For Pat Farmer, the thought of holding the very same rifle he’d carried through boot camp almost 60 years ago was a distant fantasy…at least, until recently.
“I had never dreamed it would be in the CMP (Civilian Marksmanship Program) warehouse,” Farmer said in this story from thecmp.org. “I had just hoped to possibly start a search beginning with the CMP.”
Farmer is a 74-year-old retired veteran who served 26 years in the Marine Corps. On August 30, 1960 Farmer left home at age 18 for the USMC Recruit Depot in San Diego to attend basic training.
When he got there, he was issued an M1 Garand with the serial #4305638.
“The firearm soon became a close companion as he spent countless hours with it on the ‘Grinder’ – a Marine Corps term for a deck or parade ground used for drill and formations.
“Pat was eventually selected for aviation school after infantry training and shot on the rifle team while attached to a Reserve unit. He went on to shoot expert rifle at the Camp Mathews rifle range, what is now known as the University of Southern California in the San Diego neighborhood of La Jolla, and he also shot competitively at a local club.
“It was some of the best and most rewarding years of my life,” he said in the story.
Decades later, Farmer was going through an old locker box and came upon his custody receipt from January 27, 1961, from when he turned in his boot camp rifle before he transferred to aviation school. He started wondering what happened to his old rifle, and he decided to take a stab at finding it the story says.
“I had purchased a few rifles from the old DCM and also CMP, so on a whim I decided to contact CMP to see if my old M1 had ever passed through their system,” he said in the story.
He contacted CMP customer service in 2013 and got the ball rolling with the serial number. He eventually learned that his old Garand was actually being stored right at the CMP facility, but was still listed as Army property. The CMP can’t sell a rifle until it has formally been turned over by the Army.
“I have been in the serial number/inventory department for approximately eight years, and there have only been about five rifles that have been reunited,” said Jennifer Smith in the story, the CMP clerk who helped Farmer track down his gun. “If we do not find the rifle in our current inventory when we are contacted, we keep the serial numbers and periodically will search again in case it has been received in new shipments.”
The rifle was tagged for Farmer in the inventory, and then he set about waiting for the Army to release it, after which it would be verified by CMP staff members, graded, and then sent off for purchase, the story says.
Though he was patient, Farmer contacted Smith about every six months to check on his Garand. After about three years, on March 20, 2017, Smith contacted Farmer and told him that his rifle had been released.
On April 24, Farmer sent in his paperwork. Finally, on May 8, Farmer was reunited with M1 Garand #4305638 after 56 years.
“I was elated,” he said in the story. “It felt familiar.”
“Fifty-six years ago, we drilled and did the manual of arms with M1s as if they were matchsticks. It seems much heavier now!” he said.
But that wasn’t the last surprise. As Farmer started field stripping his rifle, he got to the trigger housing and was stunned to find a piece of tape reading: “Farmer 20/8L.” Pat says it was the rifle’s 500-yard dope – 20 clicks elevation, eight clicks left windage, the story says.
This means the rifle was hardly used in the 56 years since he’d been issued it in basic. Now that he has it back, Farmer says he plans to fire a few rounds through the old gun before he puts “it in a place where its history can be admired for years to come.”
“I’m going to shoot a few rounds, clean it and put it in the safe,” he said. “I’ll take it out occasionally, and try to do the manual of arms correctly. One of my grandsons will eventually get it.”
He added that he was extremely grateful to the CMP for all their help and patience in getting him back his old Garand.
“It is very rewarding to be able to reunite someone with a part of their past that they thought had been lost forever,” she said. “It is not just the rifles, but the stories and memories surrounding them that make them so sentimental to an individual.”