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PRECISION SHOOTING — DECEMBER 2009
BY DAN ARNOLD
As the product of a U.S. Army Ordnance Department search for a light rifle to replace the Model 1911A1 .45 caliber pistol, the .30 caliber M1 Carbine was to be the most-produced, most-loved, and
most-hated rifle of World War II. Anecdotal evidence suggests that in almost every theater of operations there were GI's constantly swapping for M1 Carbines, and seemingly just as many swapping M1 Carbines for anything else to use against the enemy. No one could ar-
The M1 Carbine was never thought of as a target rifle until the CMP created a match for it. Surprisingly, it is a capable weapon if properly set up.
gue that the M1 Carbine and its ammunition was handier and considerably lighter, but there was always the issue of its cartridge, in reality nothing more than a magnum-class .30 caliber pistol cartridge. Ballistically unimpressive, there would be numerous accounts of its ineffectiveness against highly motivated enemy soldiers. All that being said, for pure fun it’s hard to beat an M1 Carbine. Over the years, my friends and I have put holes through hundreds of menacing cans peering from eroded hillsides, perforated all kinds of paper targets, and every now and then an unlucky rabbit or two has even gone into the pot at the end of the day. One of the nice things about the Carbine is that its light recoil and non-menacing appearance makes it a perfect center-fire rifle introduction for the beginner, especially women or their daughters. Here in the US, there has always been a steady market for M1 Carbines and with import restrictions put into place during the 90's the supply has been fixed, with prices rising accordingly. Enter the Civilian Marksman-
Unfortunately. As shooters. Following that. Army's reaction was generally positive. Some have been refinished and stocks range from original World War II-issue to World War II replacement. one thing that works in our favor is that all U.S. As in all of the Games Matches. some of whom had never produced a firearm before. a brief history lesson: The M1 Carbine. Instead of all firing being conducted at 200 yards. It is also a testament to efficient massproduction and the soundness of Winchester's design. that I would not purchase any carbine with a hint of “frosting. or even Italian-made. and they want to sell them to the shooting public. Because Winchester was also trying to get the M1 Garand into production. The M1 Carbine sling may be used as a “hasty sling. Over the past three years or so. Competitors get 10 minutes for 10 sighting shots and then five minutes for 10 shots from the prone position. Consequently. Additionally. It's also a good excuse to take those old guns out of the closet and see what they will do. gauging the muzzle doesn't seem to be a reliable indicator of potential accuracy. so the interior condition of most barrels is quite good. CMP has not only provided a product for the shooter but a venue in which to shoot it. in the accuracy department the M1 Carbine is well-known for keeping ten rounds “inside a coffee can. I like the CMP Games Matches. and Germany. and perhaps best of all.” M1 Carbine could potentially have parts from a variety of manufacturers. to post-war replacements which may be U. These contractors varied from the automotive industry (Inland Division of General Motors) to typewriters (IBM) and even included a juke box manufac- turer (Rock Ola). they encourage shooters to come out and participate in a more relaxed venue than say. a Winchester design.S. During and after the war. The course of fire differs slightly from the other Games Matches. a total of ten different manufacturers would produce M1 Carbines. if you think about it. Austria. They're fun. I have seen exactly one M1 Carbine that was all-original. That model. yet it delivers accuracy on par with other rifles that gauge far better. That usually means the large fivepounder.” at 100 yards.” or corrosion in the bore. M1 Carbines have been returned from Italy. shiny bores.” in all positions but standing. the CMP Games' M1 Carbine Match. so good in fact. The U. which has further increased demand for the little carbines.S. M1 Carbines were sent to arsenals for repair and upgrading with absolutely no regard for matching of parts by manufacturer. The fact that M1 Carbines made up of unmatched parts continue to function and exhibit coffee-can accuracy is amazing in itself. not the much smaller onepounder. so even an “all-matching. so there must be something else coming into play.” As would be expected. All the others I have examined have been a hodgepodge of parts or an attempt to restore a rifle to its original condition. contracts were let to a variety of manufacturers. the M1 Carbine Match is held at the 100 yard-line in recognition of its ballistic challenges. ammunition is provided and everyone gets a T-shirt at the end of the match as well as achievement medals in recognition of their scores. In a move reminiscent of the Gillette razor campaign. It was brought home from the Pacific Theater by a friend's father. There are just too many out there that have nice. Their condition has been anywhere from a solid “good. that brings up the question: Just what can we do about the M1 Carbine's accuracy? First. CMP has spent the past several years scouring the globe for all of those “loaners. Winchester's number two. Military-produced ammunition for the M1 Carbine was non-corrosive. they are not subject to import restrictions. the shooters fire 10 shots from the standing position. Contrary to popular belief. the Presidents Match. So.” They want them back. In all. minor parts were sub-contracted to various manufacturers during the M1 Carbine production run.74 PRECISION SHOOTING — DECEMBER 2009 ship Program: Large numbers of M1 Carbines were “loaned. almost all have been upgraded with bayonet lugs and adjustable sights.” with a CMP muzzle gauge. 1941. but they requested a more refined model which Winchester delivered roughly 30 days later. each shooter has 60 seconds to fire 10 shots each from the prone and sitting positions and to finish the match.” to various governments around the world over the past 60 years and because of their unique status. they're a relief from several days of Camp Perry's intense competition. is basically the same model that would be manufactured until the end of production in 1945. the M1 Garand and 1903 Springfield / Vintage Rifle Matches.” to “very good. A good friend passed on some . went from drawing board sketches to working prototype in 13 days. I have an Inland-produced rifle that gauges a solid “3. on September 15.
