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"M1 Garand-difference maker or just another rifle" Topic

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Maggot10 Aug 2023 2:14 p.m. PST

No doubt this discussion has been had a million times; how about a million and one…

Was the M1 Grand a significant difference maker in WW2 infantry combat? It would seem a US infantry platoon would have significant advantages in "rounds downrange" versus a Japanese platoon, but against a German with its multiple MG34/42, not so much..

Skirmish wargames rules often give US units some advantage due to the M1/BAR combination-but the BAR was likely not superior to the Bren or Japanese equivalent, and definitely inferior to the German MGs. Did those 8-9 or so semi-automatic rifles give US squads a qualitative edge deserving of a special rule?

What say you, dubya dubya two grognards? I'm asking for a friend, see…

Thanks for your input!

Personal logo Herkybird Supporting Member of TMP10 Aug 2023 2:36 p.m. PST

I think the man behind the rifle is often more important than the rifle itself.
Worth noting that British troops who used the M1 often didn't want to return them after a mission.

Personal logo Grelber Supporting Member of TMP10 Aug 2023 3:12 p.m. PST

I once read that Japanese survivor of the Pacific battles felt like all Americans carried fully automatic weapons. This had a major impact after the war when trying to decide how to equip the Japanese Land Self Defense Force.


Bunkermeister Supporting Member of TMP10 Aug 2023 3:57 p.m. PST

American squads with M1 and BAR and often two or three BAR late war, and sometimes even an M1919 light machine gun tossed in do have a lot of firepower. A German squad with two machine guns can only be in two places at once, but a 12 man American squad can hit them from the front and two sides at once. It all about maneuver, and the perception that you are going to be overrun or shot that forces withdrawal or surrender.

How many major powers have kept the bolt-action rifle as the standard infantry arm since the end of WWII?

Mike Bunkermeister Creek
Bunker Talk blog

pzivh43 Supporting Member of TMP10 Aug 2023 6:21 p.m. PST

I have heard that until after Normandy, the US did not really train riflemen to take advantage of the M-1's firepower---it was still all about aimed fire. It was after they experienced what it could do, that the Army began to change and go for using it to get fire superiority in firefights. Racking my brain to remember where I read that!

Striker10 Aug 2023 9:00 p.m. PST

+1 Grelber. I have a book on the Pacific war and one comment from a Japanese soldier was that due to US firepower they believed they were facing units larger than what it was. Ex squad = pltn and pltn=company. Marksmanship still matters but the amount of rounds going downrange has to account for something.

BillyNM10 Aug 2023 9:16 p.m. PST

I think there's no doubt an automatic rifle is better than a bolt action rifle for the standard infantryman but the question was did it make a difference to the war. The answer there has to be no, the allies were always going to overwhelm the axis.

Griefbringer11 Aug 2023 12:53 a.m. PST

but the question was did it make a difference to the war

Actually, the question was about whether it made a difference in (small scale) infantry combat.

Perhaps the most logical point of comparison would not be a German or Japanese platoon with their usual guns, but against a US rifle platoon armed with M1903 Springfield bolt actions instead of Garands. Actually, my understanding is that some US units (especially Marines) in the Pacific went to action in 1941-42 armed with Springfields, until being re-equipped with M1 Garands. How did these units perceive the effects of the upgrade in combat?

One limitation of the M1 Garand (from modern perspective) is the limited ammo capacity of only 8 rounds. Furthermore, the official ammo allocation to the riflemen was relatively low, according to period manuals cited by Gary Kennedy only 48 rounds:

PDF link

Combat-savvy men might try to pack more rounds, especially if they could find a convenient place to carry them. The issued webbing ammo pouches carried at belt could only fit one M1 clip each.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP11 Aug 2023 4:23 a.m. PST

The standard US Army cartridge belt held 10 of the 8-round en blocs. So 80 rounds total. Extra en blocs came in cloth bandoliers of 6, so a rifleman could grab a couple of those and have 176 rounds.

