Fulton Armory

Service Grade M1 Carbine
Fulton Armory Service Grade M1 Carbine

A Pocket History of the M1 Carbine

by Robert Gibson

Someone wanted some info on M1 Carbine....maybe this will help. Much of it is copied from the NRA's booklet "U.S.Caliber .30 Carbine".

Over a span of just 38 months (the first carbines were delivered in June 1942, the last in August 1945) nine primary contractors established manufacturing facilities, tooled up and turned out some six million carbines of all types - M1, M1A1, M2 and T3/M3. The production program was such a success that, excepting Inland and Winchester, the remaining contracts were cancelled in mid-1944. Those two companies completed their carbine production runs in August, 1945.

M1 Carbine Production
Inland Manufacturing Division, G.M.C...... 2,632,09743.0%
Winchester Repeating Arms Co................ 828,05913.5%
Underwood-Elliot-Fisher Co.................. 545,6168.9%
*Saginaw Steering Gear Div., G.M.C........... 517,2128.5%
**National Postal Meter Co.................... 413,0176.8%
***Quality Hardware & Machine Co............... 359,6665.9%
International Business Machines Corp (IBM).. 346,5005.7%
Standard Products Co........................ 247,1604.0%
Rock-Ola Co................................. 228,5003.7%
Total: 6,221,220

* Note that Saginaw had two plants in operation, one in Saginaw, MI and one in Grand Rapids, MI. The Grand Rapids facility assumed a contract that had been originally awarded to Irwin-Pedersen Arms Co....I-P had assembled only 3,542 guns at the time, none of which were accepted by the government.

**Note that a few early NPM receivers are marked "Rochester", for the Rochester Defence Corp. A very few late receivers are marked "CCC", for Commecial Controls Corp.

***Note that some Quality Hardware carbines were assembled using receivers made by Union Switch & Signal Co, hence the "UN-QUALITY" marked carbines. These are highly prized by some carbine aficionados.

The history of who made what during the brief 38 months of production is a story that can (and does) fill a book. Might I suggest you find a copy of "WAR BABY" or "M1 Carbine Design, Development and Production" by Larry Ruth. Another recommended book is "Guide to Collecting the M1 Carbine" by Robert Gibson (no relation, by the way!)...they're all good books with tons of info. Another excellent reference book is "U.S. M1 Carbines: Wartime Production" by Craig Riesch, a North Cape Publications "For Collectors Only" series.

Which are the most collectable? Depends on what your own personal criteria might be. Rock-Ola's are always desirable, not only because there were fewer made than any other make but because Rock-Ola was a famous juke box maker of the period who's product was quite familiar to the WWII GI's. Others look to the Winchester carbines because of the name on the receiver....I own one these myself. There are all kinds of reasons to own a particular "brand" of carbine...I've worked with IBM mainframe computers systems for some 20 years, I think it would be rather fitting to obtain an IBM carbine sooner or later. 20 carbine owners might give 20 different reasons for owning their particular carbine....you really need to read up on M1 history and decide what YOU want.

Mechanically they were each and every one built to the same design specs as specified in the contracts the maker signed with the U.S. Government. You could strip 25 M1 Carbines down to their component parts, mixed 'em up in a box and then reassemble them at random back into 25 carbines....they would be expected to function within the specified performance parameters.

Finding what you want is another matter. If not available at your local gunshops or gunshows you could get a current issue of Gun List, the indexed firearms paper....many, many M1 Carbines will be found listed in the Military Weapons section. Another source is Fulton Armory....call (301) 490-9485.

On this subject....at a recent gunshow I attended in Birmingham, Alabama (Jan. 5, 1997) the prices being asked for typical M1 Carbines were running from low of $450 for Inlands to a high of $650 for Rock-Olas. The Carbines I examined appeared to contain the usual mixed parts one would expect....a combination of the original mix of parts by the manufacturer, augmented by the various arsenal refurbishment programs following WWII and Korean wars.

As a counterpoint my local gunsmith still has a few Quality Hardware Carbines for sale at $385....mixed parts so certainly not collectables, but they're quite acceptable "shooters" and would satisfy most who have an itch to own a GI Carbine of their own. On this subject I've heard reports of "shooter" grade M1 Carbines still going for between $250 to $300 in scattered locations around the country. They've not been this affordable in my local area since back in late 1994 or early 1995.

