When you mention the .30 Carbine cartridge in any conversation about firearms it quickly goes one of two distinct ways. The first is stories about it being a fun to shoot lightweight rifle, the second is the tales of being underpowered and not a caliber that can stop a man. A point that can be argued by the thousands of enemy soldiers it killed on all fronts it was deployed to. In my opinion the amount of lies and misinformation that has been piled onto the history of this cartridge is a shame. In this article we will address some of them and take a deep look into the enigma that surrounds this cartridge that served the United States in some form for more than 30 years, and why it still hangs on today.
HISTORY ….FACT OR FICTION
The .30 Carbine cartridge was the backbone of the M1 Carbine rifle made famous for its role in all theaters of operation during World War II, The Korean War and the Vietnam War. It is often incorrectly credited to renowned gunsmith David Marshall “Carbine” Williams. The round was actually designed by Winchester Manufacturings own in house weapons engineer, Edwin Pugsley. A man who’s legacy was lost somewhere in the footnotes of the history or weapons manufacturing.
The 1952 motion picture “Carbine Williams” starring Jimmy Stewart points to a very different view of the actual events. The movie would have the viewer believe that David Marshall Williams designed the gun, when in fact the rifle was developed by a team of at least five Winchester Engineers. Hollywood as we all know likes to use the phrase “inspired by actual events”. Another fact lost in all of this is the fact the.30 Carbine cartridge itself was actually a rehashing of a then obsolete round, the .32 Winchester Self Loading. These small facts seem to often times be overlooked by people. Lets just stick with facts.
When you mention .30 Carbine most people only imagine the M1 Carbine, but that wasn’t the only gun that was produced in .30 Carbine. The Ruger Blackhawk, the AMT Automat III, and the Taurus Raging 30, were all pistols that also featured the chambering. There were also rifles such as versions of the AR15 by Olympic Arms, the Marlin Levermatic Model 62 and there was even attempt by the French to make a version of the CETME roller lock rifle in .30 Carbine. The CEAM Modele 1950 as it was known however never made it past the design phase of development. Of all the history of the .30 Carbine the idea of a French made CETME in ,30 Carbine is actually possibly the most intriguing.
Now that we debunked some myths and half truths lets take a deeper look at the most popular gun chambered in .30 Carbine, the M1 Carbine. The most produced long gun of World War II was not the M1 Garand it was in fact the M1 Carbine. In 38 months there were over 6.5 million of these handy little rifles made. That is slightly more than the 6.2 million M1 Garands that were produced during the war. In total there were more than eight major manufactures of the M1 Carbine. The rifles produced in this time would still be serving the United States and its allies all the way threw the end of the Vietnam War.
One of the problems with people who seem to dislike the M1 Carbine is they seem to refuse the idea that the rifle was never designed to replace the M1 Garand. It was designed from the start to be used by support personnel, officers, tank drivers and radio operators. The War Departments idea was to replace the 1911 pistol as the primary weapon for these troops. It didn’t replace the 1911 as designed but it served its role with distinction on the field of battle, that much can not be argued.
SCIENCE vs TALE TALES
I find it curious when people bring up the lack of stopping power of the .30 Carbine. Lets for arguments sake look at the ballistics of the standard issued .30 Carbine cartridge with the 110 grain full metal jacketed bullet. The average cartridge produced in the ballpark of 1900 – 2100 ft per second with 881 – 964 ft lbs of energy. Now all of us have heard the old tales of this round not penetrating the winter jackets of the Communist troops in the Korean War. Now I’m not a scientist but I’m pretty sure the Communists were not wearing level IIIA ballistic plate or Kevlar woven fabrics. So were the Communists using some sort of wizards cloak sewn into their jackets? How is it this magic chinese jacket was bullet proof, yet the .30 Carbine killed plenty of Germans in their winter gear? Interesting. I think the more likely culprit is just questionable marksmanship, which is totally understandable considering the conditions. Trying to shoot anything accurately in freezing rain, wind, snow and sub zero temperatures is extremely difficult, add to that thousands of screaming communists running at you and you can understand if a few guys pulled some shots wide of the intended target.
Now when we take those same statistics (1900-2100 Ft/S & 881-964 Ft/Lbs of Energy) and apply it to a pistol cartridge such as the .357 Magnum suddenly people pee their pants bragging about the stopping power. Curious how the .357 Magnum, the 7.62×25 Tokarev, and many other calibers that are considered lethal calibers are all in the same ballpark when it comes to energy and speed. Facts and science can be stubborn things when you look at the in depth analysis of the situation. Before anyone flips their lid and screams at the computer yes, I realize that .357 Magnum and other high powered pistol cartridges are generally have larger than 110 grain bullets, but I hope you are beginning to see the point, old tales and stories often times are hard to kill.
THE GUN THAT KEPT SERVING
The handy size and weight of the M1 Carbine, its magazines and is ammo made it a perfect weapon to give to friendly nations that were preparing to battle communism after the end of World War II. The rifle, ammo and accessories were sent to almost every corner of the world where the Truman Doctrine was in effect and the fight against communism was taking place. Conflicts and wars in Korea, Indochina, the Suez Canal, Angola, Vietnam, Cambodia, Cuba, to name just a few all featured one to both sides using the venerable little rifle. More than 50 countries fielded the M1 Carbine since 1942, and as of this writing the country of South Korea still had roughly a million still packed away to be used by homeguard and reservists in the event North Korea ever crosses the Demilitarized Zone and heads south. The nation of Israel also recently has deployed M1 Carbines in the hands of their Civil Guard.
In reality most of the countries that fielded the M1 Carbine after World War II used large amounts of child soldiers and when you consider the dimensions of this type of soldier, the recoil and weight of a M1 Garand would be devastating to them and make them completely combat ineffective. Now when you consider the relative light recoil and dimensions of the M1 carbine it really makes it an ideal weapon for people of smaller stature or people who are frequently in small spaces like vehicles, or aircraft.
These rifles were also extremely easy to use, and had enough play in the action to work when exposed to some normal grime and dirt. Most M1 Carbines were very reliable and accurate for what essentially is a pistol caliber carbine. To test my unscientific theory of “child solider” I used my 13 year old nephew as a sort of experimental character at a recent range session. My nephew had never handled or fired a rifle larger than a BB gun, so in my mind he was a clean slate to deal with. In my test I showed my nephew how to load the first magazine with a batch of 110 grain full metal jacket that our friends at Armscor were happy to send us. After the first magazine was loaded I quickly showed him the proper safe operation of the rifle and pointed him down range at a man-sized target in what would be a very close quarters environment, 25 yards. His first shot was slightly off target, and without my coaching he corrected and began to punch holes in his target. He progressively got much better as the day went on.
In closing I will sum my thoughts up like this, It is in my opinion that the “bad reputation” that the M1 Carbine somehow developed was just a bad rumor that unfortunately hung on forever. It reminds me of the tall tales of early Colt M16’s being made by the toy maker Mattel. You can use science and truth till you are blue in the face some people just won’t ever listen, and that is their right. The M1 Carbine might be one of the most produced military arms this country has ever made, and it served all over the globe and continues to do so with lethality and distinction. Hundreds of thousands or dead German, Italians, and Japanese certainly think it was a lethal rifle. The once vast supplies of m1 Carbines are drying up quickly and the prices continue to go up each year. If you have any interest in this collectable rifle I suggest you pick one up in the next year. In the meantime if you have any questions about M1 Carbines or any other firearms, drop us a line here at the site and we will try to get to the bottom of it.