Early in World War II it had become apparent that U.S. troops needed a sniper rifle, but little time was devoted to developing a version of the M1 Garand that could serve that purpose. Production capability was devoted to producing enough infantry Garands to supply the burgeoning U.S. Army and Marine Corps. Accordingly, the M1903A4, a sniper variant of the M1903A3, was developed as a stopgap, while the Marines used their own version of the M1903A1 Springfield for sniping.
The Ordnance Department’s Experimental Division did, however, continue work on a Garand sniping rifle. A major problem was the Garand’s loading system, which used an eight-round en bloc clip loaded from the top. As a result, a scope could not be mounted conventionally above the receiver. The solution was to mount a scope offset to the Garand’s left side, and an experimental rifle, the M1E6, proved that a side-mounted scope would work. The experimental M1E7 used the 2.2x Lyman Alaskan “M73” scope and the Griffin & Howe side mount, the latter of which had been widely used by big-game hunters and allowed the scope to be quickly detached and reattached without loss of zero (theoretically). Both the mount and telescope were well proven in the field by big-game hunters.
The M1E7 had passed field-testing, but the Infantry Board wanted a sniper rifle that did not require modifications to the M1’s receiver, as was the case with the M1E7. John Garand, inventor of the M1, met this specification in the M1E8, by designing a mounting block that attached to the rear of the barrel and did not require any alteration to the receiver. The Infantry Board deemed both the M1E7 and M1E8 satisfactory, with the M1E7 considered somewhat sturdier.
M1C & M1D Snipers
In July 1944, the M1E7 was standardized as the “U.S. Rifle, Caliber .30, M1C,” and for it two versions of the Lyman M73 scope were adopted: the M81 (crosshair reticle) and the M82 (post reticle). For military use, a sliding sunshade was added to the front of the scope and a rubber eyepiece to the rear. But due to the scope being offset, it was difficult for the shooter to get a good cheekweld. So in October 1944, a leather cheekpad with felt inserts for adjusting thickness was adopted as the T4. Also developed for the M1C was a funnel-shaped flash suppressor designated the “Hider, Flash, M2.”
Since the M1E8, with the mounting block attached to its barrel, allowed Garands to be more readily altered to sniper configuration, the M1E8 was adopted as the M1D in September 1944 and designated the “Substitute Standard.” No M1Ds were actually produced during WWII. But by late 1944, M1C sniper rifles were being manufactured: Springfield Armory, which was producing Garands, sent receivers to Griffin & Howe to be drilled for the scope bases; then the receivers and bases were returned to Springfield Armory for heat-treatment. By the end of 1944, various delays had prevented the M1C from entering full production. The target had been to get 11,000 M1Cs into combat by June 1945, but only 4,960 were delivered by that time with a total of 7,971 M1Cs delivered by war’s end. Few M1Cs actually saw combat before Japan’s surrender.