Review: Inland Reproduction M1 Carbine

A little while back I got my hands on a T&E sample of the new reproduction Inland M1 Carbine, and have spent some time with it. I addition to regular range plinking, I used it for a 2-Gun Action Challenge Match a couple months back (video: 2-Gun – Inland M1 Carbine). I also dragged my friend Karl Kasarda into the review, because he has experience with a bunch of other M1 Carbines, including two years shooting the M1 Carbine match at Camp Perry (gold in 2006; bronze in 2007). We put together a two part review video, which you can see here:

First off, I should clarify that this gun has no direct lineage to the Inland carbines made during WWII. That Inland was a subdivision of General Motors, and these current reproductions are being sold by MKS Supply, which is a firearms distributor with no connection to GM. The Inland firearms trademark appears to have been owned by Chiappa until be recently transferred to an individual. MKS doesn’t say who makes the guns, except to refer to the Inland Manufacturing trademark name.

We had a number of problems with the gun, none of which were particularly surprising – they are issues pretty common to the M1 Carbine. My biggest question was whether the manufacturer had been able to solve the ubiquitous reliability issues of the Carbine. Even good-condition original military examples always seem to have just a little bit of unreliability. Not enough to be considered junk, but enough to convince a decent number of combat vets to look for a better weapon. Unfortunately, the new Inland guns do not appear to have fixed this, at least based on our T&E sample. I got about one malfunction per 50-round box of ammo, using S&B, Tula, and Aguila. The malfunctions were all failures to feed, which could also be attributed to bad magazines – although I had issues with all 5 magazines I used, including the one supplied with the gun. For what it’s worth, that magazine from Inland was an obvious reproduction item, finished with a pretty icky glassy black paint. Why they couldn’t spring for a real USGI magazine to ship with each gun, I don’t know.

The next issue I had with the gun was with the rear sight. Inland has three models (1944, 1945, and M1A1 Paratrooper), which all use the late style of sight which is adjustable for both windage and elevation. It is a self-contained unit mounted into a dovetail on the receiver. On this T&E gun, that unit came loose, and would slide side to side about 1/8 inch (3mm) as I was shooting. In addition, the elevation slider would sometimes move while shooting. The moving elevation slider is a well documented problem with GI carbines as well, but the loose dovetail is a concern. This combination of sight problems cost me a stage at the 2-Gun match. Interestingly, the early production M1 Carbines used a far simpler two-position L-shaped aperture sight with no option for adjustment. The US marksmanship doctrine led to its replacement with a fully adjustable design, which in my opinion is counterproductive for a gun like the M1 Carbine. This is a carbine with a very limited effective range, and a fixed rear sight would not impose any substantial hindrance to shooting it, and would also prevent the problems that manifested on this Inland gun.

Lastly, the Inland is made with all cast parts. That is not automatically a problem – casting today is a totally effective manufacturing method and (especially on an M1 Carbine) is in no way inferior to forging or machining from billet. However, Inland left casting seams on lots of exposed areas and those are frankly a bit ugly. The front sight in particular has a casting seam running right down its front surface, and in the right light it really distracts from your sight picture. For a $1100 gun, I would really like to see that sort of thing given a proper smooth finish to match the originals (which were not cast).

I did not do any accuracy testing with the Inland carbine, because I really wasn’t concerned about accuracy. It shot well enough to get good plate hits at the 2-Gun match, and that’s all I would expect or desire from an M1 Carbine.

With all this in mind, the M1 Carbine is still a really fun recreational plinker. The reliability issues are of zero concern in that context; they just mean that every once in a while you have to rack the bolt handle to chamber a round. No big deal. I have no doubt that Inland would happily repair a rear sight that came loose like mine did. The M1 Carbine is a wonderfully light and handy rifle to carry or stash in a car – there is a reason lots of support troops adored them in WWII and Korea. If you want an M1 Carbine and don’t want to worry about 75 years of wear and tear, these are quite acceptable guns. They do cost more than originals, though…at least the originals I would consider buying. You can get a shooter-grade original M1 Carbine for $800-$900, while the new Inlands appear to be selling at MSRP, for about $1100. To me, that makes an easy decision; I would rather have an original.

30 Comments

  1. Centre punch and hammer needed for that rear sight.

    Also there is something of a conflict between staying faithful to the original appearance versus having a design which can be cost effectively finished to remove casting sprues.

    If you look at the likes of a Ruger 77, or a lot of the other cast bolt actions, they’re made with flat sides so that they are easy for semi skilled labour to finish on a belt sander.

