The American M1 Carbine

The M1 Carbine is a terrific long gun designed to bridge the gap between pistol and rifle, and it went above and beyond that simple expectation. Troops loved the light weight, high capacity, and handiness of this little gun and it often made it onto the front lines despite having been designed for other purposes.

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Transcript ….

(gun fires) – [Narrator] If I were an American combatant in World War II, I would probably take an M1 carbine if it were up to me.

Not because it was the most powerful, or the most accurate, but because it was plenty powerful and accurate enough.

All while weighing 4.5 pounds, with sling and oil bottle attached.

The M1 carbine was the result of the military’s desire to bridge the gap between a 1911 handgun and full powered rifle as a small arm to distribute to personnel who were not front-line combatants, such as officers, artillery men, drivers, and so on.

But the advantages of a small, lightweight semi-auto rifle that held 15 rounds in the magazine were soon recognized.

And they were generally very well-favored among troops in World War II.

The M1 carbine is a brilliant piece of hardware.

It’s the product of many talented designers including the famous Carbine Williams.

And it shoots brilliantly.

But let’s take a look at a few of this gun’s features.

As mentioned, these are exceptionally lightweight and quite small.

The length of pole is very short, but a person with a large wingspan can adapt to a short length of pole.

Whereas a person with shorter arms may be unable to use a weapon effectively if one is too excessive.

So there is a bit of a compromise here, I suppose.

The M1 carbine has a simple aperture sight with a 150 yard setting and a 300 yard setting.

Detachable 15 round magazines are present, although later on a 30 round magazine was developed, and these work quite well in the select-fire M2 carbine, which is a rifle I really wish I had.

The safety is a simple cross bolt design, and you can go from safe to fire with a simple press of a button.

It’s very easy to do for right-handed users.

It has the same style operating rod and horizontally opposed dual lug rotating bolt of the M1 grand.

And there is a provision to manually lock the bolt to the rear.

Interestingly, this gun was made by IBM Corp., as indicated by the rear of the receiver.

And here you can see the flip adjustable sights.

The front side is a simple post, but with wings to guard it, as present on many American firearms.

Also cleverly, in the back of the stock, what retains the sling is the oil bottle.

But let’s do a little bit more shooting.

(gun cocks) (gun fires repeatedly) The gun shoots 30 caliber 110 grain projectiles at an impressive 2,000 feet per second.

But even still, the gun generates very low recoil, and is incredibly fun to shoot.

In fact, it’s my girlfriend’s favorite rifle, and she’s gotten pretty handy with it.

Really I’ve found that these are just great rifles to teach new shooters with as well, due to the low recoil and weight.

The rapport is also significantly quieter than an AR-15 or AK type rifle.

(gun cocks) (gun fires repeatedly) While a bit less than ideal given modern options, if you had to use an M1 carbine in a self-defense situation, well, you could do a lot worse.

With 30 rounds of a zippy and reasonably potent cartridge on tap, the humble M1 carbine could hold it’s own in a skirmish.

Typically they group about three to four inches at 100 yards, which isn’t great, but these guns were not designed to replace the 1903 or M1 rifle.

They were designed to hit man-sized targets at short distances.

And for that, they are perfectly adequate.

If you’d like to own an M1 carbine yourself, ProxiBid has a lot of auctions coming up this weekend as well.

And, one of these would look great in any firearm collection.

They really are great pieces of American history.

Thanks as always to Ventura Munitions for helping us out with the ammunition in our videos.

And a special thank you to you all for watching.

We sincerely hope to see you next time.

(gun firing)



Alex C.

Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and Director of TFBTV.


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  • The Irredeemable Raven

    Great little rifle. It was one of the first I learned to shoot with.

    • Billy Jack

      Boy Scout camp here. I guess nowadays we’d be considered junior fascists. Great rifle. Great for youth to learn with. I don’t recall any recoil issues. Ammo pricing is maybe the only reason I’d start my kids with a .22.

