I know what you are thinking; there isn’t anything that the M-1 carbine does that the AR platform rifle doesn’t do better. If you look solely at the ballistics, cost, availability of ammunition, and accuracy, you would be right. There is a reason why our troops no longer carry the old jungle gun—it is mostly obsolete. The firearms community has cast it aside as a relic of an age gone by. Collectors of World War II memorabilia and history buffs now seek it simply as an addition to their collections. Most M-1s probably sit tucked away in the gun safe the majority of the time.
For many years, I was a pure practical gun owner. I usually look at guns like any other tool. I bought them for their specified purpose, and used them accordingly. I have a .270 bolt-action for hunting elk and deer, a 12-guage shotgun for birds, an AR for home defense, and a 9mm for concealed carry. As age began to creep up, I became a bit more sentimental. My grandfather passed away and left his gun collection to his surviving relatives. In his dusty old gun cabinet, an M-1 Carbine sat leaning in forefront. I picked it up and immediately old thoughts came rushing back. I recall grandpa teaching me how to shoot, hunt, and defend myself. I took my first whitetail with that carbine when I was about nine. I remember the old war vet loading only three rounds in the box magazine saying, “If that boy can’t do it in three shots, he doesn’t need to do it at all.” I chuckled and took the gun home.
At the range, the carbine performed beautifully. I had not fired the gun since I was a teenager, and I immediately noticed that it was extremely light and easy to point. Despite the measly 5.2-pound weight, recoil was minimal, which made rapid fire very controllable. I started to shoot on the move, and put rounds on the paper with comparable results to my AR. Surprised, I found the gun to be more accurate and fun to shoot than any pistol caliber carbine or submachine gun I had experience operating. The 15-round magazine performed flawlessly, and has never caused a problem. I can’t speak for the aftermarket 30-round mags, but I hear they work well.
Ballistically speaking, the little .30 caliber cartridge has around twice the kinetic energy as a .45 ACP, and much greater range. When compared to a .223, it is significantly less, but still packs enough of a wallop to stop a man in his tracks. This is especially true if you trade in the over penetrating FMJ ammo for something with a soft expanding projectile. For defensive purposes, the gun would do everything I would expect from a combat carbine. It can stop a human, it’s very accurate, carries plenty of ammo, and it never jams.
There is perhaps one factor that scores more points for the old carbine than any other—the cool factor. This little gun served on the front lines of three major U.S. wars. It is still in use by Israeli police as a standard long gun for non-combat elements and Mash’az volunteers. Many of our fathers, uncles, cousins, and grandfathers carried this gun in combat and it brought them home. It was there at Iwo Jima on Mount Suribachi, and it served in the jungles of Vietnam. It operates flawlessly and gets the job done when you need it most. The next time you see an M-1 carbine sitting on a table at a gun show, take a second look at it. The weapon can still stand up to the task, and would be an excellent addition to anyone’s home arsenal.