The Top 10 M1 Garand Rifles
By Joel Kolander
Also read M1 Garand Prices & Trends
With Independence Day barely in our rearview, I thought it a perfect time to take a look at a rifle that elicits fresh patriotic excitement in anyone who holds one for the first time: the M1 Garand, Well known as “the greatest battle implement ever devised,” the M1 Garand still holds a tight grip on the heart of many an American gun collector. Even considering the M1911’s significantly longer service life, many consider the M1 Garand to be the quintessential U.S. military firearm. The power, the speed, the “ping,” and the history are all things that draw collectors like moths to a walnut-stocked flame.
Everybody is after an M1 Garand for sale, but some are more desirable than others. We’re not just talking about finding a Winchester-made version versus one produced by Springfield Armory. There are some very special M1 Garand rifles out there and Rock Island Auction Company has had the distinct pleasure of selling many of them, often at prices that induce hyperventilating in the average wallet. Let’s take a look at the 10 of the top M1 Garand rifles sold to date.
Honorable Mention: M1 Garand with Collimator rear sight
Sold by RIA in April 2015 for $28,750
Tied for eighth place on this list is a post-war production Springfield M1 Garand with two unusual features. First and foremost is the collimator optical rear sight. For those unfamiliar, a collimator is the precursor of today’s red dot sights. Using an often illuminated aiming ring or single point these allow shooters to see a point of impact regardless of eye position relative to the sight. These sights were tested by the U.S. in the late 1950s/early 1960s with the idea that shooters could leave both eyes open to track one’s targets while firing. This one has no magnification and uses a single vertical post reticle with two horizontal hash marks above it. This M1 Garand also is marked “01” in the space where the serial number typically resides. The true serial number 1 M1 Garand is housed in the Springfield Armory museum, so the marking on this rifle is most curious. As if further proof of post-war M1 development was needed, this rifle also is fitted with a T-37 flash hider instead of the standard gas cylinder lock, as well as a hinged M14 type buttplate. It’s a fascinating illustration of U.S. military rifle evolution.
10. Experimental 22-06 Duplex M1 Garand
Sold by RIA in April 2015 for $31,625
As alluded to in #9, the M1 Garand rifle was being fiddled with quite a bit behind the scenes in attempts to improve the existing rifle or modify it into something more efficient – either economically or on the battlefield. One of those experiments was the salvo project, an idea that banked on hyper-velocity, multiple projectile cartridges to improve hit probability (see photo below). This particular rifle is a late 1957 production prototype chambered in the .22-06 cartridge. Essentially a necked down .30-06, the .22-06 had two 50-grain .22 caliber bullets stacked on top of another in an elongated neck. Note the red tape on the buttstock and the fore end, likely to indicate the non-standard chambering. Besides the rarity of being a prototype M1 Garand, this rifle was still in excellent shape and an amazing addition for one lucky collector.
9. Gas Trap M1 Garand with Theater Made Blast Deflector
Sold by RIA in December 2013 for $37,375
Only the earliest of M1 Garands utilize a “gas trap” system instead of the standard gas port drilled into the barrel, and with the low serial number of 2838, this rifle readily qualifies. Gas traps are well documented elsewhere (most notably in Billy Pile’s The Gas Trap M1 Garand), so I’ll not go into detail here, but these guns are not only extremely early, but also remarkably rare since most rifles using the problematic gas trap systems were later converted to usable gas port versions. Only 18,000 were completed, with parts made for another 33,000. In 1947, the Army destroyed all remaining M1 Garand gas trap rifles.
Something else the M1 Garand shown here can boast is an all original unaltered configuration. This is not a parts gun, or one that was assembled with reproduction parts – this is the real deal. Manufactured in November or December of 1939, this gas trap only features one addition, but it is an extremely desirable one. It is one of three known to be fitted with what is known as an “Alaskan blast deflector.” These deflectors were made in the field during World War II by soldiers serving in the Alaskan Rangers of the Alaskan National Guard. If a soldier were firing while laying prone in the snow, the blast from the rifle would inevitably result in a cloud of snow, giving away the shooter’s position. The blast deflector, directed the muzzle blast up and away from the snow, helping to conceal the location of the shot.
8. Japanese Type 5 Rifle – Copy of the M1 Garand
Sold by RIA in September 2018 for $43,125
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and the Japanese Type 5 semi-automatic rifle is a perfect example. After attempting a semi-automatic rifle in the 1930s with several different copied designs, the Japanese tried again in 1943/44 but this time focusing solely on copying the M1 Garand. This rifle is one of those rare copies and was produced by the Yokosuna Naval Arsenal for 7.7mm cartridges. Some parts are exact copies of Garand parts, others are modified slightly, such as the receiver, and others maintain their Japanese roots, such as the front sights which are identical to those found on a Type 99.
7. Japanese Type 5
Sold by RIA in April 2018 for $46,000
A different rifle of the same model and a similar condition brought a similar price point when sold five months earlier as seen in #6, giving collectors a solid idea of the true current value of these rare firearms.