  • ProLiberty82

    My grand father was issued these in the Norwegian Air Force after WWII, and says it was the rifle everybody wanted, they where light and worked great out to about 300 meters. It was one of many nice things that came out of the Marshall Plan, American stuff was always great he says.

  • Harry’s Holsters

    3-4 inches at 100 yards from an m1 carbine sounds great to me!

    I’ll always have a special place in my heat for these from all the war movies I’ve watched featuring them. Even in the movies they seemed just like light handy guns. Once I fill my safe with some more practical guns I’ll definitely be on the lookout for one!

    • datimes

      Audie Murphy carried one of these with great efficacy.

      • Harry’s Holsters

        True American Hero!

        Robert Mitchum is who I picture when I think of the M1 Carbine.

      • Jim_Macklin

        When he was field promote to S.Lt. Prior to that he carried an M1 Garand, as a Pvt. When he made Sgt he carried a Thompson.
        He was https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/edc7d41b1093358b9d5565c8240204a321d3acfc8d3930080a4e1f3875782185.jpg a skilled rifleman before he joined the Army. Too bad that PTSD and treatment wasn’t known or effective, he might still be with us. He turned out to be a pretty good actor for a school dropout.

        • Don Ward

          Well, since First Lieutenant Murphy died in a plane crash, so I doubt that. But yes he was a capable B movie actor and who did a great job starring as himself in one of the better war movies from the 1950s.

          • Kirk Newsted

            He was a Major when he died.

          • Don Ward

            Derp. You’re right!

      • Uniform223

        The marines didn’t want him because he was too short… according to a history channel special. He became the most decorated US Army soldier in history if not in WW2.

  • Martin M

    What!? Girlfriend!?!?

    • The_Champ

      Yep, hard to imagine he can afford one with that big a firearms collection 😉

  • Minuteman

    ‘Ceaeaeaease fire, cease fire on the firing line!’. (…) ‘Don’t look at me Lieutenant, the Gunny’s right.’

  • The_Champ

    By many many accounts a handy and valuable combat weapon in its day(SLA Marshall’s controversial report from the Korean war not withstanding). Its light weight is always worth mentioning, and if you have never picked one up, do so if given the chance. They feel like they weigh barely more than a Ruger 10/22.

    Today it is a wonderful range toy with a ton of history. A pleasure to shoot, reasonably cheap to feed, and never fails to make me grin when I shoot it.

    A lot of people seem to be questioning it’s reliability these days although usually in comparison to much more modern designs. For what its worth my own well worn example fired in a range setting probably malfunctions once every 200-300 rounds, which is plenty reliable for me.

    • gunsandrockets

      I read that SLA Marshall study of Infantry weapon use in the Korean War. Very interesting stuff.

      It seems like the primary complaint about the carbine had more to do with the inefficiency of fully automatic fire from and unreliability of the M2 Carbine than with the carbine itself.

      • Paul Forel

        While in RVN, assigned to Eagle Dustoff with the 101st, I picked up an M2 from a KCS who was not going back to the field.

        The carbine jammed up all the time and it was not until well after the fact I came to learn they were known to not fire reliably with the banana magazines I was using. Had I been using the straight twenty round magazines, I might have had better luck with it.

        Plus, it was too under-powered to use on hot hoists where we would be shooting through triple canopy.

        Fortunately, it was just a novelty piece anyway; we had plenty of other rifles to use as our regulars in addition to the novelty pieces we’d get off the grunts….like the Thompson someone in the platoon picked up and passed around.

        We filed the M2’s barrel down to the wood, cut off the butt and shaped it into a vertical fore grip and behold! it fit real nice into an attache case.

        • iksnilol

          Maybe you chopping down the barrel affected reliability?

          • Paul Forel

            Shortening the barrel would not affect reliability. Besides, the piece was jamming prior to our cutting the barrel down in length. The rifle shot the same after we cut the barrel.

