Jean Cantius Garand (pronounced “Garand” as in ‘Errand’) (1888 to 1974), known simply as John C. Garand, was born on a farm in St. Remi, Quebec, Canada. He moved with his family to Jewett City, Connecticut, in 1899. He is remembered as the firearms designer who created the famed U.S. M1 ‘Garand’ (again, rhymes with ‘Errand’) semi-automatic rifle. This capable weapon was widely used by both the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps in WWII and the Korean War.
As a young American immigrant, struggling to learn English, he worked in a textile mill sweeping floor. He soon became fascinated with firearms and learned to shoot while working also at a shooting gallery. Garand learned machinist skills while working at the textile mill, and was hired in 1909 by Browne and Sharp, a Providence, Rhode Island, tool making company. In 1916, he found employment with a New York tool manufacturing firm while also continuing to practice rifle marksmanship at the shooting galleries along Broadway. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1920.
Garand’s fascination with machinery and shooting resulted in a natural desire to design guns. With WWI impacting the U.S. in 1917, these factors all came together when the Army took bids for the design of a new light machine gun. Garand’s noteworthy Model 1919 design was selected by the War Department, too late for WWI, but laying the foundation for later development of an amazing follow-on design. Garand was hired by the U.S. Bureau of Standards in D.C. with the task of perfecting the weapon design at the Springfield Armory. Here he would work in his focused, innovative, and devoted manner until his retirement in 1953.
At the Springfield Armory, Garand designed a basic gas-operated, multi-shot, internal clip self-loading rifle. Upon firing, it ejected the spent .30 caliber cartridge and reloaded a new round using Garand’s unique gas-operated system. It took fifteen years for him to perfect this semi-automatic rifle design, but the effort was well worth it. What became known simply as ‘the Garand’ was practical, effective, reliable, and capable of mass production. It met all the U.S. Army specifications. The resulting Semiautomatic, Caliber .30, M1 Rifle was patented by Garand in 1932. It was approved by the U.S. Army in 1936, and on the eve of WWII, went into mass production in 1940. It replaced the reliable old bolt-action Model 1903 Springfield as the standard infantry rifle for the U.S. Over 4 million M1 Garand rifles were manufactured during WWII.
John Garand passed away in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1974. It should be noted that John Garand never received any royalties from his M1 rifle design despite over six and a half million M1 rifles being manufactured. In 1936 he transferred all rights regarding his inventions to the U.S. In 1941 he was awarded the Meritorious Civilian Service Award for his significant accomplishments at Springfield Armory. In 1973, he was inducted into the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps Hall of Fame for his inventive genius and engineering skills in the development of the M1 Garand. As stated in his citation:
“Due to his initiative and instinctive inventive genius, the U.S. soldier possessed a firepower advantage during World War II. His remarkable mechanical skill and singular determination resulted in the design of numerous tools, jigs, and gauges necessary for the production of the “Garand Rifle.” A remarkable engineering genius in the field of ordnance, his invaluable contributions served an important role in the history of World War II.”
The Garand Rifle proved to be an extremely effective and reliable weapon. No praise was better than that of General George Patton: “In my opinion, the M1 rifle is the greatest battle implement ever devised.”