By Walter J. Kuleck, Ph.D.
The "Tanker Garand" is a "misnomer." During WWII two separate prototypes were developed for paratroop use. The first was the M1E5. The M1E5 had a short barrel and a folding metal stock. It was developed and tested in the Summer of 1944, but then abandoned because of the loud report and large muzzle flash from the short barrel.
In the fall of 1944 the Pacific Warfare Board ordered a test quantity of 150 M1 Rifles to be shortened and tested for jungle and paratroop use. These conversions were rather crudely done in the Pacific Theatre of Operations, either in Australia or the Phillippines. A request was made that Springfield Armory manufacture these shortened M1s, and two were sent by air to the USA for testing.
When the Springfield Armory staff saw the improvised short Garands, they recognized that they were the same as the M1E5 but with a normal wood stock. Thereupon they assembled their own version, designated T26. After testing the same conclusions were drawn as before; the barrel was just too short to be practical. Thus only one T26 was ever made in the USA.
Of the two test rifles sent from the Pacific, one is in the Springfield Armory Museum, and one is reportedly at the West Point Museum. The lone T26 was reported destroyed in testing at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland.
In the 1950's several entrepreneurs, including Robert E. Penney, Jr., acquired a great deal of Garand scrap including cut-in-half receivers and parts sets. They built perhaps ten or twenty thousand rifles by welding receiver halves together. (See the Fulton Armory FAQ entry on the subject of welded receivers by clicking here). This was crude, but it was the only way at that time to get a Garand outside of the Directorate of Civilian Marksmanship (DCM, now the Civilian Marksmanship Program, CMP). Robert Penney noted the short Garand at the Springfield Armory museum during a visit there and decided to meld his interest in tanks with his business interests, Alpine and National Ordnance, prime "remanufacturers" of Garands from Garand scrap. Penney decided that a short T26-type Garand would fit nicely in a tank turret, and coined the term "Tanker Garand." However, the short Garands that were tested by the Army during WWII were not intended for use by tank crews! Nevertheless, Penney's name for the T26-type rifle stubbornly stuck; few gun people recognize "T26" but nearly everyone has heard of the "Tanker Garand."
Even now when M1s have been much more available, the popularity of a short Garand remains strong. Thus many have been made on good, original receivers. I have such a T26 replica (as I prefer to call it):
It is a near certainty that any short Garand you see is a commercial conversion of a full-sized rifle or a commercial "reproduction" on an M1 receiver. Scott Duff and I have some evidence that a substantial number of rifles were in fact converted in the Phillippines in 1944; we have some evidence of when and where they may have been issued. However, no "factory built" T26 will be found, and no field-converted short Garand has ever been found. We believe that the latter were converted back into standard rifles or destroyed. Should one exist, it would be an important historic artifact. I do not believe that any exist, however.
Note on "Tanker Garand" Functioning
"I have seen a lot of bad posts concerning Arlington Ordinance Tanker Garands. Can anyone give me some specifics on the problems?"
1. Function: op rod fouls on lower band, stock or ? during reciprocation
2. Function: op rod detracks
3. Function: gas port not proper sized (they're often hogged out due to the short recoil caused by (1) above, so the obvious but wrong approach is taken)
To make a quick and dirty check of a specific "Tanker," field strip the rifle, remove the op rod spring, and check *carefully* for free and easy movement. It should reciprocate of its own weght (and that of the bolt) when elevated/depressed ~30 degrees from horizontal. See if anything's rubbing. Check for abnormal wear patterns on the op rod, receiver tracks & lug recesses, and bolt. Ensure you have proper firing pin retract as long as its apart.
Just remember that the Garand mechanism is balanced and timed in its original configuration; the T26 variation deviates significantly from Garand's original engineered design and there's no standard for the redesign required to shorten it.