Monthly Archives: October 2013

James River Armory M1 Garand: A Curt Review.

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Recently I had a James River Armory M1 Garand home, and I’ll be frank I was expecting a lot. I had read posts from a few of the circle of military collectors I associate with saying things like, “Looking for all original M1 Garand, will consider James River guns as well.” Expecting literal period correct freshness, like unpacking a Garand in 1943 for the first time, I’ll come right off the bat and say this was not the case entirely, though there is a lot of good as well. This is a bit of a tough review for me as generally, I only like to review products I’m favourable of, this is my hobby and positivity is something I enjoy in it. With that said, I still appreciated the James River Armory Garand, but I did have some serious reservations, and that’s I suppose what a true review is all about so I’ll share them here.

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The wood is beautiful, the cartouches whatever your opinion of the reproductions sharp and the tone and finish of everything very nice, the stain very military. I really appreciated how James River used what appears to be the early, slimmer contour stock lines, when you’ve handled James River’s pattern beside a Boyds or later original stock you do gain a fond appreciation for the slim lines. I also appreciated that James River makes no bones about the fact their guns are reproductions, stamping such inside the stock. Barrels on many are new Criterion, but not on the example in this review, it was original military so James River has thresholds it appears for replacement. This was a bit of a let down for me, as given I was accepting a fresh Garand and understood it was not original, I was hoping for as fresh as possible, not a paint job on an old car so to speak. Granted, some would argue having an original barrel, even if imperfect, denotes a higher value than a modern Criterion. I can see their point, but again would argue, since the stock’s replaced, and the gun’s refinished, why not a fresh barrel too?

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In Canada, pricing for all James River Armory Garands is the same, new barrel, old barrel, regardless. I have not researched every angle on the US side whether pricing varies depending on originality and components replaced, this is very much a Canadian perspective where “James River” means one high level of anticipated quality at one price. I add this as a caveat to explain my dissatisfaction with the old barrel, which as we’ll see below, had some very notable finished over pitting and the bore while good was certainly not in keeping with the exterior appearance of the rifle. The entire rifle was reparkerized, in a light gray that looks “fresh” compared to seeing the remnants of 60 year old parkerizing on the same rifles for decades. The finish was even, with colour variance between the barrel and smaller components. The receiver, op rod, and trigger group are the same light grey, and the barrel and gas cylinder a darker grey, I understand this is very likely correct and is simply an observation. All in all I’d call it very good- as good as you’d get from a good shop’s work if you sent it off, the pitting shown is deeper than can be expected to be removed in the refinish. Below you’ll see the first photo of the pitting, on the barrel over the gas cylinder. Following that is the muzzle, and receiver pitting with cross hatched sanding marks, refinished over.

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As I’m sure you’ve deduced, I expected more from the fairly highly regarded James River Armory. What I found was simply a refinished Garand of mediocre condition in a very nice replacement stock, with what appears to have been aggressive sanding used on the receiver, and must admit in general collector’s considerations I’ve been familiar with through the years all destroy value not increase it. The stock, again, is extremely nice and the high point of the rifle to me. Perhaps James River is rescuing rifles and giving them a new life, but I must admit concern this restoration program is consuming serviceable original Garands, like this one given the barrel and all is original, giving it a hard sanding and refinishing, new stock, and reselling for a premium. Now, I have to admit I’m pleased to see they’re using rougher condition Garands, it would be a shock and a shame to be restocking and refinishing decent condition guns, plus price prohibitive surely for James River Armory as well. So maybe it’s not a bad thing, seeing these imperfections, perhaps they’re the hallmarks of rescued rifles; they’re just not for me, I’ll shop for good originals still. If there were a sliding price scale on them, depending on what has been done and original condition, and perhaps this is possible in the US, I would be more favourable. Boutique style, priced per particular item sales would be far more appropriate than the same price tag on this aggressively restored rifle as one with no receiver pitting and a fresh Criterion barrel in my opinion. Ultimately, it’s up to the buyers, and the James River Armory guns are certainly selling.