Schrödinger’s Rifle: The US . 30 Caliber, M1 Carbine Part 2

As mentioned in part 1, other than direct US involvement, the M1 Carbine saw service across the globe both in legitimate government service and in the hands of other non-governmental parties. And again, it was both loved and hated at the same time depending on who you ask.

Cuba & Bolivia

Ernesto “Che’ Guevara in Las Villas, Cuba, 1958

The 26th of July Movement in Cuba loved the M1 Carbine and the .30 Carbine cartridge. It was a step above the Springfield M1903 rifles they were capturing from government armories and the nearby Dominican Republic made their own modified version, the .30 Kiraly-Cristóbal Carbine which were also used in Cuba during the Cuban Revolution..

Felix Rodriguez, pictured above on the left next to Che Guevara

The M1 and M2 carbines were also used against Ernesto “Che” Guevara in Bolivia. Félix Rodríguez, a Cuban exile turned CIA Special Activities Division operative, advised Bolivian Special Forces and captured Guevara in the Yuro ravine in south central Bolivia

Bolivian Special Forces and the regular Army used the M1 Garand along with the M1 and M2. The carbines were especially well-liked due to their compactness and light weight. Those were great features when scouring the mountains for communist guerrillas.

La Higuera, Bolivia, October 9, 1967

Northern Ireland

Royal Ulster Constabulary during The Troubles.

RUC Officer with M1 Carbine in foreground.

As mentioned in our Ruger Mini-14 article, the Royal Ulster Constabulary was involved in heavy police action against the IRA and PIRA during “the troubles.” Originally, the RUC armed their officers with M1 carbines, but the situation was heating up as the IRA and PIRA became better armed due to their American cousins in Boston and Uncle Gaddafi in Libya providing them with both money and arms.

RUC Officers with Ruger AC556 and M1 Carbine.

In 1979, the M1 Carbine was retired with the Ruger Mini-14 since they wanted something with more punch but a similar general layout.


Israeli Mash’az (Police Civil Guard)

Israel has had a long history with the M1 Carbine. Ever since the 1948 Arab–Israeli War when the Palmach, special forces of the Haganah, the underground army of the Yishuv (Jewish community) during the period of the British Mandate for Palestine had them smuggled in. Since then, Israel has purchased and received M1 Carbines and continues to use them to this day.


Dutch Army’s 543 Signal Bat. at Gilze Rijen Range, 1993

The Netherlands received a total 84,523 M1 Carbines after WWII. Both the Army and the Rijkspolitie (Dutch National Police) used them as did the the Nederlands Indisch Leger; KNIL (Royal Netherlands East Indies Army). Which they put them to combat service during the Indonesian War of Independence in the late 1940s.


French Commando, Algeria

The United States provided France with 269,644 M1 and M2 Carbines from World War II to 1963. The M1 carbine was used by the French Paratroopers and Foreign Legionnaires during the First Indochina War against the Việt Minh and Algerian War against the FLN.

Foreign Legion during First Indochina War.

The French classified it as the Mousqueton Américain M1 Calibre .30 (M1 Carbine, American, .30-caliber).


Mexican Police, 1995

Mexico received a total 48,946 M1 Carbines to be used for their various police departments across the country.

Non-Governmental Parties

Black Panthers, Sacramento CA, 1967


Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army, 1974

In the US, the M1 Carbine was extremely popular with a number of groups. The Black Panther Party and the Symbionese Liberation Army both put them to use. This was due to three factors.

One, they were extremely affordable as WWII surplus. Two, they were lightweight and handy to use. And three, they had 15 and 30 round mags available.

Patty Hearst put one into action when she robbed the Sunset District branch of the Hibernia Bank in San Francisco on April 15, 1974.

And then there’s the famous Ebony Magazine photo of Malcolm X holding an M1 in September, 1964 when he was protecting his family from Nation of Islam members who had threatened him.

Malcolm X holding an M1 Carbine and peering out a window.

The M1 Carbine saw and continues to see service across the globe. Both in official and unofficial capacities. Its commercial production has never truly stopped, made by various manufacturers over the years of various quality. Some where great and some…weren’t.

Various ads of US made commercial M1 Carbines.

The one of the more famous commercial production guns that worked well were the Iver Johnson-made Plainfield carbines. They were at first built with surplus USGI parts and ran well. The other famous one are the ones made by the Universal Company out of Hialeah, FL. At first they were of the same quality as the Iver Johnsons, but when they ran out of quality-made surplus parts they redesigned the M1 Carbine and that’s where problems started to arise.

