Restoring an M1-how to?

Today I began the first step in a hobby I have been thinking about for years. I want to buy and restore and M1 Garand, carbine and the paratrooper carbine. I priced them out at a gun show today, and may be able to purchase all three within a few years.

The main question I have is how to go about restoring the wood. Is there a certain kind of stain or varnish I should use? Is there a special way I should go about sanding? Or is this one of those things you are better off just giving a good cleaning and leaving alone?

Any tips or suggestions would be awesome.
Peace through firepower,

The Rev.

Better buy them ASAP. The prices will continue to rise dramatically.

As far as the wood goes. Combat weapons are purposely given a dull finish, to prevent reflection, etc. If you want to restore them, leave them flat.

A friend of mine is a gun enthusiast, and has both a Garand and an M1 carbine. He sanded the wood smooth, used a grain filler, re-sanded, steel-wooled, stained them walnut, and finished with a polyurethane gloss finish. He also blued the steel. The weapons are beautiful, but not “restored”.


I have to say that considering U.S. miitary naming practices, just saying “M1” is practically useless. From reading the title I had no idea if you were restoring an M-1 Garand, M-1 carbine or M-1 tank. I guess that 200 years to the future, America will be issuing its troops M-1 Tacyon Beam rifles to carry while deploying in their M-1 Hovertanks.

The first thing is to determine what kind of shape the guns are in mechanically. If they operate properly and all parts are in spec, you are ahead of the game. Bores on M1 carbines are usually good because .30 carbine ammo has always been noncorrosive. Garands were used with corrosive ammo through a big chunk of their tenure and dark bores are not uncommon. You’ll want a bore light and a set of go/no-go gauges for both the Garand and the carbine, at the very least.
As far as refinishing the wood, WWII-era American rifles were finished with boiled linseed oil, IIRC. That stuff isn’t as easy to work with as more modern finishes, but it is period authentic.
Refinishing the metal, which would involve parkerizing, isn’t impossible for the home hobbyist but may be more involved than you want to get into. Further, different methods of parkerizing give different colored results, not all of which are period authentic.
It goes without saying that if any of the guns you are using are rare or collector’s pieces, you won’t do anything to them. Refinishing them would only lower their value.

Here’s a good website with a couple of refinishing techniques. When I got my CMP Garand around 10 years ago, I used a hybrid of these - I stripped the old finish with Easy Off, then did a few passes with steel wool to smooth it. It didn’t really have any dents, so I didn’t have to do any of the steaming methods. IIRC, I did one coat of Minwax Tung Oil finish, then used Chestnut Ridge Garand military stain (which is supposed to match the stain used by the Army 60 years ago), then a few more coats of Tung Oil, steel wooling between each. It came out really nice - has the same color as original Garands I’ve seen, with a non-reflective, but still deep finish. I used the Tung Oil Finish for an “authentic” finish - it’s not pure tung oil, but is more accurate than polyurethane.

Getting all the metal off the wood is pain - there’s a clip on the rear handguard that is really hard to get off, and doing it wrong makes it very easy to crack the handguard.

I didn’t do anything to the metal besides a very thorough cleaning.