” M1 Carbine won't win The standard post front sight and late-WWII adjustable rear sight have their limitations. he has succumbed to the lure of the CMP store's rack upon rack of rifles and as a result. Like me. a welcome feature in Italy's mud or Iwo Jima's volcanic sand. M1. there is a nifty technical manual from February of 1953 that goes into the maintenance and rebuilding procedures employed by the Army and Air Force. This locking tang engages a groove in the recoil plate in much the same way that the barrels of many muzzle loading rifles hook into a plate in the stock. slip the barrel band into place. The cartridge the carbine is chambered for. While an “accurized.” If the barrel and action were not suspended. in military parlance launches a 110-grain full metal jacket bullet at an average 1. even sub-sub-contractors.” in the technical manual to explain the need for the barrel and action to be suspended above the stock. Once the locking tang is engaged. Still. when the barrel band is tightened the receiver is free to squirm around in the recoil plate and the barrel band becomes in effect. the locking tang engages the recoil plate much more securely. by luck or design. doesn't it? That same technical manual also says in part. For example. Carbine. Instead. hardly something we would consider as creating significant barrel whip. Ball. the barrel has to be forced down into the barrel channel. three different types of recoil plates and three different styles of barrel band were produced. One of the joys of collecting old rifles is their accessories. Keep in mind though. the average coffee-can M1 Carbine will out-shoot the average 1911 pistol at 100 yards dayin and day-out. recoil plates. tighten the band. a GI could strip his weapon with nothing more than a cartridge rim. I tend to keep a rifle made by a specific manufacturer or a specific version based on its overall condition until I find an equal specimen that does group well. or a screwdriver. he seldom keeps any rifle that doesn't shoot acceptably. That being said. “The action then should be suspended by the recoil plate with clearance under the receiver and barrel. Unfortunately. that when the receiver engages the recoil plate. Unlike me. variations exist between receivers. it was deemed acceptable. I believe that we have an issue of bedding. is done by sliding the aperture in 100 yard increments. which produces the typical coffee-can group. Or rather. a coin. In average hands.30. I doubt that barrel harmonics are coming into play due to the carbine's 18-inch barrel.900 feet per second at slightly less than 40. and barrel bands. The M1 Carbine's receiver has an upward-jutting locking tang that projects from the rear of the receiver. the Caliber .000 psi. If. If you wade through the minutia. and then sell the first one off to another collector. lack of bedding. there are some interesting tidbits to be gleaned from the manual. Wow! Suddenly a coffee-can sized group sounds pretty good. . This was an innovative way to design a rifle. a pivot point. and you're done.” or “what if. In the case of the M1 Carbine. Over the course of running through several carbines. owns more than one M1 Carbine. Unfortunately. there is no “why. this system wasn't conducive to the best accuracy. if a carbine could keep five out of seven shots within a 12-inch tall by sixteen-inch wide target at 100 yards. With this system. but I have a pretty good idea what happens if that's not the case. If the barrel simply falls into the barrel channel at the front of the stock. such as accuracy standards. To top things off. I have yet to see any parts that wouldn't interchange. and egad. the recoil plate or stock was to be re- placed or adjusted. my friend had noticed that carbines requiring some downward pressure on the barrel to force it into the front of the stock and slip the barrel band into place usually grouped better than those that did not. the M1 Carbine was designed to replace a pistol.PRECISION SHOOTING — DECEMBER 2009 75 anecdotal evidence that pointed me in the direction of a potential fix for the carbine's accuracy. Elevation on the other hand. eliminating some of the action's free play and tightens groups considerably. which in most cases is encircled by a rather tight-fitting barrel band and bayonet lug attachment at roughly its mid-point. neither have I owned any rifles that I would call particularly tight fitting when I acquired them. out of a total of six carbines in my safe. one only has to lever the action down into the stock. Windage adjustments can be made precisely. With scores of prime contractors. sub-contractors.
