The .30 Carbine: A Fun Gun for Serious Use.
by Bob Campbell
The US .30 caliber Ml carbine was the first of a modern class of lightweight personal defense weapons firing a mid-range cartridge. The carbine was intended to arm officers in place of the pistol they normally carried, and also to arm drivers and others that could not be encumbered with the full size battle rifle. le was intended for use within 100 yards or so. The carbine is a handy weapon that does not gee in the way of other duties, such as driving a tank, manning a radio post or serving as an ammunition bearer. The idea was chat the carbine gives soldiers an edge over a pistol. Unlike previous carbines it was not simply a shore rifle that fired the same cartridge as the full power battle rifle but rather it fired a smaller cartridge and carried more rounds.
For comparison, the M1 Garand .30-06 with a 150-grain bullet yields 2700 fps, while an Ml carbine with a 110-grain bullet has 2000 fps.
What makes the .30 caliber carbine an ideal defense rifle for today is that the original intent was for the rifle to be suitable to face an unexpected attack. Troops in the rear area could easily keep a carbine handy. The carbine is easily brought into action quickly and a fast number of shoes may be fired. Today the modern Auto Ordinance carbine may be kept handy in the home or in the vehicle and it handles brilliantly quickly. Not only that–the .30 caliber carbine is a wonderful fun gun for recreational use. Both muzzle blast and recoil are less than the AR 15 rifle as an example. While the AR 15 is a fine rifle, the .30 carbine is as well. I recommend the new production Auto Ordnance for the simple reason that it is a new rifle and proven reliable. You cannot count on the condition of a vintage rifle but just the same many are still reliable, and when new there was no more reliable light semi-automatic rifle.
The Ml carbine weighs but 5 pounds. My Colt AR 15 SOCOM with 16-inch barrel weighs 7.5 pounds without optics. The carbine handles very quickly due to this light weight. The .30 carbine is easily shouldered with! a good sling. During World War II and Korea the carbine was pressed into service on a greater scale than anyone had imagined in 1940 when it was conceived.
The carbine vied with the submachine gun for the lead in short range firepower, but it never replaced the pistol or submachine gun, although it was in greater use than either. The .30 caliber carbine has a charming period look with the exposed barrel and short stock typical of carbines of the day. However, the .30 carbine was the first true low maintenance US Military firearm and also the first used exclusively with non-corrosive ammunition. The rifle definitely survived well in the long haul. The rifle is still in use in Israel with second line support troops and is a common rifle carried by tour guides.
The .30 caliber carbine features a bolt handle that is easily grasped for cocking the rifle and racking the bolt. The 15-round magazine is easily locked in place and may be switched for another rapidly. I ordered several 15-round magazines from brownells.com and they have given good results. There are also aftermarket 30-round magazines available but I have yet to see one that was completely reliable. They are best avoided.
The aperture sights and bold front post of the carbine are easily picked up and give good results in rapid combat fire and accurate fire to 100 yards. The carbine was intended for personal defense rather than offensive use as most military rifles are, and this short range design parameter may seem to give us a short change in terminal ballistics.
This isn’t really true as the .30 carbine has more energy than many .357 Magnum revolver loads. It simply suffers in comparison to full-power battle cartridges. Dealing with sappers; preventing a machine gun position from being overrun; a tank being charged by grenadiers, or an officer defending himself, were the scenarios in mind when designers conceived the carbine.
The .30 caliber carbine fires a 110-grain bullet at a nominal 2000 fps. Buffalo Bore Ammunition offers a full-power carbine load that clocks greater than 2000 fps and which gives superb accuracy even to 100 yards. The .30 carbine isn’t a deer rifle as sadly many have proven, but it is useful for varmints and predators.
Hornady offers affordable fifty round boxes of .30 carbine ammunition at a fair price and Hornady also offers a .30 carbine load in the Critical Defense line. FMJ loads should be chosen for practice and the Critical Defense loading for home defense. The Buffalo Bore load is excellent for varmints and other use. As for accuracy, the Inland carbine is old steel but plenty accurate. It is also completely reliable. Most .30 carbines will do well to group three shots into four inches at 100 yards. A number will be less accurate’ and a very few will exhibit greater accuracy. With the Buffalo Bore loading my rifle exhibited a singular 2. 75 inch group but the average is 3.25 inches. I am very happy with chis performance.
The original sights are still in place and deserve some discussion. The aperture rear sight is very fast on target and, coupled with the front post, gives a good sight picture for combat and precision shooting to 50 yards or so. By precision, I mean coyote and small game. You will find the sight well adjusted for 100 yards. The second leg of the sight is for 300 yards, which is fine for area aiming and hoping to hit a humanoid target but that is a stretch for sporting use. The .30 caliber carbine cartridge is interesting because it is, for all intents and purposes, as easily hand loaded as a handgun cartridge. There is some taper in the case, but it is not severe. This is an economical cartridge to hand load.
As for availability, the Auto Ordnance carbine is readily available. More than six million originals were produced and many are found for sale. The rifle is still fighting in Africa and was issued to troops and police in South America a decade or so ago. Photographic evidence shows the carbine was still a back-up rifle in Israel relatively recently. I would avoid the various copies made during the 1960s and 1970s. Most had cast rather than steel receivers and performance was sometimes poor.
The .30 carbine is not a bottleneck cartridge. The cartridge case is 1.29-inches long. The standard loading is a 110-grain FMJ bullet at 1960 fps. Pressure is similar to Magnum revolver cartridges, 36,000 to 40,000 pounds per square inch. The .30-caliber carbine has the same energy as the .357 Magnum in most loads. I have to report that the carbine did not produce the wounds that the .357 Magnum did at close range per my research.
When I first became a peace officer the .30 carbine was very common in police vehicles as a privately owned rifle. I never recall one getting into action but there were some civilian shootings with the rifle. Results in personal defense are good at modest range. The .30 carbine is relatively inexpensive to obtain, maintain, shoot and enjoy. It is user friendly, affordable, and makes an excellent go anywhere do anything light field gun and defensive handgun. It is also one of the great fun guns you will ever try. I recommend the .30 carbine without reservation as a fun gun and home defense gun.