THE U.S. CARBINE, CALIBER .30 M1 & THE U.S. CARBINE, CALIBER .30 M1A1

                                          

Article by: NICK JACOBELLIS

 The .30 Caliber M1 Carbine is a magazine fed semi-automatic short barreled rifle that carried

15 rounds of ammunition in its magazine and is considerably more compact and lighter than the M1

Garand.  The M1A1 Model .30 caliber Carbine was equipped with a side folding metal wire stock that

was widely used by airborne troops.  One of the most interesting facts about this military firearm, is

that M1 Carbine was designed to be carried by some personnel in lieu of a sidearm (handgun).  

An unloaded M1 Carbine with an 18-inch barrel weighed just over 5 pounds and was 36 inches

in overall length when issued with a standard wooden stock.  The M1A1 model weighed 5.5 pounds

unloaded.  The original M1 Carbine could also be used to fire rifle grenades. A bayonet designated as

the M4 was adopted once M1 Carbines were fitted with the T4 barrel band.  The fixed rear flip up L

sight was also eventually changed to an adjustable rear sight. 

In addition to carrying spare magazines in form fitted canvass magazine pouches, that were

designed specifically for the M1 Carbine, troops carried spare 15 round magazines or stripper clips in

Musette bags, in their pockets, or in a cloth bandoleer that was worn across the chest. Some M1

Carbines were equipped with a canvass magazine pouch that contained two fifteen round magazines,

that was attached to the right side of the wooden stock.  This enabled troops to always have two spare

15 round magazines close by whenever they carried a U.S. M1 Carbine.  Various improvements were

also eventually made to the M1 Carbine, that involved changing the rear sight and the magazine release

mechanism.  A bayonet lug was also fitted to later models for use with the M4 Bayonet Knife.

            Initially, military planners anticipated issuing M1 Carbines to personnel who were required to

be armed, but did not need to carry a main battle rifle like the M1 Garand.  M1 Carbines were routinely

issued to troops who handled crew served weapons such as belt fed machine guns, mortars and bazooka

teams.  The M1 Carbine was also meant to give a member of the Allied Armed Forces, who would

normally only be armed with a pistol, a more effective firearm to carry in, or near, a combat zone. 

M1 Carbines also ended up in the hands of the Allied resistance fighters. 

The M1 Carbine was adopted at a time when the U.S. and her Allies needed a reliable compact

semi automatic rifle that enabled troops to adequately defend themselves and take offensive action

when necessary.  While the full size battle rifle was designed to deliver a harder hitting heavy caliber

bullet with precision, the M1 Carbine was designed to be used instead of a service handgun in a more

Close Quarter Battle situation.  Ironically, large numbers of M1 Carbines ended up being carried in

combat, because infantry troops liked being able to carry a lightweight compact firearm, that carried 15

rounds in its magazine.

            The M1 Carbine proved to be even more of a blessing to carry in the various theaters of war

that experienced intense heat.  This was especially the case in the Pacific, as well as in Burma.  It was

also a tad easier to operate in the jungle and on sandy invasion beaches while armed with the lighter

and more compact M1 Carbine, especially while carrying other combat gear and equipment.

            One criticism of the M1 Carbine involved the inability of .30 caliber carbine ammunition fired

from an 18 barrel to effectively engage targets at multi hundred yard ranges.  This is an unfair criticism

because the M1 Carbine was never meant to compete with or perform like the M1 Garand or the

Springfield ‘03; a rifle that has the well earned reputation of being more accurate than the M1 Garand.

It is equally unfair to criticize the .30 caliber M1 Carbine for its lack of “stopping power,” or bullet

effectiveness against enemy combatants, again compared to the M1 Garand and other main battle rifles.

Even though improved adjustable sights were installed on M1 Carbines later on during the war, M1

Carbines and the M1A1 (Paratrooper Model) Carbines were effectively used to engage enemy

combatants in traditional close quarters battle situations.

            To put the issue of ammunition effectiveness in a different perspective, consider the following:

When .30 caliber carbine ammunition is fired from an 18-inch barrel, the bullets perform much in the

same way that .357 Magnum ammunition performs when fired from a police revolver.  Now imagine

the impact of 15 .30 caliber carbine bullets being fired at one or more enemy combatants. 

            It has also been reported that M1 Carbine magazines were not as reliable and or didn’t hold up

to long term use, like other military firearms magazines.  When the issue of experiencing occasional

stoppages is discussed, the design of the M1 Carbine made it relatively easy to clear a stoppage by

racking the bolt to the rear. Doing so, cycled a fresh round of ammunition into the chamber and made

the carbine ready to continue firing.

