At the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, the U.S. Army did not have a standardized sniper rifle. Early in the war, the Army Ground Forces requested that a sniper version of the M1 Garand rifle equipped with a telescopic sight be developed. However, it was immediately apparent that the M1 rifle’s action would require an entirely different approach than most bolt-action sniper rifles—which mounted a telescope directly over the receiver. Since the M1 had to be loaded from the top, a telescope mounted in such a location would not be feasible. The U.S. Army Ordnance Dept. tested several possible solutions—including a prismatic telescope with the eyepiece centered over the M1’s rear sight but with the body of the scope offset to provide the necessary clearance for the action. While it and other M1 rifle-based sniper designs were evaluated, a slightly modified Remington Model 1903A3 bolt-action rifle was adopted in early 1943 as the “U.S. Rifle, Caliber .30, M1903A4, Snipers” as more or less an interim measure. Sizeable numbers of ’03A4 sniper rifles were produced and widely issued during the war until a satisfactory Garand sniper rifle could be developed.
Testing of the several proposed designs for M1 sniper rifles concluded that the best solution would be to mount the telescope on the left side of the receiver so normal functioning of the rifle would be unaffected. Such an offset location required a leather cheek pad be attached to the stock to properly position the shooter’s face, but that was not viewed as a serious detriment.
Two prototype Garand sniper rifles designed to mount a scope on the left side of the receiver were eventually selected and differed primarily in the configuration and placement of the scope base and mount. The first design, designated as the “M1E7,” featured a bracket fastened to the left side of the receiver for a telescope mount. Both the bracket and mount were developed by the well-known civilian firm of Griffin & Howe. Five holes were drilled into the side of the M1C receiver for attachment of the mounting bracket. Three of the holes were threaded for screws and two were for taper pins to hold the bracket in alignment while it was assembled. Otherwise, the rifle’s configuration remained unchanged. The rifle was eventually adopted on July 27, 1944, as the “U.S. Rifle, Cal. .30, M1C, Snipers.”
The other design was the “M1E8,” which featured a base permanently attached to the rear of the barrel. The barrel-mounted base was designed to accept a scope mount with a large knurled knob that permitted the scope to be quickly removed. The M1E8 base and mount were designed by John Garand. The design was eventually adopted as the “U.S. Rifle, Cal. .30, M1D, Snipers.”
The M1 Garand rifle (l.) was adapted for sniping with the addition of a Griffin & Howe side mount and the M82 scope as the M1C (second from l.), it lies next to an M1D with an M84 scope attached to a barrel mount. At top right is a USMC 1952 sniper rifle with Kollmorgen USMC scope in a Griffin & Howe mount.
Although both designs were standardized, for several reasons it was decided by Ordnance to put the M1C into production rather than the M1D. As initial production began, the receivers were heat-treated with the mounting bracket installed. But it was eventually discovered that the different composition of metallurgy between the two components could cause the assembled unit to warp. When this defect was discovered, the procedure was changed and the receivers and brackets were heat-treated separately prior to assembly. Other production glitches that negatively affected the accuracy of the new Garand sniper rifles were encountered but most were eventually solved.
The M1C serial numbers were in the approximate 3,100,000 to 3,800,000 range. While the M1 receivers used to fabricate M1C rifles were regular Springfield Armory production, they were selected in distinct “batches” or “blocks.”
The “M73” telescopic sight was standardized for use with M1C rifle in October 1944. This scope, made by the Lyman Co., was the military’s designation for the company’s “Alaskan” all-weather scope. The scope was later modified by the addition of a sliding rain/sun shade on the objective end, and the modified scope was re-designated “M81.” The magnification was 2.2X, and the scope had a crosshair reticle. The M81 was soon superseded by the M82 which differed mainly in the substitution of a tapered post for the crosshair reticle.
In order to help conceal a sniper’s position and reduce the possibility of muzzle flash from temporarily blinding the shooter when firing in low-light conditions, such as dawn or dusk, a conical flash hider was adopted on January 25, 1945, as the “Hider, Flash, M2.” The M2 flash hider slipped over the muzzle and was secured in place by clamping onto the rifle’s bayonet lug. It was eventually superseded after the war by the “T37” flash hider. It was not uncommon for the flash hiders to be removed as they were of only marginal use and could negatively affect the accuracy of the rifle.
The initial M1C contract during World War II called for the manufacture of 21,158 rifles. Various problems were encountered, though, including the lack of telescopes and accuracy problems that had to be addressed. This resulted in production falling woefully short of projections, only 7,971 complete M1C rifles were manufactured during World War II. The manufacturing problems and shortage of telescopes severely hampered delivery of the rifles and it was not until, literally, the closing days of the war in the Pacific that M1Cs began to see service. At the conclusion of the war, the M1C was the standardized U.S. military sniping rifle and the M1D was designated “Substitute Standard.”
As hostilities heated up on the Korean peninsula in 1950, demands were soon coming in from the using services for sniper rifles. Other than the relative handful of M1C rifles fielded very late in the conflict, the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps fought World War II with bolt-action sniper rifles. In order to meet the sudden demand, plans were formulated in early 1951 to put the M1C sniper rifle back into production.
Springfield Armory records indicate that a total of 4,796 M1C rifles were manufactured in the 1951-1953 period. Many, if not all, of these post-World War II M1C rifles were fabricated using some of an estimated 18,000 to 19,000 M1C receivers remaining in storage at the Armory since 1945. These receivers had the five holes drilled in the side, but were never assembled into complete rifles during World War II. It is doubtful if any meaningful number of these newly minted early 1950s assembled Garand sniper rifles made it to Korea prior to the cessation of hostilities. Thus, the M1Cs used in that conflict were likely World War II production rifles.
Read the rest of Canfield's look at the M1C Garand Sniper Rifle on the American Rifleman website.