The .30 US Carbine

In the early 1940s as war was raging in Europe and Asia even the folks in the Pentagon could see it looming on America's horizon. In an amazing bit of foresight, the Generals decided that they really needed to provide "non-combat" personnel with some means of entering the fray, if that became unavoidable, that did not hinder their mobility so much as the M1 or M1903 rifles did. This also applied to combat soldiers and Marines who were assigned to a crew-served weapon. A man who is loading an artillery piece or firing a machine gun really does not need to be burdened down by a nine and a half pound rifle plus the ammo for it. At first this was addressed by trying to issue those troops pistols. Nice try, but it takes a lot longer to learn to shoot a pistol well than it does a rifle or carbine. With war looming it was clear that we didn't have time to spend in that kind of training.

Then some fellow said: "What we need is a light rifle for these troops." Specifications were drawn up and bids went out. Several prototypes were submitted, but the winner was a design from Winchester. It used a modified version of Winchester's own .351 Winchester Self-Loading cartridge. It was reduced from .35 to .30 caliber, using a 110 grain .308" diameter bullet in a straight-walled (actually slightly tapered) case 1.29" in length. Oddly enough that is the same length as the .357 Magnum cartridge case. Thus was born the "Cartridge, Caliber .30 US Carbine."

Shooters usually love it or hate it. It's really a Magnum-class handgun cartridge chambered in a very handy and lightweight little carbine. It suited its design purpose perfectly. It has as much or more power than a handgun and it was much easier to shoot well. It was accurate to 200 yards -- on a good day 300. It was made in the millions. A lot of "old veterans" complain about it being underpowered and inaccurate. Most of that has been disproved. Troops loved the light weight and larger magazine capacity even if it had less power than the M1 rifle. Other soldiers hated it for being "puny" even though it was light and handy.

Is the .30 carbine enough gun for deer hunting? Most hunters say no. It is illegal in some states to hunt deer with it. But it has been used with some success in places where the shots are close-up and the ability of the hunter is good enough. All-in-all it's a possible hunting weapon, but not a good one.

How about home defense? It will do the job, especially if modern soft-point or hollow-point ammunition is used. A 110 grain bullet at 1900 feet per second will get the bad guy's attention! I shot a combat rifle match with an M1 Carbine a few times. I remember at an early match I was using reloads that were comprised of the Speer 100 gr. "Plinker" bullet and a normal charge of Winchester 296 powder (right out of a loading manual). My fellow shooters were very surprised by the effect those soft point bullets had on the water jugs they had set up as targets! The carbine is easy to maneuver around a house and easy to shoot accurately. Like any good defensive round, the .30 carbine will punch through drywall without slowing down much. Plan and shoot accordingly.

As for purely recreational shooting (aka: "plinking") there isn't a much better choice. Recoil is low. Cost is not as low as it once was, but it's still not bad. If you reload, the cost is very low. It's a great first step up from a .22 Rimfire for a young shooter. It has been chambered in a few handguns, but in a short barrel there is a lot of blast and flash from the muzzle. With the right loads it can be good, though.


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