So, You Just Bought an M2 Carbine at a Pawn Shop for $200…Now What?

    M2 Receiver

    I recently heard an intriguing story. After hearing it, I turned to Google and apparently this isn’t the only time this has happened. The story goes that a guy walks into a pawn shop/gun store. The guy sees what he thinks is an M1 carbine on the shelf. He asks to see it and notices a reasonable figure on the price tag. Upon further inspection, the guy notices the receiver is clearly marked “M2”. The guy seems to remember something about M2’s being full-auto and asks the clerk about it. The clerk assures him the carbine only fires semi-auto, has no selector switch and although originally an M2, has been converted to an M1 and is legal. Haggling ensues and the guy walks out with what he thinks is an M1 carbine, yet is marked M2.

    Sound fishy? It is.

    I thought it sounded like an exaggerated gun legend. So I did some research. The internet is, of course, replete with stories of people that know people who bought a semi-auto M2 or were offered one for purchase. Most of the forums I found were people asking for advice. On a sidenote, asking for legal advice on internet gun forums is probably not a good idea. Still, I found some results. I’ll tell you some of the backstory and then the reality.

    The back story seems to revolve around a company called Plainfield. I am intentionally not giving all the details because they are irrelevant and, at this point, moot. If you do want to know the storied history of Plainfield, here is a link to a very thorough site:

    If you want to know about the M1 carbine itself, you could also look up some information about David “Carbine” Williams, or watch the incredibly boring 1952 film, “Carbine Williams”, starring Jimmy Stewart. Fortunately, Jimmy Stewart did not have a carbine in “It’s A Wonderful Life”, otherwise he may have shot Mr. Potter, who in my opinion was the only legit man in Bedford Falls.

    Jimmy Stewart, who played “Carbine” Williams, mean-mugging the real “Carbine” Williams.

    As best I can tell, Plainfield made M1 and M2 carbines for several decades. The M2’s were all exported. It appears that some of the M2’s made it back with semi-auto parts kits. Someone must have been under the impression that dropping a semi-auto parts kit in an M2 would magically make it an M1. Some of the Plainfield M2’s did in fact make it back to the US with semi-auto parts kits. That is without question.

    $79.95? Those were the days…

    My search through the depths of the interwebs yielded advice from “get rid of it” to “don’t tell anybody” to “buy an M2 parts kit for it and have fun”. Not surprisingly, there was no supporting evidence as to exactly why a semi-auto M2 was illegal.

    The reality is this: Possession of an unregistered M2 receiver is contraband per se. That means, unless it’s registered per the NFA, it’s illegal. It does not matter if it is semi or stripped. Again, unless it is demilled per BATFE specs or registered, it is illegal.

    From BATFE's website

    From BATFE’s website:

    I know that’s grainy, so here’s what it says:

    “M-1 Carbines altered by substitution of M-2 kits to permit automatic fire are also machine guns. Carbine receivers marked M-2 are machine guns, even though they may only be capable of semiautomatic fire.

    Possession of an unregistered M-2 conversion kit, which consists of the following seven parts, constitutes possession of an unregistered NFA firearm; regardless of whether or not assembled;

    1. selector
    2. selector spring
    3. selector lever assembly
    4. hammer
    5. disconnector
    6. disconnector spring
    7. disconnector plunger”

    So, an M2 receiver will always be subject to the NFA, as will M2 conversion kits. Again, here’s the link to BATFE’s site for this:

    My understanding is that BATFE will not allow “new” M2 receivers to be registered. There are M2’s that were allowed to be registered during an amnesty period decades ago. To make a long story even longer, if you’re in possession of one that isn’t registered, you’re committing at least one felony. I certainly don’t want to see any historical item get destroyed, but that’s the law.

    M2's selector switch

    M2’s selector switch

    Something is either legal or not. We can talk about the NFA all day, but now you know. Your safest bet to avoid prosecution, should one be in your possession, would be to inform BATFE and turn it over to them. They will most likely destroy the receiver. Just a warning. I certainly would never want to see a piece of history destroyed (or any gun for that matter), but blame your parents and grandparents. It was their generation that produced the NFA.

    As always, if anyone has any additional information to contribute about this subject, please do.




    GD Crocker is a proud Southerner who has been shooting for decades. He is a competitive shooter, armorer, instructor and collector. He recently passed the bar exam and deals primarily with securities law. GD’s proudest moments are seeing his kids shoot and get excited about their 2nd Amendment rights. He’s no Rick Taylor, but then again, who is?