Shooting A Classic – U.S. Carbine, .30 Caliber, M1

Or The Name Most of Us Know It By, the M1 Carbine


Winchester M1 Carbine with some WWII era related items including a bayonet, belt mag pouch, a stripper clip and a dated, unopened box of G.I. ammo.
(The jacket is decades newer and just a prop)

As I have mentioned in a few past articles, I love historic firearms, especially those of American lineage.  WWII weapons hold a particularly fond place in my heart because that era exemplified some of the best of what America has ever had to offer.  Today I am spending some time looking at a couple of rifles that I really enjoy, my M1 Carbines.  One of them is a shooter, the other is a safe queen.  The shooter I purchased for a whopping $150 several years ago, and it is a pieced together rifle built on a commercially produced (National Ordnance) receiver from about 1960, and the remainder is all original G.I. parts.  The safe queen is an absolutely immaculate Winchester produced rifle, which based on the serial number, was produced sometime between September 1942 and February 1944.  The Winchester was a gift from my father so it has some sentimental value in addition to intrinsic value, and based on its condition, I am reluctant to shoot it, while the National Ordnance is, well, it’s just plain fun.

A Brief History
(This is info I cobbled together from several sources, including internet and print books, and may not be 100% accurate as some of the sources present different information)

At the end of The Great War (WWI), the U.S. military was looking at a plan to replace the pistols carried by personnel behind the front lines, like clerks, cooks, mechanics and so on, with a light rifle.  They were concerned that the pistols would not offer enough power should the lines be over run and those folks were forced into combat roles.  But, as with much of our military preparedness after that war, those plans were shelved.


Receiver marking indicating model

Then came the rise of Nazi Germany, and the military leadership could read the writing on the walls.  In 1940, they ordered the development of a new carbine to fill the role they identified many years earlier.  Before they could have manufacturers develop firearms, they needed to establish a cartridge to be used, and the Ordnance Department enlisted the help of Winchester to develop the new cartridge.  What they came up with was later designated the Cartridge, Carbine, Caliber .30, M1, now commonly knows as .30 Carbine.

Testing of the various submitted rifles, which included nine different guns from eight different manufacturers, began in June 1941.  Some guns were immediately ruled out for not meeting certain requirements and the others continued on through the testing process.  None of the rifles originally submitted were chosen, but several were asked to make changes and return for further testing.  In July 1941, the ordinance department contacted Winchester because they were interested in a gun Winchester was working on for the Marine Corps, and requested a carbine version of that gun to include in the testing.  In August 1941, Winchester submitted their rough prototype rifle, which was far from production worthy and contained many welded and brazed parts, for testing.  That rough prototype successfully completed test after test.  In September 1941, Winchester submitted a more refined version of the gun for more testing.  The testing continued and included five other guns from other manufacturers.  On October 22, 1941, the design submitted by the Winchester was selected and designated the U.S. Carbine, Caliber .30, M1.

M1A1 Folding Stock

M1A1 Folding Stock

During WWII, the carbine saw extensive use in all theaters and also saw several variants produced.  The original design, the M1, has a fixed wood stock.  Early in the rifle’s use, there became a desire for a folding stock version of the gun for use by paratroopers and thus was developed the M1A1.  As originally designed, the M1 and M1A1 were a semi-automatic only rifle, but there grew a desire for a select fire version which was produced and designated the M2.  There were many other experimental versions of the gun throughout the years, but those are the three main variants.

Soldiers were mixed in their feelings on the gun.  They liked the light weight and handiness of the rifle, and were fond of the detachable box magazine, but there were some complaints about the effectiveness of the round, especially in the European theater during winter months where the enemies heavy clothing is claimed to have greatly reduced the ability of the round.  Despite that one negative complaint, the M1 Carbine was produced in huge numbers with more than 6,000,000 made during the war.  The M1 Carbine went on and saw use in Korea and Vietnam, where it was heavily distributed amongst the indigenous fighters who found the guns smaller size fit them better than the much larger M14 and M1 Garands.

