The M1 Carbine: Then and Now
The M1 Garand may be known as the combat rifle of the Greatest Generation, but the fact is the M1...
The M1 Garand may be known as the combat rifle of the Greatest Generation, but the fact is the M1 Carbine was produced in greater numbers and saw greater use spanning World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The M1 Carbine not only has been used by U.S. troops but also by some of our allies during WWII, and by South Korea and South Vietnam during those conflicts. Israel used the M1 Carbine in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The small rifle was so well designed and easy to use it also fell into the hands of our enemies and counter-insurgents.
With over 6.5 million M1 Carbines produced during World War II, there should be an ample supply of surplus guns available, but that is not the case. The carbines in circulation garner premium prices even though the short rifles are worn and battered. South Korea has a stockpile of these vintage carbines that collectors and shooters would relish, but these 70-year-old or more carbines are tied up in a political limbo. Fortunately, Inland Manufacturing has resurrected the M1 carbine in a series of reproduction rifles that look like they just came off the production line circa 1945. I tested one of these and will give you the details later.
The Action That Started It All
The story of the M1 carbine does not start with U.S. Army Ordnance brass sitting in a conference room, discussing how to replace or supplement the 1911 pistol with a lightweight rifle, though that did happen in the early 1940s. Nor does it begin with the Winchester engineers who refined the carbine design, though that also happened in 1941. And it doesn’t start with the Inland Division of General Motors, which was the first manufacturer to produce the M1 carbine, even though Winchester designed the rifle.
The story actually starts in a very unlikely place: Caledonia State Prison Farm in Halifax County, North Carolina.
David Williams was a convict in this minimum-security facility who had a knack for all things mechanical. It was Williams who devised a short-stroke gas piston system while in prison. This gas system was the basis of the M1 carbine, and used by the Winchester engineers—Winchester even hired Williams after he was paroled—to create and refine the weapon.
At 5.2 pounds, the M1 Carbine was lighter than the 9.5-pound M1 Garand, and it was nearly 8 inches shorter in length. The first M1 carbines were delivered to front line troops in 1941, and by the time WWII was over, five variants of the M1 carbine had been produced. The M1 Carbine, which was chambered in .30 Carbine—a cartridge designed specifically for it—did not have the power of the .30-06 M1 Garand, but was lighter, smaller, and held more ammunition in the magazine. It was also more accurate and lighter than the Thompson submachine gun.
Still, the .30 Carbine caliber, with its 1990 fps muzzle velocity and 967 foot-pounds of muzzle energy from its 110-grain bullet, was and is bemoaned as having inefficient power and lackluster penetration. Some soldiers in the Pacific Theater during WWII report having to hit enemy combatants numerous times to put them down. (It could be argued the M1 carbine has something in common with the M4 rifle currently in use by U.S. troops.)
M1 Déjà Vu
My first experience shooting a centerfire semi-automatic rifle was with an M1 Carbine, and unboxing the Inland Manufacturing M1 1945 Carbine caused a bit of déjà vu. As a novice shooter still in grammar school, I thought the carbine was heavy and cumbersome. As an experienced adult shooter, I found this modern reproduction lithe and fast handling.
Inland Manufacturing, which also makes fine reproduction M1 Carbines and 1911A1 pistols (and is not affiliated with the original Inland, a division of General Motors), is a new company. Inland began manufacturing firearms in 2013 and offers six variants of the M1 Carbine:
The 1944 M1 with a type 2 barrel band (no bayonet lug)
An M1A1 Paratrooper model with a folding wire stock and type 2 barrel band
A 1945 M1 fashioned after the last production model the original Inland division produced in 1945, with type 3 barrel band and bayonet lug
An M1 Jungle carbine with a threaded barrel and conical flash hider
An M1 Scout with an aluminum handguard and a Picatinny rail for forward-mounting a scope, with a black textured wood stock
An M1 Advisor, which is a pistol variant with a 12-inch barrel, pistol grip, and threaded barrel with conical flash hider
The Inland 1945 M1 Carbine has a round bolt, push-button safety, and low wood stock. “Low wood stock” refers to the cut-out area of the stock that exposes the operating slide. Original stocks covered the operating slide, but it was found that these stocks were prone to cracking.