          • iksnilol

            I dunno, on long stroke pistons (IE AKs) it shouldn’t affect it but other gas systems with more dwell time I dunno about (I mean, first dissipator ARs were malfunctioning because they kept the gas block almost at the muzzle).

          • Nunya Bidniz

            The M1 Carbine uses a gas tappet action that bleeds off the gas about 4″ in front of the chamber [iirc.] This is why its gas action is largely self-cleaning, since the powder gasses are still hot enough to keep from leaving residue on the tappet. Much, MUCH different from the M1 Garand’s gas system.

          • Paul Forel

            Nunya…..just so you know what I said to iksnilol….

            “What you want to keep in mind is that any firing of the weapon was done
            mostly while flying at altitude over open country, while we were on the
            way to a pickup site. It was, in effect, a toy and I did not rely on it
            while we were in the middle of a hot LZ pickup or a hot hoist.

            Even
            if that M2 was reliable, it would not have been a serious use of the
            weapon since if we were engaged in a hot LZ pickup, I did not have time
            to be shooting while we would be coming in for a fast landing and out
            again….while Cobras were firing up the AO for us, anyway.

            If it
            had operated normally during a hot hoist, that would have meant I was
            shooting through dense triple canopy jungle, three hundred feet above
            the ground and the likelihood of my hitting any VC/NVA below us was
            unlikely. Again, when we executed a hot hoist, we were surrounded by
            Snakes who were firing up the AO while we pulled the hoist.

            Attempting
            to fine tune this conversation is a waste of your time. I merely
            brought it up since any veterans reading this would be suitable amused
            but would also understand the context of this post for what it is worth.”

          • Paul Forel

            What you want to keep in mind is that any firing of the weapon was done mostly while flying at altitude over open country, while we were on the way to a pickup site. It was, in effect, a toy and I did not rely on it while we were in the middle of a hot LZ pickup or a hot hoist.

            Even if that M2 was reliable, it would not have been a serious use of the weapon since if we were engaged in a hot LZ pickup, I did not have time to be shooting while we would be coming in for a fast landing and out again….while Cobras were firing up the AO for us, anyway.

            If it had operated normally during a hot hoist, that would have meant I was shooting through dense triple canopy jungle, three hundred feet above the ground and the likelihood of my hitting any VC/NVA below us was unlikely. Again, when we executed a hot hoist, we were surrounded by Snakes who were firing up the AO while we pulled the hoist.

            Attempting to fine tune this conversation is a waste of your time. I merely brought it up since any veterans reading this would be suitable amused but would also understand the context of this post for what it is worth.

      • The_Champ

        Yeah it seems the full auto versions, along with the 30 round mags may have been the source of a lot of problems.

        Marshall’s report is interesting however many people have since questioned his methods, and possible stretching of the truth. I don’t really have a dog in that fight, but it’s worth noting none the less when you read his stuff.

        • Dougscamo

          If you haven’t, though you probably have, check out Winter’s comments on S.L.A. Marshall’s write up on the action at Brecourt Manor….

  • GD Ajax

    The M1 carbine was an immediate caliber rifle before immediate caliber rifles became popular.

    • Nimrod

      I think you mean intermediate caliber.

  • Major Tom

    Hmm….ProxiBid M1 Carbine…to consider or not to consider…especially considering the Tanner Gun Show is in town in two weeks.

  • Zapp Brannigan

    “The safety is a simple cross bolt design, and you can go from safe to fire with a simple press of a button.”

    I never realized until now that there were two different styles of safeties on the M1 Carbine as the example I have has a rotary safety.

    • Car54

      And there are two different rear sights as well. The push button safety was changed to a lever because soldiers would inadvertently push the mag release button instead of the safety button under stress. Later carbines had lever safeties, click adjustable rear sights and bayonet lugs.

      • gunsandrockets

        And cylindrical bolts!

  • codfilet

    Not so many years ago, gun shows were full of carbines, and the going price was $150-take your pick of whatever manufacturer you wanted, although Rockola was always a sought-after maker (just for the coolness factor, I guess).These firearms are a collectors dream-multiple makers, common and scarce, numerous variants-I guess that’s one reason the price of these things has shot up so high these days. Around here, $800 seems to be the starting price of a nothing-special M1 now.

