Submitted by Eric Daniel
Well, I officially now own a piece of history, having recently taken possession of a surplus Springfield Armory M1 Garand through the CMP program. Delivered "as is" with one (empty) clip and an owner's manual (which actually makes for rather entertaining reading), opening that cardboard box was like discovering some ancient treasure.
My first impression was, "Wow, this thing's heavy" but the reality is, at 9.5 pounds, the Garand is only a little heavier than my current issue M4 with all the "crap" attached, like the light, the PEQ-2, and the Eotech sight (though admittedly, all that stuff does give me a number of capabilities that I don't have with the M1.) The other thing that impressed me was the actual wood of the stock. I'm used to weapons made of metal and plastic and cleaned in solvent tanks, not ones made with wood worn smooth by years of use.
While I have disassembled, cleaned and lubricated my rifle, CMP recommends that the rifle be inspected by a gunsmith before firing, so I haven't fired it yet. I did get some .30-06 dummy rounds, though, to practice not only loading loose rounds into the clip, it is an art, but also practice loading and clearing the rifle (no "M1 thumb" for me, thank you very much.)
Something else I discovered after purchasing the rifle is that as far as the gas operated Garand is concerned, not all ammunition is created equal. Apparently, many modern .30-06 cartridges develop too high a chamber pressure, which can damage the operating rod. One solution to this dilemma is to purchase surplus M2 ball ammunition, which is as old as the rifle itself, not always available, and may not be deliverable to where you live. Another option is to use modern ammunition specifically built for the M1. To this end, I've found only two brands, so far, that will work - Federal's American Eagle M1 Garand ammunition, and Hornady's M1 Garand Match (Remington has a 150 gr. .30-06 cartridge in their UMC line, but according to them it is not M1 safe.)
Now, call me a neophyte when it comes to owning firearms (which, of course, I am) but I was absolutely shocked to discover how expensive ammunition was (at $20 for a box of 20, and even the surplus ammo was around $1 a bullet.) While in the great scheme of things, this isn't that expensive for ammunition of this size (7mm Remington Magnum, for example, will run you $55/box), I'm used to going to the ammo point and drawing cases of ammunition at a time - this is the first time I'll actually have to pay for the stuff. Moreover, it has been an absolute nightmare finding a local distributor for this stuff that actually has it in stock (yes, I can hear you all now saying, "Welcome to my world.") Lastly, a third option, and clearly the one I think I'm going to have to adopt if I'm ever going to shoot this thing recreationally, is to learn to reload my own. Of course, my knowledge of purchasing ammunition is encyclopedic compared to actually making it, so this reloading thing is going to be an adventure in itself.