A Persian take on the M1

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The story of the M1 Garand in Iran highlights a tale of interwoven politics that spans decades and is still being seen today. More than just the story of a service rifle in the Middle East, North Africa, (MENA)/Central Asia region, it crosses political and historical intrigue throughout. Mixed in is the history of American foreign military aid propping up the Shah’s regime, the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the ensuing Iran-Iraq War, and then the dissemination of the rifle into nearby Iraq and Afghanistan, possibly even Syria as some recent examples from various rebel groups there show.

From the period of 1963 to 1967, the U.S Military established a Foreign Military Sales mission to Iran. At this period in time, the United States was supporting Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi in his efforts to bolster his 160,000 man army. Iran was an extremely important ally of the United States against the Soviet Union, due to its strategic presence against the soft underbelly of Soviet controlled Central Asia. The 60s saw a tremendous input of U.S Military supplied arms and even the construction of a number of military airbases in Iran. Within this program, the Shah purchased around 165,493 M1 Garands were shipped to Iran in 1963, enough to arm the entire Iranian Army, replacing the locally produced Persian K98 Mausers that were then in service. 32 M1D sniper rifles were also shipped over in 1966. The overwhelming majority of these M1s appear to be of International Harvester manufacture (Evansville, IN). International Harvesters are exceedingly rare within the United States, due to the fact that the majority of these rifles were used for foreign aid and thus for the most part have not been reimported back into the United States.

Below are two clips from the National Archives Records Administration showing a small arms demonstration to Iranian officers in 1956. Although there are no M1s, the demonstration shows a number of other weapons also delivered to Iran, to include M1A1 Thompsons, 1911s, and M1919A4/A6 medium machine guns (not pictured in film)

Through this photo essay we will take a look at the timeline of these 165,493 Garands, unto today where they have ended up.

During the Shah’s reign

Although the Shah’s Army was entirely armed with M1s, not many photographs remain from that period that show the M1 in service with infantry troops. Instead, what we have are a number of photographs that show training and ceremonies being conducted by female soldiers within the army. This is most likely the result of the Shah’s push to modernize and secularize Iran, especially in regards to women’s rights. This later proved to be one of his downfalls because he was simultaneously marginalizing the authority of the clergy. What we are looking at in the below pictures is a highly publicized effort to showcase females within the army, completing rifle training and taking part in official ceremonies.

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Notice the U.S Army headgear on the soldiers and Staff Sergeant rank insignia on the instructor. This is probably due to the patterning of the Shah’s Army on then current U.S Army standards, which would have come through with the U.S advisors in place.

Pahlavi Imperial Iranian Military Women Rifle Training 1970s

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Berdan primed.30-06 ammunition was produced in Iran, as 7.92mm ammunition was produced previously for Persian Mausers. Foreign Military Sales does show that the United States provided at least 30 million .30-06 rounds to Iran during this period. The head stamps consist of a crown at the 12 o’clock position, the numerals “44” in Farsi, and the letter “Alef” (ا) on the right, and “Meem” (م) on the left (read left to right). This stands for Ammunition and Metallurgy Industries Group, a state ran company. After the Islamic Revolution, the company continued to function and exists today as the Ammunition Industries Group. You can buy this ammunition in the United States as imported surplus Iranian .30-06 ammunition.Headstamp IranianSurplus03

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In the midst of Revolution

The M1 was replaced by the Hecklor & Koch 7.62x51mm G3A6 rifle in the 1970s. The G3A6s were made under license in Iran, and differs from the standard G3 in having a dark green handguard and stock. Part of the move to the G3 was along with numerous other arms purchases from West Germany. This was mostly due to diminishing support from the United States in view of the Shah becoming more authoritarian and unpopular among the people of Iran. In January of 1979, the Shah formally fled Iran, with the Ayatollah Khomeini flying into Tehran to bring his concept of “Violati Faqih”, or a government of Islamic jurists. During this period there was great unrest as student protesters and rebels broke into state armories, arming themselves with whatever they could. This included all the moth-balled Garands that had left service in the early 1970s.

