In 1938 the US Army’s Chief of Infantry Major General George Arthur Lynch requested the US Ordnance Department select and adopt a new ‘light rifle’ or carbine to arm support troops. The Ordnance Department eventually organised a competition calling for a new carbine design in October 1940. A number of companies including Reising, Savage, Hyde-Bendix, Woodhall, Colt and Auto-Ordnance as well as a simple design by John Garand.
Beginning in May 1941, the Light Rifle trials weeded out several of the more complicated carbines but were impressed with Garand’s carbine, however they requested that the 45 degree position of the rifle’s magazine be altered. In doing so Garand was forced to alter his design and the resulting rifle was less reliable than the first prototype offered. As a result the trials failed to find an adequate design among the submissions. One of the major companies not to submit a design during the first round of testing was Winchester, who were concentrating on .30-06 battle rifle designs.
Garand’s first .30 Carbine Light Rifle prototype, note the top mounted magazine (source)
The Ordnance Department believed that the M2 Rifle which Winchester had developed might be adapted to chamber the .30 Carbine cartridge. The resulting carbine prepared by Edwin Pugsley and a team of Winchester engineers was based on Ed Browning’s original M2 Rifle design with David Marshall Williams’ short-stroke gas piston and the M1 Garand’s rotating bolt and operating slide. At 36 inches long and weighing 2.4kg unloaded the rifle fired from a 15-round detachable magazine. Its elegant stock shape, rapid fire, minimal recoil and hardiness made it a popular rifle, especially among troops fighting in the jungles of the Pacific theatre.
The brilliantly illustrated contemporary diagrams above appeared in a series of instructional charts produced for the US Army by the Ordnance Department. These training illustrations show how to load and cock the carbine as well as how the rifle’s action works. Once fired gas is tapped from a gas port this gas pushed the short-stroke piston sharply rearwards. This drives the operating slide back unlocking the bolt, opening the breech and ejecting the spent case. The return spring, housed above the trigger group, then pushes the bolt back into battery taking up a new round and the operating rod back into contact with the piston.
The Winchester carbine was adopted in October 1941, just a month before the US’ entry into the war. Once the war began production was spread among over a dozen companies including among others: General Motors, the National Postal Meter Company, Rock-Ola, the Quality Hardware & Machine Company, International Business Machines Corp (IBM) and the Rochester Defense Corporation. The first carbines were delivered to troops fighting in the European Theatre in 1942, initially issued to support troops. However, as more of the rifles arrived they were increasingly issued to officers and squad leaders. While on the whole the rifle is said to have performed well it did suffer failures in cold conditions with reports of this occurring during both the Korean War and World War Two.
By the end of the Second World War a select-fire version of the carbine had been developed. The M2 would see widespread use during the Korean War and again in Vietnam. In this fully automatic incarnation the .30 Carbine round provided range and accuracy that submachine guns. like the Thompson and the M3 could not.
Over six million carbines were produced and the M1 remained in US Inventory until the early 1970s, many M1s and M2s were given to South Vietnam while many others remained with reserve units. The M1’s .30 Carbine cartridge is one of the Second World War’s most widely adopted intermediate cartridges positioned between the heavy hitting .30-06 and the .45ACP.
Another example of an old surplus rifle turned into hunting rifle, a practice that continues to this day. From a distance it would be difficult to discern this as an M1 Carbine aside from the magazine giving it away. It looks like a well done conversion overall but then again for the purists it would considered a “bubba” regardless. (GRH)
Th M1 Carbine in its original form, with 15-round magazine puch attached to the butt.
US Carbine, Caliber 30, M1
General Motors corporation, Saginaw Steering Gear Division, Grand Rapids and Saginaw, Mich.; General Motors Corporation, Inland Manufacturing Division, Dayton, Ohio; International Business Machine Corporation, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; National Poster Meter Company, Rochester, N.Y.; Quality Hardware and Machine Company, Chicago, Ill.; Rochester Defense Corporation, Rochester, N.Y.; Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corporation, Chicago, Ill.; Standard Products Company, Port clinton, Ohio; Underwood-Elliot-Fisher Company, Hartford, Conn.; Winchester Repeating Arms Company, New Haven, Conn.
The Carbine, Caliber 30, M1, the most prolific American weapon of World War II, began as a 1938 request for a light rifle suitable for arming machine-gunners, mortarmen, clerks, clerks, and similar grades. The request was refused but, resubmitted in 1940, it met with a favorable reception. In October 1940, specifications were issued to 25 manufacturing companies, although their work was delayed until Winchester had produced the ammunition. The new round was developed by them to another army specification, with a 110-grain bullet giving a muzzle velocity of 1860ft/sec (567m/sec) from an 18-inch (457mm) barrel.
Testing began in May 1941, after some 11 different makers had submitted designs, among them a Springfield Armory weapon designed by John Garand. Some of the submissions were rejected on the spot, but others showed sufficient promise for their makers to be given the chance to modify them and to remedy defects; a final trial took place in September 1941. The result was the adoption of a Winchester designed prototype, which was adopted as the Carbine M1.
Contrary to accepted legend, David ‘Carbine’ Williams had little or nothing to do with the design of this weapon. it had actually begun early in 1940 as a spare-time occupation of two employees intending it as a lightweight hunting rifle. it had attracted the attention of Mr. Pugsley the general manager, who allowed them to continue when nothing better was to hand. When the military request appeared in 1941, Pugsley recalled this rifle, called up the two developers,handed them the Army cartridge and specification, and invited them to modify their design accordingly, and as fast as possible. Since the Williams gas-tappet was used in the design, it was felt politic, and good propaganda to attribute the whole thing to Williams, from which the legend arose. But it was this early in-house work which enabled Winchester to produce a tested and reliable weapon in the short time allowed for development.
The M1 carbine is a semi-automatic light rifle utilizing a unique operating system. A gas port in the barrel leads to a chamber containing a tappet (or short-stroke piston); when impelled by a rush of gas, this tappet is driven violently back for about 0.32-inch (8mm) and the end outside the gas chamber-which is in contact with the operating slide- drives the slide back. The rear end of this slide has a cam track which, acting on a lug on the bold, cams the bold around to unlock and then opens it to extract the empty case. A return spring then drives the slide back, taking the bold with it to load a fresh round from the magazine and rotate the bolt to lock. During the rearward stroke of the bolt the firing hammer has been cocked, and the weapon is thus ready for the next shot.