During the years spent designing what is now the M1 rifle, I came to realize that if the gun were ever adopted as the standard for the U.S. Services, the question of accuracy for match shooting would eventually have to be faced and solved. Thus, during the twenty-nine years spent at Springfield Armory, I have always studied the matter of accuracy as much as circumstances would permit. The fact that my work was carried on principally in the Experimental Department, in close association with the personnel who were charged each year with the work of testing the National Match Springfield, put me in a position to see and observe much regarding rifle accuracy, and to benefit by the close friendship and confidence of such men as A.L. Woodworth, William L. Bull and many others.
From the stories of the old-time shooters it seems the M1903 Springfield was regarded with keen disfavor when it first displaced the Krag, with its thirty-inch barrel, long sight radius, and rather mild report and recoil was a pleasant rifle to shoot and did very well indeed at the longer ranges. The “new” Springfield of those days had a most annoying habit of losing its accuracy suddenly at the most unexpected times on account of the metal fouling which often built up in the barrel after just a few shots with the high-velocity cupro-nickel jacketed bullet.
Some of these disadvantages, such as the short barrel, were more imaginary than real; others, notably the metal fouling, were overcome and passed rapidly into the realm of memory. In the end the M1903 Springfield, like the Krag that had preceded it, became a highly popular target weapon and was hailed as the most accurate military rifle in the world.
I feel confident that history will repeat itself, and in years to come the Garand rifle will take its place as a superbly accurate match rifle.
Splendid weapon that it was, the 1903 Springfield had a few rather serious disadvantages as a target rifle, and I determined to avoid these as far as possible in my new design. One bad point is the fact that in the event of a punctured primer or a gas leak, there is a chance of hot gas or small particles of brass being blown back into the shooter’s face.
The breech mechanism design of the M1 fortunately lends itself to a construction in which the breech is completely closed at the rear end, thus absolutely preventing any blowback of particles through the mechanism. Moreover, the breech recess and bolt are purposely so proportioned that any gas which might leak out around the bolt would be deflected upward above the shooter’s eyes.
Another point about the Springfield which is rather unfavorable to uniform accuracy is the full length military stock, with the action held at the rear by the two guard screws and at the front end also by the upper band. In these rifles there was a considerable amount of trouble from binding of the barrel by the upper band due to the swelling of the wood in damp weather. The remedy finally adopted for match Springfields was to free the wood around the barrel at the upper band, and as a preventive of accidental contacts, to bed the rifle in the stock so that the bottom of the barrel rested firmly on the wood with a pressure of from six to ten pounds. This worked well, but there was always the chance that the long stock would swell or warp and press on on side or the other of the barrel with a consequent change of center of impact.
It has been my feeling, confirmed by many years of actual experience, that the most favorable condition for accuracy is to have only the receiver secured in the stock, with the barrel projecting freely, held solely by its bearing in the receiver.
It would be ideal, of course, to have the barrel free of all projections and to have the barrel free of all projections and to have no objects hung on it, but that is impossible with a gas-operated semiautomatic. However, it seems that while any object attached to the barrel will change the location of the group center, it will not change the group size, so long as the object is fixed in its relation to the barrel. Thus, the M1 rifle will shoot the same size group with the gas cylinder attached as with it removed, provided the cylinder cannot shift its position on the barrel.
It was partly in consideration of the principles mentioned above that the M1 rifle was designed with the front handguard separate from the stock, and with the gun clamped to the stock only at the receiver and more or less floating free elsewhere.