FG-42 vs M1 Garand – 2 Gun Match (Video)

For this month’s 2-Gun Action Challenge Match, we had a loaner .308 FG-42 from SMG Guns, which I handed off to my friend Karl to shoot. I went up against him with an M1 Garand, to see if e could get an idea of how these two rifles would have fared against each other in WWII. The match had a good mix of situations, from 200-yard targets down to 1-yard targets, and it tested a wide array of shooting skills.

For handguns, Karl an I stuck to the WWII theme – he used a Walther P38 and I used my Ballester Molina (for all practical purposes, a 1911A1). Now, Karl did have a 4x scope on the FG-42, but that turned out to really only be a significant advantage in the long range stage. I think the match footage turned out pretty well, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!


  1. It makes for an awesome comparison to see Karl use more modern technique. For example, at stage 3 he starts c-clamping the rifle against the obstacle, then seems to decide against it – did he realize that this technique is not that great without a free-floated barrel?
    His stance is more isosceles-like (=more square towards the targets) too.

    He obviously has a lot more practice doing matches like these, so nothing to be ashamed of, Ian. Also: Great shirt!

    • Very observant!

      As for the C-clamp hold at the beginning of stage 3, I backed off actually because I was too close to the gas vents and decided that I didn’t want to flame lap my hand.

      I did continue to use the hand guard as the rest on the barricade, though. Resting the FG42 on the hand guards has minimal to no impact on elevation deflection from my experience so far. The bipod, however, is a different story. 🙂

  2. No surprises on technical side of subject. Low recoil and minimum muzzle hop are visible. The only detail issue I had with FG since I saw it first is that it should have a buttplate (in plastic or metal form) which would protect the woodwork better. That was probably reason for later all-plastic butt.

    Having said that, I also like and always liked M1 (have to show some patriotism, eh). You both have done very well and in spirit of camaraderie brought back American and German military heritage. Good job!

  3. This is awesome. I’ll be linking it (which may be coals to Newcastle, as I think there’s a huge overlap between your readers and mine).

    Something old NCOs used to tell me about the M1 (which everyone who used it absolutely loved) was that it was much faster to reload the en bloc clip than to reload a “more modern” box-magazine gun. (I used the scare quotes because the removable box and Mannlicher en-bloc are pretty much contemporaries). I think Ian’s fairly quick reloads show that, but of course the FG is fairly awkward with its left side mag.

    I never followed through on my SMG guns purchase, in part because there were so many options it’s confusing, and in part because 2013 was really a disaster earnings-wise up here. Maybe it’s time to get that rolling again, even though the income picture is still weak and the outgo has some staggering expenses in it.

    Nowadays the guys address the near/far optic issue a few ways, usually by specialization within a team or patrol, but also by any of a variety of dual optics. The ACOG with a Docter dot was the heat five or six years ago, that’s moved on. (One problem is you can’t use the Doc without raising your head — it’s above cheek-weld). Some guys like the Elcan which gives you 1 or 4 power at the throw of a lever, there’s a new version with a third greater magnification. The Elcan is really nice glass, Schmidt&Bender or Swarovski level, but it doesn’t hold up like the common and garden ACOG.

    I was really curious how you guys did versus the modern guns crowd. Glad to find that info at the end of the video. One is put in mind of the SOF Truth #1: Humans are more important than hardware.

    • Thanks for the update and added information , Kevin — much appreciated! I sincerely hope that 2014 will be a much better year for you and yours in every way.

  4. Two observations & one question:

    1) Ian should’ve gotten some kind of bonus for bayoneting the tombstone.

    2) I think much of Karl’s success stems from his personal shooting skills.

    3) I wonder why the horizontal magazine never caught-on with post-WWII designs? Especially once it became clear capacities in excess of 20 rounds would be the norm. It certainly makes going prone a lower proposition.

    • Thank you for the kind comments.

      As for item #3, I agree…going prone at the end of stage 3 was a pleasure as a result of that side mounted magazine!

      In fact, I’m curious why this rifle didn’t have longer development legs…from this one match use case, it has *a lot* of merit.

      • Regarding the horizontal magazine, the main reason it seems to have been discarded by designers is that the mas of a loaded magazine tends to pull the weapon down on the mag interface side, which with operator fatigue results in shot stringing. Also, a vertical magazine weapon is generally more “ambidextrous”, especially if it’s going to be carried on a sling in the “assault” or “patrol” position, across the body.

        It wasn’t entirely forgotten, though;




        • Actually, if ejection was arranged down, which is entirely possible, this approach might have been even more ‘ambidextrous’. Not just that, but by ejecting down it would eliminate visual ejection signature. If there is anything negative, it might be tendency to snag on obstacles.

          As for the rotation effect I cannot tell since I do not have shooting experience with this weapon. I’d like to hear what Karl says on the subject.

          • It would depend on the implementation but I’d be concerned about a bottom ejection port actually striking the support arm of the user. This is actually an issue with the KelTec RFB shotgun and there are issues where that actually causes the user injury.