            In an interview for Forgotten Weapons, renowned Firearms Instructor Ken Hackathorn stated

that World War II combat veterans who carried M1 Carbines generally liked this firearm.  In order to

insure the reliable operation of the M1 Carbine, troops would acquire new 15 round magazines on a

regular basis.  M1 Carbines also required the right amount of lubrication to function properly. 

            During this interview, Ken Hackathorn also described in some detail, a grandson’s account of

what transpired on his grandfather’s farm during The Battle of the Bulge (ETO December 1944). 

According to this individual, when his grandfather’s farm was used by the Germans as a temporary

prison camp for American POWs, captured U.S. weapons were placed in separate piles on the front

lawn of this farm, with one pile for M1 Garands, one pile for M1 Carbines, one for Grease Guns etc.

Of all the captured U.S. weapons, the M1 Carbine was the one firearm that German troops consistently

recovered for their own use.  (This is not the only account of German troops adopting the M1 Carbine

over other captured American weapons.)  Bear in mind that German soldiers served in an army that

made some of the most advanced weapons of the war.  Clearly, it is quite a compliment to the M1

Carbine, when your enemy prefers the M1 Carbine over EVERY OTHER weapon from captured

stockpiles. 

            Simply put, the M1 Carbine wasn’t as popular as it was because it was ineffective, or

pathetically unreliable in battle. An M1 Carbine provided a soldier with a substantial amount of

firepower, especially when you consider that bolt action rifles were issued in mass to enemy troops. For

some military personnel, the M1 Carbine was easier to shoot than the M1 Garand, because .30 caliber

carbine ammunition produced less recoil than the larger 30.06 caliber ammunition. When fighting in a

fast paced close quarters battle situation, the M1 Carbine was also easier to wield than a full size

standard battle rifle.  This feature alone proved to be just as “user friendly” for troops operating in the

jungle, as well as in urban terrain.

When comparing the various small arms that were carried by U.S. and Allied troops, a fully

loaded M1 Carbine with fifteen rounds of ammunition weighed just under 6 pounds.  In contrast, the

M1 Garand Rifle weighed over 9 pounds and a Thompson submachine gun that was loaded with

thirty rounds of .45 ACP ammunition weighed just under 13 pounds.  Even the lighter .45 caliber M3

submachine gun known as The Grease Gun, weighed around 10 pounds when loaded with a thirty

round magazine.  Since weight is a critical concern for infantry troops, carrying a .30 caliber M1

Carbine had its advantages.

                                                            CLOSING REMARKS

            Despite the initial plan, the M1 Carbine never replaced the pistol in military service.  Instead,

the M1 Carbine was carried by all types of military personnel, including front-line combat troops,

military policemen, combat engineers, support troops and even some Allied air crews.  (One of my

uncles carried an M1 Carbine in his B25 bomber, while flying combat missions in the Pacific.)

Overall, the .30 caliber M1 Carbine was used with great effectiveness during World War II and

beyond. 

            Over 6 million M1 Carbines were manufactured during WWII.  Approximately 140,000 M1A1s

with a side folding metal wire stock were also manufactured during the war.  Once the M1 Carbine was

mass produced in adequate numbers, the U.S. began to allocate .30 caliber M1 Carbines to various

Allied forces.  The M2 was a select fire version of the M1 Carbine that served in The Korean War and

in the Vietnam War.  Magazines that contained 30 rounds of ammunition instead of 15 eventually

became adopted for service wide use.

            Post war surplus M1 Carbines were also adopted by civilian law enforcement agencies, as well

as by individual sworn personnel, for many of the same reasons that the M1 Carbine was favored by

military personnel serving in harms way.  It could also be said, that the M1 Carbine was the first

“modern” semi-automatic “Patrol Rifle,” that was adopted/authorized by U.S. law enforcement

agencies in the 20th Century.  In fact, the first rifle the author trained with while attending the Federal

Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia in the early 1980s was a military surplus M1

Carbine. 

                                                                          THE END

Reference sources: Weapons of the Navy SEALs by Kevin Dockery.

Military Small Arms of the 20th Century by Ian V. Hogg and John Weeks.

U.S. Infantry Weapons of World War II By Bruce N. Canfield.

Infantry Weapons of World War II By Jan Suermindt.

Forgotten Weapons Interview of Ken Hackathorn

Nick Jacobellis is a Medically Retired U.S. Customs Agent and a former NY police officer who was physically disabled in the line of duty while working undercover as a federal agent. To date, the author has published over 180 magazine articles and nine action-packed nonfiction, historical fiction, and fiction books: Controlled Delivery Books One and Two, The Frontline Fugitives Books I, II, III, and IV, Buck Banderas U.S. Marshal Books One and Two and A Special Kind of Hero. These books have received 5 Star reviews and are available on Amazon.com (US), and (UK). He was born and raised in Flatbush section of Brooklyn NY and has an BS Degree in Police Science from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

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