M1 Carbine

DunnBy Robert Dunn 
AGI and GunTech Video Producer, 
AGI Pro Course Graduate, GCA Charter Member

If you want a rifle that has a great history, low recoil and good accuracy, the M1 .30 caliber carbine is an excellent choice. This carbine was issued in 1942 as an alternative to the larger M1 Garand. The military wanted a weapon that was not cumbersome yet had better long-range accuracy than a pistol.M1-1

The .30 caliber cartridge (developed by Winchester) has been criticized for lacking stopping power, however, it was not designed for sniping or long distance kills. This was a great weapon to be used if you were stuck riding in a jeep and were ambushed, or if you were a typist and your position was overrun in the field. Many were carried by junior officers and NCO’s. The complaints about the carbines lethality came from war fighters that had to fight in dense jungles or in areas that the enemy wore thick clothing in extremely cold environments. The .30 caliber cartridge was not intended to have the penetrating power of the .30-06 round used in the Garand and Springfield 1903 rifles. These complaints did NOT come from the many thousands of our enemies who died in front of it.

The M1 was designed by a man named David “Carbine” Williams while he was in prison. David was incarcerated for second-degree murder of a Deputy Sheriff during a raid on his illegal distillery in 1921. David would devote much of his time in prison to drawing firearms designs. He was transferred to the prison machine shop to repair the prison’s weapons when a guard noticed his talents. There was even a movie made in 1952 about Carbine Williams that starred James Stewart.

David went to work for Winchester after serving his time and further design work followed, taking out over 50 different patents. His use of the short stroke piston gas system and rotating bolt made the carbine a reliable and sturdy weapon. General MacArthur noted its use in the Pacific Theater when he said that it was “one of the strongest contributing factors in our victory in the Pacific”.M1-2

The M1 was used in WWII and in the Korean War. The M2 and M3 were the fully automatic versions of the M1, which was a s e m i – a u t o weapon. A version with a folding stock was popular with the airborne troops. The carbine also saw use in the Vietnam War until the M16 was manufactured in sufficient quantity. Tens of thousands were issued to the Vietnamese, who appreciated its small size.

Over 6 million M1 carbines were manufactured for military use in different factories over the many years of its usage. These military carbines are now being sold for a high price and are very collectable, though different companies such as Auto Ordinance and the Fulton Armory are manufacturing excellent working replicas today.

The M1 carbine has a bayonet lug on it to accept the M4 bayonet. These knives can still be found at gun shows and on the Internet fairly easily and it makes an excellent addition to the weapon. Original parts for this firearm are readily available, and because of the carbine’s popularity, new parts are also available.

M1-3The magazine can be loaded round by round outside of the gun but stripper clips can also be used for rapid reloading of the weapon with the magazine in place. Original magazine capacities were 15 and 30 rounds, but luckily 10 round magazines are available for those of us folks living in the “Peoples Republic of California.” There were various sights made for the gun. My favorite rear sight is adjustable for both elevation and windage.

The M1 carbine is still in use by various police departments around the world, such as those in Brazil and Greenland. It is one of my favorite firearms, as I grew up hearing stories about it and watching it in the many WWII films. It periodically stands guard in my work area, but that is mostly because I just like to look at it. It is light, quick to get on target and does not over penetrate, particularly with commercial soft nose rounds, making it a viable option for home defense. With the addition of the bayonet, the intimidation factor and its usefulness go up considerably.

Whether you buy an old military version or one of the current reproductions, you will end up with a fun firearm for plinking at the range, a fine hunting gun for small game (what a jackrabbit motivator!), or a reliable weapon for self-defense.

15 Responses to M1 Carbine

  1. Cool piece on my least favorite WWII weapon. It is a fun plinker for sure. My grandfather gave his issued carbine to his native island scout. He thought it lacked the punch he felt was necessary when the Japs went all banzai on you. For that reason he carried a Winchester Model 12 he “acquired” and his M1 Garand with grenade attached on his back. My grandad would disagree with his esteemed General, though he respected him to the utmost, and say a Model 12 and a captured Japanese “knee mortar” were instrumental to his victory in the Pacific.

    Nonetheless a very storied piece of American firearms history and yours is a beautiful example. Thanks to the article, Robert! I wonder if it was any inspiration for Bill Ruger. They remind me of the Ruger carbines a bit as well as the 10/22.

    • Thanks, Dan! My Dad fought in the Pacific Theater during WWII and when they would go ashore he had the .30 carbine and always wished he was had a Garand.

  2. When I joined the USAF, I qualified with the M-16. My rifle jammed almost immediately. I was disappointed with that platform. After being sent to England, it was time to re-qualify. We had the M-1 carbines in the armory. I became a fan of that little rifle right off.
    Now, living in the Peoples Republic of New Jersey, the carbine is on the list of prohibited firearms. I still would like to own one.

    • I used to live in California, so I know just what you mean Gary. For what I use the carbine for, it’s great.

  3. Looks like a really neat little gun! I certainly would like to own one.

    Somewhere around 2 years ago Ron Norton from Inland Manufacturing attended a live GCA meeting on skype as a main guest speaking of their M1/M1A1.30 Carbine reproductions. Ron seems like a very cool person and I really liked listening to his words. It was a great meeting.

    Long story short GCA was giving away Inland Manufacturing M1/M1A1 T-shirts for the first 10 people to email their mailing address along with their shirt size. I was one of the lucky 10 awarded one of those shirts, and I really like it. It’s my first “gun” shirt. It’s the only M1/M1A1 thing I posses, so it would be awesome to have a gun to go along with the shirt.

    Personally I prefer the folding stock versions, although both are really cool. I’m a fan of smaller, more compact guns since I am of smaller stature also.

    Awesome article, thanks for sharing!

    • Sounds like a cool shirt! Yes, Ron is very knowledgeable and a cool person to talk to. Take care Dana!

  4. The carbine is also one of my favorite rifles – right after my Enfield Rifle 4. I bought mine in 1976 for $C 90. The leather sling and notch sight puzzled me until I found out about the “Bavarian” carbines. These were carbines that were given to German and Austrian police units following their surrender. The carbines were often customized to meet the various agencies requirements and desires.

  5. My grandfather carried one when he was with the 82nd airborne ,jumping into Sicily but he said that as soon as he got on the ground he found a Thompson submachinegun and that became the weapon that he carried throughout the rest of the war .I first came upon one through a CMP program. My grandfather was like a kid in a candy store ,he taught me to detail strip it ,clean it ,sight it in ,shoot it and then we started developing reloads for it. Ii was the best summer I ever had, and the reason I became a paratrooper like him,(Alpha company 1/504 ABN infantry). I still have that carbine I don’t shoot it as much. But I think it is time to take my grandson to the range. It’ll drive his mom crazy lol.

    • That’s great Brian, glad you have the gun! My granddaddy fought in WWI and my Dad in WWII and were both good teachers of firearms handling.

  6. I have one and love shooting it. The ballistics of the round have been compared to a full .357 magnum round fired from a longer barrel. It is an easy round to reload. Following some personal threats many years ago when I was a young cop, mine traveled with me quite a lot with a couple of 30 round magazines.

  7. No amount of clothes or jungle leaves will stop an M1 carbine bullet! It’s been tried hundreds of times in WWII, Korea and Viet Name. More recently on the internet. At 100 yards the M1 carbine bullet has about the same energy as a .357 at the muzzle. A good read on the subject is “Shots Fired in Anger” from a GI in the Pacific in WWII.

  8. That’s true, WWII’s most decorated soldier and his favorite weapon, the M1 Carbine!