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.
Many M1Cs were used during the Korean War—there was one order for Springfield Armory to convert over 3,000 M1 Garands to M1Cs—while 03A4 Springfields also saw service. The Marines used M1Cs with Kollmorgen 4x “MC-1” scopes, and these rifles were designated the USMC M1952 sniper rifles. During 1952 and 1953, Springfield Armory converted a large number—the first order totaled 14,325—of standard M1s to M1Ds. In the process of making these conversions, Springfield Armory had produced enough M1D barrels to allow conversion of many more M1 rifles at other ordnance facilities. The scopes used on these Korea-era M1Ds were M84s (similar to the M82s). These Korean War M1Ds used the same type of flash suppressor and cheekpad as the WWII M1Cs. One way to be sure that an M1D rifle is a correct U.S. ordnance conversion is to check the barrel for the drawing number “D7312575”.
After the Korean War, the M1D remained the principal Army sniper rifle until, at least, the early days of Vietnam. At that point the Marines were continuing to use their M1952s but soon switched to the M40 bolt-action sniper rifle based on the Remington 700. In 1969 the M21 sniping rifle, based on the M14, came into service with the Army. In Vietnam, ARVN troops were equipped with Garands and some M1D rifles. Special forces, also equipped with M1Ds, trained some of their indigenous allies to use these weapons as well. (Some of the M1D sniper rifles turned into the CMP came from special forces armories, where they had been stored since the Vietnam era.) Many Vietnam-era M1Ds were equipped with the T37 pronged flash suppressor, an improvement over the cone-shaped flash suppressor, which was known to adversely affect accuracy due to its attachment method. Demand for M1Ds was such that, during the early portion of the Vietnam War, ordnance depots converted quite a few M1 rifles to M1D configuration.
During the 1960s, when civil unrest was hitting many American cities, at least some M1D rifles were reportedly kept on-hand in National Guard and Army arsenals, for countersniping applications. By the end of the Vietnam War, the M1D was virtually retired, though a few may have been issued in the First Gulf War. In the 1990s some M1Ds were released for sale to civilian shooters through the CMP. When accompanied with CMP documentation, these rifles, as well as the few M1Cs that were also sold, are considered very desirable.
I only became a fan of the Garand a couple of years ago, when I did a book on the M1 Garand in the Osprey Weapon series. I had to shoot the Garand quite a bit and read the comments of many veterans who had used it. I came to appreciate its good points and now own a Garand that I shoot fairly often. I also handled M1C and M1D rifles and shot the M1D. I found the 2.2x scope did help me shoot it a little better than a standard Garand. To be honest, though, I wasn’t really impressed with it as a sniper rifle. I did, however, like the way it looked. The M1D has an aggressive martial appearance that I like. I think that and the fact it’s a Garand are why the weapon is so popular with collectors.