Collecting and Restoring The M1 Garand


Joe Poyer and Craig Riesch

Do You Have the Correct . . .

One of the most popular collectible firearms in recent years has been the M1 Garand of World War II and Korean War fame. The M1 Garand was the most advanced battle rifle at the beginning of World War II and gave the American soldier unsurpassed fire power throughout the war. Again in Korea, the rugged M1 Garand proved its worth in the summer heat and winter ice.

It remained the U.S. Army's first line weapon until the late 1950s when it was replaced by the short-lived M14 and then the M16. But it remained a reserve weapon well into the 1970s. That, coupled with an early 1950's federal law forbidding the commercial re-import of firearms that had been shipped overseas as military aid, severely limited the supplies of M1 Garands to collectors during the Cold War years.

But in 1986, Congress passed a bill -- quickly signed by then-President Ronald Reagan -- which allowed the importation and sale to collectors of military firearms manufactured before 1945. Even Senator Ted Kennedy testified in support of this bill as these heavy, old and cumbersome (by modern standards) battle rifles were not considered likely to be used to commit crimes.

The bill opened entirely new fields for collectors and the M1 Garand zoomed to stardom. Before 1986, M1 Garands available to collectors were those brought back from the battlefields of World War II and Korea, plus a few thousand made available annually to match shooters through the Director Civilian Marksmanship. Now, all those rifles which were not part of an original lend-lease shipment to foreign allies began to appear on the market place -- a bonanza for collectors. They can readily be identified by the fact that the importer's name is stamped on the rifle, usually on the barrel, but some also on the receiver.

M1 Garands Return Home

M1 Garands came home from all over the world -- from South Korea, Israel, Greece, various Latin American countries and Europe. Thousands of M1 Garands in storage in the United Kingdom were released for export, marked with British proofs and shipped out. Suddenly the collector market was flooded and the old battle rifle could be purchased for as low as $229.00 at one point.

At about the same time, the M1 Garand found a second life with match shooters. A .30-06 M1 Garand properly bedded and barreled, with match sights, could hold its own with the M14/M1A or the M16/AR15 match rifle any day, at any range up to 1,000 yards. The author has proved this to his own satisfaction with his own Armory-built Type 3 National Match M1 Garand and with an M1 Garand match rifle built by custom gunsmith Jim Gronning, C&J Gunsmithing of Riverside, California.

But most of the M1 Garands returning to the United States after absences of up to fifty years served long and hard during the Cold War. From front-line battle rifles, they moved down the line, serving in succession as second line support weapons, training weapons and finally dumped into storage. Depending on the military service and their budget, these fine weapons were cleaned and stored properly or just stacked in corners.

How Original Are those M1 Garands

The vast majority of M1 Garands have undergone refurbishment and upgrading -- and those used for training, frequent repairs and parts replacements -- which left them with few original parts. It is highly unlikely that any M1 Garand that served in the European, Alaskan, North African or Pacific Theaters escaped at least one refurbishment. Battlefields are hard on men and just as hard on weapons. Wood and metal tend to dent, splinter, rust and corrode when exposed to unremitting rain and snow, are carried, dragged, dropped, bumped against any number of obstacles, whether used in combat, stored in racks between guard mounts, carried in vehicles and dropped from aircraft as part of the paratrooper's load or in cargo containers.

Anyone who has experienced basic training will laugh at the idea that an M1 Garand issued in 1942 will retain any of its original parts three years later after having been dragged through the mud, cleaned a thousand times or more, taken apart, parts tossed on a blanket in the squad bay and reassembled, day after day, month after month.

After the liberation of Belgium in the fall of 1944, depots were moved from England whose sole purpose was the refurbishment of battle weapons. Rifles picked up on the battlefield, sent in by unit armorers and those rotated off the line, were shipped to these depots where they were disassembled, cleaned, repaired, parts upgraded, restocked and returned to the line. At the end of the war, a concerted effort was made in both the European and Pacific theaters to refurbish every battle rifle that could be found. Similar activities took place at the Springfield National Armory and in smaller depots around the Continental United States.

So, the M1 Garand that you purchased at your local gun shop or gun show is probably far removed from the rifle that left the factory. In many cases, only the receiver is original and it has probably been refinished at least once. If you are exceptionally lucky, it still retains its original barrel.

