Sunday, August 24, 2014

AFTER 80 YEARS, A "NEW" M1 GARAND; SHUFF'S MINI-G



Long before I even had my first FAL, I was a huge Garand fan and the M1 still holds a big spot in my heart.

Historically, everyone has heard General George S. Patton Jr.’s quote that the M1 was “the finest battle implement ever devised.” Being a collector of arcane and otherwise useless information, I’ve stashed away a few other quotes that should warm the hearts of any Garand fan.

Evaluating infantry combat in Korea, BG S.L.A. Marshall noted, “The issue (M1) rifle is regarded by troops with a liking amounting to affection…Army and Marines alike. They have found that it stands up ruggedly against the most extreme tests by terrain, weather and rough handling.”

Even General Douglas MacArthur, who was loathe to praise anything he didn’t see in the mirror every morning, had this to say about the M1 early in WWII. “The Garand rifle has proved itself excellent in combat in the Philippines under combat conditions. It operated with no mechanical defects, and when used in foxholes, did not develop stoppages from dust and dirt.”

Since Dug-out Doug never actually spent a single night on Bataan (or on Korean soil 10 years later for that matter) his knowledge of dust, dirt and foxholes must have been second-hand.

Many good first-hand grunt’s-eye-views of the M1 can be found in Mark Goodwin’s excellent book (one of my top 10) US Infantry Weapons In Combat, including this evaluation from SSG Darrell “Shifty” Powers of “Band of Brothers” fame.

“The most amazing thing about that M1 is you could throw that thing down in a mud hole, drag it through it, pick it up and it would fire. It wouldn’t jam; it would fire.”

In fact, the only criticism I’ve seen of the Garand came from Elmer Keith, the feisty old rancher and gun writer who created the .44 Magnum. (Pause for reverent hush.) And Ben thinks I’m reactionary. Ol’ Elmer thought the .30-06 itself was kind of a wimpy little cartridge and preferred “punkin’ chunkin’”, i.e. lobbing one-ounce hunks of lead out of a .45-70.

At any rate, as nice as all the testimonials are and as reliable as the M1 is, the fact remains that the Garand is just shy of its 80th birthday. That’s by date of adoption by the US Army; John Cantius Garand actually began design work in 1928, IIRC. It is a rather large and fairly heavy piece of military hardware by modern standards. One might think that with an 80-year-old battle rifle it’s all been said and done by now and that this particular dog is too old to learn any new tricks.

Tim Shufflin of Shuff’sParkerizing in Jerome, MI thought otherwise and has come up with some M1 modifications that have enabled the old dog to sit, shake hands, roll over and speak. In addition to being a premiere Garand-smith and Parkerizing parts, Shuff can turn an M1 into a copy of the M1D sniper rifle, convert it to take M14 magazines, or do what he calls his “BM14” conversion, a version of the Italian BM59 that uses M14 mags as well.


Shuff's Mini-G

Shuff’s Pièce de résistance is the Mini-G carbine. This is, thankfully, not a T-26-style “Tanker” Garand. This one actually works. You can send Shuff an old beater Garand or, in my case, a crappy Federal Ordnance Tanker, and he’ll cut the barrel down to 16.1-inches, re-shape the operating rod to a precise new angle, install a Schuster DCM adjustable gas plug and parkerize all the metal to match. The barrel is short enough that the front handguard is eliminated altogether, cutting a little more weight and doing away with the stubby two-inch handguard used on the Tanker conversions. Shuff can do a barrel in the original .30-06, .308 (in which case he adds the necessary spacer block, something my Tanker lacked) or .35 Whelen. He can also add a muzzle brake or install an Ultimak Scout Rail, which requires some modification to work with the Mini-G’s modified op-rod.

  

 
My Mini-G with the Amega Ranges Super Scout mount and (for the moment) a 3x Tasco pistol scope.




