Crosman M1 Carbine BB gun: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Crosman M1 Carbine and U.S. Carbine
M1 Carbine on top and Crosman M1 Carbine below. A realistic copy!

When I attended San Jose State College in the 1960s, I was in ROTC. My first 3 years as a cadet were in the enlisted ranks, and we all drilled with the M1 Garand. Today, people feel the Garand is a cool historical military weapon (and it is!); but in the late 1960s when it was all we had, it wasn’t nearly so cool. It was, in fact, heavy, clumsy and dangerous when you performed Inspection Arms. We learned to live with it and eventually became adept at not smashing our thumbs when we closed the bolt, but the fact was that the Garand was a 10.5-lb. clunk that always seemed to weigh too much.

The cadet officers, in sharp contrast, were issued the M1 Carbine, which weighed about half as much and felt like a feather compared to the Garand. When they performed Inspection Arms, there was no heavy spring to fight to get the bolt open and no chance of an M1 thumb. The bolt on the Carbine action slides home with minimal fuss.

Of course, we never got to shoot our guns. We just drilled with them. I could perform the Manual of Arms pretty well but had no idea what it was like to touch off a round. And those days were long before Garands became widely distributed among private owners in the U.S. They were around, but a kid in college like me shot a 1903 Springfield if he shot anything.

Carbines were more readily available, but I never had the chance to shoot one of them, either. So my entire opinion of both weapons was based solely on their weight and the relative ease with which the Manual of Arms was performed. Naturally, I fell in love with the M1 Carbine.

I wasn’t an airgunner in those days. I’d been one 10 years earlier when firearms were out of the question…and I would be, again, in a few years when I encountered adult airguns during a tour with the First Armored Division in Germany. I was unaware that Crosman had marketed an M1 Carbine lookalike BB gun from 1966 to 1976. And, given my interest in firearms at the time, it’s doubtful that I would have been interested in one if I had known about them.

It wasn’t until I started going to airgun shows in 1993 that the Crosman M1 Carbine popped up on my radar screen; and when it did, I assumed it was a CO2 gun since my total knowledge of Crosman was that they made CO2 guns. Having lived through the great experiment of the “bottle-capped” CO2 containers in the late 1950s (they leaked gas), I wanted nothing to do with any gun that used it. That’s a story of its own, and it’s one I’ll share with you soon.

Bottle cap CO2 cartridge
Crosman’s first CO2 cartridge (right) used a type of bottle-cap close. Many leaked.

In the late 1980s, someone offered me a Crosman M1 Carbine for $15, and I turned it down because of my distaste for CO2 guns. It wasn’t until about 10 years later when I was writing The Airgun Letter that I discovered my mistake. The Crosman M1 Carbine is not a CO2 gun. It’s a spring-piston BB gun that cocks using the push-barrel system that Quackenbush (Henry Marcus, not Dennis) made popular in the late 1800s.

I also discovered that this BB gun had a rear sight that adjusts in the same way the type II and type III Carbine rear sights adjust. And it’s lightweight — just like the military gun. And powerful for a BB gun! And also accurate. What was not to like?

Crosman M1 Carbine rear sight
The Crosman rear sight is fully adjustable for windage and elevation — just like the type III military Carbine rear sight.

M1 Carbine rear sight
A military Carbine type II rear sight is very similar to the Crosman sight. They adjust the same way!

I broke down and bought a wood-stocked Crosman M1 Carbine at the Winston-Salem Airgun Expo. That gun taught me what I’d been missing all those years. It was accurate (for a BB gun), powerful and looked great. But those were busy days when I was buying and selling airguns often to have new material for the newsletter. So, I let that gun get away from me — for almost twice what I paid to get it! That was the value of the wood stock, which was available only for the first two years of production.

Then I went into a severe case of seller’s remorse, which I guess I also verbalized a little. My friend, Mac, saw me looking at another M1 Carbine at another airgun show, and he bought it for me as a gift. That was the kind of friend he was.

Following that, I got serious and set about to acquire my first actual M1 Carbine firearm — just to complete the circuit. I found it to be wimpy, weak, inaccurate and in all other respects thoroughly lovable. I have not been without a Carbine since. And I will never get rid of my Crosman M1 BB Carbine.

