The M1 Garand is an extremely iconic military rifle here in North America and a recent burst of receivers imported to Canada have increased their availability. Many more Canadians are building M1 Garands from those receivers and making use of the newly increased $500 import limit for US parts. I won’t get into why the M1 Garand was a great military rifle for its time; instead I thought I’d go over what’s great on an M1 for hunting and where you’re giving up advantages on more modern hunting rifles.
The one thing that clearly splits rifles designed pre-WW-II with post WW-II rifles is usability. Pre-60’s, rifle usability issues were training issues. Post, rifles were built with some usability in mind. We can start with the safety on the M1 Garand. It does its part and is easily accessible with your trigger finger, but it can be difficult to engage (needs a lot of force to push in) and it is very clicky and loud when disengaging. It’s also in-line with the trigger, which could cause an ND (Negligent Discharge) from someone reaching for the safety and hitting the trigger instead.
And then. . .there’s the loading/unloading/etc of the action. The clip system the Garand uses is very cool: all the mechanical pieces are fairly well protected in the rifle, there’s no magazine jutting out, and it uses compact 8 round clips. In World War 2, it would have been far superior to a more typical 5 round, bolt-action rifle. As a hunting rifle, it’s a bit of a mess. As a big game hunter, if you need more than 1 round, you’re usually doing it wrong. If you need more than 5, you’re DEFINITELY doing it wrong. In my area, you’re only allowed to hunt big game with a maximum of a 5 round magazine, which is why we use blocks in our en-bloc clips. The loading/unloading on the Garand is a complete pain in the butt compared to a standard bolt action rifle. When I hunt, I load in the morning, unload when I get back, load for the afternoon hunt, and then unload when I get back from that one. On a bolt action, I can do it even with gloves on. On a Garand, it’s a much more fumbly, involved process.
The Rest of the Rifle
Iron Sights on the M1 Garand are great as far as iron sights go. They’re easy to use, fast, easily adjustable, and super durable. If you’re looking to use a scope, you’ll either have to get an offset scope mount or get a special disconnect device and not be able to use clips. So. . . .don’t use a scope unless you really love the Garand, and your eyes can’t do iron sights.
The rifle itself is somewhat jangly: the sling loops, operating rod, bolt, rounds in the magazine, etc can all rattle, and the safety itself is somewhat loud. I really dislike extra noise on a rifle that I want to use at close range. At around 10 lbs, the rifle is also much heavier than a regular hunting rifle would be. As an advantage, the weight and semi-automatic action both make for lighter recoil.
Accuracy on my M1 Garand was good enough at ~2″ at 100 yards. I would have no problem using it to take big game at up to 200 yards, after which I’d start to hesitate on taking the shot. That’s my limit, your mileage may vary.
A lot of guys comment asking about really inexpensive surplus rifles like SKS’s and Mosin Nagant’s and ask about using them hunting. For those guys, they’re trying to get into hunting for a low price point and they’re going to sacrifice usability, features, and accuracy. The M1 Garand is not inexpensive and I think that as a hunting rifle, it’s best suited for enthusiasts who are getting more out of their hunt by using an M1 Garand. There are far superior hunting rifles for the money, so it’s only really great for those who love the history, and less great as a hunting rifle considering the cost. If it was a hundred or two hundred more than the cost of an SKS, SVT-40, K-31, SMLE 303, or other rifle of the era, it might be in the running as a hunting rifle but because collectability is driving price up, it’s less of a bargain for hunting. I still think M1 Garand’s are really cool, just not a fantastic hunting rifle.
Video Viewpoint on Using The M1 Garand For Hunting