1911 vs M1 Carbine in a Practical Match

The M1 Carbine was developed to be a personal defense weapon to replace the 1911 pistol for groups of soldiers like drivers, artillery crews, and others who did not need a full-size M1 Garand but did need a firearm of some sort. The idea was that a light carbine would be much easier to use effectively with limited training, and effective to a much longer range. Basically, the 1911 was recognized to be an expert’s weapon, and the Army needed something easier to use.

Now, many folks will take it for granted that the M1 Carbine will meet this requirement easily, but I think it will be interesting to try it out. So, today I am shooting the four stages of a Backup Gun Match with a 1911 and an M1 Carbine. This match has stages at close range and low round count – really much closer range than the M1 Carbine was expected to be capable of. So, I think this setup gives the 1911 the best possible odds. And yet, we see that the Carbine still beat it handily; with he closest stage being a draw between the two. The Carbine is easier to hit with a long range, faster to fire followup shots with, and more forgiving of errors. In short, it is exactly what the Army wanted!

51 Comments

  1. I have both a 1911 and M1 Carbine. My father was a gunner in B-29’s and had a M1, Canteen, Ammo and a small fruit cake. He carried this because he knew the 1911 had a few problems if he were shot down in a jungle.

    Up close the 1911 is great but at 50 yards the M1 takes over.

  2. In Weapons (1954)Edwin Tunis called the Carbine “the pistol that looks like a rifle”. Which is an accurate assessment of its intended purpose.

    He points out that while the .30 USC round has a lot less energy than the .30-06, it still has better than twice the energy of the .45 ACP.

    And that while support troops have a tendency to “lose” equipment that’s too cumbersome (like an M1 Garand rifle), the Carbine is light and handy enough that they’re more likely to keep it with them.

    As for the combat effectiveness of the Carbine, look up the combat record of the U.S. Army’s 27th Infantry Regiment (The Wolfhounds) of the 25th Infantry (Tropic Lightning) Division in Korea. They found the Carbine in both M1 and (selective-fire) M2 versions to be superior to the Chinese Type 50 (PPSh-41 copy) SMG that most of their opponents had.

    cheers

    eon

    • Counter the arguments about “frozen Chi-com and KPA uniforms” and “inadequate to stop onrushing Chi-coms in the wire” stories?

      The lightness and handiness of the carbine apparently had a psychological downside: When faced by bugle-blowing human wave attacks, it seems that the carbine-armed do not think that they are adequately armed and are incapable of inflicting enough damage on the enemy. That is my theory. That and the missing. As one of our irrepressible interlocutors puts it: “I could be (often am!) wrong…?”

      • A contributing factor was the low temperature during much of the Korean War, especially at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. Any propellant will lose “oomph” as the temperature drops. I’ve read that the powder used in the early loading of the .30 Carbine cartridge was especially susceptible to that effect.

        Even without that, the .30 Carbine is basically a hot pistol load. It would have been far more affected by a few percent of performance loss than, say, a .30-’06. I wonder if there are any reports from that time and place of 9X19 and .45 Auto cartridges also performing more poorly than expected.

        • Yeah, but if you’re going to counter a human wave attack in the absence of friendly artillery (including mortars), a machine gun is your best bet, not the infantryman’s long arm. And no, the bullets from the carbine did NOT bounce off the heavy great coats. I’m very certain anyone stupid enough to freeze a coat onto his person (in the middle of winter, no less) would be too heavy to charge out on the attack. After all, he could still get shot right in the face.

          • Has anybody made formal controlled tests shooting at thick winter clothing in freezing temperatures with cold cartridges?

  3. Again with the bull session question-answering video!

    I’d say this test was very heavily weighted in favour of the pistol. Put a couple of 100 yard targets in there- which is a much more realistic distance for stumbling onto an enemy- and it would not have been close.

    Also you are a far better pistol shot than almost any soldier.

    And, no service taught the two hand pistol hold back then. Try it again with one hand only on each gun.

