Don't forget the M1 Carbine

By Shooter, Feb 7, 2012 | |
  1. Shooter
    Known to the military as the United States Carbine, Caliber .30, M1, the hardy little rifle was popular with the US and other militaries around the world for more than 30 years. Today, the M1 is still around and is as loved as ever.

    The last several ranges I have worked, it seems M1s are constantly coming up. Vito, a good friend and co-worker of mine, a former Marine infantryman now in an Air National Guard special ops unit swears by his.

    "Want to sell it?" I asked.


    Another range, another shooter talking shop. This one is an active duty military martial arts instructor in the Army that I'll call simply Bucket-head to protect his identity. For home defense, he has a carbine in the closet with 15 in the box and one in the pipe.

    "Can't beat an old M1," he says with a smile.

    "Want to sell it?"

    "Not a chance."

    And the beat goes on... Many shooters turn their nose up at the humble little M1, neither pistol nor rifle. Those who know them, however, love them. With all this love, let's take a look at the weapon.

    The M1s attributes-

    Meant for issue to troops that did not need a full-sized 30.06 caliber battle rifle, such as artillerymen, truck drivers and radio operators; the M1 was short and handy. At slightly over 5-pounds and with an 18-inch barrel taking up the bare minimum of space, the M1 was a joy to carry and still effective at short ranges if you needed it. Most of the paratroopers that jumped into Europe did so with a M1 strapped to their pack. With one 15-round magazine in the well and two more in the butt stock pouch, a 1942-era infantryman had 45 rounds of party favors without even reaching for his belt pouches to reload. When 30-round mags are used, it only makes it that much better.

    These same features today keep the M1 popular for home defense and varmint control. The short and hard-hitting little firearm can be operated one handed if needed, and is compact enough to maneuver easily around corners and staircases. Its round is capable of one-shot stops without over penetration if the correct loads are utilized, while still allowing decent hits on predators such as coyotes around the farm to 100-yards.
    Unique cartridge

    Few cartridges are known by the name of the firearm that fires them, and the M1's fodder, the .30 Caliber carbine round, is one of them. The .30 caliber carbine round is a true intermediate round, much larger than just about any handgun round, while at the same time falling shorter than most rifle rounds. Metrically it is around 7.62x32mm, just shorter than the classic Russian 7.62x39mm used by the AK-47 and SKS carbines and as such usually fires a lighter bullet. Ballistically the round with 110-grain bullet will break 1900fps and generate 880-foot pound of energy. Compare that to the vaunted .45ACP, which, even in its fastest charge will generate around 600-foot pounds of energy and it is clear that the .30 carbine packs a heavy punch when compared to handgun rounds.

    When compared to tactical rifle rounds like the 7.62x39mm, which typically delivers around 1500-foot pounds of energy, the carbine is outclassed. However I'd like to think that the .30 carbine round is OK with that, as it's what it was designed for.
    Caliber Foot Pounds Energy

    357MAG 400~
    30 Carbine 880~
    7.62x39mm 1500~

    See where the term 'intermediate cartridge 'comes from when describing the .30 caliber carbine?

    The round is impressive against soft targets and provides reliable and controllable firepower. Recoil is mild in the carbine and it is often referred to my firearms writers as "The Girlfriend Gun," for their popularity with the prettier of our species.
    - The modern Kahr/Auto Ord folding stocked M1 with 30-round banana clip. Photo by Oleg Volk, gun guru at large.

    Comparison and availability of various models of M1 Carbines

    The classic US Government models of the M1 carbine in the standard M1 format, M2 select fire version, and the rare M3 night sniper versions were produced from 1941-1945. In all some 6.5 million of these were made by companies as diverse Winchester, Rockola (Jukebox manufactures), IBM, Underwood (the typewriter people), and Saginaw (who made GMs power steering columns.) After the 1960s the US liquidated these weapons as fast as they could, giving them away to allies and friends. From the 1950s to just a few years ago, the M1 was the original patrol carbine in the back of many police and sheriffs trunks for those special occasions.


    A good friend of mine from Norway told me his favorite weapon he shot as a conscript in the 1980s Norwegian Army's Nordmark unit was (drumroll)...the M1 Carbine. So as late as 1989 the little room broom was still holding the line against the Soviet threat. Today Israel and several other US allies still hold them in their arsenals.

    For M1 (semi-auto only) carbines were made available through the NRA, CMP and other organizations in the 1960s for as low as $20. A steal then as they usually go more in the $500-$600 range today, half that for mismatched ugly shooters. The CMP's last stock of carbines was returned from the Bavarian Forest Guard a few years and have all been sold. Occasionally the CMP will sell junked barreled receivers for $125, and they make a good project for the workshop.

    Iver Johnson/Universal and companies such as Plainfield and Alpine manufactured commercial copies from the 1960s-1990s. While they look like the classic WWII M1, many have completely different operational mechanisms and do not use interchangeable parts. These can often be found at gun shows and online for the $200-$300 region. Odds are if it does not have a 'US" mark on it, it's probably one of these.

    Currently the M1 is still under production by Kahr under its Auto Ordnance division. They produce the standard USGI version, the folding stocked paratrooper, and a composite stocked 'tactical' model. They have a MSRP on their website of $903, however they can normally be found if you shop around for a good deal less.

    - Kahr/Auto Ord's Tactical M1. Same great looks, more modern stock. Add a Aimpoint or Eotech to the front and you have a wickedly effective carbine.

    Let me know if you have one in your closet that you are itching to get rid of, it seems like most people are holding on to them.

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