M1 Garand Ammo: Everything You Need to Know

There’s plenty of safe, accurate, and affordable modern ammo for the M1 Garand. Tyler Freel

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The M1 Garand is one of America’s most recognizable and historically influential service rifles and is chambered for the venerable .30/06 cartridge. The .30/06 is one of our country’s most popular sporting cartridges, but that doesn’t mean you can shoot any ammo safely through your M1. Selecting proper ammo for the M1 Garand will allow you to enjoy the rifle while keeping running smoothly and avoiding damage to a classic battle rifle. 

Best Overall: Freedom Munitions M1 Garand Match 168-grain A-Max

Modern Classic: Winchester .30 Caliber Ball M2 150-grain

Best Value: Freedom Munitions .30/06 M1 Garand 147-grain FMJ

Hornady .30/06 M1 Garand 168-grain ELDM

American Eagle 150-grain FMJ for M1 Garand

Why Not All .30/06 is Good Ammo for the M1 Garand

If you take a deep dive looking for information on the M1 Garand, you’ll quickly see many recommendations on ammo for the M1 Garand and, more importantly, what is unsafe to use. In short, you cannot shoot just any .30/06 ammo through your M1 Garand and ensure that the rifle won’t be damaged. 

The M1 Garand is a gas-operated rifle that’s driven by a piston at the end of the operating rod. It’s chambered for the classic .30/06 cartridge, but the rifle is designed to function within certain pressure parameters. A small port beneath the front sight allows pressurized gas to enter the gas cylinder and drive the operating rod back. If there’s not enough pressure, the gun won’t cycle properly. Too much pressure can cause the operating rod to bend or break, and a bolt and operating rod that are slamming too hard to the rear can damage the receiver. 

Many modern hunting .30/06 loads, especially those with 180-grain or heavier bullets and slower-burning propellants, produce pressures that exceed what the M1 Garand was designed to handle, and they shouldn’t be used with an as-issued rifle. An exception is when correctly using a vented gas plug that allows excess gas to escape, and the shooter can tune the vent for a gently-cycling action.

What Ammo Is Safe for the M1 Garand?

In the world of Garand shooters, you’ll hear just about everything imaginable regarding what ammo you can safely shoot in your M1. Some shooters will tell you that only vintage M2 ball ammunition is safe. Others will tell you not to shoot any “commercial” ammo. Some shooters will tell you that only 150-grain ammo is safe to shoot—overlooking the fact that there are a number of 150-grain loads that reach 3,000 fps and have considerably higher pressure than vintage M1 or M2 Ball.

The truth about what is safe ammo for the M1 Garand is somewhere in the mix. You should generally operate cautiously, because these are antique rifles that have mostly been rebuilt multiple times. They’re often a mishmash of parts, and replacing those parts isn’t going to get any easier. But much of the advice you’ll see about ammo for the M1 Garand is heavily laden with nonsense.

With good match ammo, an accurized M1 Garand can be a solid performer across the course. Tyler Freel

Pressure Trumps Projectile Selection

Safe ammo for the M1 Garand is more about gas cylinder pressure than it is about projectile weight. A general consensus is that loads with a chamber pressure of 50,000 PSI are safe in the M1 Garand, but you’ll often see it written that 50,000 CUP (57,898 PSI) is safe for M1s. The maximum SAAMI chamber pressure for .30/06 is 60,000 PSI.  It’s likely that most folks are using Copper Pressure Units (CUP) and pounds per square inch (PSI) interchangeably, which is incorrect. Hodgdon’s load data lists maximum load pressures for the M1 at 44,500 CUP (49,560 PSI), and maximum pressures for general .30/06 loads as 50,000 CUP, which is just shy of the 60,000 PSI max.

Advice to staunchly avoid 180-grain-and-heavier, and modern hunting loads is sound, but 150-grain bullets aren’t the only good option for your M1. In fact, when the M1 Garand was adopted in 1936, M1 Ball was standard fare. That fired a 174-grain bullet at approximately 2,650 fps. Shortly after, M2 Ball was adopted, which was intended to mimic pre-M1 Ball 1906 loads, fired a 152-grain bullet at about 2,800 fps. M2 AP armor-piercing ammo used a slug of approximately 165 grains. Vintage M72 National Match ammo employs a 173-grain BTHP. 