The rifle
The Crosman M1 Carbine is a very realistic airgun. It weighs 5.25 lbs., which is within 1 ounce of the firearm’s weight. The stock is plastic dyed medium brown and given a grained pattern on the surface. Crosman called it Croswood, and for its day it was very realistic. In fact, it looks much more authentic than the real wooden stock that’s slab-sided and without figure. The Croswood stock is much more rounded and more fully contoured than the wood stock.

The picture shows that the airgun is in most ways very similar to the firearm. Of course, there are some significant differences. The “magazine” for instance is nothing but a metal box — a reservoir for BBs that must be dumped out and then loaded into the 23-shot gravity-fed magazine before they’ll work in the gun.

Crosman M1 Carbine magazine out
Crosman’s magazine is really just a reservoir for extra BBs. They have to be removed from the reservoir and loaded into the gun.

Crosman M1 Carbine magazine opened
Slide the plastic cover off the magazine and pour out the BBs.

That magazine, by the way, is the gun’s Achilles heel. Kids (and parents who don’t understand its purpose) remove it and lose it. The gun will still work fine without it, but some of the authenticity is lost. There have been solid plastic magazines sold over the years for those who need to regain the look without the storage compartment.

The BB gun loads through a hole in the top of the stock. To load, you slide the operating handle to the rear to open the hole, then drop in the BBs one by one. They roll back toward the butt, which is natural. When you cock the gun, you pull back on the barrel and normally the muzzle will be elevated when you do.

This gun can be difficult to cock — even for some adults. The mainspring is powerful, and the barrel doesn’t offer a good handle to grasp when pulling it back. Many people cheat by putting their palms over the muzzle and pushing the barrel back. That puts your palm over the muzzle of a cocked gun — which is not something you want to do.

The right way to cock the gun is to use the front sight as an anchor for your index finger but not put any part of your hand in front of the muzzle at any time. I’m sure kids developed their own ways of cocking this gun, as it’s entirely too powerful for most youngsters to cock conventionally. Most Carbine BB guns will have significant finish wear on the barrel just behind the front sight due to repeated handling.

Crosman M1 Carbine grasping barrel to cock
Grasp the barrel this way to avoid putting your hand over the muzzle. This wears the finish off the barrel at this point.

The pull of the stock is a somewhat short 13 inches. But the firearm’s pull extends only another quarter inch farther, so it’s right in line with that. And the overall length is 35.50 inches for the BB gun and 35.75 inches for the firearm. So, the pull is where the difference is.

This gun was an icon to kids growing up in the late ’60s and ’70s. It was (and still is) so realistic that every junior BB-gunner wanted one for himself. Even if he couldn’t cock it without resorting to trickery, this was a gun to own!

37 thoughts on “Crosman M1 Carbine BB gun: Part 1

  1. If Crosman were to make a gun that looked just like their old M1 and put a 1077 action into it (or the mechanicals of one of their other guns that would work within the constrains of an M1 replica exterior) I would probably be first in line to buy one! I’ve come pretty close to getting an original BB M1 a few times but have always been outbid or beaten to the punch.

    Sadly, I doubt if it will happen. Lots of black rifle airgun replicas out there but not many of the classic pre-1950 or so ones available.


  2. It has the same action as the Crosman V350 BB gun. I have one of those that needs a reseal and probably a new main spring. Back in the day, kids would press the barrel against a block of wood or a tree to cock them.

    A friend that is a Korean war vet said everyone liked the M-1 Carbine until the bullets started to fly. Then they wanted the M-1 Grand!

    Mike


    • My old man who was a WW2 vet always liked the carbine, and even though he sure knew his way around a Garand, he would never own one . He always said that the BAR was his favorite despite the weight. For years his Universal M1 carbine clone was his bedside defense weapon of choice.


      • Robert,

        I owned a Universal clone for a short while and found it to be every bit as good as a military Carbine. It was slightly heavier and the wood was thicker, which is why I finally sold it and kept the S1G1 Carbine I now own. But that Universal was the second-best Carbine-type rifle I ever owned, and that includes 3 other military Carbines.

        B.B.


        • For what it’s worth, Universal Carbine parts aren’t always interchangeable GI parts. The 30 Carbine round can be very effective when loaded with good soft point bullets.

