Was the Garand the first rifle you had to fire right handed?

I was watching Sons of Guns the other day and they had a bit where a guy wanted his AR-15 converted from left to right handed. The main guy kind of blew it off and thought the guy should learn to shoot right handed because that’s what the Marines have done for the last 200 years. So after that I was thinking he was kind of full of shit.(Again) I’m thinking that all those muzzle loaders you could fire either left or right handed and probably they didn’t care all that much. Even the breech loaders from the Civil War could probably be fired off of either shoulder. So what was the first Marine rifle or musket that wasn’t ambidextrous?

I’m thinking it was the Garand but is there any reason you had to fire say a 1903 right hand only?

The Garand is semiautomatic, which means there’s no bolt to operate (ostensibly on the right, like with a Springfield), which would indeed make your question odd, as it seems like lefties would have no problem (ignorance ready to be fought if I’m wrong).

The ejection port of most rifles is on the right side. Shells will be flying in front of the face of a left handed shooter

I agree. Most rifles are designed to be operated right-handed. A left-handed shooter using a typical (i.e., not modified for left-handed shooting) would have to reach over the top to work the bolt on a bolt-action rifle, or the charging handle on a semi-automatic or automatic rifle. Another thing to think about is flintlocks. Right-handed, the pan is away from the face. (And I’ve heard of people being pock-marked anyway.) Left-handed, the pan would be under the left eye. That would seem undesirable.

I assume the OP is concerned about ejected brass. I can’t answer the specific question, but he did mention the AR-15. Later models have a brass deflector aft of the ejection port, which would help to keep the hot brass out of a left-handed shooter’s face. (The HK-91/G-3 had an optional buffer.)

Oh I guess I should have mentioned that was why the guy wanted his AR converted. (So he didn’t get hot cases thrown in his face.) That wouldn’t be an issue on earlier rifles but I’m no expert so I was wondering if there was some reason you couldn’t fire one of those old muzzle loaders left handed. I also have no idea if you can fire the 1903 Springfield left handed and only operate the bolt with your right hand.

So would that mean you’d have more success with firing it left handed if it was percussion cap?

I shoot right-handed, so I can’t tell you from experience; but here’s what I think. Shooting right-handed, the bolt/lever/charging handle is near the trigger hand. The front of the rifle is supported by the off hand, and the rear is supported by the shoulder. It’s a simple matter to release the grip and work the bolt. Shooting a right-handed rifle left-handed, the shooter would reach back with his right hand to work the bolt, leaving the fore-end unsupported; or else reach over the rifle with his left hand to work the bolt. It certainly can be done.

I wouldn’t. (Easy for me to say, of course.) Percussion caps do throw off shrapnel.

I know very little about firearms, but wouldn’t all bolt action firearms be right handed, otherwise the handle would be on the wrong side?

There are left-handed bolt-action rifles.

They wouldn’t be on the ‘wrong side’ for a left-handed shooter.

The problem is definitly with the semi-automatics and the ejection of the shell casing. When I was a young boy (14) my father let me shoot his M1 Carbine and M1 Garand. I shot the carbine first and being a left hander I naturally shot it left handed. I was rewarded with a very hot shell casing inbetween the eyes. It not only scared the crap out of me, it left me with a blister from the burn. Thankfully it wasn’t done with the Garand with its much bigger casing.

Bolt actions can be fired either way, but may require a reach over the the gun to operate the bolt.

The lock is usually on the right side of the gun, so it would probably be in your best interest to keep your face on the other side, what with the flint sparks and flash pan powder going right there.

As for the Springfield; IIRC, the receiver is machined such that the bolt handle & magazine cutoff are on the right side; it would be a PITA to work all that across the rifle, but I don’t know of any reason you couldn’t fire it from your left shoulder.

all extant arquebuses which we have to examine are designed for right handed firing. it isn’t only the direction of ejection, and operating controls that make some firearms right handed. some, not most, but some rifles have stocks which are ergonomically designed to fit only right handed. thumbhole stocks are notorious for this as are high-end target pistols. I used to have a remington XP-100 handgun (never should have sold it,) and you couldn’t successfully grip the damned thing left handed. Also my M-21 is very much meant for a right handed shooter. A lefty can shoot it, but it is very awkward. so in short, much like everything else in the world, guns have been right hand dominant for all of their history.

A Springfield has the cutoff on the left. It (and most bolt action rifles) has a vent on the off side of the bolt that sprays hot gas in the event of a ruptured primer. Not common, but enough so that the designers account for the eventuality.

I am mostly left handed, but I do a bunch of things right handed. Also, I’ve never fired a rifle, so I don’t know which would feel best.

I would probably start by putting the rifle against my left shoulder. Would that make me a right or left handed rifle shooter?

Left handed. If you are left eye dominant, you need a left handed rifle. If you are right eye dominant, then you should learn to shoot a right handed gun even though it will feel wrong at first.

An earlier thread that might be of interest: What if U.S. military returned to the M1 Garand rifle? - Great Debates - Straight Dope Message Board

For those not in the know: eye dominance in shooting.

I’ve fired a few thousand rounds (which admittedly isn’t really very many) left handed through an AR-15 and a Garand. I’ve never had an ejected casing hit me in the face from either rifle. I think the danger is wildly overrated - the AR has a nice shell deflector, and my Garand throws it’s brass forward. For a bolt action, I reach over to work the bolt, which is a pain in the ass - if I was going into combat and would have to do it quickly, I’d probably switch to right handed for a bolt action.

Cool. Mine throws brass almost straight up. It drifts to the right a bit, but on a windy day I’ve been pelted with my own empties.

I am a left-handed shooter who grew up shooting right-handed bolt action rifles. Usually, I manipulated the bolt with my right hand, leaving my left hand wrapped around the pistol grip. Usually, the bolt went over the top of my left thumb w/o scraping it. Otherwise, I had to point my left thumb in the air as I worked the bolt with my right hand.

This was much slower than a righty working a right-handed bolt, but was fast enough for most hunting and target shooting purposes. (Besides, in hunting, if the first shot didn’t do the job, I must have done something wrong.) Oddly, I am right eye dominant; it’s just that, pre-LASIX, my right eye was so much worse than my left eye that I learned to do everything left-handed.

My granddad had a 1903 Springfield, with a right handed bolt, of course. Nothing would have prevented me from working the bolt like I had every other rifle. I still never fired it left-handed, because otherwise the top of the Monte Carlo-style stock’s cheek piece would have cut the hell out of my face. I don’t believe his stock was modified in any way from what his father would’ve carried in WW1, so that would definitely be a rifle that you couldn’t fire left handed.

In my very limited experience firing semi-auto rifles and pistols, I have not noticed any problems from brass smacking me in the face. I’ve never fired a bullpup style rifle though. Never shot a Garand either. Need to remedy that, one of these days.