CMP M1 Garand, Part 3: Making the Most of Your Rifle

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If you read the previous two installments on how to order from the CMP, then you have a good idea about how to get eligible, fill out your paperwork, and send in your packet for a Field- or Service-Grade M1 Garand rifle. Now what? Once the waiting is done, and your rifle arrives at your doorstep, you have received a shiny new example of Patton’s “deadliest rifle in the world”.

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CMP rifles come in excellent branded hard cases. A nice touch, for sure.

 

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My Service Grade 1955 Springfield Armory M1.

 

Actually, although new to you, what you got was a mixmaster M1 Garand, probably with a brand new wood stock and handguard, and the rifle may have some functioning problems or imperfections. The CMP does the best they can with the parts they have, but ultimately your rifle is assembled from parts all over the specification, and it may need a little tender love and care to become all it could be. A well-tuned M1 is a truly great rifle, and an excellent range gun, but how do you get from here to there?

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Some folks may be perfectly happy with a totally stock CMP M1, but my goals for my CMP M1 were threefold: To fix the minor mechanical issues my rifle had, to perform minor accurizing to my rifle, and to change its appearance to be closer to a historical M1. With regards to this last, the new wood stocks the CMP M1s come with are fine pieces of hardware, but don’t closely resemble military surplus gunstocks. Instead of buying and accurizing a military gunstock, I decided to accurize and modify the new CMP stock with historical processes to achieve the functionality and appearance I wanted. This post will cover most of the functionality and accurizing modifications, while Part 4 will cover how to achieve the historical look.

Now, functionally, the M1 rifle is sort of like a chain. Every part in it has a job, and they’re all linked together, and most importantly if one part isn’t working right, the whole system stops working right. That means troubleshooting the M1 can be a bit of a hassle. The first mechanical problem I noticed was difficulty in inserting an en-bloc clip. Research online suggested that the problem was the follower arm not being able to move far enough downward, which meant a great deal of force was necessary to seat a clip fully until the clip retaining latch clicked. The counterintuitive fix was to check the tab on the bullet guide for peening. A quick inspection showed that my M1’s lockwork pin was very difficult to remove, and the bullet guide was indeed peened:

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Note the peening on the tab at the very top of the bullet guide in this image. This peened portion pushed the lockwork out against the receiver, preventing the follower arm from moving far enough to easily seat an en-bloc clip.

 

A quick application of some emory cloth removed the peened portion and freed up the lockwork retaining pin and allowed easy insertion of en-bloc clips.

Next, I moved on to cleaning up the wood around the functioning areas. To do this, I needed to purchase some supplies online; the total kit is shown below:

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M1 Garand stocks were historically sanded by hand with 100, 120, and 150 grit cloth, and were finished with raw linseed oil which I purchased from GarandGear.com) which gives surplus stocks their reddish color. In addition, I chose to purchase “Gunny Paste”, a sealing wax, to help preserve my M1 against the humidity here in Louisiana. From AmmoGarand.com, I bought a gas plug wrench and a standard GI sling. The historical lubricant for the M1 was Lubriplate 130A, which I purchased direct from the manufacturer in 14 oz quantity because no smaller size was available. I probably have enough L130A to last me a lifetime, now, but at least my Garand will be authentically lubricated. Clearly, I should have bought mutton tallow, instead!

My M1 has an early-style trigger guard, so I made use of an old broke plastic punch as a disassembly tool to remove the fairly tight trigger pack:

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The first thing that became obvious upon disassembly was that my operating rod was bent slightly side-to-side (M1 operating rods by design have a natural top-to-bottom dogleg to them. A side-to-side bend is common, but not by design). For the sake of both functioning and accuracy, the operating rod should not contact the wood stocks of the firearm at all. A very helpful guide to stock fitting is available on the CMP forums, written by user tinydata. Instead of undertaking the challenging task of bending my original oprod, I decided to clean up the wood to allow the best functioning possible. The first step in this was to sand the inside left edge of the front handguard so that it wouldn’t contact the operating rod. To remove the front handguard, I used the gas plug wrench to remove the gas plug:

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Unscrew the gas plug and gas block retainer:

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Remove the gas block:

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And the front handguard:

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Then, I got to work. The key was to take it slow and steady and not oversand the handguard. Instead, I sanded a little, then checked fit, then sanded some more.