A rare one here is the US is the very high quality M1 Carbine made by Howa of Japan. Marketed at a commercial hunting rifle, it didn’t sell very well, but was made to exquisite quality and finish levels.

Today, the M1 Carbine is made and marketed by three different companies. Khar Arms through their Auto-Ordance Corp. brand, James River Armory through their Rockola brand, and Fulton Armory.

The M1 Carbine can be slicked up and modernized or kept simple, depending on the user’s needs. Ultimak and Choate Machine & Tool make excellent accessories for the M1 Carbine.

As for accuracy, the M1 Carbine is capable if the shooter is able to do his/her part correctly.

50 yards

Cleaning and field stripping is a breeze, especially since all WWII and post-war US-made surplus ammo was non-corrosive.

In the end, opinions still vary as to the handy little M1. Is it loved? Is it hated? It depends on who’s using it and why. All I know is when I open my safe like Schrödinger did to check on his cat, my M1 is still very much alive and well.

Courtesy of A. Valdes



  1. avatar Bloving says:

    Malcolm the Tenth needed to get his booger hook off the bang switch.

    1. avatar Bearpaw says:

      His upstairs neighbors would agree.

  2. avatar Rokurota says:

    The M1 Carbine and the K31 are the favorites in my safe. The M1 feels more compact and manageable in the hand, even though the AR-15 is shorter. And it’s so easy to operate. Too bad more arms don’t use the .30 Carbine — or I should say, it’s too bad the M1 Carbine isn’t made in other calibers.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      I’ve heard the question “Why can’t someone make a M1 Carbine in chambering XYZ?” for years and years – since at least the 90’s, when we had the Clinton/Feinstein/Schumer “Ban on Some Scary Looking Rifles” legislation.

      Here’s what I think lots of folks miss about the M1 Carbine. What those who love the little carbine like about it usually comes down to a) the magazine capacity, and b) the light weight, compact dimensions, etc. I’ve never heard someone brag on the accuracy of their carbine, or the effective range, or the power of the cartridge. No, it always comes down to how light, handy, compact and unobtrusive the carbine is to pack around.

      OK, let’s say we re-chamber a M1 Carbine for a pistol round, eg, 9x19mm. Will you get the muzzle velocity of the .30 Carbine round? Probably not. The .30 Carbine is running a nominal chamber pressure of 40K PSI. That’s higher than most handgun rounds (modulo the really hot hunting rounds in the hand-cannon revolvers like the .454 Casull, .480 Ruger, .Linebaugh’s rounds, etc). The .30 Carbine is running hotter pressures than the .357 or .44, the 10mm, the 9×19, etc, etc. So going to a pistol cartridge isn’t going to gain you much. Oh, sure, you might get a heavier bullet, and a bigger diameter bullet. But let’s be realistic here – most pistol rounds aren’t more effective than the .30 Carbine in terminal ballistics – they’re on par. You can get expanding pills in .30 carbine loads now, and those will be on-par with expanding pistol ammo performance.

      Most handgun rounds you could put into a M1 Carbine won’t have a muzzle velocity as fast as the .30 Carbine – so while you might be gaining bullet mass, you’re giving up the flatter trajectory of the .30 Carbine.

      OK, so let’s talk about putting in a rifle cartridge – eg, 5.56 NATO (or some such). Now we’re up over 60K PSI chamber pressures, and now the receiver, bolt and barrel need to be beefed up to handle the pressure. That means more weight, possibly a bigger package. Now the folks who love the light weight, compact dimensions, handiness, etc are losing that lovin’ feeling.

      So by changing away from the .30 Carbine, you’re losing something either way – pistol or light rifle round – and only by going to the light rifle round (eg, 5.56) are you gaining a substantial ballistic improvement. Once you’re using something like a 5.56, why would you mess about with a re-designed M1 instead of an AR-something pattern rifle/carbine?

      Folks should accept the M1 Carbine for what it is. It’s a handy little rifle, light, compact, reasonably accurate for the job it is supposed to do (ie, replace a sidearm). The .30 Carbine cartridge isn’t the worst cartridge one could have in such a package, and while it might not be the best, it’s an improvement in some aspects over conventional pistol rounds. It was meant to replace the sidearms of troops who didn’t have infantry & small arms combat as their primary mission specialty – and it did that job pretty well.