    • After posting, I went back and had a look at pictures of some carbines made by Universal.

      Fully appreciating that the carbines were made as budget plinkers and truck rifles, rather than best side by side double shotguns – the Grinding marks on the top of the rear of the receiver were not even parallel, probably indicating hand finishing on a narrow grind wheel – no one had seen fit to set up a simple fixture to hold the receivers in order to achieve an even finish.

  2. Back in the 1960’s, I had a Winchester M-1 carbine with a serial number of about 6430000. One of the last ones made. The rear sight was loose in the dovetail, and would fall out. I traded it for something. A couple of weeks later one of the guys showed up at the club with it, and the rear sight fell out. we finally staked it in place.
    I now have one built by National Postal Meter. It has the slide rear sight, but adjustment was way off. It turned out that there were two different height front sights. One for the flip sight, and another for the slide sight. I found the correct sight at a gun show, and now it’s dead on target. Won’t feed soft points at all, but very accurate and reliable with ball ammo. Great first “army rifle” for the grandkids to use.

  3. Thanks Ian and Karl! Really nice and revealing. Also enjoy your humour!
    I am not too excited about this Carbine reproduction either… Interesting to know that MKS doesn’t disclose the identity of the manufacturer(s) of the guns. I am not saying there is something suspect with that but still I’d like to know who makes the guns (and where, while we are at it). And, btw, I am 100% with Karl when he mentions the detracting points of this reproduction Carbine from 7’36” (2nd video)!

  4. My WW2 Blue Sky import Inland has had 0% malfunctions in the time I have owned it. I’ve used U.S. made ammo to dirty Russian Wolf ammo and many countries I between. No problems and a accurate shooting carbine for a rifle that was considered a P.O.S back when it was imported. I’ve been very happy with my little war baby.

  5. The push button safety can easily be switched for the wing safety. I had to do that with my National Postal Meter. For reliability, besides good magazines, make sure that the gas piston is free. By that, I mean rattling loose. Carbon gets in there, and it tightens up. Put a finger over the muzzle, and fill the barrel with carburetor cleaner. Let it trickle out of the gas piston, as you push and pull on it. It should come free without too much effort. I have seen them so carboned up that they would only move with pliers.

    • Or get a piston nut wrench and take the tappet out and clean the whole gas system. It’s one of the tools I bought when I first got my carbine. Got to have the right tool for the job.

    • I’m not a big enthusiast of the flip safety. The only AD in my career was due to a sticky flip safety on a Universal carbine. The amount of oomph needed to release it resulted in my finger slipping past it when it finally did release, and slapping the trigger. Bang.

      Since I had it pointed at the ground, no harm done, and since I was in my (large) backyard alone, no threat to bystanders, but surprises like that I can cheerfully live without.

      cheers

      eon

  6. A long time ago, a former work colleague of mine told that he had served in WW2 as a sapper in a unit of the British SAS. They were deployed in the far east, to parachute in and make air strips, as the Japanese were pushed back at the end of the war.

    He told me that their preferred individual weapon was the M1 Carbine because it was light and handy (they had a lot of other kit to carry) and because it was great for rapid fire.

    I think he acknowledged that they sort-of knew that, compared to heavier weapons (e.g. No.5’s and Thompsons), it had very marginal lethality. However, he said they considered that fighting enemy troops was not their specific task – what they most wanted to be able do was lay down a lot of fire and leg it if they did somehow encounter any of the “bad guys”.

    • The carbine round is certainly a lot less powerful than 0.303in or .30-06, but saying it’s less of a “stopper” than a .45 is mostly myth. The .30 USC hits with about 900 FPE at the muzzle, with about 400 FPE still available at 300 yards, its intended maximum effective range. Meaning, at 300 it’s still hitting as hard as a .45 or 9mm SMG does at the muzzle.

      I’ve worked with all three, including shots into ballistic gelatin with expanding and non-expanding bullets. .45 and 9mm do about an equal amount of damage; the carbine slug does more, either way. Its closest pistol analogue is .357 Magnum in terms of permanent avulsion, etc.

      I’d have been perfectly content with a carbine back then, too. preferably the selective-fire M2 version.

      😉

      cheers

      eon

      • The people who say that the 45auto has better ballistics than the 30 carbine round have neither owned or shot one. They would probably claim that the 10 pump 177 cal BB gun that when pumped up 20 times or more, that shoots as hard or harder than a 22lr,that they had as a child and bragged to every kid in the neghiborhood about would have tons more knock down power that the wimpy 30 carbine.

