7.62X51 MM NATO U.S. NAVY GARAND RIFLES
With the U.S. Army and Marine Corps receiving the bulk of early M14 rifle production, the Navy chose to convert .30-’06 Sprg. M1 Garands to 7.62x51 mm NATO, extending the service life of John Garand’s masterpiece.
The M14 rifle was officially adopted in 1957 as a replacement for the M1 rifle that had served our armed forces so well for more than 20 years. The adoption of the M14 rifle and the concurrent procurement of the M60 machine gun resulted in the 7.62x51 mm NATO cartridge becoming the standardized cartridge to replace the .30 Springfield (.30-’06 Sprg.). As events transpired, however, due to production delays and glitches encountered with the new M14, it soon became apparent that the Garand’s tenure of service with the U.S. military was far from over.
This led to the obvious question of what the Army was going to do with the .30-cal. Garands in its inventory until M14s became available in sufficient numbers.
The U.S. Army Ordnance Dept. evaluated the relative merits of converting the .30-cal. M1s to fire the new 7.62x51 mm NATO cartridge; a concept not without precedent as the Italian military had previously embarked on a program of converting its .30-cal. Garand rifles to 7.62 mm. The rifles were modified for the Italian government by the venerable firm of Beretta. After a great deal of study, the U.S. Army decided against modifying its M1 rifles to chamber the new NATO round. The U.S. Army and Marine Corps were aware that they would be receiving the new M14s as they came on line, and were content to continue using .30-cal. Garands in the interim.
But the U.S. Navy’s need for small arms was very much secondary to those of the Army and Marines, and it was not certain when, or even if, the Navy would be re-equipped with M14s. Small arms were not a major part of the Navy’s inventory, and obtaining the latest service rifles was not considered a matter of great urgency. Nevertheless, while not among its primary armament priorities, rifles were required by the Navy for equipping landing parties, security/sentry personnel, sailors in basic training and competitive shooting teams.
It was believed that the M1s already in inventory would suffice, but it was deemed prudent to have commonality of ammunition with the M14 to mitigate logistical and supply problems. The logical course of action would be to convert the Navy’s Garands to chamber the now-standard 7.62x51 mm NATO cartridge, the Army’s aversion to that course of action notwithstanding.
Plans were made to devise the best method of modifying the Navy’s M1 rifles. In 1959, $25,000 was appropriated for the project to be carried out by the Naval Ordnance Plant in York, Pa., under the direction of James F. Weller. It was soon concluded that the insertion of a metal chamber bushing or sleeve configured to the 7.62 mm cartridge would be the most expedient method of accomplishing the conversion. In 1962, the Navy engaged the services of the H.P. White Laboratories in Street, Md., to develop a satisfactory bushing. In addition to the chamber bushing insert, the gas port of the barrel had to be enlarged to provide sufficient gas for proper rifle functioning. A plastic magazine spacer or block was developed to prevent the accidental loading of the longer .30-’06 Sprg. cartridges into the shorter 7.62x51 mm NATO chamber. The spacer was attached to the M1’s bullet guide. In 1964, Springfield Armory conducted testing on the Navy’s proposed modification of the M1 rifles to 7.62 mm, which were designated “M1E14.”
Preliminary testing at Springfield revealed the barrel chamber bushings tended to become loose and could be ejected—along with the fired cartridge case—at any given time. In an attempt improve the situation, Loktite was applied to the bushing and several rounds subsequently fired to seat it in the chamber. This proved to be only marginally successful. Despite the generally negative conclusions of the Springfield Armory test report, the Navy proceeded with plans to convert many of its .30-’06 Sprg. M1s to 7.62 mm. Although tested by the Army and Marine Corps, with a few exceptions (mentioned below), the .30-’06 Sprg. Garands converted to 7.62 mm were modified under the auspices of the U.S. Navy.
When a Garand was converted to 7.62 mm configuration by the Navy, the rifle was no longer classified as an M1 and was given new nomenclature. As was the Navy’s policy regarding all manner of equipment, not just arms, “MK” (Mark) and “MOD” (Model) numbers were assigned to the converted rifles. For example, the Garand rifles converted to 7.62 mm by means of a barrel bushing were designated as MK 2 – MOD 0” (Mark 2, Model Zero). The later rifles with newly made 7.62 mm barrels installed were the “MK 2 – MOD 1” (Mark 2, Model One).