After the mixed results with the ’03, I switched to my Garand. Now the sights on the Garand are different from anything else I’ve ever shot. The previous rifles, pistols, and BB guns had a notched rear sight. A little peep sight in the rear and a pretty fat forward sight. It's much easier to line up with this configuration. I thought I’d be better with the 03 because of the very fine notch and blade up front on that rifle, and that the Garand would give me middling accuracy, at best. First shot with the venerable Garand, chambered in a round different than originally intended for the rifle (.308 - pronounced Three Oh Eight, vis .30-06), at 50 yards is a bull’s eye. Now don’t think I’m some sort of prodigy, some M1 savant. I’ve had beginners luck before with shooting. The rest of that clip wasn’t in a quarter-sized hole. But it was in the kill zone for a deer thorax. All 8. I switched to the 100 yard line and the front site was as wide as the paper targets, but again, for the most part, in the kill zone. The others were in the paper or definite faults on my part that made it the round a flyer. Ok, now I’m hooked.
I went to range that day hoping to make a bolt-action hunting rifle and semi-auto, fun, neighborhood defense rifle. Like clubs in a golf bag. One driver, one pitching wedge. The concept was sound. The bolt action didn’t work out and now it’s not going to get a scope, but my thought process starts churning. What if I make the Garand my go-to rifle for everything? People did just fine hunting with iron sights for decades. I probably can’t reliable shoot anything at 200 yards, but I have no business shooting a deer that far away WITH a 10x scope. With lots of practice, yes. MBtGE has bagged more deer than he can count. I ask him at what range he shoots deer. Half, says he, are at 50 yards. Hmmmm…. I need to think.
Now at this point, I had been reading the Jeff Cooper chronicles. That man was a crusty old guy, but he knew how to express himself with the written word, and was indeed, a shottist’s guru. He had forgotten more about shooting than I would ever learn in TWO lifetimes. His authority with the subject certainly influences my thinking, and his philosophy appeals to me. The man really liked the M1 Garand, so I figured my instinctive purchase was on the right track. (Plus General Patton called it the greatest battle implement ever devised, so if Patton AND Cooper endorse it, it has a lot going for it.) Cooper was a pragmatist. If you showed him something that worked better than what was done before, he’d check it out. Convinced of the efficacy he’d not hesitate to adopt a better way. It’s how he arrived at his Modern Technique for pistol shooting, influenced by a then novel new stance Jack Weaver figured out and showed him. So Cooper was no romantic fantasist, sticking to the old ways just because they were new. But he did stick to many of the old ways because they WORKED. For instance, he was not a big fan of the .223 round (aka NATO 5.56 mm) shot out of battle rifles, he thought the .308 (NATO 7.62 mm) better, and the old .30-06 better still. If Colonel Cooper were alive and advising me personally, he’d tell me to get a bolt action Scout rifle when I could afford it, but a Garand would do just fine until then.
That doesn’t mean I can’t improve what I got. Make it better.
Now, mounting a scope on a Garand is problematic. The Enbloc clip that holds the 8 rounds shoots straight up into the air with a satisfying “CLANG!” when you run out. So a scope above the receiver is not possible. And the offset scopes to one side are not satisfactory in many shooter reviews. Plus I am left handed, so I’d have to lean WAY over to look through it. There is one last option, and it doesn’t require a gunsmith to install. A Scout scope mounted ahead of the receiver. Jeff Cooper, again, came up with the Scout concept and helped develop a design for what became, for him, the perfect rifle. The rifle he’d grab while running out the back door when bad guys were banging down the front. Basically, the concept is for a under 7 pound bolt action rifle, with a short barrel, iron sights AND a low power long eye relief scope mounted ahead of the receiver to help target acquisition, shooting a widely available, but strong enough cartridge for game under 400 pounds like the .308, and a good light trigger. There are some other requirements that slip my mind at this time. Steyr Mannlicher made this rifle for Colonel Cooper and it is a beauty. He ever tried to get them to make a lefty version, but they didn’t bite. Poor southpaws. Poor Steyr Mannlicher. I’d go into hock today to buy a lefty Scout, so they lost a sale.
I’ll have to make do. When I DO get a bolt-action rifle, I don’t want to compromise. It WILL be a lefty. It WILL be a tack driver.
And by make do, I’m going to make the Garand a pseudo scout by adding a long eye relief, high quality ‘Scout’ scope forward of the receiver… Next Spring (Buriss and Leopold both make and market Scout Scopes, but it is essentially a fancy pistol scope with about a 2x magnification or so). Saving my pennies and practicing with the iron sights now. Gotta walk before I can run. I did make a purchase or two before the next trip to the Clark Bros. range.
There are lots of Garand accessories you can get online, and I found Fulton Armory there and did some shopping. I bought a book about Garand disassembly and maintenance from them, some more clips, that sort of thing. I splurged on a muzzle break that I probably did not need, but also a thinner fore sight that I thought would help. (they also have a scope rail for that future scout scope purchase.)
And the thinner forward sight seemed to help. I shot even better the next time at the range. And the forward sight only covers half the paper at 100 yards now. It shot a little low at first because that front sight is taller than the last one, but elevation is easily adjusted via a knob on the left side of the rear sight. One odd thing. I got that muzzle break, made by Smith Enterprises to help second shot accuracy and perhaps get me to flinch less from recoil. I didn’t notice a lot less recoil, some maybe, but I expect a muzzle break to increase the gun flash. MBtGE thought it was a flash suppressor because he noticed LESS flash. It’s a head scratcher. Have to remember to double-check that next time… If true… nice bonus.
I still shoot a little low and to the right. My muzzle drift just seems to like it there, from the 3 o’clock to 6 o’clock area. I can REALLY see it when I borrow a scoped rifle. The crosshairs see the printed circle, and if was a clock face it would move from 2:30 to 6:30, back and forth, back and forth. Next time I will go from 3 clicks up to 4 and a click once to correct left. Move the No. 10 coffee can lid shaped group to better straddle the bull at 100 yards. Then make that group No 5 can, or even Tuna can. Practice. Practice, practice, practice. And remember to Squeeeeeeeeeeeeze, til it surprises you.
It’s a good rifle.
Other Garand tidbits…. It’s easy to field strip for cleaning and maintenance. Just pop out the trigger and the thing practically falls apart into its component pieces. Unscrew a couple things in the fore end and twist the bolt in the receiver and you have taken apart just about everything that you can take apart. If you buy a Garand don’t do this until someone shows you, or if you are mechanically inclined pay close attention the first time. Better yet, buy a book about M1 Garands and their maintenance. I did have one problem with the receiver sticking when I first got it and before I took it to the range. No matter how hard I pulled on it, it wouldn’t go back. It gave me great consternation. I found out you need to lube up the metal-to-metal contact better than I had done (I had done next to none). Gun grease on the parts outside, a light oil is fine on the internals, so what if it splats around inside. That book about Garands and their maintenance will guide you on this. Another tidbit is: Be very careful when using a cleaning rod on this or any rifle. The muzzle end of the barrel opening is called a crown and the steel has a low Rockwell hardness, surprisingly. It is easy to catch an edge of the rod on this and knock the accuracy out into left field. I was lucky not to have hurt the crown before learning about it.
One more thing I noticed. Hot brass ejecting out of the receiver hits me in the right temple, cartwheeling across it in the blink of an eye. I am shooting left handed, after all. This leaves little semi-circular burn marks on my head. I must get a boonie hat to address this issue in the future.
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