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BigJ 06-08-2014 3:36 PM

The CMP's Advanced Maintenance Class - My review (VERY pic heavy)
The Civilian Marksmanship Program describes their "Advanced Maintenance Class" as "for individuals interested in knowing how the M1 Garand rifle functions in detail, as well as those desiring to know how to properly perform advanced maintenance procedures to their personal rifle(s)."

After having attended the June 4-6 2014 class in Anniston Alabama, I can personally say that description is completely inadequate, and left me totally unprepared for what actually transpired. The following are my notes from each of the three days, and I can only hope my retelling here does this amazing event justice.

In short, this was the experience of a lifetime and is something I won't soon forget.

Wednesday, Day One:
I arrived early and was warmly welcomed by Deshay, a former armor turned Custom Shop administrator with well over 10 years’ experience at the CMP. She handed me my paperwork, a nametag, invited me to enjoy some doughnuts and coffee and suggested I find a workspace and settle in. This would be my home for the next few days.

As I waited for the class to start, John, the CMP's Custom Shop manager and lead instructor introduced himself and directed me toward several parts he'd laid out demonstrating lots of examples of what not to do; I hadn't been there more than 5 minutes and already my education was well underway. I was particularly enamored with the cut away M1 and barrel showing how the key components interact when installed.

The clock struck 8am, everyone was present and accounted for and no time was wasted as we launched into introductions, a shop safety discussion, administrative notes, and scheduling. Then, after a brief Q&A, it was time to start building! First up? Go pick your receiver, barrel, gas cylinder and bolt body. Here's a shot of the left over receivers

As we were picking from what seemed like endless options, John took the opportunity to make it very clear that this class isn't for the hardcore collector. All the receivers are H&Rs (simply because the CMP no longer has enough Special Grade others to support the classes), the barrels are brand new Criterions and all the rest of the parts we’ll choose from are mixed era and manufacturer. This class is for those who want to build an exceptional Special Grade shooter, not a period correct collector piece. This suited me fine as that was my plan in any event, and so here's what I ended up with:

Once back at our benches, we spent some time critiquing the parts we just picked. John showed us what to look for and what to look out for, how to tell a bad part from a good part, why to snag one part over another when accuracy is the goal and how to spot that special collectible piece. If we found something we didn't like about what we chose, we were given total freedom to swap, and several folks did just that. As for me, I'd gotten lucky and picked well the first time, so I started setting up my bench for the next step; lapping the bolt to the receiver.

BigJ 06-08-2014 3:37 PM


After (black marker used to show where contact was being made; this was called "90% or so" by Chris; 80% is the target they shoot for in the Custom Shop when they perform this job)

This process involved a special tool that applies pressure to the bolt face, pushing the bolt lugs into the slots on the receiver, lots of lapping compound and some elbow grease. Some folks lapped theirs within a handful of strokes, and some like me ended up having to work at it for about a half hour. In both cases, we were constantly observed and offered all the help we might want. Eventually I got the nod of approval from Chris, the Custom Shop's head gunsmith, and it was time to put the tools down and take a break as we toured the CMP facility.

Or I should say, facilities. The CMP Anniston is HUGE!

It spans what I would call three different campuses, each with several buildings on the grounds. We needed to pile into our cars just to see it all. And what we saw literally left me speechless; building after building full of crates of guns at various stages of process. Everything from stacked ceiling high unopened crates,

(For a little perspective, each one of those crates holds 100 as yet unprocessed M1s.)

To complete and graded examples

And everything in between

BigJ 06-08-2014 3:37 PM

We also got to visit their Air Rifle range; this is the most advanced range of its kind in the country, and is where the Olympic trials were held last go around. The tech they've utilized here is amazing, and not only makes for a fantastic shooter's experience, but also an interesting and exciting spectator one too.

Here's a shot I just had to grab for the reloaders among us. Yes please!

And here's one for the collectors; Winchesters... nothing but Winchesters...

