The .30 M1 Carbine

By Chuck Hawks

The little .30 Carbine cartridge and the M-1 Carbine that fired it served the United States in both World War II and Korea. It was a substitute standard for both the .45 Thompson submachine gun, and the M-1911 .45 pistol. The neat little Winchester designed M1 Carbine (not to be confused with the much larger .30-06 caliber M1 Garand Service Rifle) was very popular with the troops, as it was light and easy to carry and didn't kick much.

It soldiered on into the 1960's and '70's in places like remote USAF radar sites, where it was the only defensive weapon available to the technicians that worked there. I know because I qualified with it while serving at one of those sites (a perfect score, no less!). At a different radar site, I volunteered to sight-in all of their .30 M1 Carbines, just to do a little shooting. (They only had about 8 or 10 of them.) It was a very easy little rifle to shoot.

The cartridge is still popular today because of all the surplus M1 Carbines that were sold through the NRA, and possibly other sources, for very low prices. A friend of mine bought one from the NRA for, I believe, about $50 in the middle 1960's. For many years there were also newly manufactured copies of the M1 Carbine for sale, and Marlin chambered their modern Model 62 lever action for the .30 Carbine cartridge. Federal listed it as their eighth best selling CF rifle cartridge in 2000, although it did not appear on the Remington or Winchester top ten lists.

In addition, the .30 Carbine has found a home in the Ruger Blackhawk single action revolver and the T/C Contender single shot pistol. Those were not the first handguns chambered for the cartridge, however. A little known fact is that Colt was experimenting with the .30 Carbine in the Single Action Army revolver as early as 1945, and possibly sooner. It was described as a hellion to shoot in those more innocent days.

It makes a pretty good pistol cartridge, and it resembles a skinny .357 Magnum round. Both are straight wall cases of the same length, 1.29". The .30 Carbine is a rimless case, of course, while the .357 revolver case is rimmed. The SAAMI maximum average pressure is 40,000 cup.

According to Winchester's figures, in a 10" handgun barrel the .30 Carbine gives a muzzle velocity of 1,790 fps and a muzzle energy of 783 ft. lbs. with their 110 grain Hollow Soft Point bullet. That is more than a full power 125 grain .357 Magnum bullet delivers at the muzzle of a 4" revolver barrel, and that .357 load is about a 97% stopper in police shooting records, the best of all handgun loads. So don't sell the .30 Carbine short, with modern expanding bullets, as a home defence cartridge.

From a carbine length rifle barrel the factory loads drive 110 grain RN bullets at a muzzle velocity of 1,990 fps. Muzzle energy is 977 ft. lbs. At 100 yards the little bullet is traveling at 1,567 fps and still has 600 ft. lbs. of energy. The .30 Carbine is loaded to a SAAMI mean maximum pressure of 40,000 cup.

Its ballistics in a rifle may not be impressive, but neither is the recoil. Recoil energy is very light at 3.8 ft. lbs. in a 7 pound carbine. Remington and Federal offer 110 grain jacketed soft point bullets in their factory loads, while Winchester loads a 110 grain jacketed open point bullet. Winchester includes the .30 Carbine cartridge in both their rifle and pistol ammo lists. Bullets for the little .30 are standard .308 inch diameter.

The reloader has the choice of 100-110 grain soft point, hollow point, and full metal jacket style bullets. All are round or flat nose designs. The Speer 110 grain Varminter JHP bullet has a BC of .136, and a SD of .166 (not impressive, but better than the 55 grain .224 inch bullet). According to the Speer Reloading Manual No. 13 13.0 grains of W296 powder gives their 110 grain bullet a MV of 1796 fps, and 15.0 grains of W296 drives a 110 grain bullet at a MV of 1981 fps. Since the .30 Carbine headspaces on the case mouth, like an autoloading pistol cartridge, it must be taper crimped; do not roll crimp.

What the .30 Carbine round is good for is short range small game and varmint hunting (animals up to about 50 pounds out to 125 yards), plinking, and home defense. With modern JSP and JHP bullets it can be effective for these purposes. It actually makes a reasonably good small game cartridge for rabbits and squirrels, putting them down with authority without blowing them apart as the .22 varmint cartridges are apt to do. It should never be used on medium size game animals like antelope and small deer as it lacks the penetration and energy to anchor them.

Zero a .30 Carbine for 100 yards and the trajectory looks like this: +.6" at 50 yards, 0 at 100 yards, -4.2" at 150 yards, -12.9" at 200 yards. The stubby little bullet runs out of steam fast after about 125 yards. But for shooting out to 125 yards it is a neat little cartridge.

Back to the Handgun Cartridge Page

Back to the Rifle Cartridge Page

Copyright 1999, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.