The M1 Carbine is a very enjoyable gun to shoot, and for many reasons.  It is a light weight, compact gun the shoulders well and points quickly.  My postal scale indicates my particular gun, without a magazine, weighs 5lbs 9.5oz.  The sights are typical for U.S. rifle sights consisting of a round rear ghost ring style aperture, that is adjustable for windage, and a fixed front blade with protective ears on both sides.  On my shooter gun, I have added some bright orange sight paint to the front post to make it more visible, but even without that paint, it is not difficult to see given adequate lighting.

(I apologize for the cheesy background music. Finding something copyright free, that I am happy with, is proving difficult, so I reluctantly settled just so I could get this video done)

The recoil from the .30 Carbine round is mild and even smaller shooters should find it very manageable.  It is not as light as say a modern AR-15, but is not much harsher.  The standard box magazine for the M1 Carbine holds 15 rounds, but extended 30 round mags, which were designed for the M2 variant, are readily available as well.  The trigger is a crisp single stage setup, and measured between 5.5 lbs (Winchester) and 6.5 lbs (National Ordnance).

My only real negative complaint about the M1 Carbine design is that the bolt does not lock open when empty.  Some magazines are equipped with a follower that stops the bolt open when empty, which at least lets the shooter know they are dry, but as soon as that mag is removed the bolt drops closed.  Aside from that, I really have no complaints.  It is a great little gun that is a ton of fun to shoot.

Both versions of the safety visible here

Both versions of the safety visible here

Speaking of fun to shoot, another issue when considering that is expense.  At the time I sat down to write this, I did some quick price checks on .30 Carbine ammunition around the web.  From the same manufacturer, what you would spend to get 50 rounds of .30 Carbine, would only get you between 35-40 rounds of .223.  Additionally, a few months ago, when no .223 or 5.56 could be found, .30 Carbine was still available.  I’m by no means suggesting you run out and replace you AR’s with an M1 Carbine, but having another option, that happens to be historically significant to the United States, is never a bad thing.

With more than 6,000,000 M1 Carbines produced for the U.S. military during WWII, they are not difficult to find.   However, original G.I. guns can command a hefty price.  They are highly collected and some collectors will expect a premium for guns they are selling.  You might get lucky like I did and stumble upon a decent shooter at a gun show for a reasonable price, but if you are looking for one and not willing to wait it out or pay the very high prices some collectors expect, there is yet another option.

Auto-Ordnance, who is currently owned by Kahr Arms, is making a faithful reproduction of the M1 Carbine.  It is all new production and replicates the earlier M1 Carbines wherein it has the early rear sight and lacks the bayonet lug.  My understanding, and I’m sure someone will correct me if I am wrong, is that it is built to original specs and parts are interchangeable with original G.I. parts.  List price for the new Auto-Ordinance gun is $816.

As always, your questions and comments are welcome.
Be safe out there,


Matt is a full time Deputy Sheriff that has been on the job since 1996. During his time as a LEO he's attended countless training classes and is a court recognized firearms expert. Matt brings a unique perspective to TBS given his LEO experience and life time appreciation of firearms and our 2nd Amendment rights.

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  • PeterK

    Jealous. You have some cool stuff in that safe of yours. :)

    • Matt

      Thank you. It has taken me several decades. I’ll tell you which safe I want to take a peek in, Tim’s (MAC’s)!

      • jake Jake martin

        How about a review on the faxon arak21.

        • Matt

          I’d never heard of it until you said something. I just looked at their website and it is indeed intriguing, but I’m afraid I don’t have $1200 laying around to drop on something as a test/review item. I emailed the company and inquired. We’ll see what comes of it.

          • jake Jake martin

            Thanks. Yeah 1200 is alot but ive wanted a piston upper for awhile and like the design. I trust you guys more than the other limited resources on the upper. Thanks for the reply.

  • Cody

    I love the M1, I don’t have a nice commercial one to shoot regularly yet but I did get a GM one from 1943. I am really sentimental about it, it’s dated the year my grandfather got out of boot and shipped off to the pacific.

    On the gun front, it’s an amazing tool. I’ve run courses of steel with the speed and accuracy of a fully kitted out AR with an Acog on it. I plan to get another one to let my daughter start hunting with (most shots in northern michigan are under 100 yards).