Speaking of Winchester, during the tour, we ran across the gentleman responsible for pulling the "very special" examples from the production line for auction. He had just found a completely original Winchester from WWII. It was never arsenal reworked or rebuilt, no parts replaced, never refinished, and never messed with in any way since it was put into storage. You could still see actual dirt on the stock (not grease but actual soil), and stains on the sling. We were seeing this gun in the exact same condition as the solider who carried it in war last saw it. It was a pretty powerful moment, and we all took a breath to reflect. If only that gun could talk...

BigJ 06-08-2014 3:37 PM

After the tour, Deshay had deli sandwiches waiting for us and we grabbed a quick bite as we prepared for the next phase; mating the barrel to the receiver:

Now it was time to cut the chamber; these barrels being new need fitting, and so we *very carefully* used our reamers to cut our chambers to our preference. I cut mine small (tight on the go gauge) since I plan to run hand loads and match ammo. Several folks opted to cut theirs a little looser, and allow for shooting milsurp ammo more reliably. In both cases, John Chris and Ryan (an Armorer and instructor in training) were looking over our shoulder watching advising and helping to ensure we ended up with a perfect cut. At no time during any of these three days were we left on our own, something I appreciated very, very much.

By now it was growing late in the day, and so we finished up by picking and installing barrel bands, and picking and measuring op rods.

This shows my op rod on a tool that is used to measure the shape of the rod. With it you can check pad location, x-axis, y-axis and z-axis bends; stuff you just cant see with the naked eye. I asked about that tool, and was told it runs "several thousand dollars", so I figured I'd take a couple pics to remember it by, since this is probably the last time I'll ever see one in person ;D

Once we were satisfied with our choices, it was time to call it a day. It was now approximately 6pm, and given the day's events, I was ready for bed!

Thursday, Day Two:

At 8am sharp we were once again off picking our parts. This time, we were presented with 20 or so bins of parts to choose from. Trigger pins, trigger assemblies, hammer spring housings, hammer springs, hammer spring plungers, hammer pins, hammers, safeties, trigger guards (both stamped and milled), clip ejector springs, trigger housings, follower pins, bullet guides, follower arms, op rod catch assemblies, op rod springs, followers, elevation pinions, windage knobs. Yeah, there are worse ways to start off a day!

BigJ 06-08-2014 3:38 PM

Here's just one example of the type of instruction we received on how/why to pick parts. Take a look at these two triggers:

Notice how the one on the top's pin hole is cut lower, and has more material all the way around the hole? This is a desirable thing for the match shooter as it helps result in a smoother more consistent trigger pull. On the other hand, the one on the bottom has the potential to be more collectible as it comes from a particular manufacturer and era. We were constantly presented with that kind of information as we made our choices and picked each part for our build.

Next up was trigger group assembly

As indicated by the slide, this turned out to the be the rhythm of the class; we’d be invited to pick particular parts, we’d study them looking for issues or desirable traits, we’d learn the theory behind the ‘why’ of the design, we’d then review slides and often a video showing how they’re assembled or worked, and then we’d set to work implementing what we’d just learned under the watchful eye and often very helpful tutelage of the instructors. I really enjoyed and appreciated this format and pace, as I never felt overwhelmed by too much information at once, or bored by too little progress between steps.

Once the trigger group was assembled, we moved on to the rear sight. I thought this was part particularly neat, as we were given the opportunity to first install a lock bar type before installing the sights we were to keep, simply for the experience of it. Again, we were shown why the improved sight was a superior design via hands on experience with the lock bar older design, all the while practicing the install and adjustment of each.

Next up, the gas lock. And as simple as it might seem, this part proved a little tricky for me. Ideally, you’re able to find a lock that times correctly to your barrel, thereby ensuring a nice tight fit and solidifying your gas cylinder barrel and lock into one. However finding one that fit my specific barrel proved difficult. John and Chris stood by with the tools needed to make any one work, but fortunately after trying a dozen or two, I found one that didn’t require any reworking.

Here’s a couple shots of one of several that didn’t time correctly.