Shuff does good work and it’s quite evident when you get your rifle back, from the muzzle crown to the all-matching park job to the neat little Mini-G stock cartouche. Even when he’s busy his turn-around time is pretty darn fast if you’re realistic about such things. He really stands behind his product and goes above and beyond the call of duty to make sure it does exactly what “it says on the box” each and every time. You don’t find customer service like his just anywhere anymore, either; he even takes good care of customers such as myself, who tend to say and do dumb things. I’m a very satisfied Mini-G customer, and I’m a grouchy pain in the ass who’s still sore about problems I had with Springfield Armory and DSA rifles years after the fact.




Shuff's attention to detail includes a unique Mini-G stock cartouche.







When all is said and done, the Mini-G is 35.6-inches long, just a hair away from a full 8 inches shorter than a full size Garand, and weighs only 7.7 pounds compared to the M1’s empty weight of 9-1/2 pounds. If you’ve ever wanted a Garand shorty carbine but didn’t want to gamble on finding a Tanker conversion that may or may not work, just have Shuff do you up a Mini-G conversion and you can rest easy knowing it will work. Period.



I returned from a vacation trip to find my Mini-G was already back and waiting for me less than two weeks after I sent it in. I was tickled pink and couldn’t wait to play with my shiny new toy.

I sighted in the iron sights at 25 meters on an old M16A1 zero target, then pulled back to 100 meters just to get a feel for the rifle and check functioning. Looped up and in the sitting position, I banged the gong and spun the spinner, going through three more 8-shot clips of surplus 7.62x51mm ball ammo fairly fast with nary a hiccup from the Mini-G. In total, I've put close to a hundred rounds through the Mini-G since I got it back without experiencing any functional problems. Shuff test-fires his creations and selects the appropriate sized insert for the Schuster gas plug to give the Mini-G enough gas to cycle properly.

That was just the test drive. Pretty much all my rifles wear optics these days as my eyes aren’t what they used to be. Especially my right eye, which suffered a puncture, collapse and detached retina in a work accident nine years or so ago. Now, I have no choice but to shoot left-handed. With its top-loaded and ejected 8-shot enbloc clip, in the old days the only way to mount a conventional scope on the M1 Garand, as with the M1C and M1D sniper models, was to off-set the tube to the left side of the receiver, which required a thick leather cheek pad for right-handed shooters and left southpaws out of the game completely.

The short Mini-G just begs for a scout rifle scope. Back when I had two good eyes, I was heavily invested in the whole scout rifle concept. Basically, a scout scope is a fairly low magnification optic with extended eye relief that is mounted forward of the rifle’s action. This non-traditional concept takes a little getting used to, but those who give it an honest try may find it’s a nice, fast-handling system. A conventional telescopic rifle scope, especially one with higher magnification, requires you to shoot with one eye closed and the open eye is only aware of the field of view within the scope. With a scout scope, you shoot with both eyes open. You can snap onto a target very quickly…when both eyes worked I used to be able to hit straight-away clay pigeons with a scout rifle…and the small, forward scope does not block out the entire landscape in front of you either. Your situational awareness is much greater as you still have a good forward view as well as your peripheral assuming, as always, that you have two functional eyeballs. It’s not unlike using a red-dot scope but with the very real added benefit of some magnification.

A forward mounted scout scope is used with both eyes open and doesn't blot out the entire landscape when you're looking through it.

Fortunately, these days two companies, Amega Ranges and Ultimak, both manufacture good, solid scout scope mounts for the Garand. Quite a few people seem to think the Ultimak is the best mount, but I already had an Amega Ranges Mini-Scout Mount ordered; I used one on my full size Garand for many years and found it plenty solid. These black adonized aluminum mounts replace the M1’s upper rear handguard to provide a top rail for mounting scout, pistol or red-dot scopes or a holo sight. The mount uses a barrel clamp that goes on the bottom of the barrel and attaches to the top rail with ten hex head cap screws. On a full-size Garand, the operating rod has plenty of clearance for the clamp. On a Tanker-style Garand you may (probably) have to file the clamp down closer to flush with the barrel to achieve the proper clearance. You’re only thinning the metal, so it doesn’t really weaken the mount’s hold. This was the case on mine but it was taken care of easily enough with a few minutes work with a flat file. The Ultimak is more complicated to fit to a Tanker or Mini-G; IIRC, Shuff has to do some milling to get the proper clearance for the Mini-G op rod.


