The .30 Carbine Origin: History & Performance

In October 1940, the United States Army initiated a search for a lighter model of firearm to arm additional staff. The specifications provided were basic and straightforward. The new rifle needed to be more precise and more effective than the Model 1911A1 pistol, all while being roughly half the weight of the M1 Garand or M1928 Thompson submachine gun. Over a dozen different rifles were submitted for testing purposes.

Winchester took it upon themselves to create a cartridge that would meet the requirements of their customers. The specifications for the new round were that it had to be over .27-caliber and have an effective range of 300 yards or above, as well as have a midrange trajectory ordinate of 18″ or less at 300 yards. This new cartridge was derived from the .32 Winchester Self Loader (WSL), used in the Model 1905 semi-automatic. That weapon had a 25-year production run, but didn’t stay around long. Now, many similar cartridges can be found in use today. The .32 Winchester Self-Loading rifle featured a 1.240″ case length with negligible taper from the extractor groove to the mouth. It had a semi-rim which was 0.05″ higher than its base diameter, delivering an impressive 165-grain bullet at 1,392 f.p.s and 710 ft.-lbs of energy.

Winchester modified the rim of their cartridges to the same diameter as the case, thus giving birth to rimless cartridges. Additionally, they increased the length of their cases to 1.28″. To make it fit their design, they also reduced the weight of their 165-grain bullet down to 110 grains. At this point, Winchester was no longer among those submitting rifles for consideration. Of the 13 rifles submitted for testing, most were unreliable or could not make the weight limit of 5 lbs.

Though Winchester had come up with a prototype for an M2 rifle chambered in .30-’06 Sprg., designed by Ed Browning, Army Ordnance requested for the design to be slimmed down. This was based on improvements made by Fred Humeston, William C. Roemer and David Marshall “Carbine” Williams. On October 22nd, 1941, the M1 Carbine was officially adopted in the United States. Winchester submitted a completed prototype just seven weeks after joining the rifle-making venture and this resulted in its adoption. Now known as M1 carbine, it is widely used due to its time & effort saving capabilities.

The carbine was a popular choice amongst soldiers due to its lightness. Even though it wasn’t intended to be the major weapon of combat, 95% of targets were successfully hit within 50 yards with this platform. The .30 Carbine cartridge has a muzzle energy greater than twice that of the .45 ACP and more than 10% over the 10 mm Auto pistol cartridge. Its power is unmatched in its size.

The G.I. ball ammo contains a 110-grain FMJ bullet going at 1,990 f.p.s out of an 18″ barrel, giving it 967 ft.-lbs of energy at the muzzle. Unfortunately, its round-nose FMJ bullets are known to overpenetrate and cause little to no damage upon impact, resulting in stories of less-than-ideal stopping power for the round. It is important to remember that stopping power is different from killing power. .30 Carbine has high rates of incapacitating its target, yet the target might not necessarily die immediately. Stoppping power refers to the weapon’s capability to quickly put an end to any hostility.

Following the end of World War II, the M1 carbine became accessible on the surplus market. People, alike to combatants, were fond of its lightweight structure and swift operation. Ammo makers started offering a variety of soft- & hollow-point bullets for it causing both gun and cartridge to be utilized on deer-size animals. The .30 Carbine may be suitable for smaller deer within 100 yards if you aim carefully. However, the M1 carbine is known to provide more accurate results as shots will stay grouped in a 3″ to 5″ area at 100 yards. Therefore, it is important to have precise placement of your shots when you are targeting further away.

Smith & Wesson’s Hand Ejector Revolver was chambered for the .30 Carbine cartridge in 1944. This handgun was equipped with a 4″ barrel and fired 1,227 f.p.s., generating 368 ft.-lbs. of energy while shooting groups of 4.18″ at 25 yards away. After experiencing the loud muzzle blast, any plans of utilizing it for military purposes were quickly discarded. Through the 1960s, Ruger started producing Blackhawk revolvers in .30 Carbine and continues to make them to this day. In the mid-1990s, the Automag III by AMT was available with a .30 Carbine ammo chambering. Then, 2003 to 2004 saw Taurus producing the Raging 30 with a 10″ barrel. The Enforcer – a cut-down version of a pistol – was produced by Universal and Iver Johnson in the 1960s & 1970s.

Reloading the .30 Carbine is fairly simple. Hodgdon’s H110 has been widely used, but Alliant 2400, Ramshot Enforcer and Lil’Gun may also give satisfactory results. Bullet grains range between 85 to 110 grains as these are the only ones available. Hot loading with the cartridge should preferably be avoided, and you should opt for maximum load capacity to guarantee a reliable cycling of semi-automatic action.

Through the years, both the carbine and the cartridge have experienced periods of popularity. Currently, these two items are garnering more attention from collectors of military armaments than ever before.

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