BigJ 06-08-2014 3:39 PM

And here’s the one I finally found that did

With the necessary parts in the receiver, up next was timing of the bolt closing and magazine releasing. As it happens, this part of the process presented my second challenge of the day: mine simply wouldn't time at all. The test block just wouldn't lock in at all, ever. After attempting a few tweaks, Chris eventually suggested swapping bullet guides with a different one from the bin and sure enough, it timed in perfectly after that.

Somewhere during all this, we enjoyed a delicious BBQ lunch and great conversation. Something about an event like this that shouldn't be overlooked is the opportunity to get to know other like-minded collectors and enthusiasts. I really enjoyed getting to know the guys around me, and learn more about them. I flew in from California for this, and as you might imagine I stuck out like a sore thumb among all the southerners. I got pelted with more than my fare share questions about living in California as a fan of military history and firearms, and as a strong second amendment supporter in general. But even so, I never felt like a stranger or was made to feel unwelcome. On the contrary, it was quite refreshing to be reminded the rest of the country hasn't gone batcrap crazy, and that sanity still reigns in much of our great nation. In the end, each of us were there for the same reasons, and all share the same love and passion for these guns. And through that, I made friends I hope to keep for a long, long time to come.

Now came the stocks, and here was the one and only time we didn't get to pick our own parts. Logistically speaking it just isn't feasible to have 20 guys clamoring for the same piece of wood, and since these are all new production anyway its simply better for everyone to play with the cards they’re dealt. So John had us line up single file, he reached into the boxes, pulled and you got what you got. And honestly, I didn't see a single stock I wouldn’t have been proud to own. They were all gorgeous in their own right. Here’s a picture that shows the one I ended up with. Simply beautiful.

Here's John using a custom jig he developed to easily shave down a key area in such a way that ensures a very nice solid and tight fit:

And after some final fitting and tweaking, I became the proud pappa of my very own Special Grade Garand.

Friday, Day Three:
Today was all about accurizing and test firing. But before that, yesterday we would have normally toured the CMP Store as part of the class schedule. However, as it happens a week or two before we arrived the CMP had announced a special release of a limited number of International Harvesters that would be for sale at the store on Thursday. As expected, folks started camping out at the store the night before, and by Thursday morning the line was around the corner. We decided Wednesday to skip the tour on Thursday as a result, and in exchange the store manager offered to open early special for us Friday morning. In addition, he told us of a small batch of rack grade SA receivers he'd have for sale, not yet announced to anyone.

And so it was that I spent Friday morning drooling like a kid in a candy store. I ended up finding a couple of receivers that would have been a bargain at twice the prices, several tools, clips, and a bunch of other little stuff. And even though the store shelves were relatively empty, I was still overwhelmed. You just don't see stuff like this where I live.

BigJ 06-08-2014 3:40 PM

Once back at the shop, we set to work on our trigger jobs. This relatively simple step significantly improved my trigger feel, removed all creep and resulted in about a 5lb second stage trigger weight.

We were also shown how to peen the barrel to tighten up the gas cylinder, but none of us needed it as these were new barrels.

After verifying function, it was off to test firing. John did all the work here, clamping the rifles in a vice in an enclosed room, as it simply wouldn't be wise to let us do it, both from a safety and legal standpoint. I'm pretty proud to say mine fired 8 and popped the clip flawlessly.

Here's the first case to come out of the gun. What you don't see is any bulging or ringing in the middle; proof that I cut the chamber with the reamer correctly.

BigJ 06-08-2014 3:41 PM

We returned to the workshop and after a pizza lunch, we were shown how to properly glass bed a Garand; a process that I found surprisingly more complicated than a bolt gun.

Notice those shaved down sides and routed out groves for the receiver to sit inside of?

As the class drew to a close, we were presented with a rifle we might see at a gun show or a store, and challenged to pick out issues with it that should probably make us pass on the purchase, especially if we were looking for a shooter. I have to admit, I missed both of the issues

As the class drew to a close, we were given the opportunity to inspect a completely authentic Air Force Premium Grade National Match Garand. In fact, this is the very gun that inspired the Custom Shop's creation; they studied it in depth, reverse engineered its modifications and have used what they've learned as the basis for all the M1 custom shop services they now offer. Even just getting to hold this gun was a true honor.

