Bizarre M1 Garand Malfunction: Operating Rod Dismount

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The M1 is an old design, one of the very first successful selfloaders (certainly the first very successful one). That means that owning and shooting an M1 is an experience where almost anything can happen.

Like, for example, the gun spontaneously disassembling itself when you try to load it.

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…Crap.

I’ll need to back up. There is a well-known M1 Garand malfunction called “operating rod dismount”, where during firing the operating rod can come off its track and jam up the rifle. This can happen because of the M1’s unique field-strip procedure. To disassemble the gun, the stock and receiver must be separated, the internal guts of the weapon removed, and then you can get to the operating group. The operating rod rides in a track, which has a small cutout for disassembly, and that track lies within the action cycle of the gun, as seen below:

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Now, if the tab on your operating rod is out of spec, during operation, the operating rod can slip the track and jam during firing. But that’s not what happened here, what happened was the shooter (not me, although with my gun) loaded a clip, and the bolt hung up on the first round as usual. Apparently, it did so in the exact place where the oprod was in the disassembly notch, because when he tried to send it home, it slipped the rails and went forward (that is why there is a round in the chamber in the pictures – I had already begun remedial action before I started taking photos).

Clearing this jam took quite a lot of effort. I removed the trigger pack to prevent accidental discharge, and eventually muscled the oprod back into its track. Then, the shooter fired all eight rounds without an issue.

This malfunction would be of the “DRT” (Dead Right There) variety if someone were fighting for their life, but fortunately it seems to be the result of mishandling more than a flaw in the gun (once I got home, I measured the operating rod, and it was in-spec). Slapping the charging handle up or twisting it when it was in just the right position seems to be the culprit. Still, the very fact that the M1 can have that problem at all speaks to the age and strangeness of the design!



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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  • 2hotel9

    This falls under operator error according to the old, crusty dudes who taught me M1 handling. And yes, I have had it happen to me, and was laughed at for it.

    • M.M.D.C.

      For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?

      • 2hotel9

        I like that! Think I’ll shamelessly steal it and post it at our next group shoot.

        • Limonata

          However, make sure to credit Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

          • M.M.D.C.

            Well done.

          • 2hotel9

            I was never much on Austen, read her books as required in school 42 years ago. And among the crowd I shoot with many will think more highly of me for it, the other rednecks will think its from Larry The Cable Guy.

          • M.M.D.C.

            I was never forced to read it, but I did try and was forced instead to give up in frustration. There was something about listening to the young and bored landed class sniping at each other that rubbed my inner redneck the wrong way.

            Mr Bennet is fun, though.

          • 2hotel9

            Well, for a .30, map&compass Redleg Grunt I am well read, just never much on the mid1800s English Romantics. The popular style used among authors of that period, male and female, is a chore to wade through at best.

          • M.M.D.C.

            Judging by the way the writers here are taken to task for their posts, so are many TFB readers.

            My hat’s off to you for your service and your reading.

        • M.M.D.C.

          Limonata is right, it’s already been stolen. Throwing down a line like that at the range would probably get you laughed at all over again, though.

    • BigR

      @hotel9
      I’m old, but I’m not a crusty dude. I think “rusty” would be a better word for me. I’ve got two M-1 rifles and I “ain’t” never had this jam happen to me. In fact, I’ve never had an M-1 ever jam on me, period, thank God…… even in the good old days! I love the sound of the “ping” in the morning!

      • 2hotel9

        I’ve fired a lot of M1s over the years, done rebuilds and replaced parts for other people, and seen this happen a bit. And yea, love that ping!

  • Devil_Doc

    When I first bought my Garand, I had an out of spec tab on my op rod as well. I paid a guy at a machine shop to tig a blob of metal on the tab, then I carefully hand filed it back to just a few ten-thousands over spec (to where it would barely click into the channel). I put a little bit of polishing compound on it, and worked the bolt back and forth until it was moving freely. It’s not difficult, just time consuming to get the dimensions right.

    • Duke_Digger

      DD that is the exact same thing that happened to me, couple years back I got impatient waiting on a CMP service grade to appear and bought a HR from a collector “Guy” wink wink, the op rod was so far out of spec it would not stay in the track just cycling the action. Did the same operation you describe to remedy it.

