The American arms industry reached all new heights with its commitment in World War 2. Much of the existing stock of guns were primarily left over from the previous world war so initiatives were underway to provide the American infantryman with all new solutions. While perhaps the most famous initiative became the M1 Garand self-loading automatic service rifle, the smaller, lighter M1 Carbine certainly deserves its fair share of credit for helping to "win the war" for the allies. The weapon would go on to serve with all manner of units including the famous American airborne soldier of World War 2. Veterans would compliment the rifle considerably - marking it as a very fine, easy to fire and lightweight weapon. The carbine was produced in 6,500,000 examples, topping that of even the fine M1 Garand series and making its mark as the most-produced American small arm of World War 2. The M1 Carbine served with US forces until 1973.
In 1938, the US Army delivered a request to the Ordnance Department for a lightweight select-fire automatic service rifle chambered for a . 30 caliber pistol round to arm various first- and second-line units with a more capable weapon beyond service rifles and pistols. Among these units were machine gun and mortar teams whose cargo was dominated by heavy equipment. These personnel would need a sufficient weapon to which arm themselves with in the event their positions were threatened. While the M1 Garand was an excellent service rifle in its own right, it proved too cumbersome to manage for such overburdened units. The new weapon would also be called to serve rear units such as logistics personnel whose secondary role would be fighting. The initial proposal was not finalized until 1940 to which no fewer than 25 concerns were reached. Winchester was charged with designing the new cartridge. Since the cartridge had yet to be developed, design of the rifle itself was slowed somewhat at the outset.
Additional in-the-field service ultimately led to the more specialized M3 Carbine variant (based on the preceding M2). The M3 introduced mounting hardware for infrared scopes for low-light usage. The original iron sights were deleted. Their specialist nature assured that only 2,100 to 3,000 examples of the type were ultimately produced and began service in 1945.
Beyond its operations with American troops during World War 2, the M1 Carbine was also used by British forces in the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960) and by French forces in the in Indochina. British SAS, French Legionnaires, Israeli special forces and Belgium units also made use of the type. The weapon was featured in the Suez Crisis, Cuban Revolution, Cambodian Civil War and the Angolan Civil War as well as other notable regional wars. America retained the M1 Carbine in its inventory through the Korean War (1950-1953) and most of the Vietnam War (1955-1975). Some M1 Carbines were even reconstituted for Germany Army service in the event of capture during World War 2 and these were designated as "Selbstladekarabiner 455(a)" - the "a" signifying their American origins ("Amerika"). Overall, operators were numerous and went on to include Algeria, Austria, Burma, Cambodia, West Germany, Greece, Italy, Laos, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Uruguay to name a few (see operators list for full disclosure).
Production required massive efforts and the M1 was manufactured by Inland Division (General Motors), Winchester Repeating Arms, Irwin-Pederson, Saginaw Steering Gear Division (General Motors), Underwood Elliot Fisher, National Postal Meter, Quality Hardware Mfg Corporation, International Business Machines, Standard Products, Rock-Ola Mfg Corporation and Commercial Controls Corporation. Inland Division managed 2,632,097 examples alone, making it the largest manufacturer of the M1 Carbine. Additional post-war production was added through the Japanese Howa concern under US supervision during rebuilding.
Success of the M1 Garand in wartime brought about its availability in the civilian market in the decades following.
- Close Quarters Battle (CQB) / Personal Security
- Frontline / Assault
905 mm (35. 63 in)
460 mm (18. 11 in)
5. 47 lb (2. 48 kg)
Iron Front and Rear; Optional Optics
Gas Operated, Short-Stroke Piston; Semi-Automatic
1,970 feet-per-second (600 meters-per-second)
600 ft (183 m; 200 yd)
M1 - Original production model; semi-automatic fire-only; 15-round magazine; appearing mid-1942 onwards; 5,510,000 produced.
M1A1 - Folding wire metal stock primarily for airborne use; semi-automatic fire-only; 15-round magazine; 150,000 produced.
M1A2 - Proposed variant with improved sights; never produced.
M2 - Based on the M1 but with selective fire for semi- and full-automatic fire modes; 30-round magazine introduced; appearing in early-1945; 570,000 to 600,000 produced.
M3 - Based on the M2 with selective fire and 30-round magazine; mountings for specialized infrared scope; sans iron sights; appearing in 1945; 2,100 to 3,000 produced.
Ingram SAM-1 - Modern variant; based on the M1 Carbine; available in 5. 56x45mm NATO, 7. 62x39mm and 7. 62x51mm NATO chamberings.
Selbstladekarabiner 455(a) - Germany Army designation of captured American samples.