And with that, it was time to part ways. I shook several hands, and exchanged many well wishes and slaps on the back for jobs well done. I took a minute to again and personally thank everyone who worked to make this event something I will never forget; John for not only knowing is subject, but for communicating it in such an effective way. Chris for his hands on expertise and advise, Ryan for always being willing to jump in and lend a hand, Deshay for literally making it all happen and several other folks who contributed. I also thanked my fellow classmates for not throwing this reluctant left coaster out on principle; something only a couple of them regretted not doing ;)

In all seriousness, the bottom line is I had a blast and honestly feel this has been an experience of a lifetime. It was everything I hoped it would be, and more. If you get the chance to take this class, do it. You don't need to be a gunsmith, an expert on the gun or even very familiar with it. All you need is the most basic of mechanical skill, a willingness to listen, the ability to learn, and a passion for these guns and their history. If you've got all that, I think you'll come away with a whole new appreciation of the CMP, their Custom Shop, the people that run it and for these amazing pieces of history. I'm also betting you'll discover a whole new appreciation for and confidence in your own abilities.

You're welcome to take a look at all the pics I took (over 230!) Find them here:

BigJ 06-08-2014 3:41 PM

(saved for maybe adding more pics)

surplus-addict 06-08-2014 4:03 PM

Oh my lord, that was an amazing read. Thank you for documenting it that well!
You have a great rifle right there, and you must show us what groups you get :D

QuarterBoreGunner 06-08-2014 5:08 PM

This right here is my CGN needs to exist. An outstanding post about an amazing experience AND great pictures.

Excellent work BigJ and yes, I am extremely jealous. I have to ask, what does a vacation like this set you back?

Saigon1965 06-08-2014 5:23 PM

Great stuff BigJ -

A few years back a friend went out there to help them sort guns and such - He got to pick quite a few cherries -

Don the savage 06-08-2014 5:30 PM

That was a Beetleesque review. Very nice.

mj1 06-08-2014 5:39 PM

Well done.

How long did it take to get on the list?

Danodog 06-08-2014 5:52 PM

That would be a dream for me to attend......but my kids are insanely expensive. If I have a chance at all it will be in retirement. About $2000 after class and hosing right?

Bobby Ricigliano 06-08-2014 6:03 PM

Great read, great pics, and great story. Should make any Garand owner proud. This thread is as sticky worthy as anything I've seen. It will benefit anyone who considers going to a future class.

Thank you for posting it and congratulations on a Garand that I bet you will never sell!

Tarasdad 06-08-2014 6:16 PM

I'm so jealous I don't know how to even express it! Definitely an item for my bucket list!

bubbapug1 06-08-2014 6:39 PM

My god, one of the best posts ever on Calguns. Great job....


BigJ 06-08-2014 6:43 PM

Thank you gents! I'm happy to share this experience. I'm still reeling from it, to be honest. To answer the questions:

Originally Posted by surplus-addict (Post 14250675)
Oh my lord, that was an amazing read. Thank you for documenting it that well!
You have a great rifle right there, and you must show us what groups you get :D

Count on it! In fact, I decided to leave it with John and Chris and have them do a few accurizing tweaks I don't have the tools or knowhow for. Can't wait 'till she's home, and I hope to have some targets to post in a few weeks :)


Originally Posted by QuarterBoreGunner (Post 14251037)
This right here is my CGN needs to exist. An outstanding post about an amazing experience AND great pictures.

Excellent work BigJ and yes, I am extremely jealous. I have to ask, what does a vacation like this set you back?

Thanks! Yeah this isn't a cheap trip, that's for sure. I was able to use miles for the flight, so that helped a lot. But otherwise I was into the rental car for about $250, the room for around $330, the class (and rifle) cost was $1400, food and with everything I bought at the CMP store... it adds up VERY quickly.


