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Police agencies and armed citizens need a good long arm to supplement their handgun for defensive purposes. There are very few situations where a person is better off defending himself with a handgun than a good long gun, if the latter is available.

Here the definition of long gun is a shoulder-fired weapon like a rifle, carbine, submachine gun, assault rifle or shotgun. There is a readily available, often overlooked long gun that is superb for this purpose that can out-perform most of its high-tech, expensive competition -- the M1 carbine.

In recent years the traditional shotgun has been losing favor with both police and civilians for defensive use. The reasons for this include excessive recoil, a high degree of proficiency in operation, potential collateral damage from the buckshot pattern, and the limited effective range with buckshot.

In answer, many departments, individual officers and armed civilians have turned to semi-automatic rifles or carbines in either pistol calibers or .223 for use as tactical long guns. Some law enforcement agencies have turned to submachine guns.

All of these guns offer improved ballistic performance and practical accuracy over a handgun. However, none of the pistol-caliber carbines or submachine guns are nearly as effective as the old and often unfairly maligned .30 Ml carbine.

With proper ammunition, the M1 carbine can easily compete in effectiveness with .223-chambered weapons out to at least 150 yards, and few police or civilians have any business shooting at anybody farther away than that.

In addition, the M1 carbine weighs only 5 1/2 lbs., making it a pound or more lighter than most of its competition, including even the pistol-caliber carbines, and considerably lighter than many like the UZI submachine gun at 8.8 lbs. or the M16A2 at 7.9 lbs.

Born Far Combat

The M1 carbine has many other assets as well. It has superb reliability under the worst field conditions. Its accuracy exceeds that of virtually all the pistol-caliber carbines and submachine guns on the market and is comparable with that of many of the semi-automatic .223 rifles.

Another huge advantage for the M1 carbine is that, unlike most modern firearms, it has pre-ban high capacity 15- and 30-round magazines readily available in quantity at very modest prices. The same holds true for spare parts and accessories.

Ballistically, the M1 carbine's little .30 Carbine cartridge packs about 2.5 times the kinetic energy of a standard .45 ACP or 9mm load fired from a pistol. This is solidly in the energy territory of the .44 Mag. revolver. Indeed it has only 90 ft./lbs. less energy at the muzzle than the Russian 5.45x39mm cartridge and is only a little farther behind the .223 when fired from 14.5" or 16" barreled carbines.

Options And Tactics

Although a cartridge's muzzle energy is not the sole criterion for measuring its effectiveness, it is a good indication of the cartridge's potential if it is loaded with properly designed expanding bullets. With military-type FMJ bullets, the .30 Carbine will drill right through car bodies and such.

This capability is highly desirable to police officers in many situations. When the .30 Carbine cartridge is loaded with expanding bullets, its effectiveness as a manstopper increases exponentially. One police unit used M1 carbines loaded with JSPs in several shootings. They found the carbines to be extremely effective. Quoting one of their more experienced officers about the results from shootings with a .30 Carbine using expanding bullet ammunition, "We never had to shoot anyone twice."

Out to at least 150 yards, the .30 Carbine cartridge usually makes a more serious wound than does the .223, .308 or .30-'06, when the latter are used with FMJ bullets. It is also greatly superior to any of the common defensive pistol rounds fired from a handgun or carbine, even when the latter uses hollow point ammunition.

Even the FMJ .30 Carbine load is far more effective than is commonly thought. After interviewing many veteran M1 carbine users from World War II, Korea and Vietnam, we found that the vast majority of these soldiers found the M1 carbine to be quite effective even with GI ball ammunition.

One former Marine who saw extensive combat with the MI carbine in the Pacific in World War II was quite emphatic that the little gun and its cartridge were effective in the close-range combat that he experienced. He also stated that he greatly preferred the M1 carbine to the Garand for that type of fighting because of its much lighter weight, shorter length and higher magazine capacity.

