Right off the bat, I’m kind of lying to you. There was never a Tanker model of the M1 Garand. The Tanker moniker for shorter, smaller Garand carbines is a misnomer and is used by commercial companies. The tankers in the M1 Garand era were already armed with guns like the M1 Carbine and M3 Submachine guns. They also had the main gun, coax .50 cal, and the rest of the freaking tank. Tankers didn’t need a short M1, but plenty of other troops did.
Most notably, the idea of a shortened M1 Garand was attached to paratroopers and for jungle warfare. If you’ve never held an M1 Garand, it might be tough to imagine how large and heavy a rifle it can be. The M1 Garand had a 24-inch barrel with an overall length of 43.5 inches. It weighed nearly ten pounds. Compared to a modern AR-15 carbine, it might as well have been a Kentucky-long rifle.
The M1 Garand was way ahead of its time, but World War 2 proved it needed to be trimmed down a bit. There were three efforts to produce a Garand Carbine. The most famous is the T26, but it was one of three rifles designed to provide a more compact Garand.
The M1 Garand Carbines
The M1 Carbine was great, and so were the M3 and the BAR, but they all had their flaws. The carbines didn’t offer the same range or penetration as the M1 Garand. They weren’t full-powered rifles and were compromised. The BAR was bigger and heavier than the M1 Garand. A shorter, lighter M1 Garand would be invaluable for paratroopers. Anyone who has watched Band of Brothers (or a YouTube video of Airborne training) realizes that jumps don’t always go as planned. Big weapons were tricky to tote when you’re jumping from a plane.
Across the world, the Pacific War raged on. The jungles of the island campaign were tight, close in, and brutal. The M1 Garand made jungle warfare tough, and the Pacific Warfare Board saw the same flaws with the M3 and M1 Carbine and thought a short M1 Garand was the answer. This led to three different prototypes of the M1 Garand.
The M1E5 Garand Carbine
The first Garand Carbine was the M1E5. The M1E5 was the most radical of the M1 Garand Carbines. John Garand and Springfield Armory went to work to produce a shorter, lighter, more paratrooper-friendly rifle. The resulting weapon was the M1E5 with an 18-inch barrel and an under-folding stock. The weapon was designated a carbine and used a specially made 18-inch barrel and not a shortened M1 Garand barrel.
The rifle has a shorter handguard and op-rod. The rifle was 37.5 inches long overall and weighed eight pounds and six ounces. The M1E5 was taken to Aberdeen Proving Grounds and tested. Testing found accuracy was on par with the standard M1 at 300 yards. Recoil, muzzle rise, and muzzle flash were declared excessive, and a pistol grip was suggested. A rather dinky one was added.
Further testing continued to show the rifle was unpleasant to fire, and its advantages did not make up for its disadvantages. The M1E5 was shelved to work on other, higher-priority projects.
The PWB Garand
While Springfield Armory may have shelved the concept, the Pacific Warfare Board still saw the value of a shorter M1 Garand. It’s entirely likely that the PWB didn’t even know that Springfield Armory had already experimented with a similar platform.
The M1 carbine wasn’t cutting it in the jungle, and the Garand was too damn big. Thus, they took the M1 Garand and trimmed six inches off its barrel length to create an 18-inch barrel. The PWB also had a vertical foregrip fit to likely deal with the lack of a long handguard. The Chief of the PWB ordered an Army ordnance unit to produce 150 Garand carbines. Unlike the M1E5, the PWB rifle participated in field testing in the Pacific.
The rifle was evaluated by infantrymen and platoon leaders. The idea was solid, but the grunts found the rifle unwieldy. In fact, they described it as “totally unsuitable for a combat weapon.” The muzzle flash was described as a flash bulb going off in the dark. The PWB Garand Carbine was sent to Springfield Armory. The armorers found the PWB rifle to be crude, as you’d imagine a well-used, modified in-the-war rifle would be.
The T26 was the Garand, best known as the Tanker Garand. The armorers at Springfield Armory developed this M1 Garand off of the PWB Rifle and called it the T26. The T26 used the same M1 stock and lacked a handguard or vertical grip entirely.
Testing showed that the T26 Garand Carbine resulted in a higher muzzle flash, blast, and recoil. It was also less reliable than the standard M1 Garand. Even with those issues, an order for 15,000 was placed for Paratroopers. However, it was canceled after Japan’s surrender.
Short and Sweet
The Tanker M1 Garands were never made for tankers. It’s funny how that name got attached to them. These rifles are just Garand Carbines and were designed for combat that benefited from shorter rifles. However, it doesn’t seem like a Garand carbine was meant to be, and we never saw any large-scale use. You can buy your own, but it’s a pretty penny to do so.