          Mike


        • BB: My Dad’s was a nice copy that shot a little better than his cousin’s military surplus carbine. I shot it a few times but I don’t know what ever became of it after I left home. I remember as a little kid watching my Dad and his cousin shoot up bushels of cheap surplus .30 carbine ammo at clay birds and old flower pots at 100 yards. They were good at hitting those too. When the barrel got hot they dipped them into the crick near the range to cool the barrel. I now have a Ruger single action in .30 carbine that I believe is more accurate than any carbine I’ve ever fired . It’ll sure make your ears RING though!


        • {hmm, cookies were lost? had to fill in the name/mail block}

          My M1 carbine is marked Iver-Johnson — but no book I own lists them as a “maker”; did they buy up Plainfield?

          True, I wouldn’t want to hunt with it (too much for small game, and probably borderline for deer), but it IS a fun thing to play with (and I even have an old 30rd magazine besides the pair of 15s).


      • I’ve heard that too about the BAR being a universal favorite in spite of criticisms of its thin barrel and small magazine capacity. Your Dad’s opinion is the first negative view of the M1 Garand that I’ve heard from a veteran.

        B.B., hmph, well one good comparison of the M1 Garand and the M1 carbine deserves another. A Korean veteran wrote that he was pumping rounds from his carbine into an attacking Chinese soldier with no effect until his sergeant cut loose with the a Tommy Gun. Then he throws the guy a Garand and says, “Don’t try using that gosh darned tinker toy.” I will admit that I have never done any drill with a Garand (although that’s on my list for all my military surplus rifles as a new and inexpensive way to experience them). But surely, there is something to be said for the fabulous balance that must make up for some of its weight. It is not easy to separate a sense of lighter weight from balance but does the M1 Carbine have balance as good?

        Matt61


        • Matt,

          The Carbine is so light that the balance is nearly perfect.

          Even today “they” cannot build a rifle as light and as powerful. The Ruger Mini 14 is almost 2 pounds heavier. Even the Deerslayer was heavier than the Carbine. And they did all that from 1941 to 1944. Six million rifles in four years from hundreds of different manufacturers. And the only company that couldn’t deliver was a gun maker!

          The Carbine program is a capsule of how we won the war.

          B.B.



  3. That’s another gun I wished I had bought”I had my chances
    but passed it up.The Crosman Shot Gun was another and one
    could ajust it’s power.Crosman had two more”The co2 .45
    and the Single action also in c02.
    Back then the PX’s carried real fire arms and air guns too.
    You should have been a Copy Writer,your way of reviewing
    a gun makes one want to run ouit and buy one as if they
    were still being made.A good review.


  4. “The stongest urge a man will ever encounter, is neither the want to take another man’s money nor the desire for another man’s wife. It is, predicably, the compulsion to rewrite another man’s copy.” (*)

    Stan Freeburg
    The Graduate School of Financial Institution Marketing
    University of Colorado, Boulder
    August, 1972

    (*) Or, words to that effect …


  5. I just removed one of those old bottle cap CO2 carts from a Crosman 622 that I bought in a junk shop . Was rusted in tighter than the hinges on the gates of hell. Probably was the only cartridge that rifle ever saw. You could readily see how they damaged the old flat seals they used to put into the CO2 guns back in the day before they changed over to the newer style piercing pin and the cap seals like the ones PA sells now .


    • Robert,

      A lot of times when you find that it means the gun was never put into service. You have found the CO2 that was used at the factory to test the gun before packaging. I found the same thing in a Crosman 160 that had lain in an Air Force warehouse since new. Of course the seals had to be replace because they had all dry-rotted.

      B.B.


      • Never thought of that , saved it though,because I thought it added to it’s history. The gun was quite rusty on the outside too, and it came in a bundle deal with a 99 . For twenty bucks i figured they were worth it just for the parts. I am going to restore it ,just need to find a magazine for it . Tinkering with these guns I’ve pulled a lot of wierd stuff out of them. I just found a 8 gram CO2 cart inside the gas tube on a 150 pistol with a nut added to the top so it would pierce when the cap was tightened. If only they could talk!