  7. Audie Murphy loved the carbine and he wasn’t in the rear with the gear. Also I’ve seen many pics of Germans at the Bulge with captured carbines.

  8. Ian,
    Have you covered any of the Universal carbines here?

    Do you have any thoughts on the causes of the unreliability?

    whether it is intrinsic in the cartridge not being bottleneck and it’s having a stubby bullet and a prominent case mouth to headspace on?

    or, a problem of the gun’s geometry and feed path?

    or, bending binding or in the operating rod and return springs?

    Or, insufficient mass in the operating rod assembly, resulting in too fast operation and too little momentum for reliable chambering and locking?

    Does anyone here have any experience with carbines using bottlenecked cases? like Universal’s Ferret, or carbines chambered for the various .22/.30 carbine wildcats? are they more reliable?

    • “whether it is intrinsic in the cartridge not being bottleneck and it’s having a stubby bullet and a prominent case mouth to headspace on?”
      Reports about other self-loading/automatic weapon chambered for this cartridge (Cristóbal Carbine for example) should be useful here.
      Photos and description in English of Cristóbal Carbine here: http://sassik.livejournal.com/169298.html
      sadly I don’t know anything about real reliability of this weapon

    • I watched the slow motion at the beginning of part 1 a few times.

      The round that’s feeding doesn’t really want to go straight into the chamber, does it…

      lots of wobbles and a swerve to the left before it goes in.

    • Does anyone here have any experience with carbines using bottlenecked cases? like Universal’s Ferret, or carbines chambered for the various .22/.30 carbine wildcats? are they more reliable?

      I used to have an M-1 carbine that at some point had been rebarreled to the 5.7 Johnson cartridge, also known as .22 Spitfire. Basically a .30 Carbine necked down to .22 caliber. Reliability was 100%, and I think the bottleneck was a very large part of that reliability. However, I will qualify that by saying I only had one set of handload data, from which I never varied. The main issue I had with the rifle was simply the amount of time I spent forming brass. Had the thing about 3 years, when somebody offered me significantly more cash than I thought it was worth so I let it go. It was one of the most “just plain FUN” rifles I ever had, and I have regretted selling the thing every since.

      • Allen,
        Thank you for sharing your experiences.

        Watching Ian’s Slow motion of the action cycling ties in well with what you found.

        I’ve never fired any of the necked down carbine wildcats, but do like .22 hornet which has similar performance (the .22/30 carbine rounds are more like K hornet capacity and performance).

  9. Thanks for the review. I also have had feeding problems with US military Carbine ammunition in the M1 Carbine. My solution was to replace the Round nosed bullets with the Sierra .30 Caliber/7.62mm (.308) 110 gr. HP. These bullets feed perfectly in all my M1 Carbines and use the same loading data as the RN Bullets.

    I also have run into the staking problem with the rear sights on numerous M-1 carbines, and find the center punch and 8 oz ball peen hammer solution will solve the problem 95% of the time. Those 5% needed the application of a 16 oz Hammer.

  10. I have an Eighties vintage Iver Johnson. I have replaced several of the parts, most recently the bolt due to peening. With the best magazines I have this thing is around 99% reliable. With the worst it is more like 30%.

    At 125 yards (the longest available at the local range) standing, using the sling, I can consistently put just about every shot into the torso of a silhouette, using good factory or handloaded ammo. Which is pretty much the same results I get with my Mini-14. (No, I’m not a great shot. 🙂

  11. My experience with my 1943 Inland M1 Carbine is some initial random failure to cycle properly, but with one or two hundred rounds through it, something close to 100% reliability. In other words, pretty much like a brand new 1911.
    And still more reliable (if only a little) than my Garand. (Still working on breaking that one in.)
    Reasonable and objective analysis of M1 Carbine problems comes down to “failure to feed/failure to cycle” issues, not “failure to fire” matters. John George had no stated issues, my Dad, in his book had no issues on reliability either.
    Further analysis on “stopping power” pretty much reveals an M1 Carbine round steaming along at a hundred yards range carries close to (or more) than the the foot-poundage of the “Mighty” .357 Magnum does at the muzzle.
    Think about that.
    Objective analysis of Korean War infantry encounters mostly redefines “failure to stop” as “clean miss.” Just as the “Bazooka” antitank fiasco (Ca1951) turned out to mostly be “We were so poorly trained that we didn’t know you had to pull the safety-pin out before firing the rocket… we watched them bounce off th T34s without exploding..” Duh.
    As a real-life “Bazooka-Guy”I can tell you even the newer 3.5 “Super” version would come from the armory without the slightest attempt at zeroing.
    But to be fair, the 3.5 was not possibible to be loaded without arming.
    How would you like to tackle a T34 or even the delicate PT76 with something that wouldn’t even shoot where it looked?
    (I got the job because I was pretty good at getting the WWII Sherman on the first bounce. Pretty Big Bang for a pretty small hole.)