  4. John Douglas Pedersen designed a pistol that fit into a rifle: The U.S. pistol, caliber .30 Model 1918 aka. the Pedersen device.

    The French adopted the cartridge as their pistol and SMG service cartridge, the 7.65-mm long.

    Pedersen must have conceded that anyone forced to carry everything a rifleman did, plus ten 40-shot magazines and the “Model 1918 pistol” in a metal scabbard was likely to ditch the stuff… So he worked on a two-caliber rifle with the .30-06 bolt action and the “pistol” already built in, see US 1,487,801 of 25 Mar 1924… At the same time, he thought long and hard and came up with his iteration of an “ideal” caliber for a self-loading rifle of just a single caliber: .276 Pedersen or 7×51-mm and his rifle to fire them… But he had to also develop a dry waxing process to lubricate the cases.

    Meanwhile, John M. Browning worked up his US 1,457,961 of 5 June 1923, a dedicated .30 Pedersen/ 7.62×20-mm long carbine with the same stock furniture as the service rifle so it could use a bayonet and not burn one’s hand, etc.

    John C. Garand built a better rifle to use the .276 Pedersen cartridge, while Pedersen was in the UK seeing if Vickers might build his rifle too, more profits! such that the USA and UK might have better and common rifles than the Roosevelt Mauser 1903 and 1907 rimmed-cartridge SMLE… Didn’t happen.

    Finally, MacArthur dropped a big ol’ note to Ordnance saying that there seemed to be a misapprehension about the switch of the service caliber from .30-06. After all, the machine guns were .30-06, and the stockpiles and reserves of .30-06 were considerable, even if about a quarter of those reserves went to the UK after France’s defeat but before Lend Lease… In any case, American ammunition manufactories could produce the .30 in quantity not anything like 7-mm.

    Garand had already designed a .30-06 caliber Garand rifle, so hey presto! The Garand became the U.S. rifle caliber .30 M1. Ordnance thought that considerable numbers of troops would essentially be slogging too and fro delivering the huge quantities of materiel and ammunition required by the modern way of war, and needed something better than a pistol, which they couldn’t hit anything with, but smaller and lighter than, say, a Garand service rifle or even the 1903 manually operated bolt action. Enter the U.S. carbine caliber .30 M1, which had to use a .30 cal. version of the hoary old, if accurate, .32 WSL cartridge for the failed 1905 rifle.

    John Garand’s “outside the box” entrant for Springfield armory is a tribute to American gun designers: It has the angled 45 degree top magazine feed of the Pedersen device, US pistol cal. .30 Model 1918, and the general operating system of Isaac Newton Lewis’ famous light(er) machine gun… But of course, in the end, the Winchester prototype, as remarkably designed and built in record time as presented by Ian swooped in and won adoption.

    At the end of WWII, the U.S. had entirely forgotten the old Pedersen/Ordnance idea of the .276 Pedersen and insisted on a .30 caliber cartridge that if more efficient in design, replicated the ballistics of the good ol’ .30-06 and browbeat the UK into ditching their 7×43-mm/.280/30 cartridge…

    Isn’t that some kind of masterpiece? One learns a thing or two from watching Mr. M’Collum’s forgotten weapons!

    • “(…)Pedersen/Ordnance idea of the .276 Pedersen(…)”
      Interestingly, British in 1930s were also interested in switching from ·303 British to new service cartridge, possibly that one.
      They tested not only Pedersen but also WHITE .276-INCH SELF-LOADING RIFLE, see 1st photo from top: http://www.quarryhs.co.uk/White.htm
      founding both Pedersen and WHITE to be superior to earlier tested self-loading rifles.
      Finally British lost interest in the .276 Pedersen but either there are not whyabouts given for that move in above text or they is very finesse allusion beyond my command of 1930s British military language.

  5. Ian is a skilled pistol shot. One reason for adopting the Carbine was that the amount of training required so that a draftee could hit a bullseye target at 25 yards was excessive compared to shooting a rifle at that distance.

