The M1 Carbine was the most produced American Infantry weapon of World War II. We built around 6.5 million of these tidy little rifles by the time the last shot was fired. At the apogee of production, we were producing 65,000 M1 Carbines a day. Truth be known, the Axis never had a chance.
One of the reasons for the Carbine’s success was its remarkably ergonomic chassis. At a time when most Infantry rifles were as long as a floor mop, and as heavy as Goliath’s bowling ball, the lithe little M1 Carbine was positively airy. From fetid Pacific jungles to bombed-out European villes, American GIs came to appreciate the utility of a compact, lightweight combat rifle that sported a decent magazine capacity. Those same attributes drive the Information Age Chiappa M1-9.
Chiappa guns are manufactured in Italy using modern manufacturing techniques. This means that there will be a few polymer parts to include the sights, trigger guard, and non-functional bayonet lug. Some corn-fed American shooters raised on the forged steel of the 1911 and Garand will balk at such stuff as un-American or somehow threatening to one’s virility. However, I found the Chiappa M1-9 rifle to be serviceable, reliable, and fun.
The Chiappa M1-9 Carbine looks like your granddad’s GI Carbine in dim light. However, a glance at the magazine gives notice that something is indeed amiss. The M1-9 is chambered for 9mm and is blowback operated. The M1-9 is fed from standard Beretta handgun magazines. The magazines accompanying the gun carry 10 rounds. Aftermarket 15, 17, and 30 rounders fit and feed fine as well.
As the M1-9 is blowback operated, it eschews the familiar rotating bolt and gas tappet of its military forebear. In its stead, is a surprisingly heavy bolt carrier that tends to counteract the spunky recoil impulse of the 9mm round. The manual of arms is the same as that of the GI gun.
The Chiappa M1-9 Carbine is available with either GI walnut or black polymer stocks. It can also be chambered for 9x21mm. Unlike the GI gun, the receiver comes standard with a dovetail for scope mounting. The Beretta pistol magazine utterly ruins the aesthetics of the rifle, but once you get past the wrongness of the pistol magazine jutting smartly from the bottom the utility of the gun becomes apparent.
The basic Carbine design is not without its eccentricities. The front sight is heavily fenced, and the line of sight is nestled deep in the forearm. This can restrict your peripheral vision somewhat, but the low sight axis makes for minimal aiming error off the bore. The original sling mounts logically on the left side, using a clever little cylindrical oil bottle to hold it in place. The M1-9 doesn’t come with the sling or bottle, but it is available online it you want a low-priced reproduction.
The original gas-operated M1 Carbine is a joy to shoot. Recoil is piddly and magazine changes are seamless. The bolt does not lock to the rear on the last round fired, but it can be secured there for inspection. My original vintage M1 rifle will pop stumps, all day long, at 100 meters on my backyard shooting range.
The Chiappa M1-9 is a variation on the original theme. The chassis is identical, so the manual of arms remains unchanged. Recoil was spunkier than expected, however. The experience is in no way objectionable, but it was adequate to remind us that this was a real gun and not some rimfire toy. Unlike the GI Carbine, there is no mechanism to lock the bolt to the rear manually.
So, what exactly will the M1-9 do that your favorite Glock 17 won’t? That’s a reasonable question. The longer barrel will give you a little added horsepower but not much. Both guns carry about the same amount of onboard ammo, and the M1-9 is bulkier, heavier, and longer. However, that added bulk, heft, and length make the gun much easier to manage, particularly by neophyte shooters. The rifle chassis is innately more accurate and more readily controlled. The M1-9 would make a splendid home defense tool.
In generations past, the M1 Carbine was the most popular recreational firearm in the country. The M1-9 captures that same sweet stuff while running dirt-cheap ammo through readily available magazines. There were a few failures to eject early on, but that passed soon enough. The manual recommends a 150-round break-in period, and getting there is pure fun. The Chiappa M1-9 captures all that classic Carbine cool, yet it shoots for only pennies a round.