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Troops of Iran's new Islamic National Guard, background, parade through the streets of Tehran, Feb. 26, 1979, in a show of support for the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, whose regime is facing a challenge by Iranian leftists.  In the foreground is a member of the leftist mujahedeen guerrillas.  (AP Photo)

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Armed rebels, one wearing a gas mask, ride in a truck near the headquarters of Ayatollah Khomeini, Feb. 12, 1979 in Tehran. (AP Photo)

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Iran-Iraq War

Just as the efforts of the Ayatollah Khomeini were being consolidated, Saddam Hussein in Iraq saw an opportunity to take advantage of a disorganized Iran. Backed by the United States, Iraq invaded Iran and began one of the most costly wars of modern MENA history. The resulting war lasted throughout the 1980s, and was effectively a stalemate with neither side claiming a decisive victory over the other. In this period, Iran was desperate for small arms, and alongside the G3A6, began importing large amounts of Chinese Type 56s (Chinese AKM variant). Later on, Iran began local production of the Type 56 under the KL-7.62 nomenclature. During the Iran-Iraq War the M1 saw very little service at the front, being outgunned by the select fire, intermediate round, magazine fed Tabuk AKMs in use by Iraq. Thus, the remaining M1s were regulated to a Home Guard and militia role on the home front. Interestingly, in a return to the past, a number of female Home Guard groups were armed with the M1 while performing their duties behind the front lines.

This photograph was taken by a well known Iranian photographer by the name of Kaveh Golestan. The supposed explosion in the background appears to really just be the result of the soldier falling down the hill. The soldier looks to be a teenage boy and it probably wasn’t taken at the front. Instead, this is probably apart of Home Guard training behind the lines. The armory stock number reads “2/7” in Farsi.

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A very rare photo of the M1 in service. This picture was taken outside an oil refinery that had been hit by the Iraqis. Even so, the troops pictured probably are apart of a local milita unit instead of the military, which would have had more modern equipment. Notice the AKM magazine carriers on the web harness of the individual second from left, indicating a multitude of weapons were issued within the same unit, to include AKMs and Garands.

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Both of these posters were part of a long series of propaganda posters published during the war and posted up all over the nation. The use of the M1 Garand most likely would resonate with civilians accustomed to seeing the M1 in use by Women’s Defense Forces and other civilian auxiliaries, rather than a poster resonating with fighting at the front which would depict a G3A6 or AKM. The use of children and women in the home defense displays the severe manpower shortage due to the strain of the war on Iran. meposters-0003-065 meposters-0004-209

OIF-OEF weapon caches

After the Iran-Iraq War, the M1 began to disappear from the public eye, with the war over and the outbreak of peace. The Iranian Army less strained at the front brought back enough modern rifles to man units at home, and thus the old M1s went into final retirement. However, this isn’t the end of the M1 in Iran, as it appears that a large number of them made their way into Iraq and Afghanistan via the black market small arms trade. There is much more of a civilian trade between Iran and Iraq than there is with Afghanistan, thus we have much more evidence of the Garand in Iraq than Afghanistan. In this context, U.S troops began finding M1s in caches all over both countries.

The below photo was taken by a U.S Marine in the same district that I happened to have been in while I was in Afghanistan, that of Nawa District in Helmand Province. Ammunition was found, but there wasn’t an accompanying M1.

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CFD0213Muqdadiyah, Iraq in 2007 Photo 2

One of the few Winchesters found in Iraq. The majority of M1s found in OIF/OEF were of the International Harvester variety.

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Modern day use in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon

The below photos found in Iraq, one of them was complete with loaded en bloc clips in bandoliers!

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Among the current turmoil in Syria, a huge assortment of small arms have come to light through various rebel groups arming themselves with whatever is available. These below examples were of M1s in use by various belligerents in Lebanon. Due to the proximity, the origin of these Lebanese Garands might have come from small arms smuggled from Greece or Turkey, both countries having been equipped with the M1 under similar U.S Foreign Military Sales programs that equipped Iran in the 1960s. However, unless we can get some receiver block photos of the serial numbers, we can only speculate.

A Sunni gunman fires by his machine gun during clashes that erupted between pro and anti-Syrian regime gunmen in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Friday, Aug. 24, 2012. The latest round of fighting first erupted on Monday in northern Lebanon and at least 15 have been killed in Tripoli this week and more than 100 have been wounded in fighting that is a spillover from Syria's civil war. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Shi'ite masked gunmen from the Meqdad clan, gather at the Meqdad family's association headquarters in the southern suburbs in Beirut, August 15, 2012. A Shi'ite Muslim clan in Lebanon has abducted a Turkish businessman and several Syrians it says are rebel fighters in retaliation for the kidnapping of one of their relatives by the rebel Free Syrian Army in Damascus. REUTERS/Khalil Hassan    (LEBANON - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)



Miles V

Former Infantry Marine, and currently studying at Indiana University. I’ve written for Small Arms Review and Small Arms Defense Journal, and have had a teenie tiny photo that appeared in GQ. Specifically, I’m very interested in small arms history, development, and Military/LE usage within the Middle East, and Central Asia.

