Question about rifles used in US Military Color Guard Detail

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Nov 14, 2007
Watching a US Marine Corps commercial; of course they're displaying/spinning Garands in their full dress, which is of course a rifle technology essentially two steps of rifle designs behind the current issue weapon (going backward from the m4/m16, to the M14, then Garand). Of course, they do this, presumably for aesthetic/nostalgia reasons.

My question is, "Is there a long historical precedent for this, or not?" In other words, during the days of the Spencer, was a Brown Bess used in the formal color-guard type displays? In the days of the Garand, was a Krag-Jorgenson used? During the M14 era, was an '03 used? Do we always lag behind, or is this solely a function of the "ugliness" of the black rifle in contrast to the dress blues?

Or did they not have these displays during old school times?


I'd be interested to hear more about this.

Maybe a detachable box magazine makes it more difficult to perform the drills?
It might be the detachable mag thing. Russian drill teams use SKSs. There might also be the factor that Garands are the newest manageable thing that we don't have a use for and haven't scrapped.
I think it is the cool "SNAP" of the loose front handguards as they spin them.

Can't have loose handguards in an M4...
Back in the mid 80's I did a 90 day stint as an NCO with the Fort Huachuca honor guard while stationed at the Electronic Proving Grounds. Fort Huachuca has a national cemetery and we performed a lot of burials for both active duty and retired military personnel as well as things like raising the flag and firing canons at the governors inauguration.

While I'm sure we weren't up to par with the Sentinel Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers or the Marine color guard in DC we did take a certain amount of pride in our work. And we practiced at drills a lot. Usually around 20 hours a week. We used M14s. We used M14 simply because they are a much easier weapon to do drills with and not because of any traditions about using a 2 or 3 generation old weapon. If M1s had been available we probably would have used them.
i believe its just looks and the fact that the m1 is a very recognizable rifle

many people cant tell the difference between an 03 and a 1917 or a krag
but most peolpe that have watched a war movie can tell that that its the rifle that won wwII that and using an m16 just doesnt look as good as chromed m1 or m14 but here the marines use the m-16 for drills at the cemetary i believe its jsut because they have them though
I think it's just because black plastic is ugly. Or maybe, the larger magazine of the M16/M14 gets in the way.
Several reasons, I think.

1) the Garand/M14 are the most attractive military rifles in the world, period.:p
2) They are well balanced and thus spin and present well,:neener:
3) They're appropriate for use in honoring service men of the '30's-60's,:D
4) Have you ever seen an honor guard using the M-16/M-4? Talk about Fugly hardware and clumsy motions because of the gun shape and balance! :barf:
5) Since so many servicemen suffered jamming and poor operation during combat with the early M-16's, why not just have Robert McNamara come piss on the grave or memorial of the Honor Guard duty at hand instead of using a drill rifle at all? That's the weapon he left our guys in hand back in the day, after all.:cuss:

Sorry about that last item... that SOB McNamara and his stubborn refusal to acknowledge the complete clusterf*ck of his sh*t toy popgun cost a lot of guys life or limb or health and it still PISSES ME OFF!:fire:
I'd like to add what I can to this topic.

I have a great deal of personal experience in rifle drill; the reason the USMC Silent Drill Platoon uses the M1 Garand for rifle drill is its balance, wood, lack of a magwell and the simple fact that it is a classic rifle, and has no large bolt handle like the 1903. I have done rifle drill with an M1 Garand, it is much easier, though heavier, than any other rifle I have used. I doubt they will ever use an AR platform for rifle drill, the Air Force tried it and found it to be a terrible rifle for use in drill, so they reverted to the M14, mostly to be different from the Marine Corps.

Of all service rifles, the M1 Garand and M14 are the best for use in rifle drill. As far as I know, the only two rifles ever used by the USMC Silent Drill Platoon are the Springfield 1903 and the M1 Garand. It is possible they used the M14 for a short period of time.

Please don't go tossing your M1 Garand around to see how well balanced it is, that is one of the highest sins. It took me five minutes to psych myself up to do a toss for the first time with an M1 Garand; we both lived. Oh, and even in rifles that use a magazine, it is never inserted during drill.
Having done some drill and ceremony work, I like the M-14 rifles over any other for maneuvering. That rifle was meant to do the Queen Anne rifle salute like no other. I've tried working with the M-1 rifles and the M-16 rifles but that M-14 has it over all the other rifles bar none. Rifles and soldiers get picked to do ceremonial work for a variety of reasons. The M-14 gets picked for balance and ease of turning it, etc. The soldiers all get picked because they look good in uniforms, are all about the same height, all are thin to medium (no fat boys like me now are allowed) and they all have no physical disabilities. So everything comes together with lots and lots of practice prior to the actual ceremony date. During practice is when some guys will try to adjust the balance of their rifles in one way or another to meet their personal liking. But, when everything is said and done, that's how the different rifles get tuned, adjusted and chosen for use.
We used M1s for drill back when I was in ROTC. Among other things, it seems to be easier to synchronize inspection arms than with the M16. It also gave us the option to loosen up the handguards in order to create a louder "crack" when handling the weapons.

Also, most rifles used exclusively for drill are de-milled. Ours had the barrels plugged and welded and firing pin hole in the bolt welded shut. It wouldn't make much sense to do this with current issue M16s when there are so many M1s and M14s laying around unused.
Rifleman173, with the M14, is the mag in or out? Is it a 20 rounder or shorter 10 rounder? Not get in the way?

Thanks everyone who chimed in - yeah, I guess the P-grip of an M16 would really prevent your spinning moves - you want a rifle with a profile that is as "straight" as possible, like a stick, and that ain't the M16.
With an M-14 you have a couple of options. Most of the time the magazine is out for D & C. There is, however, a short magazine that sets flush with the bottom of the rifle. I think that it only holds like 5 or 7 rounds and you used to have to special order it. I'm not sure if they still make that short magazine for the M-14 any more. You can also use an M-1A like you would an M-14 but it may not be good for the glass bedding of the rifle if you drop it. I know that I wouldn't use an M-1A like a D & C M-14 rifle but I knew a couple of guys who did that once many years ago.
Can't have loose handguards in an M4...

poh, come now. if you truly believe that, you dont own enough ar15's :)

most ar15 standard handguards wiggle!
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