The M-1 Garand may have been a fine battle rifle, but as a target rifle straight from the box it is not competitive. It is common for a CMP issue rifle to shoot 3 MOA or worse. There are, however, several steps that can be taken to help the accuracy. Unlike working on an AR-15 where accuracy can be substantially improved by slapping on a free float tube with a few simple tools, working on a Garand is an exercise in patience and care. It is accurate to say that there is not just one "project" involved, but a whole series of projects to make the gun shoot well. While some of the projects can be done in 15 minutes, others take an entire weekend. While there are only a couple of simple tools, plus a Dremel tool, required to accurize the Garand, the average person should plan on spending the better part of two or three weekends or more working on the rifle for just the basic bedding. The results should reduce group size sufficiently to make the rifle generally competitive for the high power matches, but it will rarely result in a rifle that stands shoulder to shoulder with the AR-15. Bedding the rifle, as well as most of the other "match" improvements like a new NM front sight, etc. will also render the rifle unqualified to shoot the John C. Garand matches, which requires an unmodified Garand, but you will be able to shoot it as a "service rifle" or "match rifle" category. With the large numbers of Garands in circulation, and with the cost of a decent Garand being less than 1/2 that of an AR, accurizing a Garand is an inexpensive way to get into the high power game and spending the time to make them shoot better is worth the time and effort. To give you an idea of how well these guns can shoot with a top-notch barrel and fully accurized, the Fulton Armory Peerless Grade guarantees sub MOA using Federal Gold Medal match ammunition. While you are unlikely to achieve this using the GI barrel on your CMP rifle, getting your rifle to shoot close to MOA should be your Holy Grail. With a VAR barrel on a Danish issue Garand from the CMP and shooting 168 grain Sierra bullets riding on top of 46.0 grains of IMR 4895 powder, I was able to get my group size down to just under 1 1/2 MOA from 3 MOA when I started, which is a very significant reduction for a home gunsmithing project.
This will be a multi-series article about accurizing your M1 Garand.
The information presented in this article assumes familiarity with basic gunsmithing and safe gun handling principles. The use of improper procedures may result in the creation of dangerous conditions and may result in severe injury or death. Any questions should be referred to a competent gunsmith. Neither the writer nor Sniper Country assumes any liability whatsoever for the readers application or use of any of the information contained herein and all work is done at the sole risk and expense of the reader.
First, you need to acquire a Garand. The best way to do this is to shoot one of the Garand matches (or other high power matches or clinics) using the State Rifle & Pistol Association loaned Garands. This then qualifies you to purchase one of the Garand rifles from the Civilian Marksmanship Program, so long as you have met the citizenship and other requirements. Those requirements are set forth on the application provisions of the CMP website. I recommend you purchase a Service Grade or a Danish issue Service Grade rifle and if you can get it, a Danish issue Service Grade with a VAR barrel. It will cost about $450 with shipping for the Danish issue, which are just fine. You won't get a 'pristine' rifle, but you will get one that has a barrel throat erosion of 5 or less, which should give you good service for the 4-5,000 rounds of useful barrel life. Unless you are interested in substantially increasing the cost and truly building a match rifle from the get go, do NOT purchase just a receiver and expect to get a parts kit later. If you do purchase a receiver, you should plan on sending it to Fulton Armory or Krieger for the installation and headspacing of the barrel, which will add about $550 to the price of the rifle, before you get the other parts. The other parts will add approximately another $500, so by the time you are done, you will have sunk around $1200 into the rifle -- which is an awfully lot for a rifle that is barely competitive. Likewise, don't bother purchasing one of the re-imported rifles from Korea or elsewhere. You will be very disappointed at the results. A word of caution here. The rule of thumb is that each 1,000 rounds shot through the barrel adds one point on the erosion gauge. Thus, 5,000 rounds shot will gauge approximately 5 on the erosion gauge. Since the CMP only guarantees their Service Grade to gauge a 5 or less, you may get a new barrel or one that has 5,000 rounds through it or something in-between. You may be better off by getting a rack grade rifle, shooting it for fun and after a couple of thousand rounds, sending it to Fulton Armory for installation of a new barrel from the outset. Of the Garands that I have bought from the CMP, however, each one has gauged a 3 or less. With a 3 or less, you have plenty of barrel life to get involved in the high power game, before you will need to change barrels. And, in point of fact, there is nothing magic about the 5. Some barrels simply shoot good for well past the 5.
