USGI 30 Carbine for Home Defense?


Today I want to talk about the US M1 30 Carbine, known as the “war baby”. This rifle saw service in the US Military from 1942-1973 and in countless battles not only with our guys but many were given to other governments as well. We’ll talk a bit of history and use’s this old girl might still be good for today. This particular old lady is a Postal Meter that somewhere along her life was re-barreled with a 1943 Underwood barrel.

History: There’s a lot, so let’s just cover a few facts. They originally cost the US Govt. $45 per rifle. I’ll take a 1000 today please! They were built by several makers in 5 variants from 9/41-8/45. Six and a half million rifles were made in that time span. They weigh 5.2 lbs and are 35.6 inches long. They started out with 15 round magazines and got 30’s around Korean War time. They were designed to be a smaller, easier to use rifle for guys like tankers, artillery, supply and all the guys who were in jobs where the M1 Garand was to big and got in the way of their primary job. Incidentally the only part used in the M1 Carbine that is also used in the M1 Garand is the short butt stock screw.

They were used by our forces in WW2, Korea and Vietnam. On the home front they were found in many police cars across the USA. The one I have for instance was my Grandfathers patrol car rifle. He used it all through the 70’s and 80’s. I understand there were a lot of them in patrol cars. This rifle actually has Police Dept stamp on the receiver but it’s mostly ground off and I can’t really make out which one just “police dept.” He bought it at a police auction I think he said and used it at his own cop job.

67 years later: So here we are, 2012, 67 years after the last military one rolled off the assembly line. Is this still a viable weapon? I mean it’s been 67 years since a military one was made and 39 years since it was retired from military service. Are these things any good for anything but plinking and collecting? I say yes they are. I don’t see any reason this is not a suitable weapon for security or personal protection in your home/property. It does have some pro’s and con’s so lets discuss those.

Pro’s: It’s light, short and user friendly. Its size makes it a good choice for close quarters battle. It is easily grabbed and wielded one handed from the side of your bed at night. It’s reliable and it’s powerful. She is pushing a usually 110 grain bullet somewhere in the 1950-2000 fps range. That’s plenty of energy at roughly 725lbs of it on up. More power than a 357mag or 45acp.

You have a choice of 15 or 30 round magazines, a capacity as high or double of most hi-cap handguns. You have many options for aftermarket stocks, light-mounts, scope rails and all kinds of muzzle attachments and other tactical goodies. Personally I just cannot do it, it would make me physically ill to remodel my old Gramps rifle. That’s a personal choice though, just way to much sentimental value there. You do what you want to yours, I’m not knockin’ it for others, just not me. You also have new production and better designed magazines available to you today. You could have an old action like this one in a modern pistol gripped folding stock set up if you wanted or this rather neat looking bullpup style. You can make her complete with a laser, light and optic of your choice. Me, I’ll keep Grandpa’s old gun as is, the same as every time him and I ever took it out together.

Further more you have better choices of ammo like soft points and hollow points. That’s something GI’s of the past did not have and explains some of the poor stopping power problems in places like the pacific in WW2. My Grandfather said that his wasn’t stopping Germans like he would have liked, so under heavy fire crossing the Moselle River in WW2 he pitched his in the water and grabbed an M1 Garand from “somebody who wouldn’t be needing it anymore” and carried that for the rest of the war. They tried to bill him for it at the end of the war. Sounds familiar. He didn’t pay either. So anyway much better ammunition choices.

Last thing I like is “perception”. If you’ve got that nervous nelly girlfriend, sister, mom…even brother or male cousin or buddy that’s kind of a wimp to put it simply. They are afraid of…I don’t even know what. This rifle gives the impression of being “cute” or just non threatening compared to some stuff like your 308 AR’s converted to belt-fed drum mags with the 26 inch barrel, Hubble telescope on top and skulls cerakoted all over it with your custom “dual 18 inch bayonet lug setup” mounted under your 37mm flare launcher and rail mounted chainsaw. :) Simply put just show them the little round of ammo, how easily it is fired one handed and some of those fears dissipate. It’s really a user friendly little girl. That’s the pro’s.

Con’s: Number 1 biggest concern is ammunition choice. This rifle with hard ball ammo is an OVER PENETRATOR!! Big-time! If you have a family in the house or close neighbors there is a real concern that you could kill somebody else due to all the walls that bullet will plow through after a miss. My Gramps and I shooting this when I was a kid saw it would zip right through railroad ties no problem…that’s a lot of heavy wood to zip right through! You need to pay close attention to ammo choice here for home defense. That’s a huge issue to me I think. Winchester makes some hollow points, as well as Corbon and a couple others. Pick one and then test it thoroughly for function in YOUR rifle. Don’t rely on my results. You need to know they work in YOUR rifle. These babies are not known for being the best HP feeders as they were designed a million years ago for ball ammo.

