The Side-Loading M1 Garand Was Not Meant to Be
New magazine layout was complex and awkward
In 1951 and ’52, the U.S. military’s official Springfield Armory began experimenting with re-chambering the M1 Garand with the new T65E3 light rifle cartridge. As part of these experiments, the armory tested several alternate feed and magazine systems. In order to re-chamber a standard M1 in the new cartridge, the armorers replaced the barrel and placed a machined aluminum filler block in the breech to compensate for the shorter length of the new cartridge.
Springfield awarded Roy S. Sanford & Company of Oakville, Connecticut the contract to develop a 10-round integral side-loading magazine for the M1 chambered in the T65E3 round. The magazine was to be an integral precision-made part of the rifle, which the shooter could be reload using an inexpensive clip. In contrast to the standard M1, the new system was to allow the topping off of the magazine.
Sanford was a prolific engineer who also patented a number of belt-feed systems. He adapted at least two testbed T35 Garands to fit the new side magazine. This meant a number of changes to existing subsystems, including the vertical alignment of the charging handle and the addition of a large hump on the fore stock to provide a place for the large magazine housing, which jutted out of the rifle’s receiver.
Sanford’s magazine could hold 10 rounds. However, the system was complex and required a follower, a partition assembly and a last-round feeder in order to function. The partition assembly was made up of six small pieces which attached to the follower, the entirety of which was raised by the follower arm as the magazine was expended. Sanford & Company’s final report on the magazine system, published in December 1953, explained how the magazine worked
“The 10-round magazine, in effect, is a single row of rounds folded on itself,” the report read. “Feed is provided by spring loading the return bend to move the rounds toward the gun. A partition is required to separate the stationary side. This partition must also permit ‘turn around’ at the bend. The replenishing of the magazine is accomplished at the fixed end of the row.”
Sanford used sheet metal to help minimize the additional weight caused by the new magazine. The shooter loaded this first model from left side while, in the second model, the firer loaded from the right. Sanford built the second model from a partially complete receiver to allow it to load from the left — and this also allowed him to reduce the magazine orientation from 30 degrees to 15 degrees, improving the rifle’s appearance and handling, according to Sanford.
This however, increased the difficulty of retrofitting existing M1s to use the new system.
Springfield tested another side-loading integral magazine, a derivative of Melvin Johnson’s rotary magazine. Olin Industries built the system in 1952 and ’53 and was tested it in April 1954. Testers reported that converting existing M1 Garands to use the rotary magazine would have been “exceedingly difficult and probably impractical.”
The Sanford Integral Magazine rifle underwent trials at the Springfield Armory at the beginning of 1954, including the firing of 313 rounds. During the 100-round function test, Springfield found the rifle to be difficult to load with clips. There were also concerns about the rigidity of the stock.
While the weapon was said to have functioned satisfactorily, Springfield’s final report in August 1954 deemed that the magazine system had several undesirable features that made it unacceptable. As a result, Springfield decided that the side-loading integral magazine was not militarily suitable.