At the same time you order your Garand, order the following two publications. The M-1 Rifle, PB 01660 for $3.95, available from the NRA on-line store under Books, Reprints, and Roy Baumgardner's, Precision Shooting the M1 Garand, available from Brownells for $12.95 (Part # 113-000-003). Those two publications will provide detailed, but somewhat dated, instructions on using and accurizing your Garand. They will, however, become your bible.
If you plan on bedding your Garand (and don't want to shoot it in the John C. Garand matches), you should also order the following Brownell tools. You will need them to do the bedding. Spacer and U-Bar $31.08 (Part # 080-727-001). You can fabricate these yourself, but unless you have a mill, it is not worth your trouble. I fabricated mine with a hand file from a 1" piece of aluminum ¼" strip and a 3/16th steel rod. It just took a long time and three tries to get the spacer right. While you are at it, you might as well order an Accuracy Speaks match front sight for $30.00 (Brownells part #851-100-101) and since you have spent your hard earned money on getting a good front sight, spend another $10 to get a front sight protector (Brownells part # 100-000-323). While you are awaiting your rifle's 60-90 day delivery from the CMP, you might as well also order a single shot adaptor (Brownells part # 100-000-399 for $29.95 or Fulton Armory "SLED" for $11.95). While at the Fulton site, you might also want to order a dry fire device so you can practice dry firing your Garand at home without damaging any of the parts. The dry fire device is $9.95. You will need a single shot adaptor to shoot single shots to minimize the possibility of a "slam fire". A word about slam fires. The Garand and the M1A each have a free-floating firing pin. (The AR has this same feature, but is less of a problem although theoretically, it is possible to have a slam fire with an AR as well for the same reason). That means that as the bolt slams home into battery, it is possible for the firing pin to have sufficient velocity that it hits and ignites the primer before the bolt locks up, with disastrous consequences. The single round load adaptor or SLED, slows down the bolt to lessen that possibility. Also, while on this subject, NEVER use regular primers in reloaded ammo for shooting in the M1 Garand or M1A. You should ALWAYS use mil-spec primers. Right now, the only manufacturer is CCI. The designation is CCI Military Large Rifle #34 primers. You can get them from Wideners for about $102 for 5,000. Those primers have a harder "shell", making them less prone to slam fire ignition. Also, when reloading any rounds, but particularly for the M1 Garand, make sure the primer is well seated and does NOT protrude from the case, or you will substantially increase the likelihood of a slam fire.
Because most of the CMP stocks are pretty oily, you might also want to purchase a replacement stock for your Garand (Boyds is making a decent replacement stock for around $80), or you might want to go with a synthetic stock (Brownells # 231-001-100) for around $70. A word of caution. The synthetic stocks are not legal for the Garand matches and I have no experience about whether they will hold a bed. My general impression is that bedding a synthetic stock is "iffy" at best. You are better off getting a fresh wood stock. It is not, however, essential to get a replacement stock to have a successful accurizing job.
Now for the bedding compound. I recommend Brownells Steel Bed kit which runs about $36.90 (Part # 081-040-003), but ONLY if you have experience in bedding your own rifles. If not, I recommend you use Brownells AccuraGlas kit (part # 081-003-002 $16.70) or AccuraGel. The reason for this, is that the steel bed will give a much stronger and long-lasting job, but it is a bit more difficult to use due to the grainy nature of the steel particle fillers, which can tear the release agent on the action, resulting in a disastrous glue job. Also, the Steel Bed will not take a dye as readily as regular AccuraGlas. Both give good results, however. But be forewarned. A mistake with either compound can be disastrous.