Wandered over to see Gun Mentor around midday. He had a stack of newly-reloaded .223 to test, and I wanted to finally get to shoot the Greek surplus M2 Ball .30-06 Springfield ammo I'd bought. He grabbed his black rifle, I grabbed my Garand, and we headed to the range.
I'm now able to get fairly consistent groups of 4-5 inches with my Garand. I know that doesn't sound that good, but this is at 100 yards with an open blade sight on a 70-year old gun - and most importantly, with my crappy 43-year-old eyes. At the moment, I'm working to try to determine the best weld and position to shoot from. You can tell because my clip-to-clip groups move all over the place (at least, their centers do) as I try new things. Sling under my left hand, against the foregrip? Sling around my wrist? What opening on the sling in use? Right elbow tight in, or further out? Cheekbone against the top of the stock, or lower? None of them are 'comfortable' - that is to say, none of them feel 'right' yet. So I keep shooting. Eventually, I'll figure it out.
Since there was nobody else at the range, we cheated and turned a bunch of the benches on end to stop our empties from flying into the tall grass. As a result, I came home with 94 cases from 96 shots, which is pretty darn good. It is unbelievable how brass will just 'burrow' into the grass. You'd think it'd be easy to see, but no way. I've never come home with all my hulls.
Once we got back, I cleaned the Garand - this time including taking the gas plug out and cleaning the gas port and plug, as well as stripping the old thick grease off the gas piston and operating rod and replacing it. When I was done, I took the reproduction Garand cleaning kit I'd bought online and learned how to fit it all into the two cylindrical holes behind the butt plate, where it was designed to be carried. Not that I'll use it often, but it's good to know it's in there (rod, brush, patch holder, patches, pot of grease, greasing tool, M1 tool for sight adjustments and for removing the gas plug).
After that, I took another look at the forlorn Winchester Model 74 that I'd managed to screw up a couple months ago. In the interim, at the advice of a sage gun person, I'd bought a .22 Long Rifle chamber ream - a hardened (carbide?) tool designed to 'recut' the chamber of a firearm. After a few minutes of figuring out how to get it into the chamber, which involved removing a couple of metal pieces from the chamber with a punch and hammer (I don't think they'd been moved since the 1940s when the gun was made) we managed to get the ream all the way into the chamber with a square drive and extension bar. Having lightly coated the ream in oil, I managed to turn it slowly and carefully inside the chamber until all resistance was gone. After taking that out, and reassembling the barrel, I found that a .22 LR cartridge dropped lightly into the chamber (when the chamber is held facing down) will now fall directly into battery, with no pressure required, and seat against the chamber edge. Hooray!
I was too tired to try to replace the firing pin that day, because the bolt assembly of the Model 74 is a two-piece twitchy nightmare of a thing held together by cleverly hooked pieces of metal but maintained under an enormous tension by multiple springs. The only really safe way to disassemble it is inside a large plastic Ziploc bag, so that when it does come apart no small piece goes flying off into the corner of the room. Some of these pieces are just small pins maybe a centimeter long and a millimeter or two wide, so that would pretty much be the end of that, if they did.
Looking at the cases from the Greek ammo (head stamp HXP 77) I found that while they were all in good shape at the neck, their rims and bases were noticeably deformed - the bolt on the Garand slamming forward to load them had caused slight angled flat spots on the bottom of the cartridge, and the ejector had caused some deep marks as well. Investigating online, I found that it's likely that this ammo was annealed softer than usual since it was made for use in machine guns - the softer cases mean that the rapidly-moving parts of the gun are less likely to break or wear, and the military doesn't care about reload value.
Despite these blemishes, though, they all reloaded fine and went through the case gage with no problems once they had been resized. So I should be able to get at least 3 or 4 reloads out of them, and at $0.60/round full up, they're still probably the best deal for M1 ammo on the market in the US at the moment.