M1 Carbine: The Classic Warhorse (Part III)

By CTD Blogger published on in Firearms, Military Surplus

It was only natural; as soon as I was old enough and had the funds saved up, I bought an M1 Carbine. Unfortunately for me, the first one I came found, while I had $95 burning a hole in my pocket, was at a local emporium in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. It was a brand spanking new Plainfield Machine Company M1 Carbine. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Plainfield carbines were assembled using surplus parts. However, Plainfield has a colorful history, and is worth some investigation to those interested.

M1 Carbine with scope

The M1 with the proper aftermarket parts will hold all of the modern attachments a shooter could want.

Anyway, I couldn’t wait to share the news with a friend who was a much more experienced firearms aficionado. When I told him, the first comment he made was that I had to reload to keep the shooting costs down. I didn’t have a clue, so he gave me a list of components to buy and said, he would show me how to reload, which he did. That became my first reloading experience, which turned into a life long pursuit still going strong for over 55 years. It was at that time that I also came to realize another very interesting and attractive quality of the M1 Carbine, it really was very easy to reload for. Add another plus on the popularity side.

The problem with the previously mentioned Plainfield Carbine was that it just did not hold up to even the small amount of ammo I subjected it to—despite it’s cool looking, perforated handguard. After the brazed on gas piston housing separated from the barrel, it prompted another separation—our rather unceremonious parting of the ways. However, genuine G.I. was still scarce on the commercial market, so I found a Universal M1 Carbine to fill the void in my need. It was also assembled from G.I. Surplus parts and a cast receiver. Alas, it was not much better and soon discarded.

Despite the bad experience with the commercial versions of the M1 Carbine that I had tried, I was still enamored with the sexy little carbine, so I did my best to learn as much as I could about it. The more I found out, the more I wanted one. Eventually, I acquired a genuine G.I. Inland Division M1 Carbine in very nice arsenal-upgraded condition.

Various boxes of ammunition

I went to gun shows and scrounged sporting goods stores for magazines, tools, pouches, and a bayonet. About that time, I discovered the joy of weekends spent in California’s high deserts in pursuit of jackrabbits. It was fun and inexpensive. I can’t think of a better way to learn how to compute lead on fast erratic targets than with jackrabbits and the fast-handling agile carbine. The laws in California have certainly changed, but my fondest memories are of days spent walking the desert with a handful of 30-round magazines and plenty of ammo.

Those early trips improved my shooting and taught me many lessons—one of which was that the carbine’s range and utility could be improved with a scope. Now please remember, we are talking prehistoric times as far as things concerning anything shooting are compared to the things taken for granted today. It was really hard to find a means of mounting a scope to an M1 Carbine—no internet or mobile devices.

Eventually, I was able to find an outfit that made a scope mounts for the M1 Carbine. The mount fit in the rear sight cut and was secured by a bolt. In that mount with Redfield rings the scope rode high enough over the receiver so as to not impede function. I couldn’t wait to mount the 1.5-4x Bushnell Banner scope the salesman said would be just the ticket.

JR Special close up

That combination did in fact prove to be very deadly, and I would not even attempt to guess at the number of jacks taken with it, but it was a boatload. It did, however, exhibit a vexing problem. The base worked loose and caused the scope to lose zero after a day afield. After replacing the unit for a newer upgraded model that proved not much better, I eventually remedied the on going problem using the “ol’ iodine trick.” For those unfamiliar, back in the day, prior to Loctite when you wanted something to stay put, a little Iodine on the threads would rust them together. Afterward, the only way to remove the screw was to drill it out. That did correct the problem, and it has held its zero till this day.

Over the years, I acquired more carbines and at one point decided I just had to have the white unicorn for my own. I had to have an original, as issued, museum-quality example of the M1. Through a friend, I was put in contact with a well known collector and dealer who had a couple of examples he was willing to part with—at enormous expense. He then asked if I had an M1 Garand to match the carbine I was looking at. I did not then; I do now, but that is another story.

That visit started me on the never-ending path of carbines as collectables. There have been so many manufacturers, upgrades, parts changes, variations, modifications, and accessories that it might be impossible to collect examples of them all, but it sure is fun and educating to try.