            Now, that said, implementation is everything and if there was deflector or tuning done to eject down and forward (say 12 o’clock) out the bottom then I can’t see why not. However, I’m not sure that’d be much of an advantage – the current deflector on the ejection port makes the gun safe to use on the left shoulder. Ejecting out the bottom with a shoulder fired small arm would prevent getting as low as possible when prone or using some barricades thus potentially nullifying the benefit of the side mounted magazine. I guess, if you asked me, I’d leave it the way it is.

            As for the side mounted magazine, even with all 20 rounds loaded, I did not find the weight distribution to be sufficiently disturbing to care about it. Obviously the weight of the cartridges would have an effect; this issue would be even less detrimental with 5.56 or 5.45. The side mounted magazine would, in field conditions, potentially cause other issues such as more challenging ready positions and restrict any form of sling carry besides an administrative one.

            While this was not demonstrated on the video, I did attempt to use the gun “support” side from my left shoulder, as well as reload, and found it to be not much of an issue. Rotating the gun inboard exposed the magazine well to the top and the right hand can easily remove and insert another magazine. Certainly a bottom magazine well is more ambidextrous but I don’t believe this configuration is very problematic in this regard.

          • Appreciate you feedback Karl. I’d certainly agree that detail design conduct is the one which makes it feasible. I do not see a problem with down ejection when used with bipod; if forward holding arm interference is possibility than obviously, there is a problem.

            By the way, I saw on one recent report from Shot show(cannot tell the maker now) where they used downward ejection on bullpup style rifle. The port was past the magazine. I thought this was a slick way how to combine things on this particular layout.

          • Probably the first automatic gun with side-mounted magazine used in real combat was German WW1-era MP18. It used big drum (“Trommel”) magazine. Some inter-war period SMG have side-mounted magazine – for example MP28. Side-mounted magazine was also used in British WW2 SMG (Lanchester SMG, Sten, Sterling). The Australians used the Owen SMG with top-mounted magazine and a bottom ejecting. The bottom-ejecting is used in the modern FN P90.

            The bottom ejecting is not a problem with shoulder firearm if it is designed properly – for example Ithaca Model 37 is produced from 1937 and it was not redesigned to side-ejection nor the production was stopped.

          • Daweo;

            I’ve used the M37 in practical (LEO) shoots. It’s an excellent choice for serious work, because not only is it ambidextrous, and doesn’t advertise your position with upward ejection, it has one less big hole for mud, etc., to get inside if you drop it.



          • My only experience with bottom ejection was a semi auto Browning .22lr.

            with short sleeves, hot particles were annoying.

            as for hot brass, a gentlemen will usually persuade the new lady in his life, not to wear the low cut top to the range…

  5. Large fun – the best (or at least the most entertaining) of these you have done. I was waiting for Ian to run out of ammo, pull out his e-tool and start clubbing the targets! On the comments on fairness during the intro… a shipmate and good friend was from Boston, which was a couple of hours by train from the sub base, and I spent quite a few weekends with his family when we were off the boat. His dad was a crusty old WW2 infantry vet, and when we were bitching about the Navy he would growl “Hey, it’s not like it is carved in stone on the top of a mountain that life should be fair.” We were doing a 30-day pre-patrol refit in Holy Loch, Scotland (which was far and away the neatest place I spent any time in the service, if not ever, at.) At the end of the loch there were some decent-sized (by coastal Scotland standards) mountains whose bases were almost at the water. So one Saturday when we both had liberty, we raided the galley for some grub and borrowed a hammer and chisel from the snipes. Hiked down to the end of the loch and climbed the tallest “mountain” – maybe a couple of thousand feet high – that you could see from the missile deck. And on a vertical slab of sandstone at the summit, we carved “Life should be fair.” Not is, mind you, just should be.

    • Correct; this is the one. I believe this is first time someone did it and in fact it is quantum leap from previous design which was pushing cases out front a’la F2000 (which sold poorly as well).

      The fact this is BP format it goes into extreme, but it can be done precisely for the same reason. This comes back in way of tight relationship magazine-grip. You can only guess how easy it is to replace magazine quickly. That having said I have great deal of respect for work of Mr.Kelgren and his team.

      • Korobov was extremely cunning. Some place I have seen lately internal mechanism, it was like nothing else. I believe (in absence of seeing photo) that this is in general outline of conventional carrier and bolt with only short interface between both (with carrier mass ahead of it) to secure guidance and camming. I consider this to be well organized design.

  6. What a cool matchup. Though Karl is clearly the more experienced shooter (no offense meant to Ian), I do like how Ian shows that the Garand can be used left-handed very easily (particularly with his very quick reloads), something I don’t think can be said about the FG. As a lefty myself I’ve always been attracted to the Garand’s relatively ambidextrous setup, I just wish that they were somewhat cheaper these days. Props to Ian for representing us southpaw shooters.

  7. What ammunition was used with the FG42? To be honest, it looks a little underpowered to me, but that might be the skill of the shooter.

      • Sorry for my oversight. The very first line said it was a .308 FG-42.
        The recoil of a full-power 7.9 mm catridge is a lot more hefty.

