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The standard magazine is a 15 round box type, but thirty round, curved "banana clip" types are common. The normal operation of the gun is semi automatic, although fully automatic M-2, and M-3 versions were made. The gun itself is pleasant and fun to shoot, and is what I would consider to be a camp gun, or knockabout gun. There is very little recoil, and shots can be popped off as quickly as the trigger can be pulled. In many ways it is like a grown up .22 rifle. The literal, hard-nosed definition of a carbine is of a standard rifle, shortened to make it more suitable for use on horseback. By this definition, the M-1 is not a carbine, since it was not derived from any standard service arm, and certainly horses played no part in it's development. My own definition of a carbine is that it is a small shoulder fired weapon chambered for a pistol cartridge. Most modern carbines do seem to resemble this description. They tend to be semi auto versions of submachine guns like he Uzi or the Thompson, or they are overgrown pistols like the Ingram, or Rifles re-chambered for pistol cartridges like Colt's Commando. The M-1 fits this description almost perfectly. It is small and light, and fires a cartridge which, though not developed as a pistol cartridge, has a straight walled case and is ballistically similar to a pistol cartridge. There are some who would credit the M-1 Carbine with being the first assault rifle. I personally disagree with this notion; the gun was never employed tactically in that manner, and really the cartridge is closer to a pistol round than to one of the intermediate bottle necked rounds for which true assault rifles are chambered. My own example shoots into about 5" at 100 yards, which is certainly good enough to realize the design goals of a replacement piece for the issue pistol. It should also be considered that this is a 60 year old firearm, which may have seen considerable service. It is likely that the little gun shot far tighter groups, back in 1943, when it was newly issued, than is the case today. In top form, the little guns are probably capable of 2" - 3" groups, at 100 yards.
The Little M-1 was coveted, both during and after the war. Though less powerful, and less accurate than the M-1 Garand, the carbine was light, handy, easy to carry and to fire, and looked neat. In the days of the Old West, which were still very much alive in the forties, the carbine was the modern incarnation of the old Winchester 66 or 73, while the Garand was the resurrection of the old buffalo guns. All had their place; but the smaller lighter guns always seem to have a romance, and a feistiness to them, that the larger guns lack. Then there was the role that the M-1 Carbine played. Because of it's light weight, and small size, the carbine was issued to paratroopers, commandoes, rangers, and jungle fighters. It was used by scouts, and by guards at military bases, and particularly around airbases. The most romanticized version of these little guns is the paratrooper model. The paratrooper model had a folding wire stock, which made it short enough that it could actually be carried in a scabbard, worn on the leg, or attached at the shoulder and belt, sort of like an overgrown shoulder holster. So a certain mystique rubbed off on the handy little guns. Then there were the qualities of the guns themselves.
Infantrymen lugged their ten pound Garands, while those chosen few in the special forces carried their five and a half pound carbines. The Garands were made to be fired, while the carbines were made to be carried. This may seem to put the little carbine at a disadvantage, until you consider that a rifle is carried far more than it is fired. Soldiers in training are molded in many ways, some of them pretty silly. One of the things that a trainee soldier must do, is give his rifle a woman's name, sleep with it, take it everywhere, and lavish attention upon it. The infantryman is thus married to his weapon, in a sense. If the Garand was a wife --- dependable, serviceable, respected, and capable, then the carbine was a cute little mistress.
The little 30 carbine round developed for this gun, was derived from the old 32 Winchester round. The little cartridge pushes a 110 grain bullet out the barrel at a velocity of 1970 fps. This produced approximately 980 fp of energy. This roughly compares to the 357 magnum. Out of a pistol barrel, the 357 magnum produces about 535 fp of energy, by launching it' somewhat heavier 158 grain bullet at 1235 fps; but this same round, out of a longer rifle barrel, will be accelerated to 1830 fps, giving an energy of 1175 fp. So the somewhat heavier 357 round has just a shade less velocity, than that of the 30 carbine. Which is the most effective? Well, in various forms, the argument over velocity versus bullet weight has been a subject for animated discussion among firearms enthusiasts for years. I tend to favor the heavier bullets; but this is a matter of personal preference. One thing that the carbine round does have going for it, is it's rimless design. Carbines for the 357 round tend to be lever actions, since the rim makes it a bit difficult for designers of semi auto actions, and makes it quite a bit more difficult to produce a suitable box style magazine.
Shown in the photo to the left, is a comparison of the 30 carbine round (center), along with the 357 (left), and the 223, which is used in the M-16/AR-15 series of rifles. A quick look at the cartridges should dispel any notion of the M-1 Carbine being an assault rifle. Also note the rimless design of the carbine round, and the 223 round, compared to the rim on the 357. The latter was designed as a revolver round, and was never meant to be used in a semi auto. The 30 carbine was designed as a 100 yard gun, and at best is only effective out to 200 yards or so.