    At least a few World War Two organizations taught two-handed “combat firing” and this film shows the prone position:
    https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=world+war+two+training+film+point+shooting&&view=detail&mid=04B30ED4DD5A78D274DB04B30ED4DD5A78D274DB&&FORM=VRDGAR&ru=%2Fvideos%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dworld%2Bwar%2Btwo%2Btraining%2Bfilm%2Bpoint%2Bshooting%26qs%3Dn%26form%3DQBVDMH%26sp%3D-1%26pq%3Dworld%2Bwar%2Btwo%2Btraining%2Bfilm%2Bpoint%2Bshooting%26sc%3D0-42%26sk%3D%26cvid%3DEA8B663C9575457794C49E167A440742
    These aren’t the modern refined two-hand techniques but look at the date on the film!

    Speaking of how to pronounce “carbine” this official film calls it a “kar-bon:”
    https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=you+tube+m1+carbine+army+training+film&&view=detail&mid=3B9B3ED8775C745651F73B9B3ED8775C745651F7&&FORM=VRDGAR&ru=%2Fvideos%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dyou%2Btube%2Bm1%2Bcarbine%2Barmy%2Btraining%2Bfilm%26qs%3Dn%26form%3DQBVRMH%26sp%3D-1%26pq%3Dyou%2Btube%2Bm1%2Bcarbine%2Barmy%2Btraining%2Bfilm%26sc%3D0-38%26sk%3D%26cvid%3D06FE33BFCFCA486AB66E09FA2CF0B7BD

    It’s a US Army training film on the M-14 rifle! I don’t care what you call it as long as I understand what you’re talking about.

    Comparing pistol to carbine was instructive and I’d like to see more content like this. The M1 Carbine was supposed to replace the pistol, the submachine gun, and the M1903 rifle–a friend of mine was sent to Alaska as a machine gunner and instead of drawing a pistol he was issued a Springfield due to a severe shortage of pistols. Note that the M1 Rifle (Garand) was intended to replace the M1903 Rifle (and more numerous M1917 Rifle issued to the National Guard), the M1918 Automatic Rifle (BAR), and the submachine gun.

    I don’t have the resources to test this out, but how would the Carbine fare versus either the M3 submachine gun or the old Tommy gun?

  6. One bizarre–well, at least to me–trick I’ve learned in firing the M1 carbine at range settings and reliability:

    Ensure that your magazine springs have not been installed “backwards.” It might seem that there is no proper “direction” to the spring, but given the perversity of all things mechanical, there is. In my experience, there will be a FTF on the last round if the magazine spring has been installed “the wrong way.” Vexing!

    • I can confirm that I too have noticed the same phenomenon: the upper end of the spring, the one that pushes the elevator, must act on its rear part, in order to guarantee the maximum elevation of the cartridge base. Failing that, it may happen that the bolt face slips on the cartridge instead of removing it from the magazine.
      Even my M1 Garand shows preferences regarding the filling of the clips: imagining a loaded clip just inserted in the rifle, it is good that the first cartridge at the top is on the right side. Filling the clip in a mirror way, sometimes an FTF happens (more easily the well-known seventh shot jamming).

  7. Well, yes, a discharged carbine lying on the table in front of the operator is the most common contact situation. 😉
    If you are already trying to “imagine how it could be,” perhaps you should try to pull on everything that a soldier should do?
    For example.
    https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/1524/1342/products/mu1884-13.jpg?v=1571453762
    https://www.dw.com/image/1222552_101.jpg
    https://www.auto-ordnance.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/GUNS1010-3.jpg

    For greater authenticity, You can put something else on top.
    It will be much more interesting. 😉

    • Ian clearly roleplays someone in support role (e.g. a driver) in this match.

      Regarding the “discharged” carbine – carrying in condition 3 definitely did happen.

    • While the M3 clearly served armored crews, it was hardly a weapon intended for the scale of issue of the pistol and the carbine, no?

      • I was issued an M3, (not an M3A1) in the 80’s at Fort Bliss as part of 3ACR, and later again as an armored vehicle crewman (3rd AD). What a piece of junk! Quite frankly they should all have been gathered up and crushed at the end of the war.