Originally Posted by mj1 (Post 14251220)
Well done.

How long did it take to get on the list?

The morning registration opened, I banged refresh on the website until I got thru. I was able to register, and later got a call from DeShay confirming I was in. It was simple luck.

One of the other attendees said he was on the waiting list, and got a call two weeks ago saying he was up. So getting on the waiting list seems like a good option too.

We did talk about how hard it was to get a slot, and they said they had over 2000 people contact them directly. Who knows how many hit the website like I did. With that in mind, they're going to 12 classes next year (2015), and probably more even than that in 2016, so that should help.

On their radar are also things like an even more advanced version of this class, as well as other classes focusing most likely on the 1903s and M1 Carbines (bring your own gun). Basically, given the dwindling supply of 'new' firearms to process and sell, they're looking for ways to reinvent themselves. The Custom Shop, and now these classes are a direct result of that effort. More are most certainly on the horizon.

We also talked about the price of the class; it really REALLY is under priced for what you get. And they know it (they said they're barely breaking even at $400 per student). They're guessing the price for the class will jump to $800 next year to make this actually profitable for them. No official word has come down on a price increase yet though; its just speculation.


Originally Posted by Danodog (Post 14251286)
That would be a dream for me to attend......but my kids are insanely expensive. If I have a chance at all it will be in retirement. About $2000 after class and hosing right?

If you don't fly and have a car, yeah I think you could do it for that. But like I mentioned, there's most likely a price increase coming, so keep that in mind.


Originally Posted by Bobby Ricigliano (Post 14251372)
Great read, great pics, and great story. Should make any Garand owner proud. This thread is as sticky worthy as anything I've seen. It will benefit anyone who considers going to a future class.

Thank you for posting it and congratulations on a Garand that I bet you will never sell!

Wow thank you so much! I consider that a real compliment. Much appreciated.

Thanks again guys. Please fire away with any other questions. Happy to answer them if I can.

MeatyMac 06-08-2014 7:00 PM

Great write up, BigJ, thanks for taking the time to share your experience with us.

Two questions:

- During the stock bedding demonstration did they go over unitizing the front hand guard to the lower band and furrule?

- Could you tell us more about checking the receivers, what were the main areas that were checked and how, were any gauges used?

LCU1670 06-08-2014 7:11 PM

Great write up!

BigJ 06-08-2014 7:34 PM


Originally Posted by MeatyMac (Post 14251703)
During the stock bedding demonstration did they go over unitizing the front hand guard to the lower band and furrule?

Yes they sure did. That AFPG NM gun has a unitized handguard, and they showed several steps regarding to how replicate that modification on our own guns. It involves drilling and countersinking two holes into the lower band, and pilot holes into the hand guard wood behind the holes; without those holes in the guard screwing directly in WILL crack the wood.

They also discussed removing the liner, as well as how this modification ultimately makes the hand guard "fragile"; basically you end up removing all its support, and if you were to grab it and lift the gun (say out of a rack) you'll most likely crack the wood. If that's a concern, they also showed how to leave the liner in to make it stronger, but obviously that doesn't result in a fully floated barrel. Essentially you need to be prepared to break a guard or two over the years, if you make this mod.


Could you tell us more about checking the receivers, what were the main areas that were checked and how, were any gauges used?
Sure! The first thing they had us looking for was pitting everywhere that contact the wood, as those are the areas most susceptible.

John pointed out several areas on the receiver to look for wear as well. Here's an example showing nice sharp locking lug surface:

Essentially what you're looking for are sharp crisp corners especially where the bolt locks, rather than rounded off areas. Any chipping in this area might indicate a previous out of battery detonation, and given the choice you might want to pass on that particular one if you find any.

Also, check out those rear sight serrations. You want sharp crisp edges there for the detent on the sight to 'click' with. Rounded serrations or groves in there will give you problems when it comes time to sight your rifle in, and keep it sighted in.

Check for rewelds (any discoloration be leery of). Avoid those if possible.

Pay special attention to the back legs; make sure they're not cracked.