The M1 Garand as Military Aid

How many countries has your M1 Garand served. During World War II, M1 Garands were shipped to all our major allies -- Great Britain, Nationalist China and all Latin American allied belligerents. After their liberation, we reequipped the entire Free French Army, then did the same for Belgian, Philippine and some Italian forces. Allied fighting forces from occupied countries included those from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Greece. In the immediate aftermath of the war. M1 Garands were furnished to Norway, Denmark, Italy, the Japanese Defense Forces, South Korea and the new States of Israel. Some of these rifles were returned in later years and more were shipped during the Cold War as military aid. How many hundreds of thousands of the 6 million M1 Garands were sent overseas as military aid will probably never be known. Meanwhile, those M1 Garands that served with U.S. forces saw service from the Korean peninsula to the Dominican Republic before being retired. A very few were supplied to civilian match shooters through the Director of Civilian Marksmanship program and many hundreds of thousand more were destroyed, cut up with torches or band saw, or crushed and sold for scrap metal. So, as a rule of thumb, any M1 Garand marked with an importer's stamp has probably had the vast majority of its parts replaced.

DCM M1 Garands

Those M1 Garands without importer's marks were probably obtained through the Civilian Marksmanship Program which has been releasing M1 Garands since the early 1960s. As these rifles were prepared by various Army installations and had to be "serviceable" they will have been refurbished and parts upgraded to the latest standard at the time of the rifle's shipment. In the early 1980s, one of the author's received a very nice M1 Garand manufactured in September 1943. Most of the parts were correct for its period of manufacture with the exception of the front sight, gas cylinder, operating rod and trigger assembly. These parts had been upgraded to the latest specifications. Fortunately, barrel and stock were correct for the period of manufacture. But at that time, the pool of M1 Garand parts that later formed, did not exist nor was there a great deal of data to help the collector.

Today, a huge inventory of spare parts exists in this country and literally hundreds of dealers can supply you with whatever you need. Since the mid-1980s, many collectors have restored numerous M1 Garands to original configuration at relatively low cost. Our book, "The M1 Garand, 1956 to 1957," published by North Cape Publications as part of their "For Collector's Only®" series, shows you how to do likewise.

The following paragraphs, excerpted from the book, will provide a quick overview of the process of restoring an M1 Garand.

Restoring an M1 Garand

Restoration starts with an examination of the receiver (Figure 1), not only for serviceability and safety, but for its markings. It was the practice of the U.S. Army's Ordnance Corps to mark a drawing number, which also served as a part number, on most major parts of battle rifles until the end of the Korean War. The drawing number was preceded by a letter, A, B, C or D which related to the size of the part's engineering drawing. For instance, the drawing number for the original M1 Receiver was D28921. The "D" indicated that the engineering drawing was done on a 22 by 34 sheet of paper and the number was a sequential value assigned to the part; the Alphanumeric designation served to identify both the part and its drawing in case a problem arose in manufacture or use and the part needed to be redesigned or in any other way altered. In succeeding years, as engineering and manufacturing changes were made to any part, the drawing number was modified by a sequential suffix, i.e., -1, -2 etc. The M1 receiver was altered 43 times during its period of manufacture.

Sub-contractors building the M1 were also required to follow this same practice. Those receivers manufactured by Winchester were marked either with the suffix "-2" or "WIN-13." Post-World War II Garands manufactured by outside contractors International Harvester and Harrington & Richardson used the part number "D652891-42" through "-N" and "652891" through "D-652891-E."

For the collector, these numbers and their suffixes make it possible to determine the receiver's period of manufacture. For instance, a receiver with the serial number 1,823,965 and a drawing number D28291-29 would have been manufactured at the Springfield National Armory between July and August 1944, in the serial range 1,765,200 to 1,900,000.

Of course, it is possible to check the serial number stamped on the back of the receiver to determine the period of manufacture. But in the 1950s and 1960s when M1 Garands were very scarce collector's items, receivers that had been demilitarized -- cut or torched in half -- and sold for scrap metal, were rewelded by enterprising gunsmiths and reassembled as original rifles. By comparing the drawing number and the serial number, you can go a very long way quickly toward eliminating the possibility that a particular rifle is one of the "dreaded" (to a collector) rewelds.

The Problem of Barrels

The drawing number in combination with the serial number also makes it possible to validate other parts as original or replacement. For instance, the vast majority of M1 Garand barrels (figure 2) were also marked with part numbers and dated. A barrel dated "8-44" on our s/n #1,823,965 receiver would be correct but not if its drawing numbers was D35448W.R.A. The drawing number indicates that the barrel was made by Winchester. And since Winchester did not date their World War II barrels, someone has obviously added the date in an effort to mislead.