    • Nice way to put it, David. I know tackling a T-34 company from a distance was what Tiger tanks were supposed to do. And more embarrassingly, the T-34-85 could still get sniped by the wheezing old Panzer IV, if we’re talking about the Ausf. H and Ausf. J variants with longer main guns.

      But back to the matter at hand. The M1 Carbine is intended to give supporting troops a chance at fending off enemy infantry without getting too personal. The Thompson SMG is just too expensive and heavy (with a short range due to ballistics of .45 ACP) and a truck driver certainly can’t carry a Garand in the cab. I suppose a potential alternative would be a Luger carbine (or Mauser C96 carbine) with longer barrel, fore-grip, and buttstock. Or, if you were smart, you would probably procure a Beretta MAB 38A or a Danuvia 43M.

      Did I mess up?

  12. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why they bother making these.

    At that price point, there is no reason for these to exist. I don’t suspect they’ll be around long.

  13. I must say that the early Universial carbines were indeed mil-spec,plus milled receivers.I own two mid sixties manufactured rifles and never had reliability issues as long as I use GI mags.Crappy aftermarket magazines have always been a contributing factor I believe to a lot of the problems people have. The only real difference between one of my Universals and my Winchester is They are blued not parked and the stocks are finished.Everything on them is GI.

  14. Ian and Karl thanks for the review. I have to agree the price point is way to steep for the quality your getting.

  15. The originals were/are many times a mix/mismatch of features. The last M1 I saw was late war (44) with the round bolt etc, but the early style sights. FWIW, my dad carried one from North Africa to Germany. He was Signal Corps (crypto/phones)so it was in the carried a lot & shot a little category. However, he loved the guns.

  16. Any thoughts as to how these compare to the Kahr remakes? I purchased a Kahr some ten years ago and it is an interesting rifle

  17. Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away …

    I was “schooled” by a gent on carbines who was “into carbines.” at a point of sale of a bunch of carbines that had been provided by Uncle Sam to the Força Expedicionaria Brasileira for use in the Italian campaign late in WWII. These were some awesome carbines, lemme tell ya. Since Brazil does not use the M1 carbine, these were packed up and put away until they were finally sold off.

    A few years later, I had a Winchester with all late features out of the RoKA/Blue Sky Imports. The front sight was canted, and it had been “rode hard and put away wet” and had reliability issues, which at the time, I tried to solve by replacing all the springs. I do believe that that carbine was the very first firearm that I literally detail stripped down to every little bit. Quite the boost in confidence, frankly. Ultimately, the price for carbines with through the roof–particularly for Winchesters. Time marched on, and I always regretted letting it go, and then my spouse got one of the Bavarian carbines from the CMP. So I found an Italian 1963 Nato Inland SG from circa Sept.-Oct. 1943, that had had a Springfield armory swaged barrel installed by the Italians along with a F.A.T. Terni M2 carbine stock for about 900 bucks. I got it, detail stripped it, inspected and cleaned it, reassembled it, and was highly gratified by its accuracy. In fact a couple guys at the range seemed kinda freaked out that I was getting the hits with it, and asked me a bit about it. But, then it started up with any number of terrible reliability issues. So I took apart the bolt–again!–and found it had a chipped extractor. I ordered a new extractor, and now it is one of my favorite firearms!

  18. I have an arsenal rebuilt Quality Hardware receiver carbine bought through the DCM in 1966 for $20. I also have an Inland made original M1A1 folding stock carbine which I bought about 8 years ago for considerably more than $20. I have shot both in service rifle matches. Accuracy is fair with the M! being better than the M1A1. Most of the carbine shooting I have done has been with US GI ammo and always with GI magazines. Reliability has been excellent. I have shot some Aquila (Mexican) ammo and it has been somewhat less accurate but no reliability issues.

  19. $1100 is insane for a small cast receiver gun like that. You can get a Mini for $700-800, nearly identical operating system and damn reliable, plus better finishing, firing a cheaper and better cartridge. Tack on another $60-75, depending on model, for a click adjustable Tech-sight, which is a far better sight than the M1 Carbine’s slider sight, or they have the option to mount optics. The only reason I see to buy one of these is if you absolutely want an M1 Carbine.

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