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M1 Carbine Family: M1, M1A1, M2, M3

The M1 Carbine was developed as a lightweight shoulder weapon to replace the .45 caliber M-1911 pistol to be carried by weapons crews and company grade officers. The objective was to provide better protection to service troops than standard issue pistols, when caught under surprise attack during envelopment movements by enemy forces.

U.S. Army Ranger in the vicinity of Pointe du Hoc, immediately after support of Omaha Beach landings, 6 June 1944.  He appears to be loading magazines for his M1 Carbine to the right.
U.S. Army Ranger in the vicinity of Pointe du Hoc, immediately after support of Omaha Beach landings, 6 June 1944.
He appears to be loading magazines for his M1 Carbine to the right.

More photos and videos of the M1 Carbine are available at the linked page.

Today in WW II: 16 Apr 1941 Britain receives 1st American Lend-Lease aid shipment across the German submarine-infested Atlantic.  More 
16 Apr 1945 After an immense artillery barrage, Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov's troops advance from the Oder River toward the Seelow Heights defenses of Berlin.
16 Apr 1945 German troop transport Goya sunk by Soviet submarine L-3, with loss of about 7,000 lives.
Visit the Olive-Drab.com World War II Timeline for day-by-day events 1939-1945! See also WW2 Books.

M1 Carbine Family of Weapons

The M1 Carbine is a family of weapons consisting of the U.S. Carbine M1, M1A1, M2 and M3. All models of the M1 Carbine family fired the "Cartridge, Caliber .30 , Carbine" in 15-round and 30-round magazines, a unique cartridge used only by the M1 Carbine family.

M1 Carbine and M1A1 Carbine

M1 Carbine History

MP with M2 Carbine
MP with M2 Carbine.

In September of 1941 the new Winchester-designed "Carbine, M1, .30 Caliber" won Ordnance approval and was adopted for service. As the M1 Carbine was originally issued, there was no bayonet lug but one was added by the end of the war. A fully automatic version was issued as the M2 Carbine, as in the photo to the left showing an M2 Carbine armed Vietnamese MP looking for contraband. Despite its convenience, many soldiers never liked the M1 Carbine and it had a reputation as underpowered and mechanically temperamental, not to mention inaccurate beyond about 150 yards. Nonetheless, the M1 Carbine proved an effective light weight weapon that was frequently carried for protection as something between a pistol and a full rifle.

The agreement with Winchester gave the U.S. Government rights which they used to license nine primary manufacturers to build M1 Carbines and its variants during World War II, using parts from scores of subcontractors. In addition to Winchester, M1 Carbines were made by two divisions of General Motors (Inland and Saginaw), IBM, Irwin-Pedersen Arms Co., National Postal Meter, Quality Hardware & Machine Corp., Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corporation, Standard Products, and Underwood-Elliott-Fisher.

M1 Carbine Models

The models in the M1 Carbine family consisted of:

  • M1 Carbine: Basic and most common variant, semi-automatic fire only. (Standardized September 1941)
  • M1A1 Carbine: semi-automatic only, with a folding metal buttstock, issued to paratroopers. All M1A1 Carbines were produced by the Inland Division of General Motors. Barrel and action assembly are identical to the M1 Carbine. (Standardized May 1942)
  • M2 Carbine: Selective fire, semi- or fully-automatic determined by selector switch on receiver top, left side. The M1 and M2 carbines are nearly identical except for the fire control group. (Standardized September 1944)
  • M3 Carbine: Sniper version of the M2 Carbine with a specially modified grooved receiver for mounting an active infrared 4X scope. It has no rear sight. Three versions of the scope were produced (M1, M2, M3). (Standardized August 1945)

M2 Carbine
Carbine, Caliber .30, M2.

M2 Carbine selector
Carbine, Caliber .30, M2 selector switch.

The M3 Carbine was produced in limited quantities, only a few thousand in total. This sniper version was used effectively in the Pacific on Okinawa during WW II and later in Korea. It may have been used in Vietnam, in the early phase of the war.

In contrast to the low volume M3 Carbine, 6.2 million M1 Carbines were manufactured by the nine World War II contractors during 38 months of production. No other weapon was produced in such large quantity during WW II. During the production life of the .30 Carbine family, there were many changes and improvements to the M1 parts design, including the safety, barrel, hammer, bolt, bayonet attachment, and sights. Accessories were produced including bayonet, magazine pouches, the M8 cleaning rod and pouch, brush and thong bore cleaner, oiler (lower sling swivel), M1 sling, carrying and airdrop cases, and M3 flash hider.

M1 Carbine Bayonet

The first M1 Carbines were designed in the late 1930s without a bayonet, but one was quickly developed and supplied. In May of 1944 the M-4 bayonet was standardized for use with the M-1 Carbine. Early M1 Carbines can be recognized from the missing bayonet lug. After World War II, the M1 Carbines and M2 Carbines have a ramp-type rear sight (photo, left) and a front barrel band with the bayonet lug assembly.


Recommended Books about the M1 Carbine

Technical Manual: TM 9-1276 was the Department of the Army Technical Manual for the M1 Carbine. It also covers the M1A1, M2 and M3 carbines.

Sniperscope, M2 mounted on M3 Carbine with flash hider.  Soldier is CPL Walter A. Dyson, 25th Infantry Division, Korea, 1951. The box on the ground is a lead-acid battery pack
M2 Sniperscope mounted on M3 Carbine with flash hider. Soldier is CPL Walter A. Dyson, 25th Infantry Division, Korea, 1951. The box on the ground is a lead-acid battery pack.

Learning marksmanship with the M1 Carbine at Warner Robins Air Service Command, Robins Field, Georgia, July 1943
Learning marksmanship with the M1 Carbine at Warner Robins Air Service Command, Robins Field, Georgia, July 1943.

Find More Information on the Internet

There are many fine websites that have additional information on this topic, too many to list here and too many to keep up with as they come and go. Use this Google web search form to get an up to date report of what's out there.

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