Something a Carbine newbie should know....none of the primary contractors made ALL of the parts for these handy firearms. Best among the prime contractors was Underwood-Elliot-Fisher, which made 35 of the M1 Carbine's 55-58 parts in its Hartford and Bridgeport, Conn., plants. At the other end of the spectrum, Quality Hardware made only receivers, depending upon government supplied parts and parts from other contractors and sub-contractors from which its guns were assembled.

Subcontractors involved in the carbine program number in the hundreds, and made everything from pins and springs to receivers and barrels.

The U.S. Cal. .30 Carbine was designed from day one as a true "mixed parts" military firearm....carrying the "any part from any source will fit" philosophy of the U.S. Rifle, Cal. .30, M1....the M1 Garand....one step further.

In my rather humble opinion the design and manufacture of the M1 Carbine by the American Military Industrial Complex of the WWII era would have to be considered a watershed event in the field of military firearms production.

It certainly goes without saying there are no "bad" USGI World War II era M1 Carbines seeing they were all built to the same milspecs and thoroughly inspected before acceptance by Uncle Sam. True, there are many out there now that are in need of large doses of TLC due to their hard travels around the world for the last 50 years. A good service rifle gunsmith can do wonders with one of these rather sad re-imports if someone were so inclined to rescue it, but....supplies of repatriates could be drying up. That WRA carbine I mentioned above was one of these neglected war dogs when I stumbled upon it.

It now rests in the gunsafe with my Garands, M1911 Govt pistols, M1903-A3 Remingtons 'n others from the World War II era...including a German KAR 98k. Quite a sight actually, old cronies...and mortal enemies...resting together with actions gleaming and stocks giving off the odor of fresh linseed oil.

There were also commercial M1 carbine models produced from 1960's to 1980's by Iver Johnson, Plainfield Machine Co., & Universal Sporting Goods. I don't much care for commercial M1 carbines so am not really up on their history, OTOH some do prefer them over GI carbines...different strokes for different folks. I did see a nickel-plated IJ once that was quite striking....well, to be perfectly honest I thought it was somewhat gaudy.

The commercial carbines simply *do not* compare well to a true-blue USGI M1 Carbine that's in good repair....my own biased opinion of course .

ADDENDUM: "Bavarian Carbines"....What Are They?

Following from the "For Collectors Only" edition of "U.S. M1 CARBINES" by Craig Riesch, published by North Cape Publications (revised, 2nd edition)

"After World War II, the United States, as one of the Occupying Powers in Germany, was responsible for providing community policing in the U.S. Zone. As the United States had no intention of either remaining as an Occupation force in Germany any longer than necessary, or in becoming involved in the day-to-day government of the community, local police forces were established to asume standard policing duties ranging from traffic control to criminal investigation to forestry protection. One of the most extensive of these police forces was the Bavarian Rural Police.

"Bavaria is one of the largest German states and included extensive forested and mountainous regions. The U.S. Army made M1 Carbines available to these local police units, many of which remained in service for more than ten years.

"Many can be identified by the stampings, "BAVARIAN RURAL POLICE", "BAVARIAN FORESTRY SERVICE", "BAVARIAN BORDER POLICE" and "BAVARIAN STATE POLICE" on the receiver. Other carbines were furnished to the federal border guard service, the "BUNDESGRENZSHUTZ". A variety of city and state police marks will also be noted. Most also had their component parts stamped with the last three or four digits of the original receiver serial number, as was standard German practice. Many of the carbines were reblued or refinished in "black oxide" which sometimes appears almost "blue/black' in color, depending on the polish of the metal beneath. On others, the issue rear sight was removed and the dovetail filled with a block of steel which was machined with a series of grooves across the top to prevent glare.

"Occasionally, they were rebarreled with new barrels manufactured by the German firm of ERMA Werke. A non-adjustable rear sight with a "Vee" notch was brazed on the front of the receiver behind the handguard. It provided a sight picture very much like that of the Mauser bolt action rifle, fam- iliar to its new users, many of whom had seen previous police or military service during World War II."

Hope this information is of some help.

Robert Gibson