Wolfhag11 Aug 2023 4:23 a.m. PST

Skirmish wargames rules often give US units some advantage due to the M1/BAR combination-but the BAR was likely not superior to the Bren or Japanese equivalent, and definitely inferior to the German MGs. Did those 8-9 or so semi-automatic rifles give US squads a qualitative edge deserving of a special rule?

The Marine Corps TO&E after 1942 allowed each Fire Team to have a BAR. This gave a squad three maneuver elements each with an automatic weapon. This gave them a lot of options for fire & maneuver and flanking defensive positions. A squad leader could combine all three BARs for suppressive and sustained fire. The Marine Weapons Platoon had 2-4 M-1917 MMGs that could be attached and two 60mm mortars.

The BAR was a WWI design the Americans were stuck with at the start of WWII. It was not thee best weapon for the job but did well enough with the M1s and other attached weapons.

Generally, sustained rifle fire is about one round every 10 seconds. This puts the M1 and bolt actions equal in that role. What is really important is generating more firepower than the enemy in the opening stage of a firefight or an ambush. In that respect, I think 3x BARs is better than having one Bren and not all of your automatic weapons firepower is in one weapon. You can unload 8 rounds from an M1 in seconds. With a bold action 2 maybe 3 rounds.

The M1 ammo bandolier has 6 pouches for 48 rounds which is normally how the ammo was passed out. The M1 cartridge belt had room for five 8-round clips on each side. With a full ammo pouch and bandolier, you have 128 rounds.

BARs could be used in the sustained fire role by alternating each one firing 3-4 rounds. Sometimes called Barking Fire." Since they were designed to be used with "Walking Fire" they were good for assaults.

I think the reason for the "aimed fire" training was that originally the brass was afraid the soldiers would use up their ammo too quickly. They soon found out ammo supply would not normally be a problem.


mildbill11 Aug 2023 4:33 a.m. PST

I dont know if the M-1 was a game changer, but I do know that everyone copied and uses today a version of the German MG. Tactically it was the game changer.

Murvihill11 Aug 2023 4:35 a.m. PST

Semi-auto rifles had two big advantages to bolt rifles:
First, they allowed the shooter to take a second shot without altering their sight picture. It can be done with a bolt gun with skill and practice but comes naturally for a semi-auto. Not always a useful attribute though, when keeping your head above the parapet invited machine guns to shoot you.
Second, it allowed a regular infantryman to lay down an effective suppressing fire. While not as effective as a machinegun, a semiauto could put enough bullets downrange to keep the bad guys' heads down for a second or too, perhaps long enough for a rush.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP11 Aug 2023 6:03 a.m. PST

I would say that it should increase the chance of pinning or suppressing a target.

wpilon11 Aug 2023 7:10 a.m. PST

I think the disadvantages of the BAR vice an actual squad MG probably cancelled out any advantage the M1 conferred on American infantry units.

42flanker11 Aug 2023 7:56 a.m. PST


Just sayin'

Andy ONeill11 Aug 2023 10:54 a.m. PST

A Garand is a fine rifle. But it didn't matter so much.

Ww2 riflemen were mostly quite ineffective.
Crew served weapons greatly outperformed riflemen.
So the qualities of a garand were pretty much irrelevant and those of the squad automatic much more important. Which was the not-lmg BAR.

The us army would have done far better concentrating on a better squad automatic than a better rifle.
The carbine would arguably have been a better choice than garand. Audie Murphy chose the carbine.

Fortunately for those GIs, the squad did not usually operate in isolation.

The us army came quite close to adopting a copy of the mg42.
There was a study came to the conclusion that one mg42 was equivalent to 20 garand armed riflemen.
This was a us army study.

Steve Wilcox11 Aug 2023 11:40 a.m. PST

There was a study came to the conclusion that one mg42 was equivalent to 20 garand armed riflemen.
This was a us army study.

I think I saw that one, or a reference to it, years ago. If memory serves, a BAR was worth 6 semi-autos.

pzivh43 Supporting Member of TMP11 Aug 2023 12:06 p.m. PST

6 M-1s, firing rapidly, puts 48 rounds down range. A BAR can only put 20 down range in about the same time. I qualified on the M-1 but have never fired the BAR, but my guess is they both reloaded in about the same amount of time.

