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
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.
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
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
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.
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.