My love for the M1 Garand goes back quite awhile. I was a junior in high school when a classmate told me that the local gun club would lend me an M1 Garand that, for all intents and purposes, would be mine to shoot. It sounded too good to be true, but in short order I had obtained the phone number of Paul Stanley, the DCM (Department of Civilian Marksmanship) co-ordinator for the Lower Providence Rod & Gun Club in the suburban Philadelphia area.
Stanley was a World War II Army vet who still wore the military flattop haircut. I met him at the club one evening and he had me fill out a simple form, showed me how to disassemble the rifle and clean it, and gave me some rounds. Driving home that night, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Over the next couple years I received several calls from Stanley. Some calls were to make sure that I still had the rifle and didn’t have any problems with it and others were to tell me to come down to the club and pick up another bandoleer of ammunition.
There was a lot to like about that old rifle. It was as rugged and accurate, and didn’t kick me as hard as my Springfield ’03 rifle. That was especially important since I only weighed 140 pounds when I graduated from high school.
I learned to shoot it reasonably well and came to appreciate its design every time it was disassemb-led. I had an old copy of The Guidebook for Marines and studied it like it was one of my textbooks.
I learned how to use a sling and practiced the various shooting positions. I’d spend hours on end detail stripping the rifle and rubbing linseed oil into its already gleaming stock. Yep, I was smitten with my M1 Garand. It was an amazing piece of engineering and I held John Garand in the same high regard as I did John Browning. The responsibility of being its caretaker, discipline I learned shooting it and appreciation of its remarkable design made a lifelong impression on this shooter.
I had the rifle all the way through junior college. When I decided to transfer to the University of Arizona I called Stanley and told him I wanted to turn the rifle in. “Why don’t you take it with you,” he encouraged. But I didn’t feel right taking it so far from home and was uncertain what my dorm situation would be and turned it in.
Stanley gave the gun a cursory examin-ation and congratulated me on the condition of the rifle and its cleanliness. It was hard for me to turn that rifle over, I felt like I was leaving behind a good friend.
After college, the Marines help foster an appreciation for the M16 but it paled in comparison to my love for the Garand. Not long after my discharge I found a nice Garand and sent it off to Fulton Armory where they did a tech inspection and installed a Krieger barrel. With younger eyes and good ammo I was able to shoot groups under an inch at 100 yards.
Recently I was perusing an Internet gun auction site and stumbled across something that I found absolutely amazing. It is a cut down M1 Garand that its creator, Tim Shufflin, calls the Mini-G. This isn’t just another commercial version of the military’s never-issued Tanker Garand but something completely new.
Tim Shufflin, whose main business specializes in parkerizing and refinishing Garands, M1 carbines and 1903 Spring-fields, built his first Mini-G in 2008. According to Shufflin, his past Tanker Garand conversions were well received and his customers asked if he could cut them down even further. His father-in-law, Ron Sitzema, convinced him that the guns could be even shorter and eliminate the stubby 2-inch handguard that Tanker guns use.
“My father-in-law actually cut a scrap barrel down to 14 inches and we discovered that mathematically it was impossible to build a gun this short because of the op rod. You just don’t have enough room to give it the bends it needs to slide in and out of the gas cylinder. It did inspire me to go to 16.25 inches and it ran right away.”
The hardest part of this conversion is cutting the op rod down and re-bending it to work with the shorter barrel. At first, Shufflin tried using heat to bend the op rod but still couldn’t get the severe bend he needed to make the conversion work. With the first few prototypes he also relieved the bottom of the barrels so that the op rods would have clearance. But he knew there had to be a better way.
Shufflin then bought a bending ma-chine that normally is used to bend auto frames in the racecar industry. After modifying it for his own use Shufflin was able to give the op rods the bend they needed so that he would no longer need to relieve the barrels. The new machine allows him to bend the rods consistently and no heat is needed. Shufflin silver solders the gas piston cap onto the modified operating rod.
Other modifications needed for the Mini-G conversion are not as dramatic as the operating rod. Shufflin noted, “I had to make an entirely different op rod spring. The follower rod has to be ground down and then I affix a pin through it in order to accept the new op rod spring. I make my own gas piston (that’s silver soldered onto the end of the op rod).”
“I also have to grind the lower band because there’s not enough clearance to take the op rod with the shorter barrel length. I make a grind cut in the stock ferrule, there’s two tab that stick out of the stock ferrule.
I got rid of the bottom of the “U” and that allows it to fit with the gas cylinder. Because of the bends of the op rod the barrel channel has to be sanded quite a bit for clearance.”
As for barrels, Shufflin proudly notes that he uses tubes that others would normally throw out. “When I make a rifle from scratch I use barrels that most folks throw away. The only thing I care about is that the throats are under five (every number is a thousandth wear so that there would be no more than 0.005 wear on the barrel). When I cut them down I typically get about a one at the muzzle. That’s a great number to have. It’s a great way to salvage a barrel that otherwise would have been thrown out.”
