by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Crosman M1 Carbine
Crosman M1 Carbine BB gun is a classic lookalike airgun.

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • History
  • Tom the doofus
  • Modern Quackenbush
  • The danger
  • A classic based on an icon!
  • Different valve
  • Repeater
  • Sights
  • More to come

Daisy may have given lookalike airguns the name “Spittin’ Image” but Crosman gave us the most iconic BB gun of all time — the M1 Carbine. Yes, I have written about this gun in the past. Now I’m getting it into the historical archives.

History

The M1 Carbine first came out in 1966. For all of that year and the next it had a genuine wood stock. These early variations are easy to spot because the sides of the stock are flat, since they were basically cut from boards. In 1968 Crosman began producing the gun with a synthetic stock they called Croswood, and production continued until 1976. Let me tell you — except for a plastic-y shine, Croswood is very realistic. In my opinion the Croswood stock makes the more attractive gun, because the stock is rounded and fully shaped.

The Crosman M1 Carbine is based on the Crosman V-350 BB gun. What Crosman did was re-skin the V-350 with Carbine features. The V-350 model name stands for the velocity, which was around 350 f.p.s. The Carbine inherited all of that, so it’s a powerful gun.

Crosman V-350
Crosman’s V-350 is at the heart of their M1 Carbine.

Tom the doofus

Before I became B.B. Pelletier, I was as ignorant of airguns as the next guy. In fact, in the late 1980s, when someone tried to sell me a Crosman M1 Carbine for $15, I said no because I didn’t want any CO2 airguns. As much as I knew about Crosman at that time I thought CO2 gun were all they made. Well, the M1 Carbine is not CO2. It’s a springer!

Modern Quackenbush

In fact, it operates in the same way the vintage Quackenbush spring guns did — by pushing (or pulling) the barrel in until the sear catches the piston. After that, return the barrel and shoot the gun like any other springer.

Two things about the M1 Carbine give away its operation. Unless you are looking at a fully pristine gun, there will be finish wear on the rear of the barrel for several inches. That’s from the barrel sliding in each time the gun is cocked.

Crosman M1 Carbine uncocked
Here the rifle is uncocked, or it has been cocked and the barrel has been returned to the forward position.

Crosman M1 Carbine cocked
Here the barrel has been pulled back and the gun is now cocked. The barrel must be pushed forward again before firing.

Crosman M1 Carbine barrel wear
The finish on the rear of the barrel wears from cocking.

The second giveaway is finish wear at the muzzle. This BB gun is very hard to cock, even for adults. In fact, that’s probably what killed the gun in the end. I’ll get to that in a moment, but most of the guns you’ll see will be worn from handling around the front sight, which is always used as an anchor when cocking.

The danger

Since it is so hard to cock, kids had to resort to extreme and often unsafe measures to get the job done. One was was to push the muzzle against something hard like a tree trunk. Another way, and the most dangerous one was to put the palm of the hand over the muzzle and to push down on the barrel with the butt resting on the ground. A safer way, though still not recommended, was to put the muzzle on the ground on something hard like a book and push down on the butt.

It’s my belief that the difficulty of cocking is what lead to the eventual demise of the gun. Not because on inconvenience, but for safety concerns. I will test the cocking effort in Part 2. Then we will all know.

A classic based on an icon!

The Crosman M1 Carbine BB gun is of course based on the U.S. Army’s M1 Carbine from WW II. That was a rifle that supposedly was to replace the M1911A1 pistol, because the Army felt too may soldiers could not shoot the pistol accurately enough. But, because it was a long gun and also carried the moniker caliber .30 M1 (but it chambered a much smaller cartridge than the Garand), soldiers mentally transferred the status of the M1 Garand to the Carbine and tried to imagine it as a battle rifle. It never lived up to that, and was condemned by many as a failed rifle, when what it really was, was a unique replacement for a sidearm.

At the same time they condemned it, many soldiers also loved it for being lightweight and easy to carry. A love/hate relationship formed. I believe that it is nearly impossible to examine the jewel-like Carbine action and not to fall in love — with the mechanism, if nothing more. That love sets the stage for the Crosman M1 Carbine.

Crosman M1 Carbine and U.S. Carbine
The U.S. .30-caliber M1 Carbine above and the Crosman M1 Carbine below. The firearm is my S’G’ collector’s gun that has a late-issue bayonet lug under the barrel. That was an option any Carbine could have.

Different valve

The Crosman Carbine (as well as the V-350 and V-3500) has a different kind of valve. It is a spring-piston design, but there is more. It’s been years since I was inside one, but as I recall, the valve contains the increasing air pressure until it pops open at the end of the piston’s travel. This “champagne-cork” effect adds something to the velocity, I believe.

Repeater

This is a repeater. The barrel must be cocked for each shot, but the inline BB magazine holds 22 BBs that are gravity-fed at cocking. That’s one reason why putting the muzzle on the ground to cock it not a good idea.

Sights

The rear sight is one of the most exceptional parts of this BB gun! It looks and even operates like the original. The Carbine started out with a flip rear sight that had two heights. But that was replaced by a much nicer rear sight that adjusts in both directions. The Crosman M1 Carbine has this nicer sight and it adjusts the same way.

U.S. Carbine rear sight
The firearm Carbine has a unique rear peep sight.

Crosman Carbine rear sight
The Crosman Carbine rear sight is very similar to the firearm sight.

More to come

There is more to come, as this will be a complete 3-part test. The last report I did was in 2013, and in the 4 years that have passed a lot of exciting new BBs have come to market, so perhaps there will be a surprise in store!