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07/12/2005 Archived Entry: "Weaponlight for an M1 Garand"


Blogispondent Ian here. A couple months ago I attended a rifle training course at Front Sight with my M1. My rifle performed very well for me, with one exception: night shooting. The fairly small rear aperture sight that allows for precise shooting during the day is a real detriment at night. The aperture restricts the amount of light passing through to the shooter's eye. In my experience at Front Sight, targets at 50 yards simply couldn't be seen through the sights without some extra illumination. There are several ways to reduce or eliminate this problem, but the one I decided to look at first is a rifle-mounted flashlight (others include an optical sight, night vision device, or tritium sight inserts).

A light on a firearm not only allows targeting in low/no light conditions, it also greatly improves your ability to identify a target - something absolutely essential for the civilian shooter. At Front Sight we practiced holding a flashlight alongside a rifle, and it was really not a good solution - the light was hard to control and the rifle got very heavy very quickly. Mounting a light onto the a rifle keeps it pointed where the muzzle is aimed and leaves the shooter able to use both hands to control the rifle.

There are commercial light mounts available for many of the more "tactical" (read: black and expensive) firearms on the market, including ARs and most major shotgun designs. The M1 doesn't exactly have a huge following in the high-speed, low-drag combat rifle market, and there is no flashlight mount made for it. That left it to me to figure out how to make one. I wanted it to be easily removeable (hanging a flashlight out on the end of a 9-pound M1 doesn't exactly improve its balance), and I wanted it to use an pressure switch (to allow me to quickly and easily turn it on and off).

My attention was directed to the bayonet lug that comes standard on every M1 made. A bayonet certainly meets my quick-detach requirement, so what if I made a bayonet into a light mount?

I purchased a Surefire G2 light ($30), a pressure pad switch for it ($25), an old M5A1 bayonet ($20), some soft rubber tubing (for cushioning), and a medium-sized hose clamp (see all components). Total cost was just about $75 - not cheap, but not too bad considering what commercial mounts cost. My first step was to cut the blade off the bayonet. I knew bayonet blades were pretty strong, but it didn't really sink in until I had literally worn an inch of sabre saw metal-cutting blade completely smooth (cutting maybe 3/16s of an inch into the bayonet in the process). Whoops. I slowed down my cutting and used the whole length of the blade, and did get the bayonet cut at last. Next I used a Dremel tool to cut a groove in the bayonet grip. The was to hold the hole clamp low enough that it would not interfere with attaching the device to the rifle (the clearance between the bayonet and gas tube is pretty narrow). You may notice that there are two grooves - I was going to use two hose clamps until I noticed that the forward one would prevent the use of the locking lever on the bayonet (which is used to remove it from the rifle). Another whoops.

Anyway, I next cut my soft rubber tubing (quarter-inch OD; donated by a local car parts store) into two flat strips. I wrapped one around the light where the hose clamp would be holding it and the other around where the head of the light would be pressed against the bayonet handle. These are to absorb some of the recoil force that will be jostling the light around. What I've read indicates that flashlight bulbs (even the really good ones) tend to break frequently when used as weaponlights, and I want mine to survive as long as possible. Once the tubing was in place, I simply slid the hose clamp on and tightened it down. The one modification I had to make to my M1 was the addition of a piece of velcro to the front of the stock, to hold the pressure switch in place. Wha-la, one weaponlight ready to go.

After dark, I took it out and did some dry practice. Within the range of the light, it works superbly. The light reflecting off the target is more than sufficient to make the sights sharp and visible, and the light beam is well aligned with the barrel. One of these nights I'll take it out for the final test, some live firing at night.

Posted by Ian @ 07:14 PM CST

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