Advice to avoid “commercial” ammo for the M1 Garand is well-intended, but incorrect. Several companies manufacture modern, high-quality ammo that’s loaded in different bullet weights to be safely within the M1 Garand’s requirements. A properly lubricated M1 with good springs will likely handle more abuse than we think, but there is no reason to beat it up. Any of the specific M1 Garand loads will be safe for a rifle in good working condition, and as long as you’re sticking with loads in the 150- to 175-grain range at 2,600 to 2,750 fps, you’re in safe territory.

Read Next: .30-06 Springfield Cartridge Review

How We Tested Ammo for the M1 Garand

Ammo for the M1 Garand should function reliably and safely in the rifle, and accurate ammo is even better. I tested 100 rounds of each load in my CMP-refurbished M1 Garand, feeding single rounds, partial clips, and full clips. I shot both slow and rapid-fire strings.

In addition to the author’s M1 Garand, he used a custom Winchester Model 70 .30/06 to gather accuracy data.

I tested accuracy in two ways. First, I fired 10-shot slow-fire groups with each load at a NRA SR-1 high power target at 100 yards. This is the standard 100-yard target for the standing and sitting positions in NRA high power, and for all positions in Garand-specific matches. As-issued M1 Garand rifles aren’t nearly as accurate as the National Match version, and I found that my rifle consistently threw 10 to 20 percent of its shots low outside the main body of the group. After verifying my shooting with my National Match AR-15 by shooting consistent 1.8- to 2-inch 10-shot groups with iron sights, I discounted the low shots from my M1 Garand in the overall group size as variability in the rifle. 

For more meaningful accuracy data and reduced human and rifle error, I borrowed a custom-built Winchester Model 70 with a heavy Krieger .30/06 barrel, bedded in a McMillan Stock. I recorded a minimum of 4 5-shot groups with each load. 

Ammo for the M1 Garand: Reviews and Recommendations

The classic ammo for the M1 Garand is M2 ball, but it can be hard to get sometimes. I found these five loads to be great modern alternatives.

Best Overall: Freedom Munitions M1 Garand Match 168-grain A-Max

Tyler Freel



Bullet: 168-grain Hornady A-Max match bullet

Brass: Starline 

Velocity: 2,720 feet per second

Accuracy Average (M1): 3.2 inches

Accuracy Average (Model 70): .708 inches

Price per box of 20: $23



Most accurate ammo tested

Good brass


Slightly more recoil than 150-grain ball loads

Freedom Munitions ammo impressed us at our 2023 Gun Test, and again in an extensive 5.56 and .223 ammo test I conducted this year. For its price, it’s been some of the best shooting ammo I’ve seen. Freedom Munitions manufactures two different M1-specific .30/06 loads, and I was eager to see how their match ammo would shoot. 

Although it’s been eclipsed by the 168-grain ELD Match bullet, the 168-grain A-Max is an excellent slug that produced some of the most accurate .308 loads I’ve ever been able to make. For someone shooting M1 Garand matches, the distances are known, and the A-Max is still an excellent contender. In this offering, it’s dirt cheap too.

This match load comes in at just under $23 per box before shipping, which is significantly less expensive than most FMJ loads, but it averaged an eye-popping .708-inch group size from the Model 70, and was at the front of the pack with a 3.2-inch 10-shot average through my M1 Garand. Unless you’re on the line at Camp Perry, this ammo is nearly too good to shoot through a Garand. 

Aside from accuracy, the ammo functioned well and ejected smartly. Recoil was slightly sharper than the lighter loads, but case ejection was consistent with other ammunition, indicating similar operating rod speeds. 