        I my wrecker operator got thrown off the small arms range because his “grease gun” got fouled in his web gear and he popped 4 rounds in the dirt in front of him before he could correct the issue. I traded all 4 of my M88 crews M3’s in for M16’s after we proved to the Bn. CDR that we couldn’t safely handle the damn things even under controlled conditions at the Butzbach range.

        Remember, M3’s only safety is a closed dust cover over a closed bolt. That still didn’t stop slam fires or AD’s when dropped.

        Too, effective range wasn’t much better than an issue 1911, given barrel length is roughly the same. Only advantage here is sight radius and amount of ammo. At least the Thompson had a longer barrel and higher capacity. While heavier, it had its own idiosyncracies (sic) that didn’t endear it to too many. About the only advantage the M3 had over the Thomspson was cost. The old 3rd Armor Division museum in Germany had a display with side by side invoices; one for a Thompson, one for an M3. Roughly you could buy 5 M3’s for the price of one Thompson.
        M1 Carbine all the way..

  8. Even Fairbairn, the guru of point-shooting, suggests that two hand shooting should be default…IF you have time. His pointing style was predicated on the experience of actual police in actual shootouts. Very different from military situations of course.

    (Faulty memory warning) I THINK I saw something by Ayoob where, reviewing police dash-cam recordings, he could not find a single instance where an officer in peril actually used the two-hand grip he’d been trained for.

    • Ayoob stated that instinctive behavior, going back to the caveman, will override training almost every time.

      Personnel trained to “go to Weaver” and stand upright to shoot will do it on the range. But in the field, they will almost invariably crouch (the caveman instinct at work), thrust the weapon out one-handed, generally in front of their own center of mass, and start puling the trigger.

      Wartime footage of Fairbairn at Camp X in Canada shows him teaching this exact technique with the .45 pistol. It was the same technique he taught to the Shanghai Municipal Police, as described in the book Shooting to Live with the One-Hand Gun he co-authored with Eric Sykes.

      In the book, they further stated that the sidearm should be able to act as much like a machine gun as possible. Meaning, high magazine capacity and the ability to deliver rapid repeat fire on any target.

      They also stated that they did not believe in “stopping power theoreies”. The only “one-shot stop” they ever saw in Shanghai was when one of their officers shot a miscreant once in the chest, the bullet hit the heart, and he fell down dead. The gun was a Colt M1903 in .32 ACP firing standard 71-grain FMJ.

      I would assume that all things being equal, they would consider a high-capacity 9 x 19mm to be superior to a .45 M1911 just on grounds of ammunition available without reloading.

      The only “modern” unit that teaches instinctive shooting in the “traditional” style is the FBI. They teach holding the pistol in front of the body, and the off hand with clenched fist across the chest behind it. Theoretically, this provides some protection against a heart shot.

      AFAIK, no FBI agent has ever actually shot that way since D.A. “Jelly” Bryce back in the 1930s.

      All of the above rather calls into question the entire issue of “training”, as what’s taught on the range never seems to be applied in the field.

      cheers

      eon

      • It is useless to teach a disinterested person.
        To the interested person, it is enough to indicate where the library is.

      • Instinct-based actions are easier to pull than actions relying entirely on conscious efforts. Standing perfectly upright to pull a two-handed pistol shot can get you shot in the face by your intended victim. As a general rule, expect to empty half a pistol magazine into your victim just to be sure he’s down, and perhaps finish him off by STOMPING on his face. Note that doing the latter action would be considered a war crime if the person is somehow still alive but no longer willing to fight.

        • I got some odd looks from the first class in small arms I taught when I began by telling the assembled officers from eight different sheriffs’ departments that the primary weapon when responding to a call was the shotgun in the lock on the cruiser’s dash, not the pistol on the belt.

          Subsequent actual reports from said sheriffs’ departments proved me correct. Most times, the presence of the shotgun in a deputy’s hands de-escalated things without any shots being fired.

