Giving The M1 Carbine It's Due

While modern shooters may scorn the M1 Carbine as antiquated, underpowered and terminally un-tacticool, this pipsqueak among the battle rifles of the mid-20th Century changed the nature of the service rifle entirely.

Today's M4 carbine and related rifles would almost certainly not exist without it, or more accurately, the ideas behind the M1 did. It inarguably proved concepts in the field that changed the game.

Parallel developments of similar weapons, which we'll also cover, confirm the genius of the concepts behind the M1 Carbine.

Not only that, but the gun is barely behind the curve compared to "modern" carbines, so one hardly need relegate it to the ash heap of gun history.

The Why Of The M1 Carbine

The M1 Carbine was developed for two reasons.

First, some people aren't infantry, but definitely need a gun because their job in the military puts them close to the front lines. There's a good chance they will run across the enemy and may need to deal in lead.

Second, it turns out that it's really, really hard to teach people to shoot a handgun really well. (Even a 1911.) It's also the case that a pistol is as about as useless as lipstick on a pig in a rifle fight.

If you aren't front line infantry, an M1 Garand is too much (it's heavy, it kicks, and a bandolier of en bloc clips is a big ask for a truck driver or what have you) and a 1911 ain't the government asked the gun industry for some help.

The folks with the answers turned out to be Winchester, who came up with a rifle design (contrary to popular belief, David "Carbine" Williams was basically not involved) and licensed it out for military production.

Granted, that wasn't Winchester's first rodeo with the idea. The Winchester 1905 and 1907 rifles have most of the same specs. Both are magazine-fed semiautomatic rifles that fire an intermediate cartridge rather than a full-power rifle cartridge.

They also developed a cartridge, based on their .32 Winchester Self-Loading cartridge. They necked it down to .308 caliber and goosed the powder charge, creating a loading that was potent at close-ish range but had modest recoil.

By all accounts, it worked.

And it worked very, very well too; more M1 Carbines were manufactured than M1 Garands, even including post-WW2 production of Garand rifles.

What's So Special About The M1 Carbine?

What makes the M1 Carbine special is that it's light, handy, accurate and effective at typical combat distances.

Barrel length is 18 inches, overall length just under 36 inches, and unloaded weight is a featherweight 5.2 lbs. Loaded and slung, it's still under 6 lbs, and has a standard magazine capacity of 15 rounds.

By contrast, an M1 Garand has a 24-inch barrel, overall length of 43.5 inches, and weighs around 10 lbs loaded and slung with an 8-round en bloc clip.

Granted, one trade-off is less power than M2 ball.

.30 Carbine is classically a 110-grain bullet at around 1,990 feet per second, producing about 970 ft-lbs of energy and a modest 3.5 ft-lbs of recoil energy, per

The Sturmgewehr 44 was developed towards the end of World War II by the German military. The idea was to replace the submachine gun and the K98 at the same time, especially for paratroopers but also to create a better all-purpose service rifle.

The long-range capability of the K98 wasn't needed for most engagements and having submachine gun capability equipped more troops for CQB. This augments the capability of troops in the field; effective at both traditional and close combat distances.

At the end of the Second World War, a young Russian tinkerer was inspired by the StG 44, and started working on a rifle design that was simple, rugged and would give the soldier the same capabilities of efficacy at CQB and traditional combat ranges, using a newly developed intermediate cartridge.

If you haven't already guessed, the man was Mikhail Kalashnikov and the rifle became the AK-47. obviously, the AK-47 and the StG 44 weren't inspired by the M1 Carbine at all, but it is the case that people were arriving at the same ideas independently, proving the concepts albeit for a different purpose.

Obviously, the M1 Carbine wasn't originally select-fire capable (the M2 Carbine was, though!) but what does it have in common with the StG 44 and the AK-47?

Lighter in weight, and shorter in length than a traditional battle rifle. Detachable box magazines for faster reloading and greater onboard capacity. An intermediate cartridge that was effective at typical combat distances and lighter in recoil, meaning it's easier to make hits.

Again, the M1 Carbine was more of a personal defense weapon (PDW) than an assault rifle, which is what the AK-47 and StG-44 are...but it's also that the assault rifle concept itself involves most of the ideas that informed the M1 Carbine.

And it didn't stop there.

By the early 1960s, Colt began experimenting with shorter barrels on the M16. This led to the Colt 605 (the Dissipator model) and CAR 15/Colt Carbine/XM177/GAU-5 family of rifles, issued to Navy SEALs and SOG operators in the Vietnam war.

Handier, lighter, effective at realistic distances with a light-recoiling cartridge and at close quarters.

Put it a little differently, the M1 Carbine, developed just before the United States entered World War II, introduced the idea that a light, handy rifle that didn't kick like hell (an M1 Garand produces around 5 times the recoil energy) is better than a heavy rifle that does.

The Modern Service Rifle: Barely Removed From An M1 Carbine

Consider the modern service rifles on the market. Almost all descend from the same ideas behind the M1 Carbine.

And yes, that includes the bullpups.

The M4 carbine has the same ideas at the core of the rifle. Intermediate caliber, more compact than the M16, adept at typical combat distances as well as close quarters use.

If you think about it, how far is it from an M1 or M2 carbine at a conceptual level? Not much, though it differs greatly mechanically and in some design details, but the ideas are almost the same.

What about the bullpups?

Well, the entire idea behind a bullpup such as the SA80, AUG, Tavor or FAMAS is to essentially arrive at the same place - effective at CQB and longer range - but just favors close quarters in how the equation is balanced.

Granted, the needs of the modern warfighter as well as the available tech have changed modern rifle design. The need for more attachments, and use of optics instead of iron sights are significant developments.

Not that you can't modernize an M1. Ultimak and other companies make some rail systems that allow for use of attachments. You can absolutely find a way to mount a red dot and a flashlight without going Full Bubba.

However, the point remains: the M1 Carbine, or at least the ideas behind it, changed the nature of the service rifle. In those terms, the old junior varsity warhorse is barely behind the curve of the modern service rifle.

purchase gun belt