The U.S. Carbine Caliber .30

Basic Overview

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Between June 1942 and August 1945 ten primary U.S. contractors manufactured over 6 million U.S. .30 Caliber Model M1, M1A1, T4, M2, T3, and M3 Carbines. During World War II these carbines were issued to U.S. soldiers in every theater of war around the world. U.S. Carbines were supplied to a number of Allies via the Lend/Lease Program during WWII. Carbines were smuggled or parachuted to resistance groups in a number of different countries during the war.

After the end of WWII many of the carbines were returned to America, where they were inspected, refurbished, and/or rebuilt to the latest standards. Many of the carbines did not return to America. Instead, they were stockpiled in various countries in case they were needed.

With the onset of the Korean War in 1950, the U.S. .30 Caliber Carbines once again served American troops and America's Allies. However, during this war the decision was made to offer the .30 Caliber Carbines as a main battle rifle, a role it was not designed or suited for. It's not surprising the carbines used in Korea received a reputation as less than adequate, particularly during the Korean winters when almost every American small arm had problems functioning. They fared better in urban areas as an alternative to a handgun at distances of less than 300 yards. This was the same reason they would later become popular with police departments around the world.

Of the over 6 million carbines built, over half were at some point provided or sold to other nations as military assistance. Many of these nations sold part or all of their carbines to other countries around the world.

Since the early 1960's private importers and exporters have acquired a great many of these carbines and sold, traded, or brought them back to the United States, where they were sold to civilian gun owners. Through the Director of Civilian Marksmanship (eventually becoming today's Civilian Marksmanship Program) the U.S. Army has provided thousands of carbines for raising funds to support shooting programs across the nation.

The popularity of these carbines has led many to collect them and/or buy one for home protection and/or recreational shooting. If you are one of these people, or intend on becoming a carbine owner, this website is for you. The information provided here is basic. Resources for intermediate and advanced information can be found on the page devoted to books and the links page.

The Beginning

"As a result of studies made during World War I it was definitely determined that the hand weapons, the Model 1911 Pistol and Model 1917 Revolver, were effective at only short ranges in the hands of the most expert. They were primarily weapons of self defense."

"The pistol and revolver being primarily defensive weapons it was the desire of the U.S. Forces to equip the soldier normally armed with these weapons with one having more offensive characteristics. It was thought desirable to extend the range on the proposed weapon to at least 300 yards, thus increasing the effectiveness of the soldier armed with sidearm's by at least 200 yards."

"During the two decades following the war [WWI], studies were made as to suitable weapons to replace both the pistol and the revolver, but funds were always lacking to undertake development. It was estimated that about 500,000 of these weapons would be needed to equip the Army properly. This was to prove quite modest in the light of subsequent developments."

In September 1939 Germany and Russia invaded Poland. Two days later France and Great Britain declared war on Germany and Russia. The first British Expedition to Europe joined forces with the French Army but was driven out of Europe via the beaches at Dunkirk May 27, 1940 - June 7, 1940.

"The replacement for the pistol and revolver, now considered to take the form of a light shoulder rifle, was again proposed by the Chief of Infantry on June 15, 1940 and the development of such a weapon was approved by the Secretary of War, funds being available at that time." [Proving Ground History of the Carbine, Caliber .30 M1 by Major G.P. Grant, U.S. Army Ordnance Dept., 30 Sep 1944]

"Accordingly, on October 1, 1940 the Ordnance Department published a circular which was in effect an appeal to known gun manufacturers and inventors to submit a gun with the following general characteristics:"

Carbines eventually submitted for testing, with several being redesigned and retested, were submitted by:

Up until the submission by Winchester, the submission by George J. Hyde had been considered to be the most likely choice, to the point Ordnance had requested 10 Hyde Carbines be produced to expedite the time necessary to finish testing and start carbine production.

The final service test was conducted at Aberdeen Proving Ground September 21-25, 1941 by personnel from Fort Benning. On 30 Sep 1941 the sub-committee reviewed the test results and unanimously agreed on the submission by Winchester, with several minor changes. By the end of the day the Ordnance Technical Committee had approved the submission by Winchester as the new "Carbine, Caliber .30, M1". The cartridge was adopted as the "Cartridge, Carbine, Caliber .30, M1".

The U.S. Carbine continued to change and evolve prior before mass production started and continued to evolve throughout it's production.

