My first. I got lucky. Ordered a field grade M1 from the CMP and got a Dec. 44 SA with the original barrel. When I stripped the old oil/grease/dirt off the stock the wood was too darn pretty to hide under some more stain/oil. I put polyurethane on it to show off the color/grain. It shoots pretty good, but since it's mostly original I don't shoot it much.
The one I shoot is a Greek rack grade return rifle. The rifle was bouncing around in a European Beech stock that wouldn't take stain/oil in the white/light spots characteristic of that wood so I put it in a cheap ($50) Ramline plastic stock. This is one good shooting rifle. After shooting it I retired my M1A to the gun safe. Just no comparison in group size.
Along with these two I've gotten a couple other SA's from 42 and 43 (both with replaced barrels). I've also got three H&R's from the early to mid 50's.
I got mine back when you could walk into the CMP stores (when to the North Store twice) and walk up and down the rows of rifles (03's, 03A3's, too) and the guys that worked there would come out and go through the rifles with you and help you pick what you wanted (pretty or great barrel condition - maybe you could get both, sometimes). That rack grade Greek return rifle looked pretty bad, but has a 1953 LMR barrel on it (one of the best barrels ever put on an M1 Garand).
I see lots of M1's at the local gun shows. None as cheap as they were at the CMP 12 to 13 years ago.
The CMP web site has links to other forums/web sites with a lot of M1 information/advice.
Good luck with your search. I'll be splitting mine up with my kids. I've already gifted three of them out to the boys. The rest will go to them, some day.
Oh, I hear a couple of the reloading manuals (don't remember if it was Hornady or Sierra) have M1 Garand specific load section for interested reloaders.
IMR 4895 and 150 grain bullets is a good place to start. I've used a lot of commercial 30.06 brass in mine, never any issues. A lot of folks shoot the 168 grain match bullets, too. Some guys like IMR3031, some like IMR 4064, and most seem to use IMR4895.