Why didn't US arm everyone with a BAR?

UshCha11 Aug 2023 1:55 p.m. PST

This is a version of the BAR Vs LMG which is still running today. A heavy rifle barrel is OK but its rate of fire gets limited in certain circumstances. A weapon with a quick change barrel has less limitations, it can be cooling while you are firing with the other barrel.

Clearly the BAR is "not up to it", the Brits did not really increase the number of Brens like the US did the BAR. So one for one the BAR is not as good as a Bren, now you can debate whether 2 or 3 BAR are better than a Bren, perhaps so.

Our approach though to be honest it's not that informed, is to keep the firepower split of the Brits for the US as VERY roughly, in many (but not all) situations the M1 propping up the poor performance of a single BAR. Our argument is that if the BAR/M1 combination was really dire the US would have been forced to fix it quickly. which they did not.

pzivh43 – Interestingly recently the US Marines started adopting a BAR type weapon ( heavy barreled automatic rifle) for all the squad. However only one man is authorized to use it in it's LSW role as I guess you can't carry enough ammo generally for all fire it like that, but its easy to swap if casualties hit the weapon acting as the LSW.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP11 Aug 2023 3:09 p.m. PST

I would think the Garand would be a big advantage in close quarters action like house to house fighting. You burst into a room with three enemy and you have a bolt action rifle, you get one and the other two get you. With a Garand you could probably get all three.

donlowry11 Aug 2023 3:33 p.m. PST

think the disadvantages of the BAR vice an actual squad MG probably cancelled out any advantage the M1 conferred on American infantry units.

And vice versa -- that is, the M1's advantages over a bolt-action rifle made up for the disadvantages of a BAR vs an LMG.

donlowry11 Aug 2023 3:39 p.m. PST

When I was trying to brew up some homemade rules, I figured a fire fight like this:

US 12-man section:
1 NCO, too busy directing to fire much, and probably armed with a short-range weapon (SMG) = 0
1 BAR = 20
10x M1s = 80 (8x10)
TOTAL = 100

German 12-man gruppe:
1 NCO = 0
2-man LMG = 50
9x KAR 98s = 45 (9x5)

If the fire fight is at close range and the NCO's use their weapons (SMG/MP) give them 30 each, and still a virtual tie.

Blutarski11 Aug 2023 3:42 p.m. PST

Why didn't US arm everyone with a BAR?

Just a guess here:
> The WW2 BAR weighed about 20 pounds.
> It did not have a semi-automatic fire option.
> Being an automatic-only weapon (selectable between 350 and 550 rpm) with a sustained RoF of 120-150 rpm, likely meant carrying a fair amount of heavy ammunition.
> It ideally required a two-man crew to operate with full efficiency.

Possibly a qualified member of the end-user community can further elaborate (you out there Wolfhag?)


Starfury Rider11 Aug 2023 5:16 p.m. PST

The US Army literature of the day, particularly the 1940 FM on the Rifle Battalion, outlined that Infantrymen needed to move swiftly in the attack, or risked losing the advantages gained by the preparatory fire of their own artillery and heavy machine guns. The view was burdening rifle units with too many supporting weapons was apt to slow an advance, as commanders paused to let their own mortars and MGs get up and into position, rather than keeping up their momentum. There was a similar theme in the pre-war British Army, which initially regarded the Section Bren gun as an 'alternative' weapon that would primarily be used in the defence, while Vickers MMGs would provide close support for infantry in the attack. That view changed quite quickly for the British with the Bren being recognised as the cornerstone of subunit firepower.

The view that riflemen could only advance as fast as the weight of their heaviest weapons would allow was quite central in the pre-war US approach. The M1919 was not exactly a 'light' machine gun, but was lighter than the M1917 it was derived from. As noted, the BAR was too heavy to be considered an individual weapon. The 1940 US approach was to put the emphasis on firepower production with the riflemen, and the 1940 Rifle Squad was just 12 men all armed with an M1. Those 12 men did have the potential to generate a lot of fire when acting collectively, and the tactic required them all to be active in the firefight to succeed.