If you want to reach out, let me know about an error I’ve made, something I can add to the post, or just talk guns and how much Grunts love naps, hit me up at miles@tfb.tv


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  • TheNotoriousIUD

    Persian women are hot.

    Thats a very unorthodox rifle grip she is using.

    • Phillip Cooper

      Yes indeed. What’s always struck me about them is their eyes – just #$%^ing stunning!

      • iksnilol

        I can just imagine you catcalling: “AYEE, YOU, YEAH YOU, WITH THE RED PURSE… you have really mesmerizing eyes, I thought you should know”.

    • 40mmCattleDog

      Any woman who gets behind an M1 and smiles like that is good in my book!

    • Harry’s Holsters

      It’s sad a county with such beautiful women has fallen so far from where they used to be.

    • iksnilol

      Priorities

      You got them right, not bad.

    • Dougscamo

      I dunno, I think the one standing in front of the staff sergeant would win some pretty nice prizes…..

    • Anonymoose

      I used to know an Iranian bartender. Her parents fled during the Revolution, and she was hot as hell.

      • iksnilol

        female bartender

        hot as hell

        I feel it’s a bit redundant to mention both.

        • Dougscamo

          Not if you have been in some of the bars in which I have bent an elbow…..where the tattoos outnumber the teeth….

    • The Brigadier

      Shameen Shaw, a main character of Person of Interest is pretty good looking. They do have some beauties over there.

  • codfilet

    A very interesting post!

  • Openmindednotangry

    Awesome article Miles. S/F!

  • Sgt. Stedenko

    Great job Miles.
    Nice read

  • Gary Kirk

    Is that Obama in the poster of the two kids??

    • SP mclaughlin

      A young Barack Obama joins the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, 1979 (Colorized).

    • Longhaired Redneck

      If Obummer had a son…

    • The Brigadier

      I noticed the resemblance also. Maybe his father Mohammed Sumohadiwidjojo traveled to Iran for his cult.

  • The_Champ

    Great article Miles, thanks for the write up. Great collection of photos as well. Some interesting history I did not know.

    It’s always fascinating to see these old weapons still soldiering on in modern conflicts. I remember when Libya really kicked off there were a few photos of some poor bastards running around with Carcano rifles.

    • codfilet

      One Carcano changed history……

      • Frank Grimes

        Anything can change history when loaded with magic bullets…

  • TDog

    Great article. The Middle East, it would seem, is to vintage firearms what Cuba is to vintage cars.

    • codfilet

      When my Nephew was on a Marine Team searching houses in Iraq, he came across all sorts of interesting vintage rifles-mainly Mausers and Enfields. He couldn’t bring a thing back,though.

      • William Nelson

        Nephew got me a Martini-Henry MkII (at least its labeled that – could very well be a knock off) this way. Due to its age and the year stamped on the receiver, he could and did send it back. Purely a show piece as the barrel is not straight and Lord knows what has gone down on the inside of the thing.

      • TDog

        Y’know… America’s servicemen and women risk their lives on a daily basis over there. If I were president, I’d sign an executive order allowing them to bring back any cool gun they wanted (yes, even full auto – they would just register it like any preban).

  • Richard

    The garand in the last picture looks nicer than my Dad’s one. I love how the people selling the surplus ammo can’t tell if it’s corrosive or not so they sell it as corrosive.

  • Ed

    Too bad the M1 is frighting on… With the bad guys!

  • Just say’n

    Interesting that in Syria today there is a small possibility you could find engagements involving the M1 vs. Stgw. 44

  • Lou

    Excellent article and wonderfully researched – very informative! Refreshing!

    Much better article than a lot of the crap 250-500 worded opinion “articles” written by know nothings in their 20’s who think they are gun experts which encompass 80% of online gun writers.

    Again, great job Miles!

    • So alot of our daily articles are 200 words or so because most of them are announcements or interesting finds within the industry and beyond. We also have very in-depth articles such as these that explore topics more deeply than a daily post.

      • Phillip Cooper

        Touched a nerve with the bosses, did he?
        I agree with him, and enjoy your articles as well.