  • Will

    As you stated, operator error more than equipment malfunction.
    I can honestly say I have never experienced this problem.
    Is there a remote possibility the operating rod is slightly bent?

    • 2hotel9

      It tends to happen with wear, or replacement parts from after market sources. Main reason it happens is pressure from the edge of the hand against charging handle as you push the clip home. Just got to do it gently, yet with authority, as my uncle Red explained it. Right after rapping his knuckles against the back of my head for having done it.

    • DwnRange

      Improperly contoured aftermarket stocks are the primary reason for the malfunction this article covers – folks buy a new stock, simply “assume” it has been properly made, install it, then start popping off rounds and by the time they realize there is a problem. Bent op-rod.

      (btw – the real M1 experts IMHO are Smith Enterprises, Inc. in AZ)

      • George Dean

        Interesting catch. My information is that when the Garands were originally fitted to their stocks, each rifles stock was hand relieved for that particular Op-rod. A caution was issued, if or when a new Op-rod was installed. Just like swapping bolts required a depot trip to verify proper head-space.

  • Rabies

    The good thing about this type of malfunction is that it only happens once.

    • 2hotel9

      Actually, depending on the piece and your knowledge/skill level, it could happen a lot. Many M1s that people have bought over the years are quite worn, or are “piece works”, assembled from parts that don’t fit well. I have an advantage in this, I was taught M1 handling by men who dragged them across the reefs and beaches of the Pacific, the sand and snow and ice of Europe and the sh*t filled paddies and ridges of Korea. Being old has its advantages.

      • BigR

        I don’t like the smell of sh*t filled paddies in the morning!

  • Chris

    For those experiencing this issue, if it does turn out to be an out-of-spec op rod (specifically the tab), check out Columbus Machine Works. They offer services specifically for the M1 Garand Op Rod, including a tab-rebuild. This fixed my problem with the op rod jumping the track.

  • googleit

    This happens if you have a rewelded receiver

  • RMP52

    Had that happen once on a gun I had just gotten from CMP. Never could get it do it again, swapped rods from several Garands I have and still they all worked fine. Put all guns back to original parts and never had another problem. Always figured I must have hit it at the right spot, at the right time and it just popped out, has run fine since.

  • David169

    I had the strangest Garand malfunction I have ever heard of. I was at the range breaking in a new barrel on a match rifle. I took a hundred reloads on LC 1967 brass with me. I shot ten cartridges cleaning the barrel after each shot. The patches from the last two singles had no color so I took the SLED out and loaded up the two shot clips. I loaded the rifle with two shots and when I pulled the trigger the report was overly loud and my hat blew off. The floor plate was bent strait down. Even worse the receiver was cracked on both sides about an inch forward of the rear of the receiver. The bolt was chipped.
    When I gathered up the brass I saw what had happened. There was a case with no neck. The neck has been expanded to the beginning of the shoulder and it had a distinct dent in it just behind where the new shoulder started. The chad from punching the flash hole in the previous case had come loose in and stayed in the chamber. The second cartridge was brought to a halt by the little disc when the neck of the cartridge was just before going into the neck portion of the chamber. The bolt was obviously moving forward fast and when it came to a halt the back of the bolt was the same distance from safety partition and slot in the rear of the receiver which allowed the firing pin to go forward and fire the cartridge prior to the locking lugs engaging.
    A word to the wise. Make sure you remove all the chads before loading the cases.

  • 427cobraman

    I never had a Garand, but if the M1 has an oprod guide lug under the barrel like the M14, then see if you can swivel (rotate) the guide lug around the barrel. These are pressed-fit and mine was off center on my Springfield National Match Rifle. This could be the root cause of the problem on some rifles, because a misaligned oprod is more likely to jump the track. I centered and then staked mine to the barrel in four spots to resist rotation.

  • Phillip McGregor

    An M1 Garand does not have a trigger pack or a charging handle. I has a trigger group and an operating rod.

    • 2hotel9

      Yes, that thingy sticking out of the operating rod has nothing to do with “charging” the rifle.

  • Doom

    This is where you are happy you are issued with a handgun along with your Rifle… what a terrible malfunction though.