The CMP Expert Grade 308 M1 Garand: Detailed Review
It’s been 8 months since I received and quickly published my initial overview of the CMP Expert grade M1 Garand which at the point this article is being published is the only M1 Garand available for purchase from the CMP (and only in 30-06). Originally I wanted this review to be a comparison between the Garand in 308 and how it stacks up with the Big 3 Cold War battle rifles- the FAL, the PTR/HK 91, and the M14/M1A. However, the lion’s share of this review ended up being related specifically to the ammunition related issues I’ve had getting it working reliably.
For those interested in just the general outline of this gun regardless of caliber, here is a link to my Part 1 article here: https://www.kommandoblog.com/2021/11/29/cmp-expert-grade-m1-garand-review/
The first time shooting this Garand, I confirmed lubrication was present on the moving parts, loaded up a combination of Malaysian L2A2 (40 rounds), Privi Partizan M80 (20 rounds), and Magtech 7.62 NATO (40 rounds) ammo in both new production and older surplus en blocs and took out to my usual shooting spot to try out. This first range trip was fairly disappointing. I was getting pretty consistent failures to feed across both ammo and clip types. The chambered round would fire, eject the spent case, recock the hammer, and then fail completely to pick up the next round, resulting in a click with the next pull of the trigger. When starting out, this happened with every round but towards the end of the day, it would only happen on the first 3-4 rounds then the final 4-5 rounds would pick up and shoot semi auto as intended. I walked away that day thinking maybe I had an issue with the op rod spring or that the gun needed to be more generously lubed.
I decided to reach out to the CMP directly just to ask and was again disappointed by their response. The gunsmith I spoke to on the phone told me very quickly after running through my experience with him that the issue was I was running 7.62 ammo in a 308 gun and the 7.62 didn’t have enough oomph to cycle the action completely. The main reason this caught me off guard was most of my research up to this point on 308 Garand reliability was done on 308 CMP Special grades which used the exact same barrels that were used on my Expert grade and 7.62 ball was universally accepted in these guns as the standard ammo people with Special grades were using.
Knowing I wasn’t likely going to get much more help from the CMP (since strictly speaking, they DO sell these as 308 rifles and make no guarantees they will work with 7.62×51), I decided to turn to a few other Garand builders and ask their opinions. I reached out to Michael at Orion 7 (https://www.m1garand.com) as well as the Tony at Garand Guy (http://garandguy.com) who both recommended opening up the .093 gas port on my Criterion barrel to either .099 using a #39 drill bit or .106 using a #36 bit. The latter is the size of a Navy MK2 gas port which many have stated is a bit over gassed for a Garand, but would certainly cycle whatever crappy surplus you wanted to put through it. My 7.62 ammo of choice pre COVID was L2A2 surplus from Malaysia but since that’s been harder to find, I’ve stuck with good quality boxer primed brass cased stuff I can save to reload at a later date so my thought was if push came to shove I would try the .099 port size first.
Since the prospect of drilling the barrel on my brand new rifle didn’t fill me with a lot of enthusiasm, I decided to try a few non-permanent changes first. First I completely field stripped the rifle, removed the magazine spacer (designed to prevent the loading of a longer 30-06 filled clip) just in case the rounds were rubbing on in when chambering, and re-lubed everything more generously.
Next I decided to try a variety of different ammos to see how they would perform. Over the course of 3 different range trips I tried 9 different 7.62/308 loads not counting the L2A2 and PPU M80 I shot at my first range trip:
-Magtech CBC 7.62 Ball
-Aguila 7.62 Ball
-IMI 7.62 Ball
-GGG 7.62 Ball
-PPU Rangemaster 7.62 Ball
-Winchester White Box 7.62 Ball
-Monarch (steel cased) 308
The only loads that were able to work 100% were Aguila, IMI, and the two 308 loads, the rest continued the same issue from my first range day, failing to pick up and feed the first 3-4 rounds. Despite the fact that the Aguila is what I have by far the most of, with a success rate of less than 50% across the board with similar 7.62 NATO loads, I decided to grit my teeth and just drill the damn gas port.
Gas port and stock work
My local hardware store didn’t have a #39 bit, the closest they had was a 2.5mm which is slightly smaller at .0984 instead of .0995 diameter. I completely disassembled the Garand, noticing my light layer of grease I applied had picked up some dirt but was still working as it should and separated the stock pieces for a tung oil finish. I noted with dismay that the gas plug was not installed tight and I only barely needed the special brass wrench to get it off. Another possible issue but at this point I couldn’t stomach doing another small incremental test and have to throw more ammo away for the same result. Plus I was sure it was tight when I received it and it still failed to cycle reliably on the first range day. I was resolved that drilling was the right move.
That step took little to no time at all as a vise, power drill, and a little wooden dowel stuck down the bore to catch the bit from going too far was all that was needed. I decided to keep the barreled action separate for a week while I applied the tung oil I bought in a kit years ago from GarandGear for a different project.