    • marathag

      Makes me feel old (and sad) to think of all the $80 carbines I passed by in the early ’80s.

      • Paul White

        ooph. I can’t remember them being that cheap (I was born in 84). Man. That sounds like a dream.

        • marathag

          Back then, I remember guys who said they used to mail order them back in the ’60s for $25 and thought the $80 way overpriced.

          • Dougscamo

            Yep, Montgomery Ward’s….by mail….no dealers or 4473 forms….same way I bought a M77 Ruger in ’75….for $129…sigh

          • Christian Hedegaard-Schou

            How did you buy a gun through the mail after the ’68 GCA with no dealer or 4473?

          • Dougscamo

            Dude, you got me! I had to sit down and really bear down to remember that event! Now I remember going down the street to their storefront and filling out the form….guess age and 4 concussions since then are taking their toll…okay, you can say it, Get Off My Lawn, I deserve it! Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa…or something like that…..

          • ElderAmbassador

            Oh yeah, advertised in the Sports Afield and Outdoor World type of magazines. Carbine, 1911, M1 Garand, and others, all Very inexpensive and available by mail. As a poor Marine then, I had barely enough to gas up my motorcycle and buy beer.

  • datimes

    I remember reading years ago that during the subzero frigid winter in Korea this round was unable to pierce the very heavy winter clothing of the enemy. In any event it was my first center fire rifle and I learned to reload on this cartridge. And loved it!

    • marathag

      Russians said the same thing about the lend-lease Thompsons that came with the Shermans in WWII.

      • Rock or Something

        I believe you are referring to the accounts from “Commanding the Red Army’s Sherman Tanks: The World War II Memoirs of Hero of the Soviet Union” by Dmitriy Loza. Supposedly two Soviet tank crews got in drunken argument one time and shot each other with Thompson Submachine guns that were supplied with the lend and lease Shermans. He claimed that although dazed, the rounds did not penetrate their clothing. I don’t recall what the crew were wearing.

        • marathag

          Some smokeless powder Is more effected by very cold weather than others
          I think it was Herco that gave me 12 gauge bloops in winter where in summer was great

    • Don Ward

      *Ding! Ding! Ding!*

      And we have a winner for the M1 Carbine comments section office pool where we see how long we can go before someone repeats the myth about the .30 Carbine not being able to penetrate ChiCom jackets in the Korean War.
      Stay with us next time when we play the M1 Garand game and see how long it take someone to say *Ping!*

      • datimes

        About 4 hours.

    • codfilet

      See the “box o’truth” website. “Box O’Truth #36” debunks this myth with actual shooting tests.

    • Paul White

      Take one and try it out.

      Yes, ball .30 Carbine ammo will go through any clothing you could wear and still walk in. 110 grain FMJ at roughly 2k FPS–think a 125 grain .357 FMJ would penetrate a winter coat and shirt and undershirt? Cause this is similar weight and velocity with a better cross section.

    • datimes

      This is a tough crowd. I didn’t say I believe it or say it was true. I said I read it long ago.

  • codfilet

    Get one of those WW2 US Carbine magazine pouches that slips over the stock-the best way to always have two more mags handy all the time.

  • gunsandrockets

    I had a chance to fire a magazines amount of ammo on full-auto from an M2 Carbine. It was surprisingly controllable as I traversed the berm with the burst.

  • gunsandrockets

    I recently bought one of the Auto-Ordnance M1 carbine reproductions. Haven’t tried it out yet so I don’t know if it is a dog or not, but it sure is pretty! It weighs 5.4 pounds without magazine or sling as measured by my digital kitchen scale.

    Other than having a flat bolt instead of the cylindrical bolt, it is almost a carbon copy of the the version Alex has.

