The huge popularity of the M1 Carbine may be attributed to the fact that more G.I.s had a favorable, than negative, experience with it and subsequently brought many home in duffle bags. They allowed family and friends to shoot them at impromptu shoots—little brothers, girlfriends, and children were taught to shoot with the M1. Because of its good manners, people just liked shooting the M1, and they were thought to be lots of fun.
Maybe it was because we wanted what we couldn’t have. Remember, M1 Carbines were extremely rare on the open market until the mid 1960s.
Starting with the release of the inventories of surplus parts in the 1950s enterprising capitalists acquired huge stockpiles of parts—with the intent of manufacturing or, more accurately, assembling complete firearms to be sold commercially. Many used demilled receivers. The term “demilled” is one way of describing a receiver that has been cut in half or rendered unusable. Also used, were receivers made from investment castings, none of which were up to the quality of the G.I. parts. They did, however, initially help satisfy the growing demand for the ever-increasing popularity of the little rifle.
Things changed dramatically with the release of wartime surplus firearms that started showing up in 1963 through the DCM and NRA, which made acquiring one easy and, at $24.00, affordable. It suddenly allowed a generation of baby boomers to lay hands on a piece of history and to own a gun like dad had in the service. The M1 Carbine became so popular that manufacturers could not come close to meeting the growing interest and demand.
That prompted even more companies to get into the game of assembling carbines from the existing stockpiles of replacement parts. Most were junk and did not hold up very well at all, but they were more easily obtainable—even if they cost more. I had a commercial Plainfield Carbine with a perforated metal handguard that looked cool, until it stopped working one day. I took it out of the stock to discover the gas piston housing had fallen off the barrel where it had been soldered or braised on, definitely not G.I. spec, but I was young and dumb back then.
To add to the story, after WWII, the U.S. provided M1 Carbines to both the victors and the vanquished. The following is a list you might find interesting:
|Algeria: Captured in large numbers from French military personnel during the Algerian Independence War AngolaFNLA: Unknown number captured/illegally during the Angolan Civil WarArgentina
|FranceFrench IndochinaNazi Germany: Limited issue. Captured M1West Germany
Vietnam: Largely captured or inherited from the now-defunct Army of the Republic of Vietnam
That is an incredible list of nations, in which the little carbine has served with distinction. Clearly, the many nations listed appreciated the M1 Carbine’s well made, interchangeable parts, and long service life. Add to that, it’s ease of use and versatility, not to mention they got them for free from the U.S. taxpayer.
Some of those “exports” have been repatriated over the years, and from time to time—baring politics—are currently released to the gun-buying public through the CMP. And yes, the demand has continued to outstrip the availability. CMP carbines typically get sold out as soon as a shipment is released.
All that being said, we still have not fully answered the question as to its huge popularity, so let’s look at another possibility.
Did Hollywood play a part in the M1 Carbine’s universal appeal?
Why not? It influences everything else we do, say, and know. Why should this story be any different?
Let us examine once again my first acquisition, which was originally influenced by availability, cost, light compact size, gentle manners, reliability, fun factor, and just plain coolness. I am sure, if a poll were taken, many others of my generation would voice the same reasons for the attractiveness of the M1 Carbine. Added to the mix, is the fact that the M1 Carbine was featured in every war movie Hollywood produced during that post wartime.
Two of my personal favorite movies featuring the M1 Carbine—that were influential in fostering my desire to own one—were the Warner Brothers production of Objective Burma starring one of the most popular leading men of the day, Errol Flynn and Pork Chop Hill starring Gregory Peck.
The storyline of Objective Burma was loosely based on the six-month raid by Merrill’s Marauders during the Burma Campaign of WWII. In it, Errol is armed with a correct M1A1 that was very authentic by Hollywood standards—especially considering when it was produced.
My second favorite movie featuring the M1 Carbine was Pork Chop Hill starring Gregory Peck. That movie depicted the April 1953 battle between the U.S. Army’s 7th Infantry Division and Chinese and North Korean troops. In it, Peck is armed with a late model M1 Carbine exhibiting the later features such as the bayonet band and the round bolt.
I don’t recall how many times I watched these movies, alone or with friends, sharing the ubiquitous late night pizza. I can, however, tell you we knew the lines so well we would verbalize them at the appropriate time in unison. Of course, those midnight film fests added to the allure and desire to own a Carbine. I might also add that an entirely new generation is being exposed to the M1 Carbine through the more recent Hollywood offerings such as, Band of Brothers, Saving Private Ryan, The Pacific, The Great Raid, and others.