The Amega Ranges Super Scout mount, in addition to the top rail, has two sizes of optional Picatinny accessory rails which can be mounted on either side. Rapid both-eyes-open sighting with a scout scope plus a weapon light like this Streamlight TLR-1 can be mighty comforting when things go bump in the night while camped out in the heart of grizzly country. 

For many, many moons true scout rifle fans were limited in their choice of scope to basically two models; the Burris 2.75x20mm Scout Scope or the Leupold 2.5x28mm Scout Scope, both of which are more properly intermediate eye relief optics rather than long eye relief as with a true handgun scope. I have used both models for more years than I care to think about; both are quite good and would be ideal for a Mini-G. Although I lean in the direction of the Leupold, I’m not quite sure which one is the hand’s down winner. It kind of depends on the type of shooting you intend to do. The difference in magnification is only 0.25x and the Burris is only a half an ounce lighter, but the latter is generally around $50 lighter on your wallet. Leupold’s glass seems a bit better and this, coupled with a larger diameter tube and objective lens, means better light gathering ability. My only dislike of the Leupold is that the crosshairs are just a bit too thick for my tastes, covering better than 2 MOA at 100 yards. OTOH, while the Burris has thinner crosswires for a more precise aiming point, they are bare copper rather than black coated, which can make them a tad harder to pick up rapidly.

More recently, several other scout scopes have come on the market, including some variable power models with greater magnification. I'll be looking into some of them in detail at a later date, since I'll be buying another scout scope just for the Mini-G.

Since my Burris and Leupold Scout Scopes are both happily residing on other rifles at the moment, I had to dig through the Man Cave to find another scope to use on the Mini-G for the time being. Extended eye relief pickings in the scope box were pretty slim. It came down to a fairly new but cheap (in more ways than one) BSA 2x20mm pistol scope with typical budget Chi-Com glass or an old Tasco Pro Class 3x pistol scope with a 30mm tube that I bought new…right around 20 years ago.

I wound up trying both scopes, with the BSA going first. Shooting at a 2-inch black square at 100 meters, I found the junction of the crosshairs covered it entirely, and then some, so I wound up aiming by just quartering what I could see of the sheet of paper the target was printed on, trying to balance a little bit of white on all four sides of the “X”. 

That dog obviously wasn’t gonna hunt, so I tried the old Tasco. The Japanese produce much better quality glass and that extra 1x of magnification is nice, but my particular Tasco sports an old, discontinued reticle. The crosshairs start out thin enough at the outer ends and then taper away to nothing towards the center, where there’s a non-illuminated aiming dot. The dot must be close to 3 MOA, since it completely covered the 2-inch aiming square as well. I found myself aiming by holding off so I could see the square, then placing the dot over it and trying to hold it there while I squeezed one off. Admittedly, such an outfit on the Mini-G would work just fine for rapidly putting holes in silhouettes, it just didn't give me the kind of precise aiming point I would have prefered for accuracy testing.

Even with these optics' handicaps, the Mini-G itself turned in some pretty darn good groups shooting off the sandbags. Using Portuguese 7.62x51mm surplus ball, I got a couple of 3-shot groups that went 1-1/4 inches. I fired a single group of Federal Gold Medal Match and it went 1-1/8 inches. Some Australian surplus ball went 2-1/4 and 2-1/2, but that particular ammo tends to shoot a little looser in my FALs as well when compared to the Port.


Once I got in the groove, the Mini-G was grouping Port surplus ball inside of an inch and a half and my last three rounds of Federal Match were only 1/8th inch away from MOA.

So accuracy is quite good on the Mini-G right out of the box. I'm thinking when I get some better optics mounted and feed it some of the "good stuff" ammunition-wise, the Mini-G will be able to hit that magical MOA if I do my part. As I understand it, "tweaking" the Schuster gas plug can also aid in fine-tuning accuracy.