First-Hand Experience

Another veteran M1 carbine user interviewed was a U.S. Army Special Forces adviser in the early days of the Vietnam War. He had advised indigenous units armed almost exclusively with M1 carbines, and used the gun extensively himself in combat. He stated that the M1 carbine was very effective in the jungle combat that they typically experienced. Interestingly, he said that when M16s eventually replaced the M1 carbines, he found that the new gun offered little if any significant advantage in effectiveness over the older M1 carbines.

Probably the most authoritative account of the effectiveness of the M1 carbine in real combat comes from the superb book Shots Fired In Anger by John George. George served as a company grade officer in World War II in the famous Merrill's Marauders, operating behind Japanese lines. George was a highly experienced and successful service rifle competitor, shooter and hunter before the war, so all of his writing is from the perspective of someone highly knowledgeable about guns.

The M1 carbine was his primary weapon in the Marauders. The light weight of the carbine and its ammunition made it ideal for troops like the Marauders that carried all their supplies and equipment with them and were re-supplied by airdrops. His book covers several instances where he personally used or observed M1 carbines employed with great effect.

George reports, "The M1 carbine turned out to be the ace weapon of the war, as far as I am concerned. It was light and handy, powerful, and reasonably accurate ... The cartridge was powerful enough to penetrate several thicknesses of helmet, and to perforate the plates of the Japanese bulletproof vest, which would only be dented by .45 auto slugs. It was flat shooting enough to have practical accuracy at more than 200 yards ... For many types of offensive fighting, such as sneak raids and infiltration tactics, it was often superior even to the M1 (Garand), penetration being the only point of difference."

Full-Auto Follies

Late in World War II a selective-fire version of the M1 carbine was introduced as the M2 carbine. These saw little use in World War II, but were extensively used in Korea. Many of the accounts about the ineffectiveness of the .30 Carbine round come from improper and ineffective use of the M2 carbine on full auto.

Typically, the soldier or Marine dumped an entire magazine on full auto at a charging enemy with little or no effect. The probable truth is that in most instances it was ineffective because he simply missed. When firing the M2, if the first shot does not hit, none of the following shots will hit either, because the weapon will quickly climb off target, particularly with a long burst. The idea that anyone could absorb a magazine full of .30 Carbine bullets through the chest and keep coming is a myth born of bad shooting.

One must remember that these accounts are all about the M1 or M2 carbine using standard GI hardball ammunition. When this weapon is used with modern expanding bullets, its effectiveness against soft targets is increased considerably. One of the best .30 Carbine loads is the Winchester HSP. It is very accurate, feeding and expanding superbly and reliably.

A Cost Effective Warrior

An important asset of the Ml carbine is that two or three M1 carbines can be purchased for the price of one AR-15 or MP5 submachine gun. An affordable M1 carbine is worth more than all the expensive state-of-the-art rifles that you do not have when you need them, because you cannot afford them.

Something else in the Ml carbine's favor compared to all the submachine guns and rifles based on military assault rifles, is that it is relatively innocuous looking. Police do not like to be perceived as storm troopers, and the M1 carbine is much less likely to cause that impression than an AR-15 or an MP5,

The Ml carbine is too good a gun to be overlooked. Several hundred thousand of them are in circulation in the U.S., and many can be purchased at very reasonable prices. Israeli Arms International (IAI) and Springfield Inc. are currently offering excellent M1 carbines made to GI specifications using surplus military M1 carbine parts. Many more surplus Ml carbines are standing offshore, waiting to be imported into the U.S. under a favorable political climate.

For defensive fighting purposes typically encountered by police and armed civilians, an AR-15 or one of its better clones is perhaps preferable to the Ml carbine, if both are used with expanding bulleted ammunition. However, the Ml carbine with expanding bullet ammunition is more effective than any .223 rifle loaded with GI handball or any submachine gun or semiautomatic pistol-caliber carbine on the market. The Ml carbine is that good!
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Publication:Guns Magazine
Date:Jun 1, 2001
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