M1 Carbine: The Classic Warhorse (Part II)

Winchester ad for the M1 Carbine

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.

Winchester ad for the M1 Carbine
Winchester ad

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.

Sale ends July 21, 2019

Sale ends July 21, 2019

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:

Current Users

South Korean





South Korea




Former Users

Algeria: Captured in large numbers from French military personnel during the Algerian Independence War [1976]AngolaFNLA: Unknown number captured/illegally during the Angolan Civil WarArgentina











Costa Rica



El Salvador


FranceFrench IndochinaNazi Germany: Limited issue. Captured M1West Germany





















Saudi Arabia

South Vietnam




United Kingdom

United States



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.

Gregory Peck in a war movie
Gregory Peck

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.

Army advisor in Viet Nam carrying an M1 Carbine
Army advisor in Viet Nam

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.

So, now that we know more about the M1 Carbine, does it answer the question of its unending popularity? Share your answer in the comment section.

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M1 Carbine: The Classic Warhorse (Part I)

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Comments (18)

  1. I purchased an (Inland) M1 carbine in 1980 for $175, It was a Korean war veteran complete with yellow Korean writing painted on the stock.
    I found an authentic original leather handle bayonet and sling to complement it.
    I made a big mistake and traded it for another (rare) military rifle thinking that I could always buy a carbine. Now, retired and on a fixed income, and with carbines going for $1000+ I will never afford to replace it. I have been told the bayonet alone was worth more than the1980 cost of the entire package that I traded away.
    The only downside was that as a shooter it was not very accurate. Knowing that it was designed to be a close combat weapon I should not have expected rifle accuracy.
    To this day I always get “sellers remorse” every time I see one.

    1. Hi Kirby – My M1 carbine will put the whole magazine into a 4 inch group at 50 yards with rapid fire. That is very accurate at what it was designed to do. It is not a varmint rifle meant to bench rest and try for 1 MOA groups.

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