The First U.S. Carbines, Caliber .30, M1 - Research & Development Continues throughout Production

Existing commitments at Winchester related to their production of a number of other small arms caused the Ordnance Department to choose the Inland Division of General Motors in Dayton, OH to spearhead mass production of the carbine. On November 11, 1941 Winchester and Inland both submitted five carbines each for further testing by Ordnance. Ordnance completed the schematic drawings of the parts and carbine on December 7, 1941.

Mass production of the first carbines started at Inland in June 1942 followed by Winchester in September 1942. Demands from Ordnance for increased quantities of carbines in less time led to the awarding of additional contracts within months. Of the ten prime contractors who manufactured U.S. Carbines only Winchester and Saginaw Gear (contract for M1919 machine guns) had experience manufacturing firearms. From the date they signed their first contract to manufacture carbines until the date they actually started production, all of these facilities had to be reorganized and equipped with the necessary machines, and their employees trained. It should be noted that the majority of employees were unskilled housewives and men who were ineligible for the draft. That all ten were able to gear up and produce over 6 million carbines with parts that were interchangeable regardless of who made them, and complete production in under four years from the date the Winchester submission was approved by the Ordnance Department, was an amazing achievement. Just as amazing, many of their carbines are still in use 70 years later.

# Months
Inland Manufacturing Division, General Motors
        Dayton, OH
June 1942August 19452,632,09738+
Winchester Repeating Arms
        New Haven, CT
September 1942August 1945828,05935+
Underwood, Elliott, Fisher
       Hartford, CT
November 1942April 1944545,61617
Rock-Ola Manufacturing
       Chicago, IL
November 1942May 1944228,50018
Irwin-Pedersen Arms
       Grand Rapids, MI
January 1943March 19430*3
Quality Hardware & Machine
       Chicago, IL
February 1943April 1944359,66614
National Postal Meter
       Rochester, NY
February 1943April 1944**413,01714
Standard Products
       Port Clinton, OH
April 1943April 1944**247,16012
Saginaw Steering Gear, General Motors
       Saginaw, MI
May 1943April 1944293,59211
Saginaw Steering Gear, General Motors
       Grand Rapids, MI
May 1943January 1944223,6209
       Poughkeepsie, NY
August 1943May 1944346,50010
Totals:   June 1942August 19456,117,82738+
+:   months shown are months of actual production. Several dozen carbines (included in the totals)
were produced as prototypes before full production started
*:   all 3,542 carbines produced by Irwin-Pedersen failed to pass Ordnance inspection. Their contract
and facility was turned over to Saginaw Steering Gear who disassembled the carbines, inspected each
part, and integrated the surviving Irwin-Pedersen parts and receivers into the production of carbines
produced by Saginaw at Grand Rapids.
**:   July 1944 National Postal Meter as Commercial Controls completed 239 carbines, Standard Products
completed 150 carbines

Worth Noting

Not one of the people involved in the manufacture of the .30 Caliber Carbines was thinking of the collectors 65+ years later who would be very interested in owning a carbine constructed of all "the right" parts with all "the right" markings. Their focus was on keeping up with the production demands of completing an average of 800-1000+ carbines a day, at each of the 10 prime contractor facilities. Documented evidence has been found showing all 10 prime contractors occasionally exchanged parts on an as needed basis. With an operation this massive, production lines would run short or have surplus of one or more parts at any given time. These companies were not in competition with one another, they all served one master, The U.S. Ordnance Department. Ordnance arranged for the transfer of parts from one facility to another in order to keep production moving. Many of these transfers were documented and have been extracted from archived Ordnance records. Not all records were saved after the war. According to several sources close to the inside workings of the day to day operations, not all of these transfers were documented.

Don't make the mistake of forgetting the history of these carbines and all they've been through. If a carbine looks like new, someone may have reconstructed it into something it isn't, which is a hobby for some people and a profession for others. Stories of where the carbine was used should be substantiated by documentation, without which it would be wise not to accept the stories at face value. One of the most common stories is "this carbine went up the beaches on D-Day with my wife's grandpa (or other relative) who snuck it home in his duffel bag at the end of WWII, and kept in the closet since then". A few did come back this way, but far less than some people would want you to believe.

Where and Who to turn to for More Information and Further Assistance

I wish I could help everyone, but with over 6 million U.S. Carbines and almost 1 million post war commercial carbines one person cannot handle all the requests for assistance. There are a number of resources available that can answer any question(s) you may have.

Carbine Discussion Forums This Website & it's Sister Website
Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) M1 Carbine Forum  Links Page
MilSurps Forums: M1 Carbine Books Page
M1 Carbine Forum  
New Zealand M1 Carbine Collectors Post War Commercial Carbines