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Sanding…

 

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And checking fit.

 

The end result was a handguard that didn’t contact the operating rod unless I cranked it over counterclockwise, which should be perfectly fine for the kind of range shooting I’ll be doing with this gun. If I need to, I can always remove move material for an even more generous fit.

It’s also important to make sure that neither the stock nor rear handguard contact the operating rod. In the case of my rifle, only minor cleaning up was necessary to ensure proper function.

For best accuracy, I relieved my stock under the rear receiver enough that a sheet of paper would slip between. Supposedly, this helps improve the consistency of the receiver and stock flex during recoil. Tinydata also mentions in his guide relief cutting the rear of the stock for the firing pin. Both of these modifications are visible in the photo below:

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The light area between the forward receiver cut and the toe of the stock is where I relieved the stock. Some folks have made this modification with a sharp step between the relieved and original areas, however I wanted my stock to have a more unmodified look, so instead I blended the transition. You can see the relief made at the rear right of the stock for the firing pin; I did this with my everyday carry Victorinox knife and it came out fine.

The last modification I made was to relieve the wood around the trigger guard housing. Tinydata advised that the rear of the magazine body should not touch the gunstock, so I relieved wood until there was no contact. The rear of the trigger guard body also should not touch the inletting of the wood, and the wood underneath the trigger ideally should be relieved enough so that the trigger does not make contact with the stock when pulled. While I was satisfied with the relief cutting I did there, test-firing the gun afterward showed that the trigger guard still was making contact with the stock.

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The first range trip with the rifle post-modification showed promise, but the full potential of the rifle in terms of accuracy will only be realized with better ammunition (I used Greek HXP to shoot the group below) and more work:

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My first 8-shot group at 30 yards, post-modification. Not a great group, but it’s a start. The shot to the left was called when I fired it. Excluding it, this is about a 3 MOA group, which is more or less what I’d expect with surplus ammunition and a mixmaster CMP M1.

 

A surplus M1 firing surplus ammunition cannot be expected to be a match-accurate rifle, but the M1 Garand is one of the most enjoyable military surplus .30 cal full-power rifles out there to shoot. Recoil has the same magnitude as other rifles in its class, but the recoil feels more on the “push” side than the “shove” side of the spectrum. And of course, for the range, the sights and trigger are excellent by surplus standards. All in all, a surplus M1 with a little tuning makes for a fantastic range toy.

Next time, we’ll talk about refinishing the new CMP stocks to give a more historical look!



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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  • Wolfgar

    Looks like a fun project. I purchased a set of wood cutting tools from Ace hardware that works great for stock work. I also glue different grit size sand paper on paint sticks to help keep my sanding squared for lineal sanding. How did the bore look on your rifle? It looks like it groups good so I’m guessing it’s not an issue. Great pictures and story, looking forward to the next installment on your stock work.

  • Devil_Doc

    If this is part 3, where are parts 1 and 2? Cool article, by the way..

    • ostiariusalpha

      You just go up to the tags and tap on the “civilian marksmanship program” link. That’ll take you right to the previous articles.

    • First two parts are hyperlinked in the first paragraph.

  • Limonata

    Last August I was able to attend the week long Advanced Armors Course at the CMP in AL and build my own M1 from the ground up from surplus parts (except for the barrel). Some of the students in class found parts that were original manufacture but never used. It was an awesome class. I was able to come home with a marvelous M1 I built myself with the help of the CMP Master Gunsmiths in AL and learned not only the history of the M1 but how to spot fakes and how to tune/debug your M1. I was able to find 1942 range serial number parts. While not matching numbers all within the 1942 time period. Mine came home with the rare but accurate lock-bar rear sights. I now own two M1s and in the process of building a 3rd one from parts I find at gun shows.

    If the CMP Gunsmiths ever put out a video or real manual it would be like gold full of various tips and tricks and variance points to look for in parts. The time they spent talking about to accurizing the M1 alone was worth the trip.

