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.

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 (19)

  1. Good friend Dave L was an ATF agent in OK for a few years and told several stories about using the M1 Carbine to blow up the propane tanks the bootleggers used. It seems the pistols the service used then were insufficient for that task. Interesting read about this service rifle. Mine is a Universal with peep site.

  2. Awesome weapon… I was lucky enough to snag a six digit carbine and six digit Garand a few years ago.. dream come true.

  3. 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.

  4. Had picked one up in Nam,was fun to shoot,kept it as back up for [Army
    time]awhile,the noise of the carbine could cause you problems as it was thought that VC might be in the area. Later in the Air Force Reserve’s qualified with it[carbine 1971] Have 3 today from the CMP fun weapon to shoot will do the job when needed,BillT

  5. I fell in awe of the carbine in about 1967 when my high school metal shop teacher brought one to class, yes public school, to clean and told us that his son took a deer with it. I got the opportunity to buy one through a program that made some of the repatriated guns available to active police officers for $60. I was supporting my family on a cops salary. I hade to save the money out of Christmas extra duty jobs. Officers bought the carbines and surplus Grandes. The guns started arriving and we all got excited until they found that the guns were all well used. They rattled and insignia were gouged out of the stock. The were barley wall hangers. I ordered mine much later and it arrived much later. When I opened and in wrapped it I found it to be in new condition. I believe it had ever been shot. Now my sons and grandsons argue over who gets it.
    A police war story about an M2 carbine I recovered is interesting. I was asked to clear some squatters out of a rent house where the renter had drowned. I responded by my self, a stupid move on my part. The house had several male and female outlaw bikers in it. I demanded they leave. As they argue with me one kept trying to make his way to a bedroom where he said his “old lady” was asleep. He tried several times to make his way into the bedroom with out me noticing. I gues his “old lady” woke up. They left and the home owner asked me to clear any drugs and contraband out of the house. I went to the bedroom and to the closet and found wrapped I an old military blanket a M2 carbine with a full 15 round mag and one round chambered. The gun was identified as lost in combat and issued to my department and never to be go anywhere else except to surrender to ATF. It is there today.

  6. I have a surplus Inland made M-1 carbine bought from CMP and I love it. It’s the most fun gun I have ever owned. Because the deer in western Louisiana run rather small compared to eastern and northern deer, so the M-1 loaded with a good soft point will take a deer easily within a hundred yards.

  7. I got my M-1 Carbine w/ Leather scabbard as a gift from my Uncle in 1950. It is an Underwood 1943 with all matching numbers. Tack driver for me every time I have shot it. Used to use surplus ammo, now have stocked a fair amount of Wolf ammo. Hangs on the wall, just below my DCM M1 that I bought in 1958 for $83.00. My grandson is patiently waiting….

  8. My dad got his Carbine thru the CMP back in the early 1960s and it was the first rifle I ever fired. Picked up a M2 from RVN in Vietnam and carried it my rucksack as a backup to my M16. Ran very well in full auto and was just a lot of fun to shoot.
    Today I still have dads old Carbine and shoot it often. It’s a IBM build that the serial # dates as Oct 1943 – Jan 1944 manufactured. I buy the very inexpensive TulAmmo in bulk from CTD and it runs great for poking holes in paper. Lord knows how many rounds this M1 has seen down it’s pipe in near 75 years. A testament to the design and quality of US manufacturing.
    God Bless The USA!

  9. Bought my M1 Carbine from DCM in 1961. Receiver is stamped “Winchester” and I still have the rifle. Became familiar with the M1 Garand through high school ROTC. Was issued the M1 Garand in June 1958 at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. The DI’s made me believe that with a bayonet attached I could break through a brick wall with that M1. It’s been 59 years but I still see that 18 year old Marine in my mind’s eye.

  10. The first military arm I was trained with was the M14, and later the M14E2 that I carried for about a year. Still have never fired a M16 or variant of, but do have experience with the Garand and the Carbine. Between the two, I’d always had an affection for the Carbine, was tickled pink when Ruger made the ..44 mag Carbine. Wished at the time they’d make one in .357. Of course, I could just buy a M1 Carbine. Except I have too much invested in .357, time, money and affection. Of course, if the cost of a Carbine was to drop to a reasonable level…

  11. I own a SKS, an AK, a Mini14, and an AR; but none of these are as easy to carry, and handle as the M1 carbine. Plus the fact that my uncles carried it to protect out nation.

    The stories about the M1 not being able to penetrate frozen clothing is due the fact that our soldiers were issued old ammo that was made for very hot Pacific Islands and should never have been issued to troops in very cold conditions. In fact it was damaged ammo and should not have been issued to anyone.

    My M1 rounds will go into one end of 32 inches of ballistic gel and come out the other end with enough force to hit a steel plate with force. Countless deer have been killed with the M1 carbine.

    I do not have a gun that I like more.

  12. Just so you know the M1 is not in use for a while in Italy. We used to have them as an inactive rifle for parades and for crowd control (pretty much was used as a baton), but they all had the pin removed so they couldn’t fire.
    We did our training with the M1 Garand until it was replaced in the mid-90s.

    1. Beretta bought the rights to the M1 Garand after WW2, They improved on the Garand design and came out with a “carbinized M14” called the BM-59. It is an improved and much sought after M1A and M14 design. Very accurate all the way up to 600-800 yards on iron sights.Available in semi-automatic and select fire models.

      The BM-59 is still in active use in the Italian Navy. The BM-59 is imported and re-built here in the US by James River Armory. You can see some for sale once in a while through outlets like Classic Firearms.

  13. Was never issued a carbine. Never fired one. I was trained on the Garand and my first look at a Carbine convinced my young, impressionable mind that it was no more than a scaled-down version of the Garand. The next version of the Garand would be the M-14 (which I never cottoned to) and then a total departure came with the little black rifle. I still agree with Gen. Patton’s assessment of the Garand, I’m sure most readers are familiar with it.

    1. The Grande was meant for front line troops. The M1 Carbine was to replace the 1911. I sure would want an M1 Carbine over any pistol.

      Patton should have been in command instead of Ike. The war would have been shortened and Russia would not have taken half of Europe.

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