The new Inland Mfg. M1 carbines are so close to original specifications that Inland marks the barrel and stock to prevent these carbines being sold as WWII-vintage firearm by unscrupulous gun traders. I have been told that Inland copied the original design so closely that parts are interchangeable with vintage M1 carbines.
The Inland 1945 M1 model uses a short-stroke piston system, just like the original. When a shot is fired gas is siphoned off to push back on the operating slide, which then drives the rotating bolt rearward to eject a spent case. The recoil spring brings it all back home while scraping a fresh round out of the detachable box magazine. This is a combat-proven action. I’ve heard that the M1 carbine was a popular battlefield pick-up since it proved to be very reliable even when dropped in sand or immersed in water.
The 1945 M1 has a precision-machined cast receiver. The 18-inch barrel has a 1:20-inch twist rate. The rear sight is a sliding elevation peep aperture with graduation marks for aiming out to 300 yards. Windage is adjusted via a knurled knob. The fixed front sight post is protected by wings on either side. The operating slide has a built-in handle. The bolt rotates and when the handle is retracted in order to load the carbine.
The bolt assembly does not lock back on last shot fired, but a button on the top side of the operating slide allows the user to lock back the slide. On the underside is a rounded trigger guard with a cross-bolt safety button built into the trigger assembly just forward of the trigger. The magazine release is also just forward of the safety, so a right-handed shooter can press the button to release the magazine. In combat, some soldiers mistook the magazine release for the safety, so on later models a rotating safety was used, akin to the selector on the current M4.
The 1945 M1 comes with one 15-round stamped-sheet metal magazine—the most common magazine issued with the M1 carbine. Aftermarket magazines come in 5-, 10- and 30-round varieties. All metal sports a matte black parkerized finish and is housed in a plain walnut stock with a steel buttplate.
At the range I had an assortment of .30 Carbine ammo, all loaded with 110-grain bullets:
• Aguila ammunition is brass-cased and has a full-metal jacket bullet.
GIs from Normandy to Pork Chop Hill carried it. Patton called it “the greatest battle implement ever devised.” Here’s a close-up look at the U.S. military’s first-ever semiautomatic rifle.
• IWI ammunition is also brass-cased and has a soft-point bullet.
• Tula uses a steel case and a full-metal jacket bullet.
The 15-round magazine was easy to load and reminded me of loading an AR15/M4 magazine. As with the M4, the magazine is inserted straight into the magazine well (no “rock and lock” as with an M14, the rifle that replaced the M1 carbine).
Aiming with the peep aperture sights, I was getting tight groups shooting off-hand at 25 yards. Recoil was minimal, and all ammo fed flawlessly.
For distance shooting, I used a rest and fired at a target at 100 yards. Original M1 carbines were not known for their accuracy, generally shooting about 3 to 5 MOA, but that still made it a capable combat weapon. The best accuracy came with the Aguila ammo, which produced a 2.05-inch 5-shot group. The IWI and Tula were dead even at 2.6 and 2.65 inches, respectively. On average, expect a little under 3 inches with these new M1 carbines—not bad for a short rifle with no optics and a trigger pull that measures slightly over 5 pounds.
The Civilian Marksmanship Program holds an M1 Carbine Match, with targets set at 100 yards, and these new Inland carbines qualify as “as-issue U.S. Military Carbines.” From the accuracy I found, they are also contenders.
Inland Mfg. did not reinvent the M1 Carbine, but has made owning one of these historic firearms possible. The key with the Inland 1945 M1 is not so much in giving it a special slot in your gun safe, but to shoot it.
Inland Manufacturing 1945 M1 Carbine
Action: Gas-operated rotating bolt semi-automatic rifle
Caliber: .30 Carbine
Shoulder stock: Walnut with steel butt plate
Front sight: Fixed
Rear sight: Adjustable peep aperture
Barrel length: 18 in.
Overall length: 35.75 in.
Weight: 5 lbs., 3 ozs.
Capacity: 15-round removable box magazine
Twist: 1:20 RH
Rifle grooves: Four
Accessories: One 15-round magazine, shoulder sling, oiler, owner’s manual