US M1/M2/M3 Carbine

By Duncan Long

US M1 Carbine

Developed during World War II as a replacement for the 1911-A1 pistol, the M1 Carbine is short and light. The gun was the brainchild of David M. "Carbine" Williams who apparently did much of his design work for the carbine while serving time for "moonshining". Later Williams helped engineers at Winchester perfect his basic design.

The original gun was designated by the US military as the M1 Carbine. Later a selective-fire version was fielded in an effort to create a more potent weapon; this became the M2 version of the carbine. Finally a selective-fire version that could accept early infrared viewers was created and designated the M3. In addition there were many experimental configurations of the firearm created for the commercial as well as foreign military markets. But the M1 and M2 were the only ones to ever be made in great numbers.

Today this gun is out of production in the US; however there are literally millions of these guns available worldwide with many military surplus M1s having come back into the US quite recently from South Korea and other allies. That makes the one big plus of the M1 Carbine the wealth of inexpensive surplus parts and military and commercial accessories for it. These permit a shooter to modify the carbine almost to his heart's content.

Like all the other pistol and pistol-sized cartridges, the .30 Carbine cartridge is marginal with a FMJ bullet. With an expanding bullet this changes, however. In such a case the M1 Carbine becomes a useful, close-range weapon. For a short time M1 Carbines chambered for the 5.7mm Johnson were available; this round uses a necked-down .30 Carbine cartridge to propel a lightweight .22caliber bullet with a muzzle velocity will in excess of 2,000 feet per second. As such this is an ideal close-in combat round that would be suitable for some types of hunting as well.

Iver Johnson was the last company to manufacture the M1 carbines. During its production it also made M1 Carbines chambered for 9mm Luger. This version is a handy firearm, though the 9mm Luger is a bit less powerful than the .30 Carbine when fired from a 16-inch barrel making it second choice as a defensive round.

The M1 Carbine is gas operated with a rotating bolt that locks into the barrel. The charging handle is similar to that of the M14/Mini-14 rifles and the safety in the front of the trigger guard is somewhat like them, though the "switch" of the lever is much different. Oddly enough the magazine release is a button on the right side of the receiver--an arrangement that was later apparently copied by designers of the AR-15 rifle.

Specifications for the M1 Carbine
Length: 35.5"
Barrel: 18"
Weight: 6.5 lbs.
Magazine Capacity: 15 or 30

(For a more detailed look at the M1 Carbine and its variants - including some little-known experimental versions - as well as accessories for these firearms, see Duncan Long's book, The L'le Carbine, available from Delta Press, P.O. Box 1625, 215 S. Washington St., El Dorado, AR 71731 Phone 800-8524445.

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Copyright 1996 by Duncan Long. All rights reserved.