      • Lou

        Product announcements and running press releases are fine – that isn’t what I was talking about and it wasn’t just directed at TFB – it was directed at almost all gun related sites.

        By the way, you’re welcome.

  • Kevin Gibson

    Oh for the days when women in Iran could look like women. 1960’s photos of beautiful Persian women in miniskirts. All ruined by religious extremists. What a beautiful girl behind that Garand. I’ll be the first to admit, the Shah was a tyrant and an animal. But women’s rights have taken a horrible beating in Iran. I don’t see how anyone can treat a woman like a dog, or a possession. Or any human being for that matter. As for the Garands, I’m not surprised at all. Anywhere in the world where you find armed conflict, there’s a good chance you’re going to find a Garand…or M1 Carbine, SKS, AK, FAL, STEN, BREN, 98 Mauser, Enfield, 1919 Browning. There are just some weapons that are everywhere. Look at the large cache of MP-44’s discovered in Syria.

    • Giolli Joker

      While no mini skirts are visible, not without pant underneat at least, Iranian women currently only partially cover their heads, in a way that would not be accepted in most Sunni countries. Moreover women drive and can take any job (including government positions). Surely, they face limitations but is not that bad, in general.

      • Phillip Cooper

        ^—This reply is worthless without pics. 😉

  • Henry C.

    After having grown up in Evansville, IN, I really want an International Harvester Garand. Maybe someday…

  • DIR911911 .

    was kind of hoping this was leading to one of those “look what’s been discovered and will soon be for sale” stories 🙁

  • Lance

    M-1s did see action in the early years of the Iran Iraq war. Go look at documentarys on YouTube. Reserve troops and used in typical Iranian human wave assaults. Id Say they where out of front line use by 85. If you look at the pics of the war.

    • Hey Lance, could you share some of those documentaries? I’ve searched high and low for such material, in English and in Farsi, but this was all I could turn up. Especially for pictures from the Shah’s reign.

  • Martin M

    I hope that those M1s that were found by US troops were allowed to come home. Probably not, but I can hope.

  • Guys drop the politics!

  • Swarf

    Late to the party, but another thanks to Miles and TFB for posts like this.

    I have and will continue to give TFB about the deleting comments for no good reason and the silly, school marm-ish comments filter, but this post? This is good stuff.

  • AD

    Very interesting article, thanks for posting. I have family in both Iraq and Iran, so this kinda hit close to home for me.

    An uncle was telling me once of when U.S. military searched his home for weapons. He showed them his highly decorated vintage shotgun, an air rifle they use for killing rats, and I think a pistol they kept for defense. I believe that the soldiers did not confiscate any of them and as I understand it complemented him on the shotgun. I don’t know what the criteria was that they followed for confiscating weapons, but it seems they didn’t just take everything.

  • Lobo Rojo

    No, the Shah ruled using extreme brutality against his own people as well. Persians had fewer rights and less freedom under the Shah than they did before, and things got worse as his reign went on.

    • Voice_of_Reason

      not according to all the Persians in my family.

      • Lobo Rojo

        He wasn’t unpopular with all of his subjects. But he was unpopular with most of them when he was overthrown. He had been putting political opponents in prison left and right. He mandated there be only one political party, forcing all Iranians to join and support it. Protesters were gunned down in the streets by the military. He was spending lavishly on himself and family, and cracking down on illegal entrepreneurs while the economy was taking a dive due to his economic meddling.

        • Voice_of_Reason

          the Shah had 300 political prisoners. The Ayatollah had tens of thousands.

          • Lobo Rojo

            Stalin killed more of his own people than Hitler did, but do we let Hitler off the hook for what he did because of that fact?

            And the Shah had thousands of political prisoners leading up to his overthrow…. nearly 3000 known in 1978 alone, and that number increased.

          • Voice_of_Reason

            False equivalence. The Shah protected religious minorities, women, etc.

            The Shah’s political prisoners were mostly communists (stalinists, in a way) or islamists. Both of which opposed the Shah’s progressive policies for their own reasons. The Shah was opposed to Soviet expansionism.

          • Lobo Rojo

            It’s not at all false equivalence. You attempted to defend the Shah by pointing out that some other ruler was worse.

            It is irrelevant who the political prisoners were. They were imprisoned for doing something that Americans consider to be a fundamental right. You laud the Shah for protecting women and for opposing the Soviets, but Soviet women had greater legal equality than women did in the US.

            None of the good that the Shah did erases the great harm he did.