Firearm of the Week, the US Caliber .30 M1 /M1A1/M1A3/ M2/M2A2/M3 Carbine

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.

US Carbine Caliber .30 M1

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 M1 Carbine trying to save Private Ryan

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.

.30 Carbine

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.

US Carbine Caliber .30 M1A1
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Comments (10)

  1. Can you show any photo’s of the very rare M1A3 carbine that had a stock that folded under or the also rare M1A4 where the stock had rails on the side and the stock slid forward?????

  2. i bought one three years ago , with the plan on shooting it at CAMP PERRY C.M.P. MATCHES. which i did . being handicapped requires i shoot from a seated position and with this rifle is no problem . the first time i took it out the range I FELL IN LOVE they are definitely a FUN shooter . shooting at 100 yards only . which by the way is the distance used at CAMP PERRY for this rifle . in my opinion it did leave a lot of room for accuracy i was only able to hold a ten shot group to about six inches being used to my BUSHMASTER TARGET MODEL holding a three or four inch group at 200 yards you can see my concern . than it was than explained to me the M-1 was not known for it accuracy . BUT WHO CARES THEY ARE ONE GREAT AND “FUN” GUN NOT A TACK DRIVE BUT STILL FUN………………

  3. According to Wikkipedia: “In 1974 the senior technical editor at the NRA contacted Edwin Pugsley for “a technical last testament” on M1 carbine history shortly before his death 19 Nov 1975. According to Pugsley, “The carbine was invented by no single man,” but was the result of a team effort including Bill Roemer, Marsh Williams, Fred Humeston, Cliff Warner, at least three other Winchester engineers, and Pugsley himself. Ideas were taken and modified from the Winchester M2 Browning rifle (Williams’ gas system), the Winchester 1905 rifle (fire control group), M1 Garand (buttstock, bolt and operating slide), and a percussion shotgun in Pugsley’s collection (hook breech and barrel band assembly/disassembly).[7]”

  4. The M2 version is a sweet little weapon for close in work.. I acquired one from a “Charlie” that lost a gunfight
    with me and my M14, in 1966. Carried it for 2 years in country. I carried 800-900 rounds with me including 20 & 30rd clips, 2 ammo pouches full of stripper clips and bandoliers. I gave up carrying C-rats for ammo.
    To this day, I have yet to hit anybody with a C-Ration can. Full auto does eat up ammo, so it wasn’t often used.

    I would love to have one today (semi version) for fun at the range.

  5. I bought an M1 shortly after getting out of the Army in ’86. Loved it. Half dollar sized shot groups at 100yrds. Only gun I’ve ever sold/traded that I really miss. But a rifle wasn’t conducive to Search and Rescue activities, so traded it for a S&W .357.

  6. In the Air Force in the early 1960’s it was the range weapon of the enlisted, we had a California made weapon on the drawing boards, a AR-15, but never handled one, but saw them used on the missile site deployments. As everyone claims the M-2 it has a light kick compared to say a 8mm Mauser, which my uncles let me fire at beer cans with. I trusted the M-2 because it was simple, easy to clean, and ready to fire in a jiffy. Had a gunny that use to tell all the air force pukes, he did love us medics, that though the weapon was good for close order work, it was worthless in areas where shoots could travel over 100 yards. Called it a brawl gun, like a shotgun, more a riot weapon then a combat first weapon. But certainly a lethal one for all that has been said. Joe6pK

  7. The M-3 was a M-2 with the mentioned flash suppressor and a humongous early
    night vision scope that had a BIG battery box. A cable connected the scope and
    the battery. Was not very practical, that is why so few were made.

  8. I have a .30 lever action Marlin. The mags hold 4 rounds. I like that little gun and have shot several deer with it although my brother says it’s to light for deer. The round isn’t fast, about 1,800 fps, but I like the gun. It doesn’t have much of a kick so I will pass it on to my daughter with 500 rounds and 3 mags, One perclular thing about it that I cannot shoot ammo that has the red primers. It is real good to about 150 yards but then again most of the time I don’t see many deer beyond that in the thick woods I hunt. I bet it did do a good job in combat because of the bullet twist and low kick allowing one to stay on target. I would love to get an military M-1 some day but no one wants topart with them at a decent price.
    I had the .30 cal. Ruger Black Hawk single action pistol but got rid of it, my neighbor complained about the noise even though he lives 1/4 mile away through the woods. A real flame shooting kicker with those rifel rounds in it.

  9. In our little signals-intelligence platoon with the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne back in 1969 we had a fellow named Murphy listed on our TOE as an “Electronic Communications Maintenance Specialist” but was in reality, an armorer (and a good one at that!). Our little unit had the usual equipage of M16’s plus a couple of 1911’s and a revolver of unremembered origin so Murphy had to forage for more “interesting” firearms for his unofficial duties. He became enamored of the M1 carbine, and since they were easily obtained from the local ARVN troops in trade for American beer or cigarettes he managed to also score an A1 with the folding stock and an M2 which came with the all-important selector switch! Murph studied the M2 religiously, measuring sizes and clearances, diagramming and studying while also keeping our radio intercept and communications gear operational. After a few weeks of this activity he announced to several of us that he had achieved his goal; he had figured out the modifications that would allow one of the war-surplus M1 carbines still filling the civilian market back in the World to be converted to (illegal)selectable semi or full-automatic fire. He even had designed an easily fabricated selector switch to complete the process. He had already mailed copies of these specifications and designs back home. His ambition was to become a gunsmith when he got out of the Army, specializing in sporterized carbines; but able to supply a home-made M2 if necessary. He DEROS’d before I did in the latter part of ’69 and I have no idea if he ever made his ambition come true. But I like to think that somewhere in a certain Southern state there are some folks running around the woods after feral hogs with a “M2 by Murphy” .30 cal by their side.

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