Guns & Ammo Network

Collapse bottom bar
Historical Military & Law Enforcement Rifles Semi Auto

M1 Carbine: America’s Unlikely Warrior

by Garry James   |  October 6th, 2014 5

The M1 Carbine (M1A1 shown) was one of America’s most widely used arms in three major conflicts and a popular lend/lease item to Allied countries.

With the advantage of hindsight, it almost seems there were some guns that were just designed for the later-day firearms enthusiast and collector. It’s like the manufacturers went out of their way to provide enough variations of a particular piece to provide buffs with a fertile field for study, accumulation and fun. The M1 Carbine is such an item. In fact, the collecting, refurbishing, shooting and studying of the many variations of this handy little semi-auto have become so popular, it’s easy to forget that it was one of America’s most popular and widely produced military longarms, serving the country from World War II through Vietnam.

Not counting the M16, more M1 Carbines (and variants) were made than any other American long gun in history. The vast number of these rifles in the hands of the troops for a period of around 50 years pretty well ensured a full range of combat experiences with it.

Depending upon which vet you talk to, this neat little .30-caliber repeater was either the best or the worst arm he ever carried. My own less than martial plinking forays with the M1 Carbine have been nothing less than enjoyable, and it’s right at the top of my list of favorite guns to shoot—but then again, I never had to stake my life on one.


MKS Supply to Produce New M1 Carbines

MKS Supply has announced that it is reproducing the original, WWII-era Inland brand M1 Carbine. The new .30-calibe...

The M1 Carbine was designed by one of the most colorful firearms inventors of the 20th century, David Marshall Williams, who formulated many of his ideas while serving a term in prison for second-degree murder. After he was released, he went to work for Winchester and in collaboration with others came out with the new gun. He has the distinction of being the only gun designer who had a movie made about him, MGM’s biopic Carbine Williams, starring James Stewart. The M1 Carbine didn’t spring full blown from Williams’ workshop. It was the result of intensive experimentation and reworking by him and others.

During the Second World War, the American GI was armed with the best battle rifle of the conflict, the M1 Garand. But as great a piece of hardware as it was, it was not always appropriate for some applications.

Basically, the M1 Carbine was developed in response to a requirement for a light, handy rifle to be carried by clerks, cooks, linemen, machine gunners, mortarmen and the like—soldiers who would not normally be issued a handgun, but for whom the bulkier Garand might be inappropriate. Though initiated in 1938, the request was shelved until 1940 when America’s entry into World War II seemed imminent.

In late 1940, a number of manufacturers were sent specifications and told to work up a light carbine. Winchester produced the cartridge, a .30-caliber straight-case rimless job that pushed its 110-grain bullet out of an 18-inch barrel at some 1,860 fps.

After his release from prison, Williams made something of a name for himself in the firearms field and in 1941 found himself working for Winchester. His diminutive semi-auto, submitted by his parent company, was the arm selected by the government as most appropriate to its needs.

The final product was simple and robust. With a barrel length of just 18 inches, an overall length of three feet and a well-balanced heft of 5½ pounds, it seemed to have the word “handy” invented for it. Although the round didn’t have anything near the power of that of the .30-’06, within reasonable distances it had enough oomph to be a reasonably effective combat round (110-grain FMJ bullet at 1,975 fps with a muzzle energy of 955 ft-lbs and a relative power factor of 16.3). Reports of the load’s puissance seemed to be at least OK during World War II, but some troops during the Korean Conflict complained bitterly that the round just didn’t have enough going for it to punch through the quilted jackets of their Chinese adversaries.

Designated the M1 Carbine, the semi-auto action employed a short-stroke piston, which was forced back about 1/3 inch by gases tapped off from the barrel. The piston then pushed the operating slide to the rear, which in turn operated the rotating bolt to eject empty cases. A coil-type operating-rod spring forced the bolt forward, where it stripped off and chambered a fresh cartridge from the 15-round blued sheet-steel box magazine. The forward motion of the slide also repositioned the gas piston.

Load Comments ( )
back to top