      Now, if you’re someone who doesn’t like the M1 Carbine, no cartridge swap is going to make you love it, so for that audience the point is moot.

      1. avatar Rokurota says:

        I like the .30 Carbine round a lot, but it’s an odd duck. Having an M1 Carbine chambered in, say, .357, would allow me to stop buying this weird, expensive ammo. Or to go with a non-rimmed cartridge, 10mm. I know it’s the same complaint everyone throws out when a new gun is intro’d (Looks great! Now make it in .204 Ruger!). But this isn’t a new gun. Someone besides Chiappa must have figured out how to make an M1 Carbine in 9mm. Or maybe not. Maybe the poorly reviewed Chiappa is the only way to get an M1 in a common round. I dunno.

        1. avatar Bob Jones says:

          IIRC Ruger had their own carbine in .44magnum in the old old days. Never hear anything about them anymore. Maybe the power was too much. It would simplify ammo hoarding if combined with a pistol for a minimal firearm setup.

        2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          Bob – yes, Ruger did make such a carbine. They were handy little rifles, much like the M1 Carbine, a tad heavier. They had a horrible trigger on them until a gunsmith goes in and cleans things up a bit.

          I don’t know why Ruger discontinued them. They’re excellent little deer-getting carbines in the midwest…

        3. avatar DrewN says:

          The thing is, .30 carbine is pretty perfect for what it is. Against unarmored people, it’s everything you need and not much you don’t. I’ve seen it in use a decent amount, and most folks stopped fighting after being hit. I mean, if I was part of a human wave attack and going to get shot from behind if I faltered I might be more inclined to suck up a few and try and keep fighting,but 99% of everyone else isn’t so motivated.

        4. avatar LazrBeam says:

          Got one of the Ruger .44 mag carbines. It’s a good deer/hog gun for the dense woods of the Southeast, too. Wish it would take a box magazine instead of the four round tube magazine. But, it’s a really slick gun. Ruger should still make them. Bet they’d sell well.

        5. avatar TrapperKLK says:

          I could see an m1 in something like 10mm. I would buy it!

      2. avatar Nickel Plated says:

        “OK, so let’s talk about putting in a rifle cartridge – eg, 5.56 NATO (or some such).”

        They did. It’s called a Mini-14

        1. avatar Kendahl says:

          And, as Dyspeptic predicted, the Mini-14 is a pound and a half heavier than the M1 carbine.

        2. avatar Nickel Plated says:

          Well that tends to happen when you’re dealing with a more powerful cartridge that requires the rifle to be beefed up.
          It’s kinda like how people will ride a motorcycle and fawn over how light and nimble it is, if only it had a few hundred more CCs and double the horsepower. Well it ain’t gonna be so light and nimble anymore.

          Also; “Schrodinger’s Rifle”? Really? Schrodinger’s Gat was too hard to come up with? And you call yourselves writers.

        3. avatar Splic3r says:

          +1 Nickel Plated

      3. avatar darkstar says:

        Great rundown Dys. (As your other one was in part 1 of this series). All so true. Folks it’s almost 80 years old (the design) it cant possibly compare to current technologies. They are fun, handy rifles to mess about with. Plus, they are fun to collect. Always a blast finding that one obscure part stamped with the correct manufacturer code to complete your carbine…(I have an Underwood that is missing the swivel from the front barrel band and an oiler)

    2. avatar PissedOffVeteran says:

      I don’t know if they still make it but when I was in the Navy in Japan cica 1965 they had the standard ole 30 cal and an optional 44Cal. Don’t know if the 44cal was magnum or not. I started to buy one then at the price for navy personnel was about fifty bucks. Didn’t though because I’d have had to take it to the ship and turn it in to the gunners mates to store for me until going home. NOPE! Stuff disappeared and or was broken by those folks.

  3. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    The German police forces were also issued M1 Carbines during the 10 year occupation of Germany post-WWII. I’ve seen carbines with Bavarian police markings on them. I think some were also issues in Austria.

    1. avatar Southern Cross says:

      During WW2 the Nazis captured and reissued so many M1 carbines they even gave them an official designation and printed manuals for them.

    2. avatar TrappedInCommiefornia says:

      I could be mistaken, but I believe my father-in-law’s m1 has bavarian police stamped on it. Nice to know why.

