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The semi-automatic M1 Garand, the standard-issue rifle of the U.S. Army in World War II, gave the American soldier unsurpassed firepower compared to his German, Italian or Japanese counterparts, who were equipped with bolt-action rifles. The Garand began service with the U.S. military in the late 1930s and remained the main service rifle until 1957, though some units carried it well into the 1960s. Finding the year of your M1 Garand isn't hard, but it will not tell you everything about the rifle.
Find the Serial Number
The first step in dating your M1 Garand is to find the serial number. This is stamped into the rifle's receiver, the part housing the operating parts of the rifle. Once you know the serial number, you can refer to a number of sources online, or in books, to determine the date of manufacture. For example, M1s manufactured by the Springfield Armory with serial numbers between 940,251 and 1,008,899 were made in November 1942.
The Catch Is...
Knowing the serial number alone is not enough to guarantee that all the parts in your M1 rifle were manufactured at the same time as the receiver. According to Joe Poyer and Craig Riesch, authors of "The M1 Garand, 1936 to 1957," when scarce M1s were in demand as collector's items in the 1950s and 1960s, some "enterprising" gunsmiths used receivers that had previously been sold for scrap to assemble new M1s with parts from other rifles. One way to check if all the parts on your M1 were made at the same time as the receiver is to check the "drawing number" that was stamped on most major parts; this number changed over the years as modifications were made to the weapon. A rifle whose parts all have drawing numbers from a period contemporaneous with the serial number is much more likely to be the original deal.
Joe Steel is a Northwest-based editor, writer and novelist, former news editor of an outdoor weekly. He also was an editor at a Seattle-based political weekly and editor of a monthly business magazine. He has been published in the "Seattle Times," the "Washington Post" and the "Foreign Service Journal," among other publications.