The same holds true for the operating rods, “I find many op rods that have been heavily pitted on the gas cylinder end and most folks would have thrown those op rods out but I cut that portion off anyway. I try to salvage used parts that would have otherwise been thrown out,” said Shufflin.
One part that is not gov-ernment issued is the Schuster Gas Plug included with the Mini-G conversion. “The Schus-ter’s Plug enables you to shoot commercial ammunition out of any Garand. So, it’s a good idea to have on any Garand because it makes the receiver last longer. Every time you fire the Garand, the bolt hits the heel on the receiver, the more that you can lighten that blow the longer the receiver will last. It also takes stress off of the operating rod, bolt lugs and trigger group. By adjusting the volume of gas in the cylinder you change the velocity of the op-rod and the harmonics of the barrel.”
“As you unscrew the Allen set screw it you let more gas out. I do it because I want my rifles to last and because it is a hunting rifle and I want folks to be able to use the types of loads that they want to use,” said Shufflin. Schuster gas plugs are not just for this conversion. If you own an M1 Garand and would like to be able to shoot a wide variety of ammunition in it without possibly damaging the gun this device can be ordered from either midway-usa.com or brownells.com.
When the gun arrived the Schuster gas plug was backed all of the way out. Shufflin had advised me to keep turning the screw clockwise until the gun would function every time (should be five to six complete turns). I did that during one shooting session when I was chronographing the little Mini-G. But Shufflin advised me to tune the rifle by turning the setscrew in quarter increments until I found the rifle’s sweet spot. By the way, I took my M1 Garand out with the Mini-G to com-pare velocities from the 24-inch barrel versus the 16.25-inch barrel. What I discovered was that velocities averaged 9 percent less with the shorter gun.
With a good supply of ammunition, my PAST Recoil Shield and rifle rest, I was determined to see just what kind of accuracy I could wring from the Mini-G. I had a pretty good supply of old PMC 150-grain soft point ammo. I bought a case of this stuff back in 1985 and since then it has been stored in my garage where it has been as hot as 130 degrees and as cold as 10 degrees. I didn’t hold out a lot of hope for pinpoint accuracy but, like I said, I had a good supply of it.
My first group was 2.60 inches for five shots. I turned the screw four clicks clockwise and then fired another group. This one measured 2.18 inches. I knew that I was moving in the right direction and repeated this procedure and produced groups of 1.68 inches and 1.39 inches before firing my last group with this ammunition that measured just 1.08 inches. Shooting with my eyes and with my bifocals I figured that this was probably as good as I was going to get.
Shufflin had warned me ahead of time that this Mini-G would not be “match accurate” because he was using surplus barrels. To my way of thinking the person that this short rifle will appeal to won’t need it for pinpoint accuracy. Shufflin told me that the majority of his Mini-G customers are deer hunters that need a short yet pow-erful rifle that can punch through brush. For this use the Mini-G possesses plenty of accuracy. In fact, I am certain that the rifle is far more accurate than I am. The average group size for all four loads tried ran less than 1.5 inches.
But what really impressed me was the way that the cut-down rifle handled. As I mentioned, I grew up with a Garand in my hands and learned to love its balance. I didn’t think that I would like the abbreviated gun’s handling charac-teristics Those misgivings disappeared the first time I put the Mini-G to my shoulder. It balances wonderfully even though it does not have the Garand’s muzzle heavy balance. I set up an IPSC target at 20 yards and had no problem hitting it with double-taps with a split or time between shots of just 0.20 of a second. Shufflin’s conversion turns the military battle rifle into a short-range fast-handling carbine that is perfect for buck busting in timber.
Shufflin says that he currently builds about half of his Mini-G’s on customers’ gun and the other half are built from spare parts. “I can only get a hold of so many rifles,” said Shufflin and that limits his gun production. Cost on a customer’s gun is $525 complete and that includes Schuster’s Gas Plug and Parkerizing, and the shipping. Shufflin charges $1245 for a factory built Mini-G.
“The beautiful thing is that it takes a lot of work to put the rifle in the Mini-G configuration but to put it back to an M1 Garand all you need is to install a new barrel and op rod, and it will work fine. Just add your front handguard and no one would ever know. The best thing about that rifle is that it is fun to shoot, points beautifully and it’s available in .308 and .30-06.”
Shufflin also included a dual en bloc clip carrier for the Mini-G’s buttstock. It attaches easily and makes a handy way to carry a couple of extra reloads effortlessly. Shufflin’s Mini-G is so well executed that it was impossible to tell that this was not a production gun. In my line of work I have dealt with a num-ber of prototypes, one-offs and hand-built conversions. None of them have equaled Shufflin’s excellent cosmetics. Reliability and function of my test gun was also perfect. Find out more at shuffsparkerizing.com or call 517-896-0523.