My understanding is there wasn't really a place envisioned for the BAR in the 1940 Rifle Platoon and they were sort of grafted on via the BAR Squad, which had just two BARs in the attack and could be reinforced by a third in defence. The reorganisation of the Infantry Regiment in early 1942 brought in the Rifle Squad of 12 men which included a BAR, and that remained the basis for the standard Rifle Platoon organisation through and immediately after the war.

The US approach still though required the whole Squad to be actively and effectively firing; bringing in the BAR had only actually replaced one rifle with a weapon capable of limited automatic fire after all. The 1942 and 1944 Rifle Company FMs still echoed the need for riflemen to take an enemy position under fire along its relative length or depth, which effectively mimicked raking fire from an automatic weapon. It was the polar opposite of what the German Army were doing for much of the war, namely building the Squad around a capable light machine gun fed by short belts and with a barrel change facility. The equivalent Japanese weapons might have been technically inferior but they remained quite lethal.

The US Army did include an official allowance to increase BAR issue in the late war period. I do get a bit tetchy about the argument that 'most' Squads already had at least two BARs anyway. There was a finite supply of all things in all theatres and doubling the number of BARs available required either active planning and acquisition or a Magic Hat (and then fighting the Parachute and Armored Infantry who also had non-TOE requirements for BARs themselves).

There is certainly an example of a US Inf Div in the Pacific, I think probably in one of the 81st Div reports available online, noting that the issue of a second BAR to each Rifle Squad had proven to be a sound decision.

The one thing that has come to strike me about the USMC approach, and the introduction of the 13-man Squad with three BARs, was that it didn't really have many fulltime riflemen, arguably just two per fire team if the third man was assisting the BAR man. Initially the assistant BAR man had a carbine as his T/O weapon, which was changed by amendment to a rifle in summer 1944.


typhoon212 Aug 2023 1:43 a.m. PST

The difference between bolt-action rifles and self-loaders is relatively trivial compared to how few would be used effectively in combat. Marshall's Men Against Fire was the first to show that barely one in four used their weapons, with the heavy lifting done by support weapons such as medium machine guns and indirect fire.

Close-in, the choice would be grenades rather than small arms, but generally a self-loader would be preferable to manual reloading. At longer ranges, where the standard of accuracy against fleeting targets would be extremely low, I can't see any difference.

Andy ONeill12 Aug 2023 2:45 a.m. PST

Before assault rifles, there's a case for arming your conscripts with smg instead of rifle.
They're unlikely to hit anything much over 50 yards away anyhow and where they're effective an smg is much more effective in the conscripts hands.

Germans and Soviets found smg armed squads effective.
They somehow did not get mowed down in droves by keen eyed enemy riflemen using a superior range advantage.

I don't know about USMC but in NWE it was common to remove the bipod off a bar and use it as an automatic rifle without assistant who operated as a regular rifleman.

troopwo Supporting Member of TMP12 Aug 2023 5:16 a.m. PST

Funny most folks either never heard of SLA Marshalls study of the US use of small arms in WW2. According to what he studied only about one in four or five infantrymen actually fired their rifle while in combat!?!

However that numbers change drastically when compared to soldiers who carried anything that went full auto, like a sub machine gun, BAR or a machine gunner.

So from the perspective of the Garand, they had the tool but it just wasn't used in the numbers to make it as effective as it could have been.

I understand that the study went a big way on how it changed training to get soldiers more comfortable in using their weapons by the mid 1950s and forward. It also changed weapons design in providing more select fire weapons, also known as the fun switch.

By 1968 if you farted too loud it seemed troops were happy to do a mag dump or a mad minute in every direction.

Andy ONeill12 Aug 2023 5:39 a.m. PST

SLAM's study methods have come in for a fair amount of criticism.
His conclusions, however, are roughly in line with numerous other studies. Experienced officers in the army at the time recognised what he was saying.