  • Jim_Macklin

    In the 1930s the US Army wanted to replace the 1911, the various 38 and 45 revolvers and other weapons for support troops such as truck drivers, and engineers with a more effective and usable light weight long gun.

    The M1 Carbine was the result and it pre-dated the Germany’s Sturmgewehr MP44 and would have been credited as the first “assault rifle” but it lacked the select-fire trigger system.
    In WWII body armor was not common and the low power 30 Carbine was adequate and more effective than misses with the 1911 at 20 yards.
    In winter in Korea the 30 Carbine was not very effective against the heavy winter Chinese clothing.
    It is certainly a fun gun to shoot, especially if nobody is shooting back at you.

    • AC97

      “In winter in Korea the 30 Carbine was not very effective against the heavy winter Chinese clothing.”

      Nope, that’s not true at all. Next time, do your damn research.

      • Jim_Macklin

        I am 70 years old and knew many vets who served in combat in Korea. They said they often had to empty a 15 round magazine into the chest of a well insulated Chinese soldier. It wasn’t so much that the 110 grain bullet would not go through several layers of tightly woven cloth, but the the bullet lost so much energy the little bullet did not penetrate into the chest cavity to the heart, lungs or liver.
        Remember the FBI tests ammo test found that 12-15 inches of penetration was needed to stop an attacker.
        My research was talking “guns” with actual combat soldiers who served in Korea. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9811a29a58e1e52a14a0c83eb7e313b368885e8da3ca1313d8f0fa5b65fb084d.jpg

        • Zapp Brannigan

          My example of a M1 carbine can barely keep all its rounds on a target at fifty yards. I suspect that most of the poor reputation for the M1 carbine’s lack of stopping power comes from inaccuracy of the rifles, not deficiencies of the 30 carbine round. Just my guess because on paper a 110 grain bullet thirty caliber bullet at 2000 fps should be pretty effective at penetration (it’s not that far off from the 7.62×39 round).

          • codfilet

            Your carbine was made at least 71 years ago. Have you checked all the components for wear and proper fit?

        • Don Ward

          Yeah. Old soldier tales are just that. Fortunately we have modern testing techniques and even in the worst of circumstances, the .30 Carbine was able to penetrate those quilted uniforms. What you had was a collective carbine fever in the service (particularly the Marines) at the time coupled with tired, worn-out troops who were either missing shots or were hitting Chinese troops who managed to keep going despite being shot. This isn’t far-fetched since we have instances of American soldiers being hit with full-power Mauser and Arisaka rifle rounds in World War 2 and Soviet small arms in Korea who were able to get up and keep going. It is rather naive to believe that the enemy wasn’t capable of similar heroics.

          • Dougscamo

            True. Long ago, I had a guy who used to come into my shop regularly (yeah, gun shop) who told me one day, when I pressed, that he had been shot with a Mauser in the right lung on D-Day +1. When I asked him what he did, he told me he got up off his ass and walked back to the aid station and out of the war….

  • Paul White

    I missed the CMP’s recent sell off :/ Sucks. I can’t claim that I have any practical use for one (particularly given the lack of JHP loads) but DAMN they’re fun guns.

    • demophilus

      IIRC, there are now a couple, three HP loads for .30C, and a few more soft points that work quite well.

      IIRC, the NYPD Stakeout Squad liked .30C soft points, as did the Israeli Police. By some accounts, they still give Mashav volunteers M1 carbines, and I think you can still find IMI .30C SPs.

      • Simcha M.

        What’s the acronym for “mashav”, please?

        • demophilus

          Sorry — it’s “Mash’az”, can’t cut and paste the Hebrew. In English it’s allegedly “Civil Guard”.

          • Simcha M.

            Yes, that is what I thought. Mashaz is indeed, “MeeSHmar EZrachee, the Civil Guard.

            I remember well the Israeli high-schooler toting a carbine (magazine inserted) walking with the beat officer at night in the city streets.

            Too bad we don’t have such a thing here in the US, it might help teach kids responsibility and civic pride…

      • Paul White

        oooh, that makes it more appealing. Do you know if the auto ordnance repros are any good?

