POTD: Primer Actuated? The 1924 Garand Autoloading Rifle

Welcome to today’s Photo of the Day! Here we have what would end up being the M1 Garand, albeit a few decades later. This is John C. Garand’s 1924 Garand Autoloading Rifle. Despite its significance to the eventual M1 Garand, it is unique in that its operating system relied on primer actuation. John C. Garand’s primer-actuated system in the 1924 Garand Autoloading Rifle operated with the aid of specialized ammunition and slightly different internal parts. The primers in these cartridges were indented prematurely so that when the cup-shaped face of the firing pin struck it and set it off it would cause a pressure change that forced the primer slightly rearward and subsequently the action as a whole. This system’s main downfall is attributed to two things. One, the ammunition being used was standard-issue military ammunition with the modified primer and primer pocket. At some point, the ordinance department changed the type of powder being used and completely put the rifle out of sync. Also, the new ammunition by the ordinance department had staked in primers which prevented easy modification and looseness when going through machine gun vibrations.

“This is an extremely rare example of a very early experimental primer-actuated Garand semi-automatic (or autoloading) rifle. This model was eventually finalized as the Model 1924; however, it is typically called a Type 2 Garand as it was the second primer-actuated semi-automatic rifle designed by John Garand. This was a very unique and unusual concept rifle. Up until then, all cartridges used a flat indented primer that fit into a primer pocket in the base that was struck by a forward moving firing pin. In this primer-actuated design, the firing pin is actually somewhat larger than today’s and is cupped shaped and has the fixed firing pin tip in the center. When the rifle was fired, the round, non-rotating bolt struck the primer face and the resulting internal pressure of the case would have actually forced the primer reward 2-3 thousands (called primer set-back). This set-back would in turn force the firing pin rearward slightly (like a tappet) to assist/start to unlock the bolt and then the resulting extraction, ejection and reloading sequence. This rifle was NOT a turn bolt rifle design like the earlier model T1920; instead, it had a tipping bolt design where the rear of the bolt was locked up into the receiver, which actually allowed the primer actuated design to functional properly. In looking at this design, it seems rather complex in comparison to everything after, but it worked satisfactorily. It is estimated that 25 of these second models were manufactured in three different barrel configurations with different stock configurations. Eventually, the evaluation board standardized on a single stock and barrel configuration (24 inches like the 1903), and all of the examples were sent to infantry and cavalry units for field testing. The design again proved to be completely successful, allowing it to fire approximately 100 rounds in succession without any stoppages.”

1924 Garand

Lot 1363: Springfield Armory U.S. – 1924 Garand Autoloading Rifle – Historic and Extremely Rare Prototype U.S. Springfield Armory Garand Primer-Actuated Semi-Automatic Rifle. (n.d.). Rock Island Auction Company. photograph. Retrieved November 2, 2022, from https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/74/1363/springfield-armory-us-1924-garand-autoloading-rifle.

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