          In the three cases in which firing was necessary, the shotgun won over the pistol, hands down. In one, the deputy without the shotgun emptied his .38 revolver at the armed robber shooting at him, at a distance of twenty feet, and missed every time. The robber, fortunately, was no better, missing the deputy three times with his .25 automatic.

          Then the deputy with the shotgun fired once, bringing the engagement to an abrupt end. PS- the robber lived to stand trial, admittedly after seven No.4 buckshot had been extracted from him.

          The only “one shot stop” observed was when the chief deputy in one county was unloading his S&W M59 and managed to bypass every safety system. He removed the magazine after first racking the action to remove the chambered round (thereby putting another round up the spout), put an empty magazine in (thereby deactivating the magazine-out safety), and then “decocked” it by pointing it at the floor and pulling the trigger (rather than using the slide-mounted decocker/safety).

          He collected the 125-grain JHP in his calf. And spent a year in rehabilitation.

          As the old saying goes, it’s impossible to make mechanisms foolproof because fools are so ingenious.

          cheers

          eon

  9. I have often wondered if we shouldn’t have gone for a .45 carbine using 1911 mags. Sort of a Marlin Camp Carbine, but more reliable.

    • Ian already covered that:
      https://www.forgottenweapons.com/reising-m55-submachine-gun-at-james-d-julia/
      The Marines used the Reising instead of the Carbine because at first there was a shortage of Carbines–and Thompsons, and just about everything else. The Reising was available. After a short period the Marines replaced their Reisings with the M1 Carbine. I did have a Marlin Camp Carbine in .45 ACP a long time ago but had to get rid of it due to frequent moves–I didn’t do adequate firing with the Marlin nor have I fired a Reising and so I can’t tell you which one was more reliable than the commercial Universal Model 1003 Carbine I owned for several years.

      The Reising was inferior to the M1 Carbine in several ways–the magazine of the Reising was initially bigger (20 round–the 12 round came later) and the Reising was select-fire, but the Carbine had more range, was more accurate, possessed better barrier penetration, weighed less and was easier to maintain. The Carbine seems to have been far more durable as well.

      Ian already covered the .45 carbine–the Reising. Even fired it.

  10. I have spoken with many WW2 and Korean War vets and all preferred the M1 Carbine over the 1911A1 pistol. More accurate, light weight, and higher magazine capacity. The only complaint was the mags for the M1 Carbine but that was a simple fix, toss the bad mag and use a new one. Great video Ian and great shooting.

  11. It is not surprising that the existing riflemens, for whom this is the main weapon, preferred a carbine to a rifle. At typical contact distances, the carabine is much more convenient. Therefore, such carbines were in high demand among those who more often than others had “seen the whites of the eyes of the enemy.”
    But most categories of operators for whom the carabine was originally intended, on the contrary, tried to exchange it for some kind of pistol at the riflemens mentioned above.
    The situation in which a member of a group weapon may need PDW is usually such that there will be no time to unravel and remove the carbine from under the entire pile of equipment that the operator carries.
    As with “quick repeat shots”, there is usually no time left. An attacker with a bayonet must be laid down with the first bullet.
    There may not be time left for the second shot.

    In this regard, the proposal “to make a carbine chambered for .45” looks obviously logical.
    But history does not accept the subjunctive mood.
    It was as it was.

    • there was a shoulder-stocked .45 pistol at the initial trials, which was rejected because it did not use the .30 US carbine/ 7.62×33-mm cartridge slated for use. 9×19-mm was similarly a priori rejected. Neither pistol cartridge was deemed adequate for the range requirements sought in the “light rifle” or carbine program.

      6-million produced in record time, many by companies that had never produced firearms before.

      “Unravelling” a carbine from under a bunch of heavy gear would portend ditching said gear. Getting to a pistol under a full flap holster would be rather slow proposition if it was a “quick draw” affair… which it usually was not. And the whole point was that even if the pistol was smaller and handier to carry in a holster, the person who drew it was entirely unable to get hits with it, and that hits matter.

