The M1 Carbine is much like Schrödinger’s Cat; in a state known as a quantum superposition where it is neither alive nor dead. In the M1 Carbine’s case, it’s neither loved or hated. It is there. A constant in the known world of firearms that through random events may or may not be loved or hated depending on when, where, and by whom it is fired.
Sprung from the mind of David Marshall Williams; a man with a long criminal history who was convicted of murder in North Carolina and later released due to his natural talent to design firearms while in the prison workshop.
The M1 Carbine was designed between 1938 to 1941 and formally adopted by the US Armed Forces on October 22, 1941. It saw commendable service in World War II where 6,121,309 total were built by companies all over the US during the war in two major types, the M1 and M1A1.
The spunky little gun was loved by all in the European and Pacific theaters of operation. The M1 Carbine was a fantastic little rifle, loved by anyone who had to hump one on a march. It was considered by many service members to be superior to the .45 caliber submachine guns in use at the time in accuracy, weight, and penetration due to its lighter, but higher velocity .30 caliber cartridge.
The first M1 Carbines were delivered in mid-1942, with initial priority given to troops in the European Theater and the carbine was widely issued to infantry officers, American paratroopers, NCOs, ammunition bearers, forward artillery observers, and other frontline troops. The M1 Carbine gained generally high praise for its small size, light weight and firepower.
In the Pacific theater, soldiers and guerrilla forces operating in heavy jungle with only occasional enemy contact praised the carbine for its small size, light weight, and firepower. Especially since the carbine’s bullets would easily penetrate the front and back of steel helmets, as well as the body armor used by Japanese forces of the era.
Additionally, the carbine’s exclusive use of non-corrosive primered ammunition was a godsend by troops and ordnance personnel serving in the Pacific, where barrel corrosion was a significant issue.
At the later stages of WWII, the M1 Carbine was made full-auto and the M2 Carbine was born. It continued to see service with the US Armed Forces and other nations in such conflicts like the Hukbalahap Rebellion, Malayan Emergency, Suez Crisis, Korean War, Cuban Revolution, First Indochina War, Vietnam War, Laotian Civil War, Cambodian Civil War, The Troubles, Angolan Civil War, Lebanese Civil War, and the Mexican Drug War.
The M1 was less well loved during the Korean War. It had acquired a widespread reputation for jamming in extreme cold weather, this being eventually traced to weak return springs, freezing of parts due to overly viscous lubricants and inadequate cartridge recoil impulse as the result of subzero temperatures.
There were also many complaints from individual soldiers and marines that the carbine’s bullet failed to stop heavily clothed North Korean and Chinese solders, even at close range and after multiple hits.
The padded jacket most commonly encountered on DPRK and PRC troopers was the Soviet produced Telogreika like those seen on Chinese solders surrendering to a Marine wielding a M1 Carbine.
Fellow Arfcommer and gun buddy, Old_Painless proved that the .30 Carbine can easily pierce frozen clothing and put a Nork or ChiCom down. But the rumor continued then and sadly to this day does so too.
During the Vietnam War, the US Armed Forces used the M1 Carbine as did the Republic of Korea and the Republic of Vietnam. It is stated that 793,994 M1 and M2 Carbines were given to ARVN forces between 193 to 1973 and that another 1,015,568 M1 and M2 Cabrines were given to ROK Forces between 1963 to 1972. South Korea deployed 300,000 troops during the Vietnam War and the M1 Carbine was their primary service rifle.
During the war, US Forces, South Vietnamese Forces, South Korean Forces, and even the Vietcong loved the M1 Carbine for its light handling, compactness, high capacity due to the improved 30rd magazines, and overall reliability. They were so prized that even commercially produced M1 Carbines made for the US Civilian Market were used. But also during the same war, US troops tried to get their hands on M14 rifles in 7.62 NATO. Or, once the kinks were worked out, the M16.
So as far as the US Armed Services were concerned, The M1 as at times both loved and hated. It is as if we have yet to actually peer into the box, much like Schrödinger checking on his cat.
See part 2 here.