  4. avatar little horn says:

    from what i have read, the only people that liked them are people who didn’t have it issued as their primary battle rifle. especially in Vietnam. so basically they are calling it a range/fun gun.

    1. avatar PissedOffVeteran says:

      In Vietnam I chose it because of almost every reason you have heard why anyone would. But my primary reason was ammo.
      I very seldom used my M-14 on full automatic so I always had ammo left after eveyone else hosed the jungle down on full auto and they all came to me for more. So I stole the little Carbine and never had to give up my ammo again. I still love that little popper.

  5. avatar el Possum Guapo Standartenfuher " they think we're making pizza's Oberst von Burn says:

    A Korean war vet once berated my ability to hit a clam shell on the opposite side of a river( “you only get one shot”). He expounded on the abilities of that rifle to hit that target up to 3 hundred yards. I handed the rifle to him to “Sho me”
    ” Oh” , he says ” that’s not the same rifle” as he was so drunk he had confused an M1 Carbine with an M1 Garand… Korea the forgotten war, some of the vets tales of adventure are quite horrific. The human wave, women and children first, had to suck for a U.S. machine gunner…… Kinda pissed “We” fought those wars (Kor/Nam) to defeat Communism , now every damned thing you buy is Made in China,,,,,,,the rants not done I’m just getting started, ,

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      Probably a good idea to never hand weapon to someone who’s too drunk to tell the difference between an M1 Garand and an M1 Carbine.

    2. avatar PissedOffVeteran says:

      Well I’ll double down with you on your rant.
      I fear we will be full blown Communist in a year or two. Maybe less with the way the Democrats are going at it.

  6. avatar Michael says:

    I think there was proprietary cartridge, the 5.7 Spitfire/Johnson, a .30 cal. carbine round necked down to .22 cal. It was written up in the gun magazines back in the late ’60s early ’70s . I don’t know if it was ever commercially available. If anyone else knows about this cartridge, please post. I’m thinking about a Ruger .30 cal. Blackhawk with a barrel sleeved down to .22. It’s projects like this that help keep my mind off of all of the political stuff I can’t do anything about. -30-

    1. avatar Another Mike says:

      Yes it was produced and had a small dedicated following. However they got old and the younger guys showed little interest. I had the opportunity to purchase a 5.7 Spitfire (Melvin M. Johnson designed the round, same guy as the Johnson rifle and MG of WW2) set up, rifle, cases, dies, etc. a few years ago. Passed on it. Niche crowd.

      I think if they could get the gas to work, a .22 TCM would be good. Cut down 5.56 cases (parent case of the TCM) easily fit into a carbine magazine. Then you could pack your Rock Island 1911 and carbine, both shooting the same hot little round. Funny thing is the Philippians has plenty of the rifles and RIA could knock out quite a few converted to fire the round, if they saw the interest.

  7. avatar James W Crawford says:

    The fact that British security forces in Ireland traded in their .30 caliber M-1 Carbines for Ruger Mini 14 s chambered for 5.56mm raises questions about the sanity of people who have a fetish for ARs chambered in 300 Blackout.

    1. avatar Mike says:

      M1 Carbine was good for its day, and was a great Police round. It would make a great home defense round nowadays. Light weight gun, short range. However a M4, or short AR15 is cheaper, an penetrate body armor and is more readily available.
      Many Special Forces, including the SAS used M1 carbines.
      Releigh NC Museum has an exhibit on “carbine Williams”

      Great for its day, better options now.

      1. avatar James W Crawford says:

        I absolutely agree with you about the M1 Carbine being great for its day. I wish that I had not neglected to buy one back when they were still inexpensive.
        However; semiautomatic rifles chambered for 5.56 mm or .223 are just as light and handy. More importantly, the external ballistics and internal ballistics of .223 or 5.56mm are vastly superior to the 300 Blackout which is so similar in performance to the .30 Carbine round. It is one of the few examples where larger caliber is NOT better. The longer, higher velocity .22″ diameter bullet is going to shoot flatter and actually inflict greater wound volume.

        The only apparent advantage of a .300 Blackout is that when loaded with heavy weight, subsonic bullets it will be nearly silent when shot through a suppressor.

        Anyone who has seen what happens to an AR when you accidentally load a magazine of 300 Blackout ammo in a rifle chambered for 5.56mm would understand that the imaginary advantages of the 300 Blackout are not worththe very real risks.