The Mini-G’s accuracy performance was particularly satisfying to me personally when I compare it to my other 16-inch carbine. I have a brand-new in 2012 16.25-inch barreled DSA Para FAL that I’ve tried with issue iron sights, three different scopes, two different scope mounts and a plethora of different ammunition brands and types just trying to get thing to throw a 5-shot group better than about 5 MOA at 100 meters.

I also put the first five rounds of Port out of the Mini-G over the chronograph as well, and came out with an average of 2,607 feet per second, which was about what I expected for a short barrel. Even at that velocity, shooting .308 bullets in the 150-grain weight range you still have a 300 yard maximum point blank range. One simply zeros the scope at 250 yards and then you can hold the crosshairs center mass on a target the size of a deer's vitals all the way out to 300 yards before you need to start thinking about holding over. I've met very few people who have any business shooting at game animals, especially from field firing positions, beyond that range anyway.

For short range work, the Mini-G handles and balances very well in the hands, still retaining the ergonomics of the full size Garand that we all love so well. It shoulders and points naturally and easily. It's fast onto the target with the standard aperture sights. With the Amega Ranges or Ultimak mount, you can add whatever optic floats your boat; scout scope, red dot or holo sight. 


Sans optics, a Mini-G is almost exactly the same size as the old M1 carbine, but it's still a by-God Garand so the weight might seem heavy if you're used to the more modern mouse guns. Just remember you're throwing full-size .30-caliber projectiles, not 110-grain round nose slugs from a hopped-up pistol cartridge as in the case of the M1 carbine and certainly not .224-inch poodle slayers. With either the .308 or the .30-06 the whole "double-tap to chest, observe, repeat as often as necessary" routine can be done away with. A single center mass round will suffice and you can move on to the next target. 

The Mini-G has already become my official "truck gun" and I expect it will accompany me quite often up in the mountains, but I don’t figure on doing too much hunting with it, nor much long-range shooting beyond 300 yards. Oh sure, I’ll probably pop a whitetail or two with it just to get it “blooded” and so the other rifles in the gun safe don’t make fun of it late at night. What I really wanted the Mini-G for is to have a short, light and handy full-power semi-automatic carbine to tote along while recreating and to have around as a “camp gun”.

You see, I hike, fish, camp and hunt in grizzly country, often alone. After decades of Federal protection, some of these critters have gotten to thinking they’re the apex predator and that we two-legged varmints are considerably lower on the food chain than they are. If you look at it from their point of view, we’re pretty easy pickings; soft and fat and slow with no real teeth, horns or claws to fight back with. If Mr. Griz ever happens to come through the side of the tent at oh-dark-thirty trying to claim that apex predator title (that actually happened to an elk hunter down by Gardiner, MT many years ago) I don’t want to be messing around with working a bolt-action, lever or pump. I want full-power semi-auto; good, fast, reliable semi-auto. The Mini-G fits that bill handily.


Olongapo Outfitters makes, among other nice items, a dandy double Garand Stock Pouch for either right or left-handed M1 aficionados.

One final addition I do want to make, along with a new scope, is an Olongapo Outfitters double stock magazine pouch. Dennis makes a quality product and has a variety of ammo pouches including his rather cool "Grab and Go" rigs in various sizes to fit clips or mags for all the popular battle and assault rifles. We southpaw shooters especially appreciate that he makes the Garand Stock Pouch with the option for right or left-handed use. With the Mini-G loaded and a couple of extra clips readily at hand in the stock pouch, I should be good to go for any contingency short of the zombie apocalypse.

If I ever run into something whose hash I can’t settle with twenty four rounds of .308, I reckon I’m pretty well screwed anyway.    

3 comments:

Brandon said...

Good write up ! Love the Mini-G

And M14.CA has a lot of interesting add ons for it as well.

Anonymous said...

I know it is the current gun fad for all the "cool guys" to castrate their rifles. But the shorter barrels make them less effective more and damage prone. I also own a Garand, It's a near new (it was NIB when I bought it from a collector for 1200$ in 2008)S.N.A. Type 1 1956 NM. He's still pissed I won't sell it back. I WISH I had an FAL , but none of them on the current MKT are IMO worth the money asked.

Samuel said...

Great guns of there times, liked the one with the scope. Thanks for sharing.