  6. B.B.,
    I had the same ROTC experience in the early 60′s only in high school and carried the M1 Garand. We were in Cody, WY last week and went to the Buffalo Bill Center there. They have a wonderful firearm collection and when we came across the M1 display I was telling my wife how sadistic a high school staff sargent can be when he wants to see how long you can hold back that bolt at the port arms command. By my 3rd year my education started to work and I transferred to the MP company. It’s a lot easier to carry a 1911 sidearm. Thanks for the memories, Tom.


    • Jim,

      You just described why I shoot air pistol in competition and not air rifle. Air rifle shooters have expensive leather pants and jackets that don’t allow a 10-pound weight gain. Air pistol shooters show up in jeans and sweat shirts.

      B.B.


      • I remember the first 10m airgun competition I attended a couple of years back.
        The rifle shooters showed up with their rifle cases (most hard sided) and a large suitcase.
        The pistol shooters showed up with a small range bag.
        I knew where my heart lay ;-)


      • B.B.,

        When I competed, your shooting jacket had to fit very loose (enough to drop a kneeling roll straight down a buttoned up jacket, and thickness was measured with a gauge throughout), and it could not be stiff (at all – again, the gauge told the story), and the same went for shooting pants (mine were just loose fatigues made of soft cotton with thin rubber patches to prevent slippage). Back then it was all about the shooter. Today’s airgun shooting is the equivalent of allowing athletes to take steroids and hit corked baseballs. About the only thing it’s accomplished is allowing genuine national and world records to fall and be replaced by cheap imitations.

        I agree that air-pistol is a better form of competition than air-rifle. I much more appreciate air-pistol, because I respect that form of competition. I can’t respect rifle competition as it is today. Take away all the truly excessive support, and you’ve got a bunch of average shooters pretending to be “world class”. I’d be embarrassed to walk into a match literally waddling like a penguin.

        Victor


  7. Back from vacation. Thanks for all the info about the .357 magnum although none of it prepared me for the reality of shooting it. Truer words were never spoken than Scorpio’s comment to Dirty Harry: “My, that’s a big one.” I was thrown back to my early days of thinking that the Winchester 1894 with its 30-30 cartridge had an amazing violence about it. Why would you need to shoot a human-sized target with a round like that? I seem to recall that it was originally issued to deal with armored cars used by the gangsters in the 30s, and that would make some sense. Again Dirty Harry speaks the truth when he says a .38 will bounce off a windshield. This round seems more appropriate for shooting cars than people or maybe for a very heavy hunting load. Follow through was impossible for most of the 40 rounds that I went through although I was getting the hang of it by the end.

    Again the genius of John Browning is proven for me in designing the .45 ACP as the maximum power cartridge that you need for any kind of combat situation. And the secret to shooting this caliber, in my experience, is dropping the bullet weight down to 185 gr…. :-)

    This was also my first chance to try out Victor’s killer shooting technique on firearms. The fact is that it didn’t feel that great. BUT, I’m sure this is because I’ve been out of practice with airguns for some weeks. Also, I think this marksmanship technique is more appropriate for target rifles with light triggers, not for pistols with harder single-stage triggers. It can be adapted, but it takes a little more time than I had. AND, feelings aside, I shot as well with pistols as I ever have, so I consider the method vindicated.

    Michael, thanks for the details about Walter Peyton’s feats of athleticism. It is ironic but it makes a kind of sense that the way to get respect and affection in a tough league is by hitting hard, not being a softie. There was a Sports Illustrated article about Peyton’s inhuman and over-the-top workouts like running every step in in Soldier Field Stadium until his legs were so tight that he couldn’t lift them. After my brief and miserable encounter running stadium steps in college, this is almost inconceivable.

