Osprey author Leigh continues his new series examining the small arms used by US forces in the Second World War. This week he looks at the M1 Carbine, the semi-automatic carbine that served both the US Army and Marine Corps between 1942 and 1945.
The M1 Carbine was designed as a handy personal defense weapon for officers, radio operators, vehicle crew, glider pilots and others whose primary role was not infantry fighting. A sid...e folding stock version, the M1A1, also saw issue with US paratroopers where it was valued for its compact size and light weight. A 15 round detachable magazine was the most commonly encountered although limited numbers of a 30 round version debuted late in the war with the introduction of the selective fire variant, the M2 Carbine in 1944.
The carbine’s rimless .30 Carbine (7.62×33mm) round was designed to minimise recoil and was only effective to around 250 meters at best. Interestingly post-war studies had difficulty identifying engagements where the .30 Carbine was used beyond 50 meters- a validation of its intended role. The round itself has attracted criticism over the years as being too lightweight but there is little evidence that the caliber was insufficient when used within its limits.
A rarer variant is the M3, noteworthy for its integration of an infra-red sighting system which debuted during the Marine landings on Okinawa in 1945. The sight was bulky and reduced the range of the weapon to a mere 60 meters but proved surprisingly effective in its niche role of detecting and engaging Japanese infiltrators attempting to sneak up on US positions.
Along with the US Army and USMC, the M1 and later M2 were favourites of a range of British special operations units fighting in the Mediterranean and Western Europe. The weapon was also seen in the hands of Ord Wingate’s famous Chindits in Burma.