Bizarre M1 Garand Malfunction: Operating Rod Dismount

    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. He can be reached via email at [email protected]


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