        • demophilus

          No idea, guy. Sorry. Had my eye on one a few years ago — they were selling them at Big 5 for around $700, but it was the middle of the Great Recession, had “other priorities”…

  • Marcus D.

    Probably the first great CQB rilfe. I’ve always wanted one, and I have considered some of the modern clones, but the only ones that seem worth a damn are over $1000. The Auto Ordinance, for example, are renowned for their issues with jamming due to poor magazines. I have seen mixed reviews on the Inland, and the Fultons are probably the best but cost the most at over $1500. Not being an expert, I am leery of buying one on line, and as some else noted, their prices are $800 for a worn out model, and well over $2000 for a special model in great condition. I can’t play that game–I just want one I can shoot for fun once in a while.

  • roguetechie

    They’re also one of the better milsurps to collect original versions of. The reason being that the specifications for 30 carbine ammunition called for non corrosive ammunition from day one.

  • noob

    thanks for this video – it would be interesting to make a comparison of the M2 in .30 carbine and the PPSh-41 in 7.62x25mm, for accuracy and penetration at combat ranges as seen in the Korean War.

    I suspect that controlability will be more important than penetration, because more bullets will quickly whittle away at an obstruction if they all land close together.

    Might also help give a different perspective to the Box ‘o Truth #36 penetration test, because it is not just being able to punch through frozen clothing, but also being able to do it earlier and more easily than the other guy.

    • Mazryonh

      I think the PPSh-41 was often used for ambushes and CQB suppressive fire with its 71-round drum magazine during the Korean War, something the M1 carbine couldn’t do as well. Now you’ve got me wondering if the US forces ever tried fitting a drum magazine to the M2 carbine to do that kind of CQB work.

  • Bub

    Hands down one of my favorite guns I own. The recoil in Alex’s video makes it look a lot worse than it really is. The gun is a soft shooter.

  • tiger

    Speaking of carbines, anybody know what became of Malcom X’s M1?

  • InfidelCrusader

    It really chaps my backside to know that South Korea wanted to re-import literally thousands of carbines but were blocked by the Obama administration. The US taxpayers already paid for those weapons, we should be given the option of acquiring them once again.

  • scaatylobo

    AGREE with your whole report.
    And will add that no matter your age or health,IF your able to fire a .22 rifle = then you can shoot one of these.
    And the fact is obvious this is a MUCH better fight stopper than a .22 RF.

  • Uniform223

    Also effective against zombies/walkers as it has been seen in movies such as Land of the Dead and in Walking Dead

  • Dave

    Uh. A number of us suffer from “a short length of pole” I guess…

    Curse you, auto-correct close-captioning software!

  • barry soetoro

    on my second tour with the USN. i was stationed on a river patrol boat in Hue SVN. Whenever we went into town to eat, we carried a folding stock m1 carbine, a M1 thompson without the buttstock and a sawed off double barrel 12 gauge. these were carried in a mechanics bag, similliar to a gym bag. never had to use them in that situation. we also used these when stopping craft on the river. At one time, We had set up a target 5 yards into the foliage and fired at it with the M1, a M14, the thompson, the m1 carbine and a M16. all rounds penetrated the foliage and hit the target EXCEPT the M16. the M16 was not the rifle of choice. Never had a problem with the M1 carbine jamming with 15 rd magazines

  • Jenny Everywhere

    REPORT. Not “rapport”.

  • Nunya Bidniz

    1st hand experience, the M1 Carbine is the *perfect* firearm to transition a new shooter from rimfire to hi-power shooting. Even an AR15 has more NVH to ruffle the newbie; the ol’ M1C just makes them feel like they’re firing a grown-up’s rifle w/o scaring them in any way. 🙂

  • Mazryonh

    The M1 Carbine might have been good for its time, but its cartridge never really took off to my knowledge. I haven’t seen any modern handguns chambered in .30 carbine, or even SMG-type weapons.