Modern optics and training shift the numbers a fair bit. Professionals chose to be soldiers so are self selecting higher motivation than conscripts.
There is still something else at work though.
It's noticeable still in interviewing riflemen from recent combat.
There's one or maybe two riflemen in a company who have a much higher kill rate.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP12 Aug 2023 6:19 a.m. PST

Of course you could not fit a bayonet onto a BAR, that must have been a major consideration. (please indulge my senses of humour)

See that gunfight on the hilltop in The Thin Red Line. Bunch of screaming sons of Nippon charging at you with a bayonet, give me a GARRand (which is news to me BTW!) any day, over a Lee Enfield Mk4

Wolfhag12 Aug 2023 9:18 a.m. PST

Can't put a bayonet on a flamethrower either.


42flanker12 Aug 2023 9:34 a.m. PST

The BAR was Clyde Barrow's weapon of choice.

Martin Rapier12 Aug 2023 10:47 p.m. PST

Clyde Barrow had a car to lug it around in.

Griefbringer13 Aug 2023 1:14 a.m. PST

Of course you could not fit a bayonet onto a BAR, that must have been a major consideration.

Had there been enough will, a technical solution could have been designed to overcome this. For comparison, the Japanese military managed to fit a bayonet to their LMG, while the British army designed a bayonet for Sten machine carbine.

But getting back to the world of semi-automatic rifles, M1 Garand was not the only one in existence in the WWII. Soviet military came up with a couple of designs that entered into production during early war, while the Germans came up with a few designs of their own during the war. However, these were not issued at the same level as M1 Garand.

Martin Rapier13 Aug 2023 5:38 a.m. PST

The Soviets built over 1.5 million SVT40, a lot fewer than the 5.5 million Garands, but it was only mass produced until 1942, not the late 1950s. So not an insignificant rifle, although it never topped more than a third of Soviet issued rifles.

The GW43 was a much more niche weapon, and I've even seen a semi automatic Lee Enfield, but that was a real lashup.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP13 Aug 2023 1:30 p.m. PST

Must be me, but I love the idea of a bayonet on a flamethrower. It was the way the infantry, in the
UK, was trained back then.

Intrigued by the idea of a modernised BAR, for military service.

Maggot13 Aug 2023 4:45 p.m. PST

Thanks everyone, great discussions all around. Yep, had read parts of the SLA Marshall reports, and the biggest "training" takeaway" from WW2 was the introduction of the "pop up" target range. This has (as it was for me) trained infantryman to "see target-shoot, see target-shoot, see target-shoot…" you get the drift. Modern studies do imply that most infantryman in the US Army, at least, are far more likely to pull the trigger, even if it's not necessarily an effective shot.

Odd that the US' newest selected rifle and SAW is firing a heavier round, with less emphasis on automatic fire from the riflemen with fewer rounds carried per weapon, with an increased emphasis on accurate fire…what goes around comes around…

Again, thanks all for your input. Based on what I see here, I'd say that in a WW2 skirmish wargame, the M1 could have a special rule, but it should be very, very minor.

troopwo Supporting Member of TMP13 Aug 2023 4:58 p.m. PST

The Garand was the general issue rifle not just a one per section kind of thing specialty. It was furstest with the mostest as they say.

The Japanese actually built the Garand as a copy during the war. The metallurgy was quite bad and they only made six. I think the NRA did a video feature of it on yucka tube.

And just for you Deadhead, a company in the US, Ohio Ordinance, does indeed make a modernised BAR for today.
link link

42flanker14 Aug 2023 12:06 a.m. PST

"Clyde Barrow had a car to lug it around in."

Several (BARs)

Griefbringer14 Aug 2023 12:30 a.m. PST

Based on what I see here, I'd say that in a WW2 skirmish wargame, the M1 could have a special rule, but it should be very, very minor.

I would say that if skirmish rules need to have a special rule specifically for M1 Garand, rather than a more generic way of handling the difference between bolt action and semi-automatic weapons, then the basic rules design might be lacking flexibility to model differences.

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