The problem of matching correct barrels and receivers becomes trickier after late 1944. As a stockpile of barrels was slowly built up, we find that barrel dates can lag at least three months behind. A Springfield M1 Garand receiver manufactured and serial numbered in January 1945 could have had an original barrel installed that was manufactured as early as October, 1944.

Serial numbers and "drawing" number validation can be applied to other parts of the rifle such as the trigger housing. There are fifteen variations of the trigger housing manufactured by Springfield, five manufactured by Winchester during World War II, two by International Harvester and only one by Harrington & Richardson after World War II. Differences are fairly minor but of great importance when restoring an M1 Garand.

The trigger housing, like most other parts in the M1 Garand has a drawing number but not a serial number. The correct trigger housing for our hypothetical M1 Garand, serial # 1,823,965 would show drawing number D28290-12-SA indicating that it was the twelfth change made to the trigger housing and was manufactured at the Springfield National Armory. Trigger housings with this drawing number were installed on all M1 Garands manufactured at Springfield between circa serial numbers 1,010,000 to 3,300,00. Its distinguishing characteristics are a cloverleaf-shaped hole in the upper left side and a raised area of metal called a "pad" near the top left edge and directly under the top arm of the safety.

One other consideration in selecting a proper barrel concerns shooting. If you plan to shoot your M1 Garand and want an accurate barrel, you need to select one that hasn't been "shot out." You can perform a quick check without expensive gages using a .30-06 cartridge. Insert the bullet into the muzzle. The rifling should grip the bullet tightly while leaving a 1/16 inch gap between the rifling and the neck of the brass cartridge case. If the case touches the end of the muzzle, then the bore is gone, and with it, accuracy.

Rear Sights

What about the rear sights. Collectors are always fussing about the rear sights on the M1 Garand. The rear sight assembly has five parts you need to worry about 1) aperture, 2) base, 3) cover, 4) windage knob and 5) elevation knob and pinion. See Figure 3 for both the windage (A) and elevation knobs (B) which are the most important elements.

How do you know your rifle has the correct rear sight particularly when you realize that neither drawing number nor the serial number was marked on the individual parts. Basically, there are four combinations of these parts to make the rear sight and they are distinguished primarily, but not completely, by the way the windage knob was manufactured and secured. In the early rear sight, the windage knob could be removed by screwing out the windage knob flush nut. Soldiers complained that the knob often came loose and allowed changes in windage, or else fell off altogether and it or its spring or lost.

To remedy this, the Ordnance Department replaced the flush nut with a lock bar that could be tightened down and held in position by a spring. The problem with this arrangement was that if a soldier had to make a windage adjustment quickly, he often could not do without a tool to loosen the lock bar.

To solve this problem, the Ordnance Department ordered the locking bar to be replaced with the original flush nut but one that was held captive on the windage knob shaft so that it could not fall off. This solved the problem but this fix was not applied until World War II had ended.

The fourth type of rear sight, by the way, was that developed for the National Match M1 Garands. It has the captive flush nut but windage adjustments are made in increments of 1/2 minute of angle. To accomplish this, the thread on the shaft is double that on the normal M1 windage knob shaft.

Those Darned Stocks

Perhaps the most commonly confused phase of restoring an M1 Garand has to do with the stock. There are fourteen variations of the M1 Garand stock that have to do with the style and length of the barrel channel, the shape of the pistol grip and the routing for the trigger guard assembly. And then there are the different stock markings which involve inspector's acceptance marks and proof marks. Until about September 1953, Ordnance Department inspectors stamped the left side of M1 Garand stocks with a cartouche that included their initials and the initials of the Springfield National Armory or the manufacturing company, if a contract item.

There were five Springfield inspectors and three Winchester inspectors during World War II (one Winchester inspector appears in two forms). After September 1953, a cartouche of the National Defense Eagle was substituted and so appears on all International Harvester and Harrington & Richardson M1 Garand stocks.

But complicating matters no end, refurbished rifles during and after World War II also had a cartouche applied to their stocks -- mostly refinished or newly manufactured -- that consisted of the inspector's initials and the initials of the facility in which the refurbishment was done. In most cases, they are very similar to those applied to original rifles.

The following table should help to end some of the confusion surrounding the stocks and illustrate how serial numbers and markings can work hand-in-hand to identify a particular rifle for restoration.