M1 Carbine tools

Collecting M1s i s about more than just the guns. There is a whole host of accessories and tools you’ll want.

The most obvious accessories are magazines, and let me tell you, there is a whole world of variations and manufacturers. Needless to say, it’s like the proverbial onion, the more you learn, the more layers that are exposed, and the more there is for you to learn. I might add; it is just not enough to have good, functional, reliable magazines. You will feel compelled to get examples of those made by all the manufacturers (WWII, post war, foreign, and domestic). Then, there are the bayonets and scabbards not to mention slings, oilers, mag pouches, and carbine-specific tools such as the bolt take down tool and gas piston wrench. With all the interest, forgeries abound, so one must decide if collectability or functionality is important. It never ends, but if collecting is in your DNA, it can be very entertaining and loads of fun—not to mention some of the characters one meets along the way.

To say my love affair with this ol’ gal has lasted and still grows today is an understatement. Yet, another reason for my appreciation of the M1 Carbine, and I believe a whole new generation discovering it, is its newly found application as an urban defensive tool. As a firearms instructor, I have recommended the M1 Carbine as the perfect home/urban defense tool for many years while others down talked it. Again, they try to equate the battlefield with the living room or front yard, and that just does not work.

Faith

It was manufactured to be a weapon of battle in a much harsher time. As such, it is built tank tough to last with little or no care or attention. Remember, lots of people buy a gun for defense, shoot it once, and then it gets put away until the excrement hits the fan. If they are fortunate enough—and remember they have an M1 carbine and it is loaded—it will work and work reliably. It is light and handy—meaning it is friendly in confined spaces such as homes and vehicles.

Winchester recoil lug for the M1 Carbine

Winchester recoil lug

Women, children, the elderly, and infirmed can all use the M1 Carbine effectively. The defensive ammunition available today includes newly designed defensive ammo with a plethora of expanding projectiles at 2000+ feet per second. That trumps the hottest .357 Magnum loads, which I might add is considered a gold standard for self-defense.

Remember, the .357 in a handgun is difficult to master and shoot accurately. It also has tremendous muzzle blast and recoil. Most often, it will only have six rounds on board too. The carbine is much quieter, exhibits less recoil, is easier to shoot accurately, and depending on where you live, it can accommodate from 10 to 30 rounds. In a pinch, you can add the bayonet previously mentioned or use it as a club. Ah! Such versatility; it just warms my heart.

Other popular platforms, such as today’s MSRs are just not as user friendly in my opinion. Plus, I just happen to like wood and steel. I have said for a long time that gunmakers stopped making guns better and started making them cheaper during the mid to late 1950s. Driven by increased labor costs, firearms manufacturing looked for cost-cutting procedures and materials to be more profitable and as a capitalist. I understand and appreciate that.

Winchester M1 Carbine

Winchester M1 Carbine

We went from steel with lots of machining and hand fitting to aluminum and tubular construction, cast parts, and heaven help us plastic guns. Yes, they still go bang! but with less elegance and certainly without a soul. Do we really like and think these new modular firearms are better, or have we been brain washed into thinking so? I, for one, also feel that if a battle rifle’s caliber does not begin with a 3, it’s for varmints.

When I went trough basic training in the Stone Age (mid 1960s). The M16 was the service rifle, but we went through training with the M14. We were told they had not developed a manual of arms for the new Mattel-a-Matic. I was probably one of the last trainees to qualify as a bayonet expert. Would somebody please demonstrate how you do a bayonet drill with a pistol grip? Oh, the inhumanity!

Recently, I had a good friend over who happens to be one of the premiere firearms instructors in the country, if not the world; he is also one of the top competition shooters of all time. I brought out a few of my M1 Carbines and started to go on about them when he turned to his companion and said, “We need to get a couple of carbines, they are lots of fun and make a really good home defense tool for anyone.” I love that kind of validation for what I have been preaching for all these years, especially from someone of his stature.

