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The M1 Carbine - A brief history
RJ Militaria

m1 carbine

The M1 carbine produced and issued in larger quantities than any other US small arms in the second World War. Production began in August 1941 through to August 1945, accounting for over 6 million rifles, produced by 10 main contractors.

m1 firing range The origin of the weapon began in June 1940, with the proposal of a light rifle. The German Blitzkrieg tactics had demonstrated how the use of fast moving tanks and armour meant non-combat and support troops could quickly be involved in fighting. It was proposed that this light rifle was needed as a weapon to replace the pistol and to be less restrictive than a standard rifle or sub machine gun. The proposed weapon was to be semi-automatic and would fire a new .30 cal round designed by Winchester, approved in early 1941.

Winchester put forward a design for the new light rifle which beat competition from four other manufactures including designs by Colt and John Garand. The Winchester design was selected at the end of September 1941 and officially adopted as the US carbine, Calibre .30 M1.

m1 firing rangem1 normandy

Production initially began on the new light rifle by Winchester and the Inland Division of General Motors, however the attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941 and the subsequent entry of the US into the war, lead to an urgent need for more weapons. Since the number of rear echelon troops would always be higher than front line troops, the capacity of Inland and Winchester, was not deemed to be sufficient and in early 1942 production was handed out to another eight prime contractors.

Wartime Production Figures for each are provided below.

Prime Contractor Production Figure
Inland Division, General Motors 2,632,097
Winchester 828,059
Underwood-Elliot-Fisher 545,616
Saginaw Steering Gear, General Motors 517,212
National Postal Meter 413,017
Quality Hardware 359,666
IBM 346,500
Standard Products 247,160
Rock-Ola 228,500

Approximately 140,00 of these weapons were the M1A1 carbine. This was the more compact version of the gun with a folding stock specifically designed for paratroops.

m1 normandy

Manufactured only by the Inland Division in two General runs, both of approximately 70,000. Initially only issued to 101st and 82nd airborne units in late 1942, and given eventually to all airborne units and Marine Corps.

m1 firing rangem1 normandy

The M1 carbine was at first very popular with the troops owing to its small size and light weight. However, as the gun began to see more actual front line service, there were complaints about the guns range and stopping power. Also, the early sights had no adjustment for windage leading to inaccuracy. It must be said however, that the M1 carbine still did have many proponents and was the preferred weapon of many troops.

Interestingly captured M1 carbine were used by the Germans. It was known officially at the Selbsladekarabiner 455(a). The following pictures are from a well know sequence shot near Poteau in the Ardennes, captured by the US 3rd Armored Division, showing German Fallschirmjägers and SS Leibstandarte with captured M1 carbines.

m1 firing rangem1 normandym1 normandym1 normandy

Towards the end of the war, the M1 carbine was adapted to be capable of fully automatic fire by use of a selective fire switch. This officially became the M2 carbine, adopted in October 1944. By this stage only Winchester and Inland were still in production and so would be the only manufactures of the M2. Many M1 carbines however were converted to fully automatic fire by use of conversion kits.

The M3 carbine was another variant of the carbine. This was basically an M2 fitted with an infrared night vision scope.

m1 firing range

The M1 carbine continued to see active service by US forces in the Korean war (1950-53) and later in the Vietnam war. It was also exported for use by US allies such as South Korea. 

m1 firing range

Technical Data:
Calibre: .30 cal
Length of weapon: 35.5" / 905mm
Length of Barrel: 18"
Muzzle velocity: 1990fps / 967 ft-lbs
Rate of fire: M2 full auto 650rpm
Max Range: 300 yrds
Sights: 2,000m
Weight: 5.5 lbs
Magazine Capacity: 15 or 30 round box magazine
Operation: M1 / M1A1 semi automatic, M2 / M3 selective

> The M1 Carbine Part2 

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