February 10, 2023
By Eric Poole
As I wrote this, I was debating whether to click the “Buy-It-Now” button for a Saginaw-manufactured M1 Carbine. It’s tempting, but $2,500 is a lot of money. Down the webpage, I see a 1944-dated Winchester with a starting bid of $2,250. If I pay that much money for an M1, would I still want to shoot it? Then my phone rang.
Coincidence? It was Ron Norton, president of Inland Manufacturing — no, not the old Inland Division of General Motors that produced M1 Carbines and M1A1 Paratrooper models during World War II. Since 2013, Norton has presided over Inland Manufacturing in Dayton, Ohio, which is not that far from where, historically, M1 Carbines were made for the war effort. Today, Inland Manufacturing is one of only a few companies that builds, restores, and reimagines the .30 Carbine. Auto-Ordnance, Fulton Armory and James River Armory are some others.
“At the shows, what I’ve been seeing is run-of-the-mill U.S.G.I.-contract guns are fetching $1,000 to $1,200,” Norton said. “The ones I’ve handled typically need an additional $200 to $400 to get them correct or running OK. A nice arsenal rebuild is bringing $1,500, and desirable models make the seller $2,500, some more.”
Desirability is greatest for M1 Carbines in original-manufactured configurations, the ones made by low-production manufacturers that can still be shot, and those in as-used during World War II condition. There were 10 manufacturers of production M1 Carbines spanning 38 months between 1942 and 1945: Inland Division (2,632,097), Winchester (828,059), Underwood (545,616), Saginaw (517,212), National Postal Meter (413,017), Quality Hardware & Machine (359,666), IBM (346,500), Standard Products (247,160), Irwin-Pedersen (223,620) and Rock-Ola (228,500). Total production was 6,221,220, which exceeded every small arm made during World War II.
The M1 Carbine evolved to include the automatic M2 and T3 variants, which served in Korea and Vietnam. After World War II, M1s were loaned to countries around the world, too. Created by the U.S. Congress in 1903, The Office of the Director of Civilian Marksmanship (DCM) received surplus M1 Carbines in the late 1960s and began selling the first arsenal refurbished examples to the public. The DCM became the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) in 1996. It sold repatriated and refurbished M1 Carbines until supplies were exhausted in 2016. Before the late ’60s, GI-issue M1 Carbines were not in commercial circulation, however, Universal Firearms made more than 426,000 M1 Carbines between 1961 and 1986, and Iver Johnson some 97,000 between 1978 and 1992.
It’s amazing how many people still like wood on a rifle. Still, many people have never handled one. It weighs 5½ pounds and is what an AR-15 first aimed to be. Unfortunately, there are many people who don’t realize how good of a rifle it is, but that may be changing. In 2013, Inland Mfg. started offering new-production M1 Carbines for around $900. In 2020, the price leapt to $1,250. And there is about to be another price adjustment because “there are more orders for guns than components available,” Norton said. “It has nothing to do with supply issues from overseas. Every part used to build Inland M1 Carbines is made in the U.S. I could be selling 300 to 400 per month, and we are doing between 50 to 100 right now. People are realizing that the M1 Carbine is great for beginners and doing what it was designed to do 80 years ago. It fits every body type, makes a good home-defense platform, has low recoil, is easy to handle and reliable.”
M1 Carbine competitions returned to the National Matches in 2006, which became the easiest and most cost-effective way to get involved with CMP shooting. The M1 Carbine match is a three-position competition that only requires 50 rounds — all shot at 100 yards, so no carting gear between stages —and there are separate divisions for as-issued and commercial versions. Registration at Camp Perry, Ohio, is on July 20th. I hope to see you there!
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