Inland stock for the M1 Carbine

Inland stock

Zombie Gun

Now let’s look at the requirements of a zombie gun and a comparison of the contenders. The term zombie gun may no longer in vogue, but the concept endures. The first thing I look at is reliability. The M1 Carbine was made to arm our troops under the worst conditions and to last the duration and beyond. That means it will hold up and it is made from good American steel, forged, and machined. It has an economy of parts, which means less to go wrong. If something does go wrong, which is unlikely, there are so many in circulation that finding parts should be easy. This is true to a lesser degree of other U.S. Marshal arms but not as true. Remember, there were 6.2 million made plus boatloads of spare parts. Add to that commercial variants, and the supply is just short of unlimited. It has proven itself for 75 years.

It is light at 5.2 pounds. Lighter than any other battle rifle or carbine with like features. When walking, lighter is better. Remember, gasoline has a finite shelf life. The Carbines’ slight weight will allow anyone to be able to use it. It’s so light it can be handled and shot effectively with one hand.

Compared to Other Popular Defensive Calibers

The ammunition is compact and light—smaller and lighter than any AR or AK platform calibers. All calibers available for those platforms are overkill on zombies or under kill like 9mm or .22 LR. You might say that 9mm is smaller and lighter, and while true, it gives up mightily in performance. Even out of a 16-inch barrel, it is well below 300 ft. lbs. at 100 yards.

Cartouch

Police in Northern Ireland had no faith in their MP5s at more than 50 meters—so much for the 9mm. One could make the case for MP5s in 10mm, but good luck finding one—and then there is the problem of ammo. 10mm is not exactly a household name, although its popularity has increased in recent years. M1 Carbine ammo, on the other hand, is everywhere and everybody makes it. Remember, it was designed to be effective out to 300 yards. I, for sure, don’t want to be shot with one at any range. Additionally, 30-round magazines are plentiful. Consider weight and size; you can carry more of everything—always a good thing.

One of the features I like the most is that it was designed to use a bayonet and has a traditional wood stock. Today’s modern rifles are difficult-to-impossible to correctly wield a bayonet. The M1 Carbine allows that in spades. Try that with a MP5 or any bullpup.

Now, I know that all of you young whipper snappers are foaming at the mouth, throwing yourselves around saying the AR is better cause you can attach all sorts of modern gizmos to it. Well, hold on. You can attach all the same gizmos to the venerable M1 Carbine.

There is an outfit called UltiMAK that makes a slick Picatinny mounting system that replaces the handguard. It is a rock-solid system that allows you the ability to mount scopes, red dots, lasers, lights, or whatever to modernize the Old’ War Horse into the ultimate home defense machine. With the addition of the Aimpoint Patrol Rifle Optic you just put the red dot where you want it and squeeze.

For all the reasons stated and more, I believe the M1 Carbine to be one of the most interesting, effective, versatile, popular, and just plain fun firearms around. For the collector, its story is one of the most interesting—as is the firearm itself. Do yourself a favor, and get M1 Carbine fever… You will thank me.

Share your M1 story in the comment section.

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Comments (40)

  • Robert Duncan

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    Even if you’re not a M1 Carbine aficionado, I’d suggest reading up on its amazing history as no fewer than 10 manufactures were involved, and then there’s the story of Carbine Williams. Just a note: Aftermarket hi-cap mags should be purchased by word of mouth and/or trial and error as their holding tits are often too soft and will not hold the mag up high enough for the bolt to recycle another round. Prices continue to climb in this era of ridiculous gun control, so choose wisely.

    Reply

  • David Spurck

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    My dad had an Inland M1 carbine. It was a joy to shoot and a lethal firearm at 100 yards with open sights. As stated in the article it makes a perfect defense gun. I have AR’s and AK’s but wish I had the carbine in my gun safe. I like metal and wood in a gun. Still like the feel of a wood stock and blued revolvers.

    Reply

  • Steven Guess

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    I had my dad’s m1 that he picked up out of a wrecked Jeep in September or October of 1944. He was tired of not being able to reach out and touch someone with his .45 (he was 1st army engineering planning staff). He put it in his trunk when he got shipped back to the states for trans-shipment to the Pacific. While on the train heading west to take ship peace was declared and ended up being separated from the service before his trunk showed up a year later, no depot maintenance. I loved the little gun.
    I used to take it to school and put it in my locker and go target shooting after school. Sadly I I lost it and my house in 2009.

