InRange TV's Heinous M1A Abuse

Nathaniel F
by Nathaniel F

Nearly two months ago, I wrote a critique of the M1 Garand which pointed out a vulnerability in the design – the great degree of openness it has, exposing the moving parts and critical surfaces to sand, mud, dust, debris, and the elements at large.

Ian and Karl of InRange TV took this to heart recently when they tested an M1A – a rifle which shares its open action design with the M1 rifle – in both mud and sand. Against it were pitted the MAS 49/56, a contemporary French infantry selfloader, and a frankenstein AR-15, representing the rifle that replaced the M14 after only five short years of production.

In both tests, the M1A choked after the first round fired. Efforts to clean and clear the weapon only made the situation worse, and in test after test shooting was called off for safety concerns as the bolt would not go into battery. The sand test was especially brutal, as rifles were not simply dumped in sand and then fired, but rather sand was actively sprayed on the guns via an air hose during a course of shooting, simulating action in the middle of a sandstorm. In this and the sand test, The M1A fell victim to its 1920s receiver design, which prioritized shortness of length over exposure resistance.

The open receiver is a significant drawback of the M1 Garand and its relatives the M14, M1A, M1 Carbine, and Mini-14. Coupled with other design shortcomings like the dog-legged operating rod and lack of anti-pre-engagement mechanism, the M1A has something of a “perfect storm” of features that make it especially susceptible to failure from exposure.

Ian and Karl aren’t the first to catch this on video, of course: Guns & Ammo TV locked up an M1A of their own in a very similar test back in 2007:

InRange is set to continue this kind of testing in new conditions and with new rifles. For me, their tests were very refreshing against the restraint of other exposure tests I’ve seen, and I look forward to seeing what they come up with next.

Nathaniel F
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. He can be reached via email at

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  • Kivaari Kivaari on Feb 11, 2015

    Oh, Oh, you stepped into a mine field by pointing out design failures in the M1 and M14. A couple of decades ago I had an in depth military report on the M1 rifles performance in Korea. In the sub-freezing temperatures one of the failures involved the right side of the receiver fractured. And a host of other dramatic failures. Like the M1911A1, the cult refuses to understand the many failures of the venerable pistol. Few people accept the weaknesses as it is contrary to the hype.
    The M14 was plagued with manufacturing problems. When it was used in real combat conditions the poor quality control (by the various makers) led to so many failures that it was easy to see why the DoD wanted a new rifle. The word from the Pentagon to the builders was either fix the issues or we will go to another rifle. The M16 had its teething problems, but the builders solved the issues, whereas they couldn't get the M14 fixed.
    Weapons buffs get real indignant when the faults of the systems are directed at the historic weapons. You can show them the tests results and complaints from the field, and the folks just wont accept that their favorite firearms had significant issues.
    Americans always want to think they have the best of everything. The cult of the M1903 rifle
    doesn't like it when people say the M98 Mausers are superior to the M1903. When we point out the two piece firing pin, coned breech, and terrible rear sight (accurate but fragile) it's like we just stuck the sacred cow with a knife.
    I like the '03, M1911A1, M1 rifle, M1 carbine and M1As. I just know that they are not as perfect as many people think.
    It is common to see guns getting written up in the gun press. An HK-Benelli M121 M1 shotgun was touted as the best combat shotgun made. Leroy Thompson said so after firing 65 rounds. I had two of them, as I knew the factory rep. I had more failures to function than Thompson had fired. The factory rep finally told me that none of them worked. Fast forward 20 years and I bought another Benelli shotgun. It was the new combat pump. Mine just would not work. Ejecting a fired case often required slamming the butt on the ground. Many cases had the extractor ripping a chunk out of the case.
    Yet, it got great write ups.
    OK, I blabbing on too long. The point is not many guns live up to the myths and gun magazine fanfare.

  • Michael Guerin Michael Guerin on Feb 11, 2015

    This is why Yank soldiers in Vietnam were offering our guys (NZ soldiers) $200.00 US for an SLR. I suggest that you read up on the Aussie experience at Long Tan, if you want to know more about the battleworthiness of the SLR L1A1.