They only other con I have is magazines. Some of the old USGI mags are simply worn out. They were also known to have feed problems with the early 30 round mags. (I had some of these at one time) This is easily fixed by purchasing new manufactured mags from, they use the 15 round follower in the 30’s and produce mags of either capacity that work perfectly. I’d just buy new mags if your worried. If not just make sure you test the old ones you have. These mags I have are some of Grandpa’s old ones, fully loaded since at least the 1970’s, still feeding perfectly today!!



That’s my pro’s/con’s. There may be more of both but those are my thoughts on the subject. Now lets go shoot.

Shooting: The rifle functioned flawlessly, so that’s great. Obviously we don’t want a “jamo-matic” for an HD gun. I don’t recall the M1 ever jamming actually from all the way back when I was a kid. I remember some misfires, a couple of them, from what must be 30-35 years ago now. My Gramps said something to the effect of “I’ve seen good men die because of that right there”. He said the ammo in the war was known for misfiring periodically. Something about the ammo, while NOT corrosive, was prone to bad primers. We must have been shooting some of his old surplus stuff which is long shot up now.

The old girl was surprisingly accurate all though difficult for a big guy like myself to get my face down far enough on the little rifle to see the sights. This thing would definitely benefit from a forward scout type rail and a red dot raised up a bit. Still I was regularly printing groups looking like this. This was fired offhand position from 40 yards, I know I wrote 50 but it was 40. I figured 40 yards was more than enough because of approaching this from a HD perspective. 5 rounds in 1.25 inches. More than accurate enough for the task. Considering 3 were touching if I were to get into the prone and try I bet that group could have been down to under an inch. I also would not be surprised to bench this rifle and achieve 2 inches at 100 yards.

It was nice to have the old rifle out today. Low recoil, not much noise and most importantly good memories from my childhood with the old man. I pulled this trigger for the first time probably 35-37 years ago. Good times. My Gram just gave me the rifle a few weeks ago. Thanks Grandma. It is something I will always treasure. This is a picture of my Grandpa with the M1 Carbine he pitched in the Moselle river in WW2. It was taken in Camp Atterbury, Indiana before shipping out to Europe for the war.

Wrapping up: This rifle performs perfectly. She’s more than accurate enough and has more than enough power with some ammo boasting over 900lbs of muzzle energy. She’s lightweight and easy to use. I think if anybody favored an M1 Carbine for HD then have at it! I see no reason at all your under gunned with this old war baby, I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of her. Now am I going to want to fight WW3 with it? Absolutely NOT, it wasn’t enough rifle for my Gramps to finish WW2 with. That doesn’t make it useless for other lighter work though, even with all the stuff available today this is still a viable self defense or ranch rifle I think. Remember they are old, get your gun checked out by a competent smith and then check your mags and ammo choice yourself. Stick with a hollow point or soft-point and remember what’s behind your target. These things were in the hands of our troops fighting wars for 31 years,  I think you’ll be just fine defending home base.

As always thanks for reading and train often.

By: Cary Kieffer

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Cary Kieffer

USMC Infantry/Combat Veteran - Current LEO.

4 Responses to USGI 30 Carbine for Home Defense?

  1. HOG611 says:

    I shot one of these when I was a kid. My brother mailed two of them home when he came back from WW2. They were Inland. I didn’t wind up with either one (dag nabbit) Well a couple of weeks ago I ordered a rebuilt Inland from DGR for near 1500 dollars. When I got it from my FFL the slide would not latch back on the receiver because of wear. The slide handle picked up from the receiver far enough that the pin would not reach it enough to hold. dean said it needed a longer pin, I said that I did not want to start out with a Carbine that you could stick the end of your little finger between the slide and receiver. The slide did not appear to be worn so it must have been the receiver. Well anyway I sent it back to dean and he charged me a 300 dollar restocking fee. This gun had not been fired or even loaded. I have got to save up my money before I can do that again. Out near 600 dollars and nothing to show for it. Be very careful !!!!

  2. Joe says:

    I enjoyed your artcle. I have a “War Baby” as well and have never fired it since my wife’s grandfather gave it to us a few years back. You motivated me to put a few rounds through it. That’s a great photo of your Grandfather. Thanks for sharing.

    • Cary Kieffer says:

      Joe, thanks for saying so! Ammo right now is tough to come by for our rifles and it isn’t cheap anymore like it once was. If you watch and they tend to have the best prices. Neither has it in stock right now though. SG had some a few weeks ago after it was out of stock the first time, hopefully they will get more. You can sign up for an email on either site when it’s back in stock. Thanks for stopping by TGR. Cary

      • Hernando says:

        You could always reload. The 30 Carbine is about as easy to do so as they get. Use WW 296 and 110 grain softpoints and you are in business. A LOT cheaper, too. I figure that the cost is about half of factory loads.

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