    Thank you for giving some time to the classics :)

  • William

    Unfortunately I don’t own one, I do have fond memories of the M1 Carbine dating back to when I was a kid watching Lt. Hanley on the television show “Combat”, toting one throughout Europe. Back then, I had no concept of the idea that it “may” have been an anemic choice for combat, it just looked cool.

  • Gunslinger Hobbs

    I love the old M1 Carbine. I too have a very nice Winchester model, serial puts it at late 1944. When I bought it, it was in a reproduction M1A1 folding stock. It’s a great little shooter, almost no recoil, weighs next to nothing, very accurate (for it’s intended range and purpose). There’s a few modifications I want to do to it that would destroy any collector value it may have, and makes all my collector buddies get light headed, but I don’t really care much as I have no intentions of selling the little thing, but I have every intention of making it as practical as possible for any “what-if” scenario.

  • REB

    Got my two from the CMP program. They are very nice shooters

  • Joe

    I got lucky and worked at a major gunshop in our aera and have a dozen of them. Most rockola and Saginaw steering gear. They are so fun and cheap to shoot. But I haven’t bought any in 5 years or so. But they are really fun. And I got lucky to buy a garand that was a h&r that had just been rebuilt as factory new. And have a ww2 international harvester that’s ww2 issue in the box brand new. My grandfather worked at Springfield before the war in product development with john garand and that’s was one of his babies and now mine too. Rest his soul

  • Tanstaafl2

    I’d previously contacted Auto-Ordnance and asked if their new M1 carbines were 100% mil-spec and interchangeable with original parts. They danced around giving a details and said new parts in their carbine would mostly be interchangeable with original parts, but that they didn’t guarantee any particular parts would be. Knowing the parent company’s (Kahr Arms) reputation, I expect all the parts in their new carbines will be good quality, and that those new parts that ARE interchangeable with government carbines will not disappoint folks.

    One thing to keep in mind is that an EXACT reproduction of the original M1 carbines wouldn’t be allowed by the ATF, as they won’t allow a receiver that can be “readily converted” to full-auto. Since original carbines were convertable to select-fire with the use of a conversion parts kit (most of the M2’s were just M1’s that the govt. retrofitted with these kits), new M1’s 100% faithful to the original specs would be verboten. Whatever changes Auto Ordnance had to make to satisfy the ATF that it wouldn’t be “readily convertible” may have required some changes to some parts other than just the receiver.

  • johnM

    Great photos!

    • Matt

      Thank you sir.

  • Connor

    I love my M1. My great grandfather put some legs on the thing at the end of the war, and it served as his trunk gun for years when he was public safety commissioner in Mobile, AL.
    It now resides with me, and I shoot it about twice a year.
    It really is one of my favorite weapons I own.

  • Todd

    I have a very early IBM and an Inland lined out to Underwood. Both great shooters! I need to get one more though. With three sons, I don’t want anybody fighting over them later.

  • Paul O.

    Another option for a new manufacture M1 carbine is Fulton Armory. Yes, they are expensive but mine is at least twice as accurate as my WW II era carbine. They make a version with a picatinny rail. Also you can add a picatinny rail to any M1 by replacing the top handguard.

  • Ryan P.

    I have an M1 built by Universal in Hialeah Florida which I was given as a graduation gift. I love it, its a great shooter. Theyre so light and handy. Just wish ammo was a bit less expensive or maybe just more readily available.

  • Rick S.

    Matt, great article, but you really surprised me with one fundamental detail. Ouch. Please double-check the difference between ‘ordnance’ versus ‘ordinance.’ There’s a big difference. Thanks, I enjoy your articles.

    • Matt

      So what if I can’t read and inserted a letter that didn’t belong…

      But seriously, I never even noticed that until you said something, then I had to go back and figure out where I screwed up. My error. Thanks for pointing it out.

  • Jon

    It is amazing how U.S. industry used to be able to respond so quickly developing a product!

  • bgreenea3

    Great Write up Matt! I have an Inland from October of 44, it still shoots great, and reliable. I think in the military loading with a FMJ that it is lacking in stopping power but with an expanding bullet like the gold dot, Hornady critcal defense, or Semijacted Soft point hunting bullets, Its a much more effective round.