      • “there was a shoulder-stocked .45 pistol at the initial trials…”(C)

        And where can I read about it?

        The fact that such a weapon was NOT accepted, probably indicates that in those years not all officers of the Department of Armaments managed to degrade to a vegetative state.
        A pistol with an attachable holster as a spare weapon, this is clinical idiocy.
        Such a pistol kit with a holster-butt, much less convenient to use than a pistol or carbine. And in some circumstances completely unsuitable.

        The standard WW2 holster for 1911 is designed for its placement on various elements of equipment. There was also a tankers holster for wearing under the shoulder.
        Not to mention that it does not interfere with putting a pistol in your pocket or hanging it on a rope loop as conveniently.

        In any case, if the carabine was better suited for self-defense than a pistol, the pistols would die out as canes with a sword and the like.

  12. Good demonstration. I think the main reason for the times favoring the carbine in most of the demonstrations was because the 1911 was holstered. You should have just set both weapons side by side or the demonstrator should have practiced drawing a lot more before the demonstration. I think at short ranges < 25 yds. there should have been no difference in how each weapon performed.

  13. I believe the fair way to test this would be to start with the carbine slung. The actual way every encounter should start is with the shooter taking cover.

  14. Thank you Ian. This was a test tilted for the 1911 but still proving the carbines superiority. I love your “historical shooting. I wish you would do one with the 1903 rifle versus the 1917rifle, the S@W1917 versus the 1911, and the colt1917 versus the S@W1917. I would also like to see an evaluation shoot of the 1903 rifle versus the 1903a3.
    Why is it you have never done a video on the 1903 rife?

  15. M1 Carbine VS M1911A1 debate. Have both! As a platoon leader, my issue weapons were an M16A1 (close enuf to a carbine) and a M19111A1. The pistol was a symbol of office (I and my PSG were issued them) and a backup. And yeah, no one is doing quick draw from a GI holster! FWIW, i fired from a two handed crouch on the range and always shot Expert (truth in advertising, I’d been shooting pistol competitions for about 5 years at that point)

  16. Question: Why was Winchester’s .30 carbine cartridge chosen? How many other candidates were proposed? As I understand* it, initially the Army only specified that the new round must be at least .26 caliber and effective to 300 yards, without much else in the way of restrictions. Seems to me, you could have based a carbine round on the .35 WSL and obtained greater power (faster and heavier bullet) without making design of the weapon any harder. (Me? I’d’ve started with the .401 SL and necked it down to .280, IOW, sneaked an assault rifle cartridge in by the side door.)

    * Functionality is still imperfect; prototype testing continues.

  17. MILITARY CHARACTERISTICS FOR LIGHT WEIGHT SEMI-AUTOMATIC RIFLE, AS POSSIBLE REPLACEMENT FOR CAL. .45 PISTOL AND SUBMACHINE GUN.

    […] 2. The rifle must be adapted to function with a cartridge of caliber .30, of the Winchester self-loading type with case similar to that of the Winchester self-loading cartridge, caliber .32. The weight of the bullet will be from 100 to 110 grains and the cartridge case shall be of a rimless type. The powder charge should be sufficient to impart a muzzle-velocity of approximately 2,000 feet per second to the bullet which shall be of the full gilding metal jacketed type. […] October 1, 1940.

    • To piggy-back on Daweo’s points about the desire to keep the weight down to 5 or 5-1/2lbs., there was a theoretical tactical requirement for the “light rifle” or carbine to be able to reach out to 300 meters range. This eliminated pistol cartridges, including the .45 acp. A survey made of manufacturing capacity for the ammunition in light of the rapidity of the development effort augured for .30 caliber. Looking at “off the shelf” commercial cartridges in light of the requirements settled on the .32 Winchester SL for the failed M1805 self-loading rifle. Winchester agreed to produce enough ammunition with a 110-grain bullet, but had to change chamber pressure from 36k psi to 38.5/40k psi. And so the prototypes were all designed around that cartridge, which went from being the .30 SR to the .30 carbine cartridge.

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