Though the concept was rather new, for it's day, design wise the M-1 Carbine was quite a conventional weapon. The general principles of operation, as well as the design of the bolt and gas system were quite similar to that of the standard rifle of the day, the Garand. Where the M-1 differed was in the use of the floating chamber, attributed to Carbine Williams. The floating chamber permitted a bit more force to be generated, from the little cartridge, in order to work the action. A similar system was included on the old Colt Ace 22 caliber version of the M1911 pistol, for the same reason.
At one time, surplus M-1 Carbines were available for as little as $20, as the post war military tried to reduce it's stock of millions of the little guns. Sadly, this is no longer the case. New M-1 carbines are being made by Kahr arms and are selling for a bit under $800. So what about those surplus guns, then? Well, a rack grade M-1 Carbine will set you back $600 or so, while a fully restored model could approach $2000. These guns were available in such large numbers, and at such low prices, years ago, that little regard was given them. As a result, many were poorly cared for, and their numbers have greatly diminished. In some cases, the military shipped the guns off to client states, or simply destroyed them. Because of this, the prices of the surplus guns have risen quite sharply. Probably the best values, on a used M-1, would be Plainfield, or Universal models, from 70s - 80s commercial production. Even these will set you back $500 or so.
The prices listed above are for shooters; for the collector, prices can go quite a bit higher. these guns were made by a number of different companies, during the war, and some have become quite rare. A Saginaw or Rockola produced M-1 can sell for several thousand dollars. Certain other models and variants can command ever higher prices. Winchester and Inland produced the majority of these little guns. Rockola, a jukebox manufacturing company, probably produced the lowest numbers. The serial number on this particular example indicates that it was produced by Inland, making it one of the more commonly found versions. Inland was a division of General Motors, and made more M-1 Carbines than any other producer, accounting for 43% of all war time production.
The huge numbers of these guns, the historical role they played, and their excellent handling qualities, made these very popular guns for the civilian recreational shooter. From the forties, through the late sixties, these guns were also available at giveaway prices. The DCM, and a number of resellers, and distributors, offered surplus M-1 carbines at a cost of as low as $20 each (today, the DCM is offering shooter grade M-1 Carbines at around $500 - $600 each). Because of this, these guns became quite common. Every other household seemed to have one laying around. The guns were tossed in boats, car trunks, cabins, or dragged around outside as plinkers, and used to shoot up the woods, and blast tin cans. As a child, growing up in the sixties, I personally knew several other boys, who's fathers had genuine surplus M-1 Carbines, and even had a chance to see, and touch them. For a ten year old boy, such an experience was a visit to the promised land. All this would change by the end of the sixties.
The diminishing local supply, foreign export by the CIA, and others, as well as increasingly stringent gun control legislation combined to make these guns a bit more expensive, as well as a bit harder to come by. By the end of the sixties, and early seventies, the prices on these guns went up quite a bit. This occurred to the extent that domestic gun manufacturers soon found it profitable to produce factory new versions. factory new civilian models, are being sold, or have been sold by Plainfield, Universal, Kahr arms, Auto Ordnance, Iver Johnson, and probably a number of others.
In the early eighties, everything changed again. Conservatism was again respectable, we had a great President, and a future Presidential candidate introduced an amendment to a pending bill, which would permit the importation of Military arms, produced in this country, and then sent overseas. This was to be a Godsend to the military collector, as well as to the recreational shooter. This was to have a particular effect on the market for the M-1 Carbine. Out of the over six million M-1 Carbines produced, something like five million of them had been sent, in various arms deals, or foreign aid packages, to other countries. Most of these were in storage, and could now be brought back home, to the waiting arms of eager collectors. The Dole amendment made possible the importation of large numbers of pistols, rifles, and other military arms. Large numbers of military rifles, including many Garands, and M-1 Carbines were brought into the country. Prices came down, and quality, as well as selection, were greatly increased.
This particular gun is an earlier Inland model, which was sent to Korea, to help arm the new South Korean Army. In addition to their being inexpensive, and there being large numbers on hand. the M-1 Carbine was thought a suitable arm, because of it small size, and light weight. Most soldiers in the Korean Army were of small stature, when compared to their American counterparts. The gun was refinished, and stored at the Blue Sky Arsenal, which was the same place from which My M-1 Garand came. These guns were imported by a number of companies, notably Century Arms.
Today, there is a huge resurgence in the popularity of the old M-1. This is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, there is a wealth of information available on the guns; but there is also a corresponding increase in price. This has created a real problem for the aspiring M-1 collector, or shooter. The increasing prices mean that there is now a flourishing trade in counterfeits. There are counterfeit guns, parts, accessories, bayonets, and magazines. Whole guns are being counterfeited, with common guns being reworked to look like rare collector models. There is a recent page on the website of the DCM, warning would be buyers about the glut of counterfeit, and low quality, 30 round magazines flooding the market. As with most things in our increasingly decivilized world, constant vigilance is required.