Modern Classic: Winchester .30 Caliber Ball M2 150-grain

Tyler Freel



Bullet: 150-grain FMJ bullet

Brass: Lake City  

Velocity: 2740 feet per second

Accuracy Average (M1): 4.05 inches

Accuracy Average (Model 70): 2.065 inches

Price per box of 20: $40


Replicates original M2 Ball

Lake City brass is crimped and annealed



Expensive for plinking ammo

For a dyed-in-the-wool modern alternative to vintage M2 ball, it’s hard to beat Winchester’s contemporary offering. This 150-grain load is designed to closely replicate the pressure and ballistics of the original, and it’s a sweetheart to shoot through a Garand. 

This new M2 Ball is loaded with annealed Lake City brass with a crimped primer and neck. Compared to other 150-grain FMJ bullets, the one Winchester uses is similar in profile to the older, pointy M2 loads, and features a cannelure for a secure crimp. 

This Winchester ammo for the M1 Garand comes in 20-round boxes and shoots well for ball ammunition. It averaged 4-inch 10-shot groups through my M1, which is about how my limited quantity of 1968 M2 Ball performed. At $35 to $40 per box, it’s a little expensive for plinking ammo, but it’s the most genuine modern M2-style ammo for the M1 Garand that you’ll likely find.

Best Value: Freedom Munitions .30/06 M1 Garand 147-grain FMJ

Tyler Freel



Bullet: 147-grain Xtreme Bullets FMJ

Brass: Starline 

Velocity: 2800 feet per second

Accuracy Average (M1): 3.96 inches

Accuracy Average (Model 70): 1.411 inches

Price per box of 20: $22



Accurate for FMJ ammo

Good brass


No neck or primer crimp

Of all the modern ammo for the M1 Garand that I could find, none came close to matching the value of the Freedom Munitions M1 Garand 147-grain load, except their match ammo. The as-issued M1 Garand isn’t exactly a precision instrument, but it’s incredibly fun to shoot—especially when the ammo is affordable. At under $22 per box, this stuff is some of the most affordable .30/06 ammo you will find. I highly recommend it. 

It’s got good Starline brass, is clean and consistent in appearance, and features an Xtreme Bullets 147-grain FMJ bullet, which has a cannelure and is slightly more rounded at the nose than some other 30-caliber FMJ projectiles. The neck and primer are not crimped, which might raise concern in abusive battle conditions, but for the shooter it makes little difference. At 2,800 fps, it’s slightly faster than some of the M1 Garand 150-grain loads, but still right about at the velocity of the original M2 Ball and it’s safe ammo for the M1 Garand.

When fired out of my Garand, it averaged about the same group size as other FMJ loads, but with a bit more vertical consistency. Out of the Model 70, it was second only to the American Eagle load in accuracy. 

Hornady .30/06 M1 Garand 168-grain ELDM

Tyler Freel



Bullet: 168-grain Hornady ELD Match bullet

Brass: Hornady 

Velocity: 2,710 feet per second

Accuracy Average (M1): 2.486 inches

Accuracy Average (Model 70): .726 inches

Price per box of 20: $50


Accurate and consistent

Best-in-class B.C.

Good brass


Too expensive for plinking

Slightly more recoil than 150-grain loads

Hornady’s Vintage Match is some of the best M1 Garand ammo you can buy, and if you’re serious about competing and/or shoot a National Match Garand, this is the kind of ammo you want to be feeding your rifle. 

In line with Hornady’s other match ammo, this load is very consistent and fires a 168-grain ELD Match bullet at 2,710 fps. It’s robust enough to cycle the action smartly and function smoothly in an old M1, but it’s mild enough to prevent damage to your rifle. It’s an excellent choice to take you across the course, and this ammo will shoot better than most M1 rifles are capable.

Hornady’s M1 Garand Match ammo turned in excellent groups from both test rifles. Tyler Freel

Hornady’s load was virtually neck-and-neck with the Freedom Munitions match ammo in performance, and it was simply the price that gave Freedom the edge in this test. It did shoot better in my Garand than the Freedom load, but lagged slightly in the Model 70. It’s basically a wash. The .308 ELD Match bullet will be slightly better at bucking the wind, especially at the 600-yard line. $50 per box isn’t cheap, but it’s reasonable for premium match ammo like this. 