with some manufacturers' parts commanding premium prices. there are even commercial manufacturers producing stocks for those who want to restore their car- The screw-tightened barrel band is the only thing retaining the front of the barreled action in the stock. type three barrel band. stocks were made by 14 different manufacturers using three different types of wood. The amount of wood that needs to be removed is very small. It should require slight pressure to force the barrel down enough to slide the barrel band into place. we want the best and strongest barrel band there is. thereby slightly bending it and altering its fit to the receiver. parts for the carbine are climbing in price. I recently found a very wellwritten article about carbine accuracy on the CMP's website which also points out the positive effects of tightly securing the back of the receiver and the recoil plate. I'm just reluctant to whack away at expensive parts that might be marred or bent beyond repair in the process. The most extreme case was an Inland-produced carbine that my son had picked out for himself. Any more than that seems to work no better and in some cases actually causes parts to bind in the stock. Around the globe. During World War Two. the before and after differences in group size can be quite surprising. Assuming that you're in possession of a loose-fitting M1 Carbine. which specifies that no work other than careful fitting of parts be done. this is the easiest way that I have found to increase accuracy. the barrel should float about one-half inch above the bottom of the barrel channel. and most importantly. if you have several carbines on hand or a bin of spare parts is to swap recoil plates until one produces the desired result. I have found that once the locking tang is engaged in the recoil plate. nothing has been done to preclude shooting the carbine in the CMP's M1 Carbine Match. As a result. A third way. In it. It has the most contact with the barrel and the most secure method of clamping to the stock. then “wallop- ing. which keeps the barrel from bottoming out in the barrel channel. When I slid the barrel band off the stock and removed the hand guard. The first and easiest way is to tighten the recoil plate screw. First though. there are four ways to alter the fit of the barreled action into the stock. so I don't feel that the recoil plate is necessarily the answer. Everyone's primary consideration through the years has been that everything fit together and the rifle function as it should. In practice. use the bayonet-lug.76 PRECISION SHOOTING — DECEMBER 2009 any benchrest matches. even reliably holding the ten-ring of the SR-1 High Power target. Using this method. I have found that the recoil plate mortise depth varies noticeably. Also. If the only thing holding the carbine's metal and wood together is a tang and recoil plate on one end and a barrel band on the other. although it should work. if you're interested in the best accuracy. some out of rather exotic woods like Malayan Kapur. the author recommends removing the recoil plate and placing it upright on a vise flat. Sometimes. Now. much better. so taking your time is paramount. a word about barrel bands: In short. rather than the potential for accuracy. purchasing several recoil plates seems to be a poor choice. replacement stocks have been made for years. In inspecting different stocks. Thousandths of an inch on the back of the receiver translate to eighths of an inch at the barrel. However. So far. the barreled action flopped in the stock like a fish in the bottom of a boat. the recoil plate isn't fully bottomed out in the stock recess and no more than a quarter turn of the screw will seat it deeply enough in the stock to get the desired resistance. bines to as-new condition. It also does nothing to change a carbine's collector value. The stock itself seems to be the culprit and the easiest to modify. inhibiting functioning. as are multiple trial-fittings. it is capable of doing much. the recoil plate's position relative to the barrel channel is lowered. In that state. I have done some parts swapping between my carbines and have had limited success in altering the fit of the action in the stock.” the top of the recoil plate with a brass hammer. I have yet to try that method. five shots would not consis- . By carefully removing wood from the bottom of the recoil plate mortise.