    Reply

  • Donald Lehew

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    I got out of the USAF in 64. Bought a Carbinel thru the NRA and it came from the Gov arsenal in Illinois it was classifd as combat unserviceable due to the fact it had no magazine with it. It’s a Winchester it cost me a whole 20 bucks. I have a regular military scope mount on it. Also have a M5 bayonet for it. With an original sling and oiler. It’s a sweetie and shoots great. Have been offered almost 2000 for it, but that’s a no sale. Will go to the boys after I am gone.

    Reply

  • Hide Behind

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    Had quite a few carbines pass through my hands, some mine and others for repair or refinishing; Every gunman loved the originals and hated civilian copies as junkers.
    Yes it is a good urban and suburban home defense weapon for all ages and partially infirm.
    Have friends who own extensive collections and even in a different caliber. VIET infantry were of small stature and liked them.
    we supplied Hmongs and Yards who were even of smaller stature. And as Charlie and the S. VIETS ( it was not illegal to shoot or kill what they called “Monkey Peoples) that those little carbines, especially on full auto was a ville best left alone.
    Biggest fix needed was do not use unjacketed lead both for barrel grooves and cycling action.
    Gonna be called a terrorist but f’ the Hillary and her Clitonistas for denying S korean export to US of their huge inventory of M1Carbines.
    If ever there were a group of less american than that Clitonista bunch it has to be a muslim fanatic.
    The Clinton clan should all be jailed and labled International thiefs and yes war criminals.
    S. KOREA had enough M1’s that every American could of afforded to owm a classic part of Americana.

    Reply

  • Pierre Loomis

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    I have a M1 Carbine that my father-in-law brought home from WWII. How can I find out its value?

    Reply

  • Bruce

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    Carried a M2 Carbine in Korea, and a chopped M2 in Vietnam. Loved them both, and have a few now. I used at least 15 different model rifles while in the Army for 22 years, and the Carbine is my favorite.

    I put together a web page about the M1 Carbine that some may find useful.

    http://webpages.charter.net/wd4ngb/

    Reply

  • Tman

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    I purchased an M1 Carbine off a friend several years back. My friend lives in KY and I live in CA, so it was an interesting process doing the transfer, but too good a deal to pass up. Upon acquiring the rifle, it appeared to have not been cleaned in decades and so I had to subject it to a complete field-strip and thorough cleaning. Then, when taking it to the range the first time, it had issues feeding… Thankfully that was only due to the inferior-quality new-production 10-round magazine and switching to a vintage 15-round one solved the problem. The rifle shot reliably and accurately from that day onward. For years, my M1 Carbine was my home defense weapon and thus far, the only firearm I have had to draw against an intruder in self defense. My girlfriend even loves to shoot the Carbine given its lightweight and compact design with limited recoil. The M1 Carbine is a fantastic weapon and one of the gems of my collection!

    Reply

    • Gary McDowell

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      I also Live in Kalifornia which has a 10 round mag. limit, Up until recently larger mags. were “grandfathered” . That has been changed to none at all; except for LEs. So, all of my collection of 15 rnd. and larger mags. have a home with one of my sons in Oregon. So, if you still use the nice working 15 rnd. mags. beware…..Big Liberal Brother/Sister may be looking over your shoulder. The way the laws here keep changing (for worst) I will probably have to move my collection of carbines “assault rifle” out of state, also.

      Reply

  • Robert Lannom

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    My father’s best friend (when he was a teenager in the Navy) was a landing craft pilot in the Pacific theater in WWII. During an assault on one of the islands (Iwo Jima?) held by the Japanese he found an M-1 Carbine on the deck of his landing craft after delivering a load of wounded Marines to the hospital ship (it fell off a stretcher). He kept it and sent it home in pieces. I was shocked and honored that he gave that carbine to me a few years back. It is in excellent condition and one of the favorites in my collection but most of all I love the history behind it. Loved the articles.

    Reply

  • Blasterbear

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    I was raised in Anniston Alabama, practically next door to CMP and as an Explorer scout, my M-1 carbine cost $25. I shot several deer and lot’s of rabbits with it (it tore squirrels up too bad). When I left town for the navy I sold it to a friend. The master plan was to buy another one when I got out. It took 23 years for that to happen and by then the killer deals at CMP was history. The desire is still there on my bucket list.

    Reply

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