    2. avatar Ardent says:

      I’d say that choice, .30 to 5.56 went something like the .30 is perfect for police work – in and around buildings, in and around cars, then the troubles came and the fighting opened up beyond the end of the block at the same time as the M1s were getting older and spare parts becoming harder to find. Thus a new rifle, and in a more potent cartridge. Also, when issued, the m1 was seeing british military service, when replaced it was obsolete and the army was using a 5.56 carbine…

      Going from 5.56 to .300 is sort of the performance argument in reverse. The 5.56 is a bit over penatrative at inside the house range and doesn’t have the terminal effect one might like when still going at such high velocity, while the .300 shines up close and personal. However, the only justification for the cost I can really see is if youre using a suppressor. .300 is available and effective in subsonic loadings. Firing 5.56 super sonic is still very loud, and subsonic not very effective.

  8. avatar LKB says:

    If you like the M1 Carbine (and I do), a fun mate for it is the Ruger Blackhawk in .30 cal. The same ammo that’s soft shooting from the M1 definitely gets your attention when shot from a wheelgun.

    1. avatar Another Mike says:

      You think the Ruger gets looks, try the AMT Automag in .30 carbine. That is a fire breather. Only shot one once, it was quite an experience.

      1. avatar DrewN says:

        All Automags draw a crowd. I need to bring a bunch of extra ammo when I bust out the .44. Non gun folks know that thing when they have no idea what a 10-22 is.

    2. avatar Kendahl says:

      A friend of mine has a Blackhawk in .30 carbine. It’s more comfortable to shoot than .357s from my 6″ S&W Model 19. The .30 carbine loads were hot enough to make extraction difficult.

  9. avatar skiff says:

    Great photos and well written. The M1 Carbine was also a favorite for mobsters in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

  10. avatar AZgunner says:

    In the section of the article where you mention modern reproductions, you forgot to mention the Inland carbines which, from what I’ve read, are quite well regarded.

  11. avatar Ralph says:

    Y’know who really hated the M1 Carbine? Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, who was shot to death with one.

    1. avatar skiff says:

      Joseph ‘The Baron’ Barboza was the first person admitted into the Federal witness protection program. He was a hit man for the Patriarca crime family. After ratting everyone out in court, he assumed a new life in San Francisco where he was gunned down in 1976 with a shotgun and a M1 carbine.

  12. avatar Vlad Tepes says:

    the M1 carbine case was once necked down to 5.56mm and marketed and called the 5.7mm spitfire but never really caught on.

  13. avatar Ark says:

    Pity they’re so damn pricey now for how ubiquitous and cheap they used to be. I submit the M1 carbine as a rebuttal to anyone who says nobody ever owned “assault weapons” until the 2000s. The AR platform has become what the M1 was: An affordable, handy, ubiquitous, practical civilian/LE armament that can be used easily and effectively even by marginal shooters.

  14. avatar RocketScientist says:

    Ah I love that picture of Che in chains. The day he became a good communist, 50 years ago last week.

    1. avatar PissedOffVeteran says:

      Yeah, me too!
      My blood boils when I see teen ager’s and twenty somethings wearing a Tee shirt with Che’s image on it.
      Makes me want to tear it off them and practice a little hand to hand to keep proficient. They are so damned ignorant.

  15. avatar Jim Macklin says:

    Military surplus ammo was a big reason for the popularity of the M1 and movies using the M2 didn’t hurt.
    It was cheap to own and shoot from 1955 to 1970. Then ammo prices went up, fewer guns were available and new commercial production was higher priced.

  16. avatar Larry Osburn says:

    Did you know that Malcolm X was committing a felony by possessing his gun. Felon in possession of a firearm is a big no no. I sympathize with his wanting to protect his family. The nation of islam was out to get him but he was breaking the law by arming himself. He was a convicted felon.

    1. avatar Ralph Baldi says:

      He got arround that by having his wife buy /own it. She was not a felon.

  17. avatar ebd10 says:

    The Israelis liked the .30 Carbine cartridge so much, they designed the semi-auto ‘Magal’ police carbine around it. It took M1 Carbine magazines and was considered effective in urban areas.

  18. avatar Frank says:

    I had one in nam I cut the barrel and the stack grate side arm

  19. Evening,
    We noticed you took a liking to our M1 Carbine anatomy photo, we are very happy with how it turned out as well. Please credit us for the photo work here and going forward.

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