  • bgreenea3

    Wichester used parts of other guns to put the M1 carbine together. the trigger group from this one the mag release from that one…. etc but the short stroke gas system was an original design by “Carbine” Williams who had spent time in prison for murder…. lots more to that story on ho it was developed.

  • Tim

    Fulton Armory out of Maryland is also a great source for high quality carbine builds or for parts, even advice.

  • mervin maniaol

    thank you po so much for the info.

  • daltona117

    Very nice. I regret trading my Universal carbine, even though it the Universals are sometimes frowned upon by collectors. Mine was a blast to shoot!

  • Brian in MN

    “during winter months where the enemies heavy clothing is claimed to have greatly reduced the ability of the round..”

    Do you really believe that non-sense? While it is true that this silliness gets repeated it is just that, silliness. It should strike the people who repeat this story that one never hears the same said about .45 ACP, 7.62 x 25 or 9mm Luger.

  • Aaron

    Since I’m looking to buy another ex-military rifle soon, I’ll definitely be looking at an American rifle to mix things up since I recently purchased a Russian 1915 Mosin and a 50’s Chinese SKS. Since I’m looking to save some money, I might have to settle for a .22LR replica of the M1 Carbine, or even better, ask family to buy me one! There’s a special place in my heart for old military rifles.

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  • Drmaudio

    My father has an Inland he bought through his ROTC program in the late 50’s. Every time I visit I try to convince him it needs a new home down here in AZ, but he isn’t going for it.

  • Rokurota

    I had the M1 Carbine jones for years (after shooting a friend’s WW2 issue Inland) and finally bought a Universal. The slide broke on the second magazine, and I soon found that Universal slides are no longer available — their parts are not compatible with GI parts! That cured my obsession — I had to sell it for parts, although the fellows at my LGS claimed a good weld would hold the slide together. I was also surprised at how much kick it had compared to my AR.

    So I’m sounding the alarm here — if you by an M1 Carbine, buy a GI-compatible model. The 1st gen Universals were made with GI parts, but I had a 3rd gen, when they changed the slide to the open style. It shot nicely, but you can’t get replacement parts for it. Congrats to everyone who got these while the CMP still had them.

  • http://Morton Paul

    We issued scores of carbines (most M1s, some M2s) to indigenous troops in Laos. Good little rifles (I think the ballistics are close to a .357mag; maybe someone could help on that aspect), the Hmong took to it well, became very proficient, and did well with it in combat. I’ve picked up several over the years – including a very sweet complete Winchester in a multi-gun deal for only $90. Several years ago Ruger came out with a SA revolver that fired the cartridge. I heard it was a handful, but I’ve never seen one. I love to shoot ‘em and need to start reloading them for more range time.

  • Jay Son

    Dude! was that “Possessed” at the beginning of the video? Are you a Suicidal Tendencies fan???

    • Matt

      Possessed? Suicidal Tendencies? What, do I look like some 80’s skater kid or something…

      (Yes, it was, but as much as I want to, I cannot use it for background anymore because it is copyrighted)

  • Miami Guns INC

    Shooting is a generic term applicable to non-traditional shooting sports, generally characterized by rapid movement within each shooting stage.

  • Jim

    In the Korean Conflict we started hearing soldiers complain about landing multiple hits with the M1 Carbine on advancing Commies with little or no perceivable effect. This was almost certainly not due to the inadequacy of the cartridge, but rather to the fact that the enemy, in winter, wore thick layers of clothing. As a result, what was thought a solid hit, actually passed through the clothing without touching flesh, or only passed through flesh superficially, missing vital organs, bones, etc. also the M1 was no a select fire wepaon with 30 round mags so poorly trained drafted soldiers spraid and prayed often missing any enemy soldiers and blaming the weapon & ammo for their poor marksmanship. The top politicians & gernerals also came up with the idea to load 30 carbine cartridges with bulk powder for the 50 cal machine thatw a sleft over from WWII this cuased many problems in the Korean conflict and took montsh to fix. The same bulk 50 cal powder would be used to load the first 5.56mm rounds to use in Vietnam and cuased many deaths when it fouled weapons. This led to the M16 getting chromed bores/chambersand many of our guys died with fouled useless weapons in another war.