The carbine's trigger is an area that I haven't had to tune very much.5 pounds. some strategically placed grease. there should be enough tension to float the barrel above the bottom of the barrel channel before the barrel band is put into place.5-inch group and sling a flier more than 3 inches out from the middle of the group. One thing that can change dramatically after accurizing a carbine is its zero. After a slight bit of fitting. Another Inland-produced carbine that gauged a 3 at the muzzle and had very little suspension could be counted on to put four rounds into a 2. A good solvent. some quality time with a stone and Dremel tool have been in order. so fire a few shots at 25 yards to get a rough idea of where it's shooting or put up a really big target at the 100 yard-line. and a little oil have usually yielded a pull weight of five to six pounds so long as I was dealing with well-used parts. After I removed a small amount of wood from the recoil plate mortise and achieved some degree of suspension. As a comparison. On parts that have been re-parked. group size remained unchanged but the tendency to produce fliers disappeared. In one case. group size settled down to 2 inches. a pre-accurized carbine that had a good zero put its first round into an adjacent target after accurizing. To achieve some degree of tension between the barreled action and the stock.PRECISION SHOOTING — DECEMBER 2009 77 tently stay in the black bull’s-eye at 100 yards. and keep in mind that the CMP rules stipulate a trigger pull of not less than 4. The worst of my carbine's trigger difficulties could be traced to hardened grunge or reparkerized parts that had yet to wear down to a bare metal surface. In other words. a necessity if you want to achieve any kind of accuracy with the carbine. For best accuracy. . a difference of more than six inches. which was due mainly to vertical stringing. take your time. the The type three barrel band and bayonet lug. wood needs to be carefully removed from the bottom of the recoil plate mortise. I use a lot of repair centers for testing so I can put up multiple targets side by side and save all the walking back and forth.
the carbine trigger isn't bad at all. With its almost straight case. accuracy will suffer. with the remaining two shots widening the group.” it's about doing your best within the limits of the rifle and the ammunition issued that day. And. and powder are hard to find right now. a notion that sometimes gets lost in the quest for smaller groups and higher scores.” precision shooting with any carbine is going to be difficult.223 Remington primer have performed satisfactorily and have been relatively easy to find in my neck of the woods. a Sierra 110-grain bullet and a charge of IMR 4227 lit by a Wolf small rifle-. For this article I pulled four carbines out of the safe to see what they would do. it's also about having a good time with other people. so “cleans. If these two are not tightly mated. firing two five-round groups with each carbine. though. the coarseness of the sighting system. the before-mentioned Inland-produced carbines fired 2-inch and 2. certainly better than a lot of off-the-rack M1's I've handled at CMP. precision shooting with an as-issued rifle isn't about tiny group size or shooting “cleans. using my handloads. From a solid rest. SR-1 reduction of the 200yard SR target for use at 100 yards.78 PRECISION SHOOTING — DECEMBER 2009 Army's technical manual says that the carbine's trigger pull should be more than 4. but other than being a little heavy as compared to my match ri- The “C”-shaped object is the recoil plate. or the inherent nature of the carbine design. Reloading for the M1 Carbine is easy. An IBM-produced carbine fired 2. With the flimsy cotton sling attached to the side of the stock being usable only as a “hasty sling. As with everything related to reloading. cases.35 inches in diameter and a 10-ring 3. the ten-ring that we're concerned with here is the NRA No.35 inches in diameter. . The recoil plate and the rear of the receiver as they would be in the stock. the M1 Carbine trigger is a lot like a stock AR-15 trigger. In use. carbide dies are the order of the day. so in practice we shouldn't really have to slick things up too much. Can we really expect to hold the ten-ring at 100 yards? The answer is maybe. Hammer fall is slow. Of course.5-inch groups and a Rock-Ola-produced carbine had a habit of putting four rounds into 2-inches along with a flier that stretched group size almost to 3-inches.5 pounds. One thing that is notable was each carbine's ability to put at least three shots very close together. So far. However. almost like a flintlock. saving the drudgery of tumbling cases and removing media from primer pockets. The nature of the CMP's M1 Carbine match will likely ensure that every shooter has a couple of 9's in the prone slow-fire stage. fle.5-inch groups at 100 yards. which has an Xring 1. we are within the 3. but less than 7 pounds. The only thing to prevent updown and side-to-side movement is tension in the system.” are going to be few and far between. so I have no doubt that a fairly average carbine that retains or is given some degree of suspension during the accurizing process is mechanically capable of keeping ten shots inside the ten-ring. primers. The upward jutting tang on the rear of the receiver is clearly visible. and lots of over-travel.35-inch ten-ring. Still. This could be shooter error. short take-up. although being lighter by a few pounds: single-stage.
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