6. Spectacular Gas Trap Garand, Serial Number 19059
Sold by RIA in September 2018 for $57,500
When collectors are looking for something in all original condition, guns like this Gas Trap Garand are exactly what they have in mind. An important, but ultimately flawed stage of the M1 Garand development was the gas trap. Eventually abandoned in favor of the gas ported barrels, most gas traps were converted to the improved system and remaining parts were destroyed. Also, early M1 Garands had an issue of stoppages on the 7th round, but a quick fix to the rear lever of the operating catch fixed that. This rifle never had that modification either. It remains in ALL original condition.
This may not be a “shop model” like #4 on this list, but its condition and all original condition combined for a enviable sale price.
5. Japanese (M1 Garand) Type 5 Semi-Automatic Rifle – The M1 Garand clone
Sold by RIA in April 2016 for $63,250
This rifle is a different serial number than the two shown above, but has the same backstory. Its higher overall condition was enough to up the price significantly, despite the earlier sale date. Only 125 were ever made.
4. M1 Garand Serial Number 7
Sold by RIA in April 2015 for $97,750
By now we all know that gas trap models are some of the earliest M1 Garands, right? Well, it turns out that the earliest 80 production M1 Garands are a special set known as “Shop Models.” These early models are extremely rare and are some of the most enviable pieces in a U.S. military rifle collection. The shop models were the very first true M1 Garands ever produced. Since the production lines had not yet been set up, these rifles were hand produced using individually machined parts.
Earning its spot on this list is the unbelievably early serial number 7. A true shop model, at the time of sale this rifle maintained nearly all of its original parts save for a few minor replacements unquestionably done in the tool room at Springfield Armory (as were all 80 shop models).
3. JFK’s National Match M1 Garand
Sold by RIA in September 2015 for $149,500
One might be a bit surprised to find an “off the rack” M1 Garand from the CMP this high on the list. Just looking at it, the rifle has clearly had some modifications, but in this case it’s not the rifle itself that is so unusual, but who owned it.
This National Match M1 Garand was the documented personal property of a young Massachusetts Senator named John Fitzgerald Kennedy. RIAC wrote an in-depth article on JFK’s M1 Garand back when it was sold in September 2015, detailing how Kennedy came to possess it and what special modifications were made to it by the CMP. When it sold it was arguably the most historically significant M1 Garand offered at auction and even today would be an immediate cornerstone in any firearms collection.
2T. 1931 Dated M1 Garand Prototype – T3E2 in .276
Sold by RIA in April 2016 for $172,500
This Garand held the world record price for almost two and a half years. Truth be told, it’s not a true M1 Garand. It is simply known as T3E2, a test model rifle designed by John Cantius Garand for the U.S. rifle trials, seven years since they began. In 1931, twenty T3E2 rifles were built each chambered in .276 and shown here is number 15. After only a slight revision, involving a redesign of the bolt, the T1E2 was designated. When finally chambered in the abundant .30-06 at the behest of General Douglas MacArthur, it became formally known as the “semi-automatic rifle, caliber 30, M1” which could then begin field trials. It would take numerous tweaks before it was battle ready and standardized, but by 1937 deliveries to the Army had begun and a legend was born.
Sold by RIA in September 2018 $172,500
Like the T3E2, the Model 1924 Garand Autoloading Rifle isn’t a true M1 Garand, but its place on this list needs no explanation. Typically called the Type 2 since it is the second of Garand’s designs to use primer actuated ammunition, it bears little in common with the M1 we know and love today. The design was halted with only 25 ever made after the Army changed the powder type in the .30-06 cartridges, rendering the Type 2 all but useless. Accompanying this rifle were a small group of irreplaceable accoutrements: a package of primer accuated ammunition, a custom tool crudely hand stamped “FRONT SIGHT EXTRACTOR FOR GARAND RIFLE,” a can of PlastiLube shipped to “Springfield, Mass, ATTN: J.C. Garand, Research & Development,” a “U.S.” marked multi-tool, and a little black book that contained not phone numbers, but instead the hand-written notes of John Garand regarding the testing trials of this particular rifle.
Had this rifle sold two and one half years ago, it would have had the honor of temporarily being the world record price for an M1 Garand. Had it sold five minutes earlier, it would’ve TIED the world record for one glorious moment until the next collector firearm on this list crossed the block immediately after it.
1. John Garand’s M1 Garand, Serial Number 1,000,000
Sold by RIA in September 2018 for $287,500
Finally we’ve arrived at number one and it truly is a rifle deserving of the honor. This is M1 Garand serial number one million, presented to John Garand upon his retirement from Springfield in 1953. By design, it’s no different than those used by millions of servicemen. By aesthetics, it has a gorgeous stock, highly polished blue parts, and a unique serial number. But it’s provenance and accompanying archive of first-hand, original John Garand history make it one-of-a-kind investment for only the most advanced of U.S. military collections. Watch the above video to learn all about it.
While this has been a look at the top of the mountain, so to speak, Rock Island Auction also regularly hosts dozens of “normal” M1 Garands in any given auction. Pickings at the CMP are getting pretty sparse, so if you’re still looking for one of these American classics, RIA is a reliable source.
Stay tuned for a future article investigating the recent price trends for these rifles and what you can expect to see going forward.
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