Check the heel; any signs of cracking here most likely indicate the gun was fired out of battery.

They also discussed the two toned receivers and the reason behind them; basically (if I remember right) SA serials 2.1mil and under were prone to cracking in the heel, due to the metallurgy used in those early guns. The black on a heel indicates it was later annealed; ie they figured out that they could dip the heels of these receivers in molten lead to strengthen that area to prevent it from cracking. Serials after 2.1mil used newer metals all together, and therefore didn't need to be annealed. Look for a diamond mark as this was used by SA to indicate the newer stronger steel was used on that particular piece.

That's another example of deciding what you want out of your build; the black heel is generally considered more collectible, but maybe not the best choice for a match caliber shooter (although they stressed over and over again none of these are "bad"; its just a matter of preference, really).

John also mentioned Winchesters in general, and showed us an example compared to the H&Rs. There was no comparison; the finish work of the H&R was far superior to that of the Winchester... the 'chesters looked literally like it was the machinists first day on the job. And he was probably drunk. Again though, the 'chesters are pretty darn collectible, but maybe there are better choices to go with for a shooter.

As for tools used on the raw receiver, the only thing we couldn't really be sure of based on visual inspection alone were the barrel threads. And for that we just threaded in the same tool required by the lapping process anyway; if it threaded in you were good to go, if not then not. But no, we didn't really measure anything on the receiver alone to check against a spec.

Hope that helps!

leman77 06-08-2014 8:50 PM

Awesome write up and pics! Glad you had fun and brought back your new baby.

badhabit90 06-08-2014 8:51 PM

well that was an awesome read and very educational. EXTREMELY jealous that you able to dedicate a portion of your life to this once in a lifetime experience. i couldnt stop reading and examining the pictures.

awaiting on the accuracy results....

elSquid 06-08-2014 9:39 PM


-- Michael

rdfact 06-08-2014 9:41 PM

Excellent review BigJ.
I now know who to address my M1 questions to. :)

mosinnagantm9130 06-09-2014 3:41 AM

Great write up, well done!

mls343 06-09-2014 4:13 AM

Thanks, BigJ. Wonderful article and an amazing read. Awesome!

QuarterBoreGunner 06-09-2014 5:41 AM

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: I'm going to sticky this for a while as many members as possible see it; I think it's that good.

marksmandowntown 06-09-2014 7:25 AM

Best write up ever. Thanks.

joefrank64k 06-09-2014 7:42 AM

Awesome write up...I'm bummed that I couldn't swing the time to attend these courses. Maybe next year...

BigJ 06-09-2014 12:22 PM


Originally Posted by QuarterBoreGunner (Post 14253386)
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: I'm going to sticky this for a while as many members as possible see it; I think it's that good.

Very cool. Thanks!

Capybara 06-09-2014 12:53 PM

As a CMP Service Special owner, this was outstanding, thanks for documenting your experience so meticulously. Enjoy your rifle.

GJC 06-09-2014 1:02 PM

That was awesome! Great write up thank you!

JoyJoy 06-09-2014 3:44 PM

Love this write up! I feel like I was there each step of the way. You have a way with words. I also appreciate the reverence for history everyone there seemed to share.
So glad this is a sticky now.

Enfield47 06-09-2014 8:26 PM

Excellent job on the write up and photos, I really enjoyed reading it. I'm really glad to hear that the class is so worth while. It sounds like you had a great experience that will last a lifetime.

BigJ 06-11-2014 2:48 PM

Thanks again guys.

I've tweaked the writeup a little bit (and added a few pics) to include a touch more detail regarding the build itself.

shmeare 06-11-2014 5:40 PM

wow, this is pretty cool! thank you for sharing... would love to attend some day... sighs...

rdfact 06-12-2014 10:44 AM

BigJ, does the CMP class recommend any significantly different lubrication procedure than this Garand Gear article?

SonofWWIIDI 06-12-2014 11:14 AM

WOW! That was a great write-up! Thanks for sharing your experience, and the sweet pics!


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