For quite some time, I'd been planning to make a side trip up to Camp Perry during the planned family trip to Ohio in May in order to pick up an M1 Garand from the Civilian Marksmanship Program store there. However, the CMP is apparently rapidly running out of Garands, so last week I pulled together the paperwork to send off an order by mail.
A little background for those not deeply into military firearms: Entering World War II, every major power except the United States had a .30 caliber bolt action rifle little different from its WWI predecessor as their primary battle rifle. US forces, however, carried the M1 Garand, the world's first semi-automatic main battle rifle.
The M1 fired .30-06 cartridges loaded into eight round en bloc clips. A soldier could fire eight rounds as fast as he could aim and pull the trigger. With the last round, the clip ejected out as well. (For those of you who've seen Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers, this produced the Garand's famous: bang, bang, bang, bang, ping... [pause] bang, bang firing pattern.) The soldier then slapped another en bloc clip into place, released the slide, and resumed firing.
As well as being the first semi-automatic battle rifle, the Garand developed a nearly peerless reputation for rugged design, reliability and accuracy, such that it remains to this day one of the standard rifles used in high powered rifle matches in the US. After the M1 Garand was replaced by the M14 and (shortly after) the M16, Garands were sent on loan to a number of US allies including Italy, Greece and Denmark. They also continued to be used for training in the US army through the 70's.
More recently, surplus M1s were turned over in large numbers to the Civilian Marksmanship Program, which made them available to civilian shooters throughout the country. A piece of history, and a great all-around rifle.
I might still have to stop by the CMP when we're in Ohio, though, since I hear that they've got hold of a bunch of M1 Carbines returned by the Italian government...