The Guns of Garand, Part I — Primer Actuated Bugaboo
John Cantius Garand is perhaps one of the most important firearms designers in American history, inventor of the legendary M1 Garand, standard arm of the American infantryman during World War II and what Gen. Patton referred to as “The greatest battle implement ever devised”. Ironically, one of America’s most important gun designers was not American, but in fact French Canadian by birth, born Jean Garand (his last name rhyming with “errand”) on a small farm near St. Remy, Quebec in 1888. Garand was an avid hunter and target shooter who had a penchant for mechanics and machinery. In his early life he worked as an engineer for various textile mills and tool companies. In 1917 he was appointed as a designer for the US Bureau of Standards, later becoming a firearms designer for Springfield Armory, then the national armory for the US Military.
The first Garand design was a light machine gun called the Model 1919.
Patented on Sept. 5th, 1919, the M1919 was a light machine gun that was similar in concept to the M1917 Browning Automatic Rifle. The M1919 was fully automatic and featured a 20 or 30 round detachable magazine. The M1919 utilized a primer actuated blowback system in which the primer was allowed to move back slightly, and in so doing, it was to transmit this motion through the firing pin to an actuator which would open the breech and extract the empty cartridge, after which the gun would be reloaded by the action of a spring which had been compressed during the first motion.
The US Army was impressed with Garand’s design, however they did not adopt it due to their acceptance of the M1917 Browning Automatic Rifle. Thus, Springfield Armory encouraged Garand to modify the M1919 into a semi automatic infantry rifle. A year later, Garand introduced the M1920, a lightweight semi automatic version of the M1919 featuring a turning bolt of his own design.
The new M1920 was more compact and lighter than the M1920, and featured either a 20 or 30 round detachable magazine, or a clip fed box magazine. His next model, the M1921 was designed to be more in line with military specifications for an infantry rifle at the time. It featured a fixed 5 round box magazine. More importantly Garand did away with the turnbolt action of the M1920, replacing it was a straight action which locked at the rear.
The final Garand model was the M1923, also designated the M1924, which was a culmination of all his previous work, made to be lighter and easier to produce using less expensive materials.
Overall John Garand’s primer actuated system was successful, however, after the development of the M1921, the US Army changed the type of gun powder in the .30-06 cartridge, the standard infantry cartridge of the time. As a result, the new .30-06 cartridge did not work with his line of primer actuated firearms. After five years of work, all of his designs were rendered completely useless. Garand decided to abandon his primer actuated action, and in frustration went back to the drawing board.
John stood idly as he watched the mechanics at work, tinkering with this and that on one of their more…interesting experiments; teleportation technology. They were currently adjusting the settings on their first test subject; a man-sized, empty crate. Once they had everything set up they switched it on; energy crackled as the machine sparked to life, machinery whirring urgently.
Little did anybody know something weird was going to happen.