American Eagle 150-grain FMJ for M1 Garand

Tyler Freel



Bullet: 150-grain FMJ 

Brass: Federal

Velocity: 2,740 feet per second

Accuracy Average (M1): 4.69 inches

Accuracy Average (Model 70): 1.29 inches

Price per box of 20: $36


Great M2 Ball replica

Crimped Primer

Good brass


A little expensive for plinking

Under the American Eagle banner, Federal is loading its own M2 Ball replica. They also load a higher-pressure 150-grain FMJ in .30/06, but this one is specifically formulated to be safe ammo for the M1 Garand and is labeled as such. Don’t mix the two up. 

This American Eagle load uses sharp-looking Federal brass with a military-style “30-M1” headstamp that denotes it as ammo for the M1 Garand. It has a gently-crimped primer that you’ll want to swage before reloading, but it’s perfectly suitable brass. The bullet is a 150-grain FMJ with a cannelure and slightly flattened tip. It basically matches the Winchester M2 replica load at 2,740 fps and is a gentle-cycling load that’s fun to shoot.

You’ll find this ammo for around $36 per box, which isn’t cheap, but it’s comparable (or better than) some of the prices you’ll pay for vintage M2 ball of suspect origins and storage conditions. This load was the poorest-shooting load in my M1 Garand, but the best-shooting FMJ load in the Winchester Model 70, averaging just over an inch. Results will likely vary, but this isn’t intended to be precision target ammo.

Load Your Own Ammo for the M1 Garand

If you handload, you don’t need to depend on diminishing stores of 80-year-old ammo to keep your M1 Garand running. Using the precautions that you already should employ as a handloader, you can load safe and accurate ammo for your M1. Many load data resources such as Hornady’s reloading handbook and Hodgdon’s reloading data center offer safe guidelines for powders, bullets, and dimensions. 

An excellent group from a mild handload that’s suitable for the M1 Garand. Tyler Freel

If you’ve got an especially accurate M1 Garand, it might pay to do some load development, but for plinking, get some FMJ 150-grain bullets, develop a load within safe parameters that reliably cycles the action, and get to shooting. A first crack at it for myself with 168-grain Hornady ELD Match bullets atop 46 grains of Varget gave me 2.6-inch groups out of my M1, and averaged .594 inches for 10-shot groups out of the Winchester Model 70. That’ll do. 

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What ammo does the M1 Garand use vs M1 Carbine?

The M1 Garand uses the .30/06 Springfield cartridge, and the M1 Carbine uses the much smaller straight-walled.30 Carbine cartridge—which has less than half of the muzzle energy of the .30/06.

Is the M1 Garand a battle rifle?

Yes, according to the contemporary usage of the term, the M1 Garand is a battle rifle. According to that usage, a battle rifle fires a full-powered cartridge, which includes cartridges like the 7.62mm NATO/.308.

Can you shoot commercial ammo in M1 Garand?

Yes, you can safely shoot commercial ammo in an M1 Garand. But you should stick to loads that are specifically labeled for M1 Garand use.

What caliber is my M1 Garand?

Most M1 Garand rifles are chambered in .30/06 Springfield, though some have been converted to 7.62mm NATO. The barrel should be marked with caliber, but a gunsmith can tell you which if you’re not sure.

Can an M1 Garand shoot 180 grain?

An M1 Garand can shoot 180-grain bullets safely, but it requires the correct load or a correctly-adjusted venting gas plug. Generally, stay away from any 180-grain modern factory loads that aren’t labeled specifically for M1 Garand use.

Can an M1 Garand use modern ammo?

Yes, an M1 Garand can use modern ammo, but not all modern ammo. Stick with loads that are designed specifically for the M1 to be safe.

Final thoughts on Ammo for the M1 Garand

There’s nothing bad about pairing your M1 Garand with only vintage ball ammo from a freshly-opened can, but it’s not a requirement. There’s also reliable, safe, and accurate commercially-produced options. It’s prudent to use only ammunition that’s specifically loaded for the M1 Garand. Remember that safe ammo is about pressure, not just bullet weight, type, or who made it. Equipped with that knowledge, you can keep shooting your Garand long after decades-old stocks have dried up.

The post M1 Garand Ammo: Everything You Need to Know appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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