    @Nathaniel F — try the .30-06 Match Grade Creedmoor 167gr Scenar BTHP Ammo. Those holes will get much closer to each other 🙂

    • Yeah, I have some of that ammo on order.

      • Cleophus

        Nathaniel, you’re just going to have to start reloading! I can tell from your writing that you have a meticulous nature and would be a natural for the discipline of reloading. By joining the ranks of reloaders,you will find that you are now in sole charge of almost every variable in cartridge design that can bring your rifle to one hole excellence. Join us!

        • Hi Cleophus, I have been a reloader in the past, but after a few cross-country moves dropped the practice. In the future, I’m sure I’ll pick it up again, I’ve got plenty that needs reloading: .30-06, 7.5×54 French, 6.5×55 Swedish, etc…

  • nadnerbus

    This must have been ghost written by Lance, because we all know you hate the M1 action.

    Nice article, makes me wish I could afford to indulge myself.

    • Miguel Raton

      How can you afford not to?

  • Trey

    for those not wanting to use lubricate Mobile M1 Full Synthetic (great name too) works well according to many on Web, I use it but am new so am more taking it on the words of others.

    • Lubriplate 130A is not necessary at all unless you plan to shoot in the rain, but I am a nerd and just had to have the historical stuff.

      • Trey

        I went M1 because write ups had it better than the original and at NAPA. I figure the 1 pound can is a multi life time supply.

        If you can find some of the old Bore Solvent (WW2) its good stuff but the tiny can is darn hard to open!

      • Mutton tallow for the win!

  • Don Ward

    Excellent write up. This article is bookmarked for down the road when I go through this process.

  • Bub

    Picked up one of the service grade H&R models about 3 years back in the new stock. I’ve never done anything to the stock, but did give the rifle a good cleaning and lube. BTW went to auto parts store and purchase a big can of grease. I have only used Greek surplus ammo. At first I noticed the gun was a little sluggish, but the more I shoot it things seem to smooth out. Also, I’ve noticed after disassembly and cleaning it take a few rounds for things things start to run as smooth as I think they should. Normally I only disassemble the thing every few months, ok once a year, the rest of the time it gets just a good wipe down.

    These things are a blast to shoot.

  • ian kay

    Mixmaster? They were all mixmaster, from the day they were first assembled that’s not a negative.
    Think of what it’s been through already in the past 70 years,
    there were 6 million made but that one is unique and is now yours.
    Enjoy shooting one of the greatest rifles of all time, and in the process get to know it’s personality, treasure it, then finally pass it on for future generations.

    • Miguel Raton

      You’re confusing the M1 Carbine w/ the M1 Rifle: the rifles by & large were all originally assembled with parts from a single manufacturer [ie, Springfield receivers with Springy parts, Win receivers w/ parts made by Winchester, etc.] Exception being the IHC M1s, in which early models were all over the place as both Springfield and H&R helped IHC get up to speed [through IHC’s own fault of wanting to go their own way in the 1st place instead of following Springfield’s manf. process.]
      Carbines were all mixmasters from day one; the rifles were only mixed after they went thru the ordnance repair depots.

  • Full Name

    Wow, that stock is beautiful!

  • Miguel Raton

    Push = Shove. I think you meant Push vs. Kick; firing a K98k in 7.92×57 back2back with a Garand in 7.62×63 will make the distinction clear; even an M1 vs. a 1903 Springfield in the same caliber is a clear enough difference to understand why the Marines on Guadalcanal were following around the Army newbies waiting for them to get plugged so the Marine could take their rifle, even without the firepower difference [speed of followups with the semi vs. bolt action…] A standard 60 shot string with the Springfield will leave you tired & sore in the shoulder, whereas with the M1 you’re just getting warmed up for another round.

    • You have certainly reached new heights of pedantry with this comment. I bow to you sir.

    • Don Ward

      Yeah. I’m going to call bull on the anecdote about “Marines following around Army soldiers waiting for them to die, just so they could scavenge the Garand off their carcasses”.

      “Hey Sarge. Looks like the Marines are following us around again. I gotta bad feeling about this.”