I tweaked the instructions a bit partially due to my time crunch of starting the refinishing on a Sunday and needing it back together and ready to shoot by the following Saturday when I was planning on going to the range. As a result my process was simply hand rubbing the 100% Tung Oil in the stock part with my palm enough to generate some heat. I would let each coat sit 30 minutes after I rubbed it in and then wipe down the excess with a microfiber rag before continuing to let it hang dry for 24 hours. The next day at the same time I would repeat the process. I did this for 4 days (Sun-Wed) and then let the stock dry for 2.5 (Thur-Sat) before relubing, reassembling, and taking out to shoot. If I were to do it again or suggest additional steps to those planning on an oil finish for these unfinished CMP stocks, I suggest the following:
1. Do your homework on the differences between Linseed Oil and Tung Oil and decide which is best for you
2. Know the difference between Linseed/Tung Oil FINISHES you can buy in a can at Home Depot and the actual 100% oil products. (Spoiler: the latter is vastly superior IMO and historically correct)
3. Do 6-7 coats rather than 4 and allow to cure/dry for a full 3-4 days instead of 2.5
4. Cut the first two coats with mineral spirits to soak into the wood more
5. Make sure to use a finishing pad after the first two coats to smooth out any raised grain
Despite not following points 3-5 above, the stock still looks way better than it did before and I’m overall happy with it. So now with the gun now looking the best it ever had, and with cautious optimism of the outcome now, I set out to the range.
Final Range Tests
I was fortunate to have a friend come along with me who was zeroing an AR10 which allowed me to test any potential problem ammo in his gun to confirm it was the ammo or my rifle. I actually had one main load in mind that had continued to be a thorn in my side issue wise including the first clip of the day post drill. This Magtech was from a lot I bought on SGAmmo last year that was sold with a disclaimer: made for a Brazilian military contract, only used in semi auto rifles with a barrel length of over 20 inches. I had shot it in a full size FAL which due to its gorillion gas adjustment settings ran fine after some experimenting, but the Garand didn’t like it and (to my relief) it ran like crap through my buddy’s AR10 as well. Scratching that one off the list, everything else was a marked improvement as I shot it slow fire, rapid fire, off hand, bench rest, prone, etc. Unfortunately it wasn’t a completely trouble free day as I did have two malfunctions, both the same, but both distinct from my earlier failures. Rather than fail to pick up and chamber the first 3-4 rounds, one clip of PPU Rangemaster and one clip of Federal M80 choked on the 7th round in the clip with the round sticking straight up and the clip partially raising and jamming the bolt. With a little finagling I was able to seat the round back in the clip and the clip back in the gun so I could get it to fire the last two shots. Examining both clips, I noted they were new production clips I bought in a set of 20 online. I didn’t have enough of both loads to try them again so I had to manage with 5 rounds of Federal and 3 rounds of PPU loaded in an older USGI surplus clip. It ran all 8 rounds without a hitch.
My last two range tests for this only included Aguila since all my other test ammo had been depleted and I sold off the Magtech to someone for predominant bolt gun use. My first trip was to zero which actually needed quite a bit of adjustment to get perfect and the second was mainly off hand shots and at some reactive targets inside 100 yards. Thankfully I had no more ammo issues and also no trouble hitting 12oz soda cans, an IPSC steel target and a very entertaining shot at an expired fire extinguisher.
As I mentioned in my intro, this ended up being quite a different review than I was expecting after writing the first part. I like to think I do a good amount of research on a gun before I buy it and all the research I had done of 308 CMP Garands led me to believe that 7.62 M80 spec ammo would be the bread and butter of a rifle like this. It could be that my barrel was drilled out incorrectly or was sent out undergassed from Anniston, but sadly as far as the CMP is concerned, I was shooting the incorrect ammo out of it anyway so I didn’t have much recourse to them. I’m overall happy with where it ended up, even if it did cost me quite a bit in rounds tested down range.
Another development since I started testing for this review is that the price increase on these rifles from $1000 to $1100 and that is only for 30-06 models, the 308s are all sold out as of March 8th and the only Garand left in the CMP’s catalog is the 30-06 Expert Grade.
When analyzing how worth it one of these is against one of the more conventional battle rifles like I initially wanted to write about, it was easier to make a case for the 308 Garand when
A. It was the cheapest of the options (it now it’s the same or slightly more than you can find a PTR 91)
B. It was available
My arguments kind of fall apart without those two factors as far as making a compelling case to the average battle rifle enjoyer, who is much more likely to forgo jumping through all the hoops to get their hands on a CMP rifle when they could just pay the same amount to Atlantic for a PTR, an inarguably more practical option. The Expert Grade isn’t really a true WWII collectable either since it’s a hodge podge of non-matching GI and new production parts. That lack of collectability is only compounded by choosing a 308. So who would I recommend this rifle to?
Well for me, I have found that I prefer the inline stock layout for a full size 308 rifle like the Garand/M14 over a fixed stock/pistol grip layout like on the FAL or PTR. The FAL proved to not be a good ergonomic fit for me, the M14 is too expensive for what it is IMO, and while I have always wanted to try a PTR 91, I’m gathering supplies to reload 308/7.62 and the roller lock guns have a reputation for denting cases upon ejection and also flinging them a great distance. I also really like the Garand sights, the trigger is decent compared to other battle rifles I’ve tried, and it balances well. Clips are also cheap and easier to organize than mags, and you can preload them forever and not worry about springs (only applies if you’re the type of person that worries about mag springs). Also, the ping makes me happy.
That’s just what matters to me, the biggest selling point I can make for it to the average buyer in today’s market though? Well, it’s an M1 Garand, and for some people that’s reason enough. And if you absolutely positively have to have an M1 Garand, you still aren’t gonna find them for cheaper than you will through the CMP:
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