M1 Garand-Stock Marking Identification Guide

Springfield National Armory Production 1

Barrel Date Stock Cartouche 1,2 Size inches6 Serial Number Range
1936 - 1940 S.A./S.P.G. 0.72 x0.85 81-78,000 approx
9/40 - 6/1942 S.A./G.H.S. 0.72 x 0.79 78,000 - 700,000
6/1942 - 7/1943 S.A./E.McF.5 0.72 x 0.83 700,000 - 1,860,000
7/1943 - 10/1944 S.A./G.A.W.5 0.72 x 0.83 1,860,00 - 3,200,000
10/1944 - 11/1945 S.A./N.F.R.5 0.72 x 0.83 3,200,000 - 3,890, 000

Reconditioning Period 1 (WWII and 1946-1948)

11/45 - 12/47 S.A./S.H.M. 0.72 x 0.83 Any prior serial number
8/47 - 5/50 S.A./S.P.G. 0.72 x 0.857 Any prior serial number-questionable

Korean War and Later Springfield Production 2

7/50 - 9-10/53 S.A./J.L.G. 0.72 x 0.82 4,200,000 - 4,320,000 to 4,350,000
9-10/53-end of production Defense Eagle3 0.5 x 0.5 4,320,000-4,350,000 to end of production

Arsenal Rebuilding Identification

Any barrel date S.A./C or F,O,R,S,T and W 0.9 x 0.9 Any serial number

Winchester Production

Undated4 W.R.A./R.S. 1.0 x 1.0 100,101 - 120,000
Undated4 W.R.A./W.B. (W.B. boxed) 1.0 x 1.0 120,000 - 130,000
Undated4 W.R.A./W.B. (W.B. unboxed) 1.0 x 1.0 130,000 - 1,357,473
Undated4 W.R.A./G.H.D. 0.8 x 0.8 1,358,000 - 2,655,982 (including Win-13)

International Harvester Production

LMR 1953-1956 Defense Eagle 0.5 x 0.5 4,400,000 - 5,200,000

Harrington & Richardson Production

HRA 1953 - 1956 Defense Eagle

0.375 x 0.375

0.5 x 0.5

4,600,000 - 5,700,000

1 Cartouches are shown in Table 24A.

2 As World War II was coming to a close, thousands of M1 Garands were rebuilt and refurbished to eliminate battle damage. These will show a mix of parts but are desirable to collectors because they are true battle rifles. They will usually show the initials of the arsenal doing the rebuilding stamped in the stock. Those stocks replaced by "Post Armorers" will not show any markings.

3 Beginning in September-October 1953, the Defense Eagle Acceptance stamp replaced the cartouche containing the initials of the Springfield Armory and its commander.

4 Winchester barrels were undated but can be identified by the part number--WRA D35448--stamped in script form on top of the barrel under the rear hand guard. The only dated Winchester barrels were made in the 1960s as replacement barrels.

5 The Ordnance Department acceptance stamps (crossed cannons) 0.131 inches in diameter from breech to bore, will be found on the bottom of the M1 Garand pistol grip on stocks late in the E.McF. series and all through the G.A.W. and into the early N.F.R. series. It will often be found on arsenal rebuilt stocks as well.

6 Sizes will vary 0.01-0.02 inches due to density of wood, depth of strike and wear.

7 Stanley P. Gibbs assisted in proofing M1 rifles undergoing rebuild during this period.

The information supplied in this article will help get you started restoring your M1 Garand to its original World War II, Korean War or Cold War state. For detailed information on restoring this famous rifle in all its parts, serial numbers by date of manufacture, drawing (part) numbers by serial number range, accessories issued to the troops, the rifle's history, model variations including the theM1C and M1D sniper rifles, lend-lease and military aid rifles, National Match Rifles and those M1 Garands rechambered for the 7.62 x 51 NATO cartridge, please consult the book "M1 Garand 1936 to 1957," by Joe Poyer and Craig Riesch. The M1 Garand is, without a date, the most historical artifact that you can legally own from World War II and it deserves to be made whole again.


"The M1 Garand 1936 to 1957" by Joe Poyer and Craig Riesch is published by and available from North Cape Publications, PO Box 1027F, Tustin CA 92781 at $19.95 per copy, plus $2.50 postage (Priority Mail $4.10). CA residents please add 7.75% sales tax. Use the link to the order form or phone toll free 1-800 745-9714.

Orders can also be placed by FAX at 1-714 832-5302. A complete list of books published by North Cape is available on their internet web site at:

All major credit cards are accepted and dealer inquiries are invited.