        • I’m not sure why you’d say that.

          The standard 8mm WW2 load is 198 grains at 2600 fps.
          This 308 we were using is 168 grains at 2550 fps.

          An extra 30 grains of bullet will generate more recoil, yes, but I don’t believe I’d call that “a lot more hefty”.

          • I say that because in my experience a 7.9 mm K98k kicks a lot more than an Israeli K98k in .308 Winchester while a No. 4 in .303 British kicks much less. In comparison, a Swedish 6.5 mm is rather mild.
            Admittedly, this are subjective judgements, not actual measurements.

          • If the rifle Masses 4950 Grams the free recoil of the two rounds is:
            16.8/4950=0.003394*792=2.69 M/S^2*4950/2000=17.9J for a 7.92
            15.4/4950=.00311*777=2.42 M/S^2*4950/2000=14.45J For the 7.62
            Or about 83% of the recoil.
            But the muzzle blast of the 7.92 will be about a third greater. More powder burned in the same length of BBL.

  8. This video brings back great memories from when I used to have a job like that! ( Getting paid to shoot lots of different types of guns!)
    What a hoot!
    Now to be fair, I would have liked to see the reverse test, where the Garand had the scope and the FG-42 shooter had to use the standard iron sights? Or a trade off where each shooter used the other’s guns. hey, it’s an excuse to do more shooting?
    I suspect that the guy shooting the German side was a better shooter than the American gun guy. I suspect that the results would have been the same guy winning but with the other guns? No slight intended!

  9. Great video, Ian. What were you carrying in your pack? On another note, I have the next matchup you and Karl should try: the Mle 1874 Gras rifle and Mle 1873 revolver versus the Mauser Gewehr 1871 and the M1883 Commision revolver. That could be interesting.

  10. To correctly test which rifle is better, you should both exchange for the other rifle and run the course again. Please note that both of you were using a Battle Rifle instead of a semi-auto version of a lower powered Assault Rifle. It would be a better test to have more people (troop test) running the course with both rifles. You would have a more scientific test. Of course, the people who are making comments would be happy to help in the testing if you provide the ammunition!

    I greatly enjoyed the split screen comparing performance. The next time, the both of you should exchange rifles and run the course again.

  11. A well-balanced and intriguing comparison of the two weapons under similar test conditions. However, I do have one question — why was the x4 scope included on the FG-42? While I understand that inclusion of the scope would probably not have had a significant impact on the final results, the fact remains that the advantages conferred at 200m.+ ranges and the slight disadvantages experienced in handling in tight quarters would still have some bearing on the overall evaluation. I would have thought that an apples-to-apples comparison would have meant iron sights only on both rifles.

  12. Wow…Now that was a great gun video ! Almost made me think of getting the modern FG42 instead of an AR platform. Learned to suffer the M1 at my CMP shoots at my first gun club in the 90’s..Still think I deserved a wound medal from the recoil..But then again I weigh 150 max..Thanks for this.. It was really a lot of fun and very informative..If I didn’t know better I would say that 42 was designed sometime last year..it’s that ahead of it’s time. Respect to the Garand though and the guys who carried it..

  13. Thanks Ian and Karl for an interesting video! Ian, you need to slow down, watch your sights and squeeze the trigger! Haste makes waste! 8 slow hits are much better than 20 real fast misses. You will also get much better groups if you hold the fore-end rather than resting it on your hand and allowing the rifle to jump before the bullet clears the muzzle. I would like to see the comparasion again when you take your time and go for first shot hits. The targets are big and the ranges are short, so they are well within the ability of the M1 to make one shot hits. Our NZ troops successfully faced the FG42’s in Italy with SMLE No 1 Mk III*’s.

    • Technique is individual subject, although general rules are to be respected. I found in past that when I produced quick and fairly tight group it was thru rapid fire. My own technique consists of two things: control of breathing and projecting my mind to the target. But, as mentioned, each and everyone have their own way. It comes by time and practice.

    • Sorry for grousing but this cartridge is named Kurz, no Kurzt. In German Kurz mean “short” (i.e. the 7,92×33 Kurz is shorter than 7,92×57 service round)

  14. That was a pleasure. Even my kids had their noses up on the table watching you! Normally they don’t give two hoots about FW videos.
    Ever the Francophile, I’d love to see a CSRG in one of these.

  15. Proves the old fact that it’s not whose got the better gun but who got the most that wins. As someone mentioned a German vs. French match – the Chassepot had it all over the Dreyse, but 500,000 beat 300,000 most days anyway.

  16. I always look forward to visiting here on a daily basis, so I am concerned that there was no update today (1/21/14).
    I hope that everyone at Forgotten Weapons is well, and hope that no infirmity, hardship, or accident has befallen you or your loved ones.

  17. My father taught me to use the “hasty sling” while firing the Garand rifle. Use of the sling made the M1 rock steady in either slow or fast fire and allowed for a much, much quicker recovery between shots.
    People scoff at the use of the sling in combat, but my father saw it being utilized in fire-fights while serving in the ETO.

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