M1 Garand Ammo: What Should You Shoot in Your M1?

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Hornady 168-grain M1 Garand ammo.
Hornady 168-grain M1 Garand ammo.

As supplies of M2 Ball ammo dwindle, knowing what M1 Garand ammo you can safely fire in your military surplus rifle is critical.

Best Ammo for M1 Garand

Serious milsurp rifle shooters shopping for M1 Garand ammo rely on M2 Ball, .30-06 150-grain. Contemporary high-pressure hunting ammo can damage the operating rod in your M1.

But with dwindling supplies of M2 Ball on the surplus market, what’s a Garand shooter to do? Here are four M1 Garand ammo solutions to keep your warhorse purring.

Factory M1 Garand Ammo

A few years back several ammo companies began producing lower-pressure M1 Garand ammo. One was Federal, which produced a 150-grain Garand load in its American Eagle line.

Another was Hornady. It produces a 168-grain Garand ammo load that plays nice with the M1’s gas system. 

“Permanent damage can occur while shooting standard factory loaded 30-06 ammunition in the M1 Garand,” said Dave Emary, Hornady Chief Ballistic Scientist. “Typical factory loads contain propellants that when fired, result in port pressures and gas volumes that are too high, causing violent stress to the rifle's operating rod, bolt, and receiver.”

This offering from Hornady is purpose-built to provide safe and reliable functioning in the M1 Garand.

Sellier & Bellot makes a 150-grain .30-06 loading “For M1 Garand” as part of its match tactical line of ammo.

Sellier & Bellot 150-grain .30-06 loading “For M1 Garand.”
Sellier & Bellot 150-grain .30-06 loading “For M1 Garand.”

Reload Your Own Garand Ammo

If you can’t find commercial ammo for your M1 Garand you can always handload your own. Some Garand shooters have obtained stunning accuracy from CMP guns equipped with original barrels.

A few tips for best-performing .30-06 Garand loads: Keep pressures light and watch brass length — keep your brass trimmed! Don’t load bullets to the lands, there should be plenty of room for rounds to feed from the clip. Use bullets lighter than 180 grains; 150 grains is still the safe bet.

Popular powders include IMR3031, IMR4064 and Varget. The Hornady reloading manual has a special section devoted to “Service Rifles.”

Note that some claim that the Federal 210M primers may cause a slamfire. Other reloaders have reported no problems.

GarandGear.com Ported Gas Screw

The GarandGear.com Gas Plug allows you to shoot all sorts of .30-06 ammo in your surplus rifle.
The GarandGear.com Gas Plug allows you to shoot all sorts of .30-06 ammo in your surplus rifle.

If you have trouble locating commercial M1 Garand ammo loadings and don’t want to venture into reloading, there’s another option: The Ported Gas Screw from GarandGear.com.

“Unlike a venting gas screw, our product works by changing the initial conditions in the gas cylinder,” the company says. “The ported gas screw increases the starting volume in the gas cylinder, which results in lower peak pressures. No adjustments are required and no gas will vent from the device. The ported gas screw will produce lower peak pressures in all brands of ammunition that meet the SAAMI specifications for the 30-06 cartridge, regardless of bullet weight.”

Pressure tests conducted by garandgear.com. Photos courtesy garandgear.com.
Pressure tests conducted by garandgear.com. Photos courtesy garandgear.com.

GarandGear tested a variety of commercial .30-06 loadings against M2 Ball as the benchmark to measure pressure curves. The ported gas screw reduced pressure in 26 different loadings. Click here to read the research.

M2 Ball Ammo Sources

Don’t overlook the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), a longtime source for M2 Ball ammo. It even has its own loading, produced under the Creedmoor Ammunition banner. The stuff is loaded using Hornady 150-gr. FMJ-BTs and Hornady brass.

Another good source is to watch online gun auctions such as Gunbroker. As of the date of this writing, we find 66 listings on the mega-site for M2 Ball, including many in originally sealed cartons and ammo cans.

Best Ammo for M1 Garand?

Bottom line: Don’t stuff any old .30-06 into your CMP Garand and blast away or you could find yourself with a bent or broken operating rod.

Instead, treat your military surplus rifle right and choose the correct M1 Garand ammo from the get-go. You’ll keep this iconic battle rifle shooting for years to come.


Dig Deeper into the M1 Garand:


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