    Carriers of concealed weapons will want to take note of a trial that is unfolding in Hawaii right now that is not well-publicized involving the shooting of a local man by a State department special agent. If you are carrying a gun, here’s what you do not want to do. He was on assignment to provide security for some kind of conference in Honolulu. The night of the incident, he goes barhopping with friends with his gun and has a beer at each of five different bars. At 2:45am, his friend gets a fateful urge for Chicken McNuggets, and they go to a McDonald’s. The agent intervenes in an argument where a local tough guy is calling a white man a haole which is a pejorative term like “ofay” or “honkey.” The agent asks the local guy if he wants to get shot in the face(!?) Words are exchanged, and the agent delivers a “Karate kick” to the guy’s knee. This is actually tactically sound. My own right ACL was virtually destroyed by such a kick in a training accident. However, the agent’s kick has no effect. The local boy throws a slipper at him and slaps him across the face. Then they close and exchange blows and the agent goes down. This is probably where he suffered the broken nose that was diagnosed later. Meanwhile, the local boy and friend administer a beating to the the agent’s friend. Then the original guy sees the agent get up and goes back to work him over some more. The agent draws his 9mm Glock. The local guy gives him the bum’s rush and knocks him down. Then, no doubt imitating MMA fights, he straddles him and starts punching away. The agent starts firing and manages to miss with his first two shots from what was calculated to be between a half inch and 10 inches. But his third one connects fatally in the chest. Then, the agent gets back into law enforcement mode, pulling out a knife to cut the guy’s shirt off and administer CPR, but it is too late. Preliminary conclusions are that nothing good happens in Waikiki at that hour. Local boys are pretty tough as I’ve had occasion to observe and as I heard someone say in the local dialect, “[The agent] is in plenny trouble.” I don’t think he has a bright future in the security industry when all this is over with.

    I had a chance to read Chris Kyle’s memoir of his sniper service in Iraq. He has a overall praise for the M4 and M16 as weapons systems. But he says that the .223 is “not a preferred” caliber in a combat situation since it can take several shots to put a target down. He was also not a fan of the MkII sniper rifle which is an SR-25 or a .308 AR15 system. He says it did well in training, but in the field, it was susceptible to double feeds and a bunch of other problems. He was big on Accuracy International products, so the Brits do it again. He comes through as quite a guy and a real loss.

    Matt61


    • The .223/5.56 does much better with soft point or hollow point ammo. But, of course, the Military doesn’t use those in combat. I would like to know what he means by “Double Feeds”. What most refer to as a double feed is really a failure to extract malfunction.

      Mike



    • Matt61,

      Actually, what I teach includes heavy triggers, but that gets into specific details, including exercises. You have my e-mail. Just ask anytime.

      I don’t just say, “squeeze the trigger …”. I say, “Deliberately squeeze the trigger such that you cause the gun to go off without disturbing your sight alignment”.

      The big distraction is wobble. Two main causes for mental errors in shooting, and especially pistol shooting, are wobble area, and flinching. It’s very hard for most to ignore their wobble area, so it causes stress, which results mental errors. You have to shoot through your wobble area (no matter how bad it is), focusing on keeping your sights aligned throughout the shot. Of course, the one thing that causes us to lose that sight alignment during shot execution is our trigger squeeze. So trigger control is where most of our effort should go. As an aside, a poor grip will magnify the problem, and especially with a heavy trigger.

      But whatever the case, we want to ignore our wobble area because there isn’t much we can do to solve it at any given time. We solve that problem separately with exercise and lots of practice. Dry-fire is key to mastering the Cardinal Rule of “Deliberately squeezing the trigger such that you cause the gun to go off without disturbing sight alignment, and following through”.

      We flinch because we anticipate the gun going off. That’s why you need to train yourself to not consider a shot being done until after a couple of seconds (i.e., follow through). This is especially true when we take too long to start squeezing the shot off. Lack of oxygen will do that. The gun will never be perfectly steady, so it’s a mistake to wait for that. If you’ve found your natural point of aim, then you should start squeezing as soon as you’ve entered your sight picture. Remember, the target remains a blur while you focus on keeping the front sight centered with the rear.

      Again, if you can get 10 shots off, such that you’ve successfully realized the Cardinal Rule, then you’ve accomplished something. This is MUCH more important than score, another distraction.

      Victor


      • Victor,
        I agree 100% with you. Follow through is the key to it all. Get the shot off as quick as you can and then use the rest of the 5-10 second window to follow through. Even with my sometimes cranky flintlock, I’ve never missed a shot, WHEN I SAW IT HIT THE TARGET (or the sight picture stayed in/returned to place)! If (WHEN) I flinch, even just a little, the shot will will go far and wide — much worse than any modern rifle or even a caplock due to increased lock time. An acquaintance of mine put it fairly memorably when he said flintlocks are guns that you fire and then aim. That is an exaggeration, but if you think in terms of aim, fire, aim (follow-through), it all works out.


