change in how people see the Axis leaders in general. Sensibilities change, hell thanks to this administration there may not even be an Israel anymore as widespread anti-semitism is being perpetuated among the left leaning western governments. Who knows how the future will see the monsters of the last 100 years.

      • claymore

        Yes he is a troll just check his posting history

      • It’s just our resident Nazi troll, mate.

        • UCSPanther

          I’d love to find out who he is.

          • Juden Raus!!

            Oh would you tough guy? What would you do? Bring one of your toy choo choos over or sic your cat on me?

          • UCSPanther

            You are an epic loser, pal.

          • Phil White Pig

            Go f#ck your cat

          • Agreed——

          • UCSPanther

            Anyone whose only recourse is to attack others over hobbies they enjoy (Hey, I have hobbies other than firearms) and their pets, but obsessively admires a long dead dictator and stews in both irrational hatred and demented paranoia, is someone who probably should seriously consider getting themselves committed to a looney bin…

          • I couldn’t have said it better myself.

          • SP mclaughlin

            You need to ignore these types. All they want is a reaction.

          • That’s true. If ignored they have no audience to rant at.

          • UCSPanther

            OD on some fentanyl, pal. You’ll feel way better, and you probably will be beyond caring. For good…

          • oskar dirlewanger

            Choo choo for the joo joo

          • UCSPanther

            I’m actually curious: Do you have a job?

            I doubt it, since you have plenty of time to make socks and spew your irrational ranting all over sites you consistently get booted from because no one likes mentally ill bigots…

          • True:-)

          • Phil White Pig

            And what would you do if you knew, Phil?

        • Juden Raus!!

          The quote is real, mate.

          • mosinman

            “The greatest thing about Facebook, is that you can quote something and totally make up the source”. — George Washington

          • oskar dirlewanger

            That’s an actual quote from JFK

          • iksnilol

            Wrong person, it was Benjamin Franklin who said that.

      • UCSPanther

        The Axis will be forever remembered as amongst the worst butchers of the 20th century. Nothing will change, no matter what that little worm claims.

        • Juden Raus!!

          And Israel will be remembered as such in the 21st century

          • UCSPanther

            Plenty of pictures from WWII of SS butchering civilians. Nice try worm.

      • iksnilol

        Anti-semitism? I’ve seen a good deal of that but I’ve also seen Israel do some bad stuff then blame anti-semitism when called out on it.

        To be honest, I believe in nihil novi sub sole… ain’t nothing new under the sun.

      • Juden Raus!!

        You mean like Israel?

      • He’s a troll and a Nazi supporter. He gets banned weekly.

  • Funnily enough, the very mundane and everyday items receiving exclusive and custom attention often have their own, unique allure. Like a production CV2 or a Soviet Zhiguli (Lada) car maintained to perfection, a Honda SuperCub shining with owner’s love, or a Percolator used and meticulously cleaned for 70 years. Basically they get what the custom high-dollar items get right out of the gate: attention. And this attention sticks, and shows.

    Just think of a, say, crude wartime TT-33 Tokarev, maintained for 50 years. It would be oozing class.

    • RICH

      CONDITION AND CARE SPEAKS VOLUMNS FOR COLLICTABILES ! ! !

  • junyo

    If I had the money, I’d buy this, run for Congress, and film an ad with me shooting JFK’s muthafrakkin gun. Why? Because ‘Murca beeches.

  • Michael R. Zupcak

    I don’t think I’d ever want a gun owned by a Democrat.

    • mosinman

      just saying.. JFK was nothing like the present day Democrats

      • That’s for sure!

      • John Swinkels

        JFK had balls, unlike the democrats today.If JFK were alive today he would jump ship and become a republican.

    • Joshz

      Wah Wah. The dems you used to be pro gun. Especially southern dem. But those days are long gone.

    • I would suggest looking into the history of politics in America. You’ll find a lot more bi-partisan support for gun ownership from both sides up until the 1980’s or so. Kennedy wasn’t perfect, but he was by no means anti-gun.

      His assassination was sadly used as an excuse to restrict the 2A, though.

    • iksnilol

      I believe people like you who have a blind loyalty to one party are the exact problem with a fundamentally undemocratic system like the American two-party system.

      So what if he was a democrat? Does that affect what kind of person he was? That he did good and bad things?

      • It’s common to refer to the US as a democracy when it’s actually a republic.

        • iksnilol

          Hey, democracy and democratic are two different things. I just find the system fundamentally unjust since it is boiled down to two parts. World ain’t black & white, so why should politics be that? Why should it be a black and white choice in regards to who will steer the country for the next 4 years?

      • torr10

        Perhaps the real problem is the people who think there are only two parties…

        • iksnilol

          Are there really any other parties when those two parties have at least 80% of the power?

      • BlackTalon2000

        He was not a good person, Catholics considered him a betrayer to the Faith. He was the precursor to fake Catholics like Pelosi and Biden and Sebelius.

        • iksnilol

          Well, he almost started a nuclear war and he stopped it. So he is at least neutral.

          Why should people care what the catholics think? ISIS considers me a betrayer to the faith as well. Does that mean I should get my knickers in a twist? No, because you don’t listen to sects (organized religion fits the definition of a sect).

          I mean, do you really think he was a bad person simply because he claimed to be a catholic while he wasn’t a catholic by somebody elses definition? You shouldn’t let something as inconsequential and unimportant (in the grand picture) as religion taint your view of someone. Sure, hold it against someone if they use religion to justify their atrocities or emotionally charged decisions. But on a general basis? What has religion got to do with what kind of person someone is?

          • BlackTalon2000

            I care cause i am Catholic, we have politicians like Biden and Pelosi because of him.

    • nonoc

      Really, I wish we had him now. He was way more conservative than Nixon, who instituted price controls and disassembled all the Pershing missiles.

  • Beauty!

  • Lance

    You can see JFK was not approved by the modern fascist Democratic party for owning a Battle Field Weapon of War. LOL

  • juan epstein

    “In a few years, Adolf Hitler will emerge from the hate that now surrounds him and come to be regarded as one of the most significant figures to have ever lived”- JFK

  • RICH

    THAT SHURE WOULD BE A NICE PIECE TO OWN ! ! BUT THEN, WHEN THE GOVERNMENT KICKS IN YOUR DOOR TO TAKE IT AWAY FROM YOU, ONE WOULD PROBABLY WISH TO FIGHT FOR IT DUE TO IT’S HISTORICAL VALUE, AND YOU WOULD DIE IN THE PROCESS OF TRYING TO PROTECT WHAT IS YOURS AND YOUR RIGHT TO OWN IT ! !

  • Bob Jensen

    It’s a shame the Kennedy family didn’t donate this rifle to the NRA Firearms museum. Kennedy was a life member. Of course, that might cloud the gun control issue.

  • jcitizen

    It may have been mentioned below, but JFK was a LIFE NRA member as well. A fact that makes my Democrat friends cringe! Heh! Heh!

  • MichaelZWilliamson

    Odd. That deadliest rifle in the world doesn’t look like a Mosin Nagant.

  • BlackTalon2000

    I would rather have the gun that killed him.