For the collector of firearms owned by famous people in history, Rock Island’s next auction holds a weapon that could be the centerpiece of any collection: An M1 rifle, the “deadliest rifle in the world”, owned by John F. Kennedy:
This M1 started from one of those depots, the Erie Ordnance Depot in Port Clinton, OH to be precise, but was far from a random selection. The rifle picked for [the VIP] bears a late production 6+ million serial number and is a Type 1 National Match M1 Garand, that has been rebuilt to a Type 2. After the NM rifle “happened” to be selected for [the VIP], it also “happened” to make its way to Master Sergeant Raymond E Parkinson, a gunsmith assigned to the Second U.S. Army Advanced Marksmanship Unit at Ft. George C. Meade in Maryland. Once there, much of the work took place that can be seen on the rifle to this day. In fact, COL Lee was kind enough to detail such changes in a letter he sent to [the VIP] after the rifle was received. The modifications, as listed in the communication, are:
- Adjusted the trigger in order to provide an exacting trigger pull for each shot fired.
- Blued all metal parts to prevent rust and enhance the beauty of the weapon.
- Applied a moisture-proof silicon finish to the stock.
- Applied a glass-bedding compound to the recoil shoulders of the stock in order to enable the rifle to maintain its accuracy.
- Air-tested the bore for correct calibration and flaws.
- Test-fired the rifle in a sitting position at 200 yards.
“For your information, Mast Sergeant Parkinson did the test firing and the target is enclosed. The rifle was not test-fired from a cradle because the gun smiths did not want to scar the stock, however, the test proved conclusively that the rifle is very accurate and as good as any rifle used at the National Matches.”
The VIP was the then-Junior Senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy. While the Kennedy family has made the most extreme gun control central to their political identity since his death, JFK was a proud veteran, gun owner, and shooter. The carefully polished rifle does not seem to have been fired much; soon, Kennedy was embroiled in the Presidential campaign, which he would win in late 1960. It’s unknown if he took the rifle along to the White House, but it’s now at Rock Island Auctions and is going on the block next weekend, complete with a thorough and impressive provenance.
This M1 shows the telltale signs of a rifle originally made via mass production and then enhanced by hand. The markings lack the natural raised edges that are the byproduct of stamping dies, as the metal’s surface was polished after the markings were applied (these processes would be done in reverse order for a custom job, leaving the raised surface as a testament that the finish is original). The bluing shows off the gun’s original finish better than dull parkerizing would – this ironically highlights both mill and forging marks. The edges have a slight “melted” look, instead of being crisp and sharp; the result of either careless polishing or the initial production that created the rifle in the first place. The bedding also highlights one of the quirks of Garand’s 1920s design: Field-stripping the gun requires removal of the stock, and the ruination of the bedding (needless to say, the lucky person who does buy this gun should under no circumstances field-strip it).
These characteristics are part and parcel for a National-Match-rifle-turned-presentation-piece, and don’t detract from the gun’s value which lies in the person who owned it, and not the object itself.
If you want to purchase this historic piece for your own collection, the rifle will be up for auction in RIA’s September Premier Auction, from the 11th-13th of that month.
This article originally appeared at The Firearm Blog.