        • BG_Farmer,

          I’ve learned that one of the hardest things to do is to have total faith in the fundamentals. Our motion (wobble area) is a huge distraction, causing us to try to “catch” shots. The never ending and illusive road towards success in shooting is to try to circumvent the fundamentals (or ignoring them). The surest path is to allow your gun to move around (wobble) while you try your best to keep your sights aligned throughout shot execution, including follow-through.

          Again, THE BEAST to conquer is trigger control. Just as we need to find our natural point of aim, we need to find the optimal (not always perfect) grip that allows us to deliberately squeeze the trigger such that the gun goes off without disturbing sight alignment.

          Victor


    • Back from vacation. Thanks for all the info about the .357 magnum although none of it prepared me for the reality of shooting it. Truer words were never spoken than Scorpio’s comment to Dirty Harry: “My, that’s a big one.” I was thrown back to my early days of thinking that the Winchester 1894 with its 30-30 cartridge had an amazing violence about it. Why would you need to shoot a human-sized target with a round like that? I seem to recall that it was originally issued to deal with armored cars used by the gangsters in the 30s, and that would make some sense. Again Dirty Harry speaks the truth when he says a .38 will bounce off a windshield. This round seems more appropriate for shooting cars than people or maybe for a very heavy hunting load. Follow through was impossible for most of the 40 rounds that I went through although I was getting the hang of it by the end.

      Take into account that, at the time period of the first Dirty Harry movies, police .38 Special was as round-nose all lead bullet, not even jacketed. (And one Ironsides episode has him berating one of his team for carrying a .357Magnum). These days you can find +P+ loadings of .38 Special with jacketed hollow points, which would put any police loading from the 60s/70s to shame.

      Again the genius of John Browning is proven for me in designing the .45 ACP as the maximum power cartridge that you need for any kind of combat situation. And the secret to shooting this caliber, in my experience, is dropping the bullet weight down to 185 gr…. :-)

      So naturally in the 80s the FBI concluded that the 10mm was the round with ideal performance for use against obstacles (and then decided they needed a reduced power loading for routine carry as the full 10mm was rather brutal; the .40S&W was inspired by the reduced power loading which didn’t need the case length of the 10mm — leading to a double-stack magazine using 9mm sized frames — the .40S&W original load was a 180gr bullet [and I still favor the 180 over the alternate 165/155 gr loadings])


  8. I had one of these things. I got rid of it about 2 years ago. Mine still had the magazine and was in fair condition. but I just wasn’t all that impressed with it. I didn’t like the push the barrel to cock the gun thing. There just seemed like hundreds of ways this could go horribly wrong especially when you could fire the thing without completing the cocking movement. Mine must have had a worn trigger assembly because I never quite knew when it was going to fire. Once of almost putting one in my hand was all it took and that gun was gone.


  9. My brothers and I had Crosman push-barrel BB guns when we were young, but I didn’t think they were M1s. Did Crosman make other push-barrel models? If so, what were they? This would have been in the late 1960s timeframe.


    • JW,

      Crosman made 2 other push-barrel BB guns. The earliest one (from the ’60s) was the V-350. There was also a V-300 pistol that is a little scarce. Later the V-350 evolved into the V-3500.

      B.B.


  10. Thanks BB. I think it might have been a V-350. Many a bird succumbed to that gun (some probably illegally)! I wish I still had it. I also used to make model planes and ships and would shoot them up. (Wish I had some of those also!)


  11. Neat article. I was just shooting mine a few weeks back in the backyard. It still works just fine but alas, somewhere in the 90′s the magazine got separated from the gun so all I have is the gun now. I am not sure where it went to but it was a great carrier for the BB’s.

    It has reasonable tin can accuracy across the back yard still.



    • Ed,

      Yep. Missing the magazine is the flaw that many M1 Carbines share. There have been blank replacements (ones that don’t store BBs) in the past, but they aren’t being made now. A magazine is worth about what a whole gun is, these days. Perhaps $80-100.

      B.B.


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