The U. S. Carbine, cal. 30, M1

The U. S. Carbine. cal. 30, M1 was a gas-operated, magazine-fed,
air-cooled, self-loading shoulder weapon. US Army

Weight with full magazine and sling: 5.75 pounds
Length: 35.5 inches
Maximum effective range: 300 yards
Method of loading: 15 round magazine

The M1 carbine was developed for troops who needed more firepower than a pistol could offer, but who could not be burdened with the weight of the service rifle. It was intended primarily to equip officers, heavy weapons crewmen, communicators, etc. The U.S. Army first issued a requirement for a light rifle in June 1940.

The Army specified that the new rifle would fire a .30 caliber rimless cartridge. Nine companies submitted prototypes and extensive tests were conducted in the Spring and Fall of 1941. On 30 September 1941 the Army Ordnance Department accepted the Winchester design as the winner, and this weapon became the M1 carbine. The Marine Corps adopted the M1 carbine almost immediately.

Navy Corpsman Danny Thomas, E 2/23, 4th MarDiv, in training at Camp Maui, Hawaii, prior to the invasion of Iwo Jima. His carbine lies on top of his medical bag. Photo courtesy of Danny Thomas.

From the first deliveries in 1941 until production ceased in mid-1945, more than 6,200,000 carbines were delivered to the armed forces. Ten firms produced the weapons, representing a cross section of American industry. Winchester, a historic firearms company, built more than 800,000 carbines. GM's Inland Manufacturing Division built an astonishing 2,600,000. Other companies, not so well known, also built these handy little weapons. Among them were National Postal Meter, and Rock-Ola, best known for building juke boxes.

As the war progressed, changes were made to the carbine to keep pace with developments on the battlefronts. Late in its production run, the carbine was equipped with a bayonet lug and specially-designed bayonet. Also, the rear sight was changed from the original L-type aperture to a gradiated and adjustable sight. A folding stock version, the M1A1, was fielded, and this weapon also came into the hands of Marines.

A 4th Marine Division .30 caliber light machine gun team in action during the Marshall Islands campaign, February 1944. The assistant gunner is armed with an M1 carbine for close-in defense. The gunner keep his carbine close at hand. USMC Photo

As more and more carbines were issued in the Marine Corps, many Leathernecks and attached Naval medical personnel received the weapons as replacements for their pistols. An article in The Marine Corps Gazette addressed the issue:

"It is one thing to stand on a well-policed firing point on a nice spring day and carefully aim in at a nice round, black bullseye superimposed on a lovely white background. It is quite another to run up a hill, stumble over a log, fall into a water filled shell crater, then aim in with a palsied hand at an erratically moving target which would just as soon exchange a few with you in transit.

The pistol carriers will argue that it is better to be inadequately armed than not to be armed at all. The odd thing is that you occasionally run across ex-pistol carriers who gave gotten tangled up in a few torrid skirmishes. Significantly, they're always carrying carbines or rifles…

A pistol carries about half as much ammunition as a carbine… This means you are obliged to change magazines twice as often for the same amount of fire." (1)

Maximum effective range is all with the carbine… [T]he maximum effective range of a pistol in combat [is] five to seven yards… They both jam on occasion, but the pistol has more functional jams… Neither of them takes any prizes as "brush cutters" or penetrators, but in this field too the carbine has the advantage."

The carbine did not have the range or penetrating power of the service rifle's ammunition, but it was never intended to replace the M1. Still, carbine was so handy, it was an appealing choice for many Marines, especially in units that had not yet been exposed to combat. Weighing less than six pounds, it was much lighter than its big brother, the M1 rifle. To cite one of what must have been many examples of this phenomenon, during the Marshall Islands campaign in early 1944, the 4th Marine Division went into battle equipped with many carbines:

"In addition, the 22nd Marines lacked the prescribed numbers of rifles and automatic rifles. Before the operation began, many Marines had discarded these weapons in favor of carbines, but the bullets fired from the lighter weapons lacked the killing power of rifle ammunition. "The BARmen and riflemen," recalled an officer of the 22nd Marines, "seemed very happy to discard their carbines and take up their former weapons prior to the Parry landings." (2)

Although the M1 carbine looked somewhat like a downsized M1 rifle, it was a completely different weapon. In its intended role as an improved weapon for Marines who had previously carried pistols, the carbine served well and was a practical and useful firearm. It remained in the Marine Corps' inventory for many years after the war, making it a classic weapon of the Corps.

The M1 .30 caliber Carbine in the Marine Infantry Regiment

Number of carbines
D-series (1942)
E-series (1943)
F-series (1944)
G-series (1945)

The M1 .30 caliber Carbine in the Marine Division

Number of carbines
D-series (1942)
E-series (1943)
F-series (1944)
G-series (1945)


A 2nd Marine Division infantryman in action during the assault on Tarawa, November 1943. Armed with an M1 carbine, this Marine is preparing to move forward with belts of .30 caliber machine gun ammunition. USMC Photo

(1) Anonymous."Arms For Officers." Marine Corps Gazette.November 1944.
(2) Shaw, Henry, I., et al. Central Pacific Drive, History of USMC Operations in World War II. Historical Branch, US Marine Corps. 1966.
(3) Information on manufacturers and statistics extracted from Bruce Canfield's outstanding book, US Infantry Weapons of World War II. Andrew Mowbray Publishers. 1998.







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