Saturday, January 10, 2009

Shooting the Garand

Last week, I took our M-1 Garand out to a ravine in the woods to shoot
it. My goal was to get a feel for how the gun worked, and practice my
shooting. My mom was with me to take pictures and to watch. She was
paranoid about the gun, worrying about misfires or accidents, but I am
fairly certain that the most dangerous thing I did was to climb up and
down the ravine walls to set up the targets. They were poster-sized
thin paper targets, and I used sticks and old pencils to peg them into
the dirt face of the ravine.

I had two kinds of ammunition. I had four clips loaded with military
surplus full metal jacket ammunition, and two clips loaded with
jacketed soft point deer hunting ammunition. Each clip has eight
bullets, and I had loaded them all earlier.

I fired two rounds of the deer hunting ammunition, and then manually
ejected the clip. I quickly learned that when you eject a clip from a
Garand, the bullets all jump out and go everywhere. I also learned
that it is surprisingly difficult to find bullets in a forest floor
that is covered with dead leaves. I also verified that there will
still be a bullet loaded that must also be removed.

I then loaded a clip of the military surplus ammunition, fired three
bullets, and ejected that clip and removed the bullet. My mom and I
saw first-hand the the terminal ballistics difference between full
metal jacket ammunition and ammunition that deforms on contact. When
I hit a target with the deer hunting ammunition, the paper target
practically disintegrated, blown to pieces by the impact. But when I
shot the target with the military surplus ammunition, nothing seemed
to happen. My mom thought I had missed the target completely, but I
was sure that I had hit it. When I went to investigate, there was a
tiny little rip in the target, and a massive crater in the ravine wall
behind the target.

Then I tried to load the second clip of deer hunting ammunition, but
it would not load properly. I took the bullets out and loaded them
into another clip. That one worked, and I fired off the entire clip.

Some time during this process, I loaded a single bullet into the gun
without using a clip. But neither I nor my mom can say for sure
whether I actually fired that bullet. We are fairly sure that I did.
I bought 50 military surplus bullets, had 47 after the shooting
session, and remember firing 3. I bought 20 deer hunting bullets, hed
9 left after shooting, and remember firing 10 from the clips. This
means that I either shot one bullet, or lost it when the clip was

It is annoying that I may have left a round of live ammo on the forest
floor. I feel the pain of police who have to account for every
bullet. I was firing under a perfectly calm, controlled situation,
and I cannot definitively account for all of the rounds.

After the shooting, I retrieved nine of the casings, and I also
managed to dig five of the bullets out of the side of the ravine. All
of them were the deer-hunting ammo. I would have liked to find some
of the full metal jacket bullets to compare, but I could not get them;
they penetrated too deep into the dirt for me to find.

I am happy with my accuracy. I was only firing from about 30 yards,
but I almost always got the bullets within a few inches of where I
wanted them. Of course, it was often hard to tell, because both the
targets and the side of the cliff had a habit of suffering massive
damage from the bullet impact. In one case, I scratched a big X in
the side of the cliff with a stick. It was at least a foot in
diameter. After I fired, there was no trace of the X at all. The
bullet had left a deep hole at least an inch in diameter, while
disrupting the dirt in an area with a diameter of at least a foot. I
am fairly sure that I hit the center of the X, but there was no way to
know for sure.

After I got back, I cleaned and oiled the gun. Sometime weekend when
I am home, I will practice again. I will go to a longer distance, and
do a speed drill. I will fire two clips at a single point as quickly
as I can, without sacrificing safety. Then I will see what the
grouping looks like, and then hopefully I will be able to dig some of
the full metal jacket bullets out of the cliff face.

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