The M1 carbine was developed in World War II to give support troops a rifle that was lighter and easier to carry than the standard M1 Garand rifle. It featured a brand-new rifle cartridge that was based on the obsolete .32 Winchester Self-Loading cartridge. The resulting .30 Carbine cartridge quickly became a popular one once it reached civilian hands, and its popularity remains even today.
The .30 Carbine features a brass case slightly smaller in diameter than 5.56x45mm NATO. Overall length of the cartridge is about 0.6” shorter than 5.56x45mm NATO, and the cartridge isn’t nearly as powerful as modern Army service loads. The standard .30 Carbine service load featured a round-nosed 110-grain full metal jacket bullet traveling at just under 2,000 feet per second, for about 970 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.
Pressure of the cartridge was low, around 38,500psi, in deference to the M1 carbine’s operating rod system of operation. Millions of M1 and M2 carbines were made, and they eventually made their way into front-line use both in World War II and the Korean War. A common complaint from troops was that the weak ammunition and round-nosed bullet made the cartridge ineffective against enemy troops, particularly during wintertime when they wore heavy clothing.
Despite that, the .30 Carbine cartridge and the M1 carbine became very popular with civilian shooters once rifles and ammunition hit the surplus market. The cartridge’s low recoil and low cost made it a favorite of recreational shooters across the country.
As a self-defense and hunting cartridge, the .30 Carbine still suffers from the same defects as when it was first introduced. Round-nosed full metal jacket bullets just aren’t effective. For reloaders, there is the option to use softpoint bullets, but bullet profiles will still be limited by the short overall length of the cartridge and the length limitations of the M1’s magazine. You can forget about using pointed spitzer-type bullets such as most lighter .30-caliber varmint bullets.
More effective commercial ammunition exists, such as Hornady’s FTX series, which features a hollowpoint bullet with a polymer insert to aid in bullet expansion. That ammunition is incredibly expensive, at over 70 cents per round. By comparison, full metal jacket ammunition in .30 Carbine can be found for as little as 20 cents per round for steel-cased ammunition, and 30 cents per round for brass-cased softpoint ammunition.
Given how the M1 carbine operates below the radar but can still be an effective firearm for self-defense and hunting given the right ammunition, the .30 Carbine can be a good choice for your survival arsenal. Just make sure to stock up on effective ammo while it’s still cheap.