You all know the big man on campus the M1 Garand, well this week we are going to play with the little kid on the block. The younger brother who gets left out of all the fun. However, be careful little brother can fight too. As we know, looks can be deceiving-as is the case of this little giant. Easy to shoot, carry and reload our next rifle is a bulldog, not a lot of bark, but a lot of bite. The M1 Garand’s little brother is the M1 Carbine and little bro’s cousin can go full auto.
This may date me some, but as a young deputy sheriff given the option to carry a gun that was more in caliber and distance than the revolvers and shotguns we carried at the time, I chose to go with this little scrapper. AR-15’s were still too costly and rare and the M4’s had not quite made it to the game. I ran down to the sporting goods store and picked up one of these guys.
Long before this shooter made it into the trunk of my patrol car the idea was still the same. A small effective carbine needed for those in the rear with the gear or officers who could not lug around an M1 Garand or M1903. The 1911 was a great side arm but a rifle was also required by all in uniform.
I believe it was stated best in “Small Arms” by Martin J. Dougherty that, in firing a cartridge equal to a pistol round and with a short barrel “the weapon did not really know what it was suppose to be a carbine or overgrown submachine gun.” That did not stop over six million from being produced during the Second World War, including the one I carried for several years in the late 1980s in the trunk of my patrol car.
The idea began to take root for this weapon in 1938 for arming clerks, cooks, bakers, drivers, mortar men, and the like. That request met with a quick and sudden death. However, it gained new life in 1940 just before the dance began for the U. S. military. The Winchester Company came up with the final design. No, I am sorry it is but a Legend that “Carbine” Williams was in on this one. Actually, it was a Mr. Pugsley from Winchester that gets the majority of credit for the M1 Carbine. I know Carbine Williams sounds much cooler then Mr. Pugsley but history is sometimes cruel.
The request went out to 25 manufactures in October of 1940. Any company with tooling abilities was able to apply to make the M1 Carbine. That includes one of the more collectible one made by none other than Singer, yeah the sewing machine company. Additional, manufacturers included IBM, General Motors, Underwood Typewriter Company and Rock-Ola Jukebox.
The real challenge Stemmed from the idea for a gun, coming before the cartridge was designed. The result was the underpowered rifle and overpowered pistol round, the .30 Carbine.
With a metal folding stock it became the M1A1. For those times when things have gone from bad to worse the M2 came about with selective fire (semi auto and full automatic fire). With a 20 or 30 round magazine in full auto, you had better get it quick because you were out of ammo rapidly. Finally came the M3 version and this was a frightful little beast. Really, I am not sure what the M3 was supposed to be. I like the cone flash suppressor, which looked better on the Enfield Jungle carbine though. Nevertheless, if you can get your hands on an M3, only 2,100 were made.
On a personal note, I love shooting this gun with the .30 Caliber. The ammo is relatively reasonable in price and recoil. Your shoulder does not need to be pulled back into the socket after a full day of shooting. Furthermore, I trained both of my youngest boys to shoot with this gun. It is a great training rifle for kids due to its size and mild recoil.
And so ends our story of the M1 Carbine, the little rifle that could. It almost never made it to the range must less the war. It was laughed and scoffed at yet it still came to the game – loved and revered by those who carried it. For several years, I trusted my life to one. Today, I would choose differently, but back then I never had a doubt in the little brother, the M1 Carbine.