The rifle is the single most expensive item you will pick up for your basic re-enactment impression. Some guys run out and buy 50 cal machine guns or a 1942 U.S. Army Dodge truck and pay thousands of dollars for them, but that tends to be after they've been in re-enacting for a while. For those of us starting out though, the M1 Garand is the big buck item.
If you've got money to burn and want to pick one up quickly, take a buddy along to a local gun show and buy one there. But if you're like me and you're stretching your money so far the neighbors think you're making copper wire, buying one from the government is the way to go. Getting one is ridiculously easy. All you have to do is join the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) or the Garand Collectors Association (GCA $25/year). I recommend the GCA because then you get a quarterly newsletter full of good stuff about the M1.
Next you need to go to a sanctioned match and shoot 50 rounds downrange. Accuracy is not important. The cost is about $35 for the match, including ammunition, range fee, ear plugs, and a safety marker for your rifle. You'll get a handy certificate saying that your are qualified with the M1. Send that in and you'll be authorized to buy your very own M1 Garand for about $500.
The bottom two photos show the butt plate of the rifle with the compartments for storing the cleaning kit.
This link is a cool little animation showing how the M1 works step-by-step.
Visit this page for information on how to get a rifle through the Civilian Marksmanship Program.
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