by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- Me and the M1 Carbine
- Crosman M1 Carbine
- The real deal
- NOT invented by “Carbine” Williams
- The Carbine program
- Hundreds of manufacturers
- Three principal variations
- Springfield Armory M1 Carbine
- Small details
- No disassembly
- Overall evaluation
Today I start the report on the M1 Carbine from Springfield Armory. I normally don’t like making comparisons, but in the case of lookalike airguns I have to. So today I will tell you what I really think about how closely this BB gun resembles the firearm it copies.
Me and the M1 Carbine
When I was a kid, I saw my first M1 Carbine at a friend’s house. Until that moment I didn’t know this firearm existed. My friend’s father had purchased his Carbine from the NRA for the magnificent sum of $20. Of course in those days that was a lot more money than it is today. It was more like $100-$150.
We weren’t allowed to touch the gun that was high on a rack in their basement, but I could see through the plastic bag that it was very small and light. I then began looking into the M1 Carbine for the first time.
I held my first Carbine when I was in ROTC in college. Upperclassmen got to carry Carbines for drill, while the underclassmen carried Garands. I admired the light weight of the small guns, but their manual of arms was much different because the Carbine doesn’t function exactly the same as the Garand. That’s too bad, too, because an M1 Carbine “thumb” wouldn’t hurt much at all!
Crosman M1 Carbine
The Crosman Corporation was well-known during the 1960s through the 70s for their lookalike airguns, and none was more famous than their M1 Carbine. When it came out in 1966 it was the desire of every little boy. The first year it came out with a genuine wood stock, but the next year the wood was dropped in favor of Croswood — a realistic-looking synthetic stock. The synthetic Croswood stock looks better and more genuine than the wood one even today, though the wood does command a healthy premium for its rarity.
The real deal
I have also owned several genuine M1 Carbines and currently have a very nice S’G’ made by the Saginaw Steering Gear Division of General Motors. General Motors made more Carbines than any other company during World War II. They had two divisions at three separate locations devoted to manufacturing — Inland and Saginaw. Saginaw had two separate plants. Inland made the greatest number of Carbines by far.
NOT invented by “Carbine” Williams
The Carbine was not invented by David Marsh “Carbine” Williams, despite the rumors you may have heard. Winchester invented the rifle, but needed Williams’ patented short-stroke gas piston to make it work. Williams actually did invent a different carbine that he tried to submit to the Army, but they were already in development and refused to consider his proposal. Williams was under contract to Winchester for the development of the Carbine, but they had trouble handling him and eventually cut him loose.
The Carbine program
The M1 Carbine was a small rifle that was meant to replace the M1911A1 pistol, because the Army felt too many soldiers could not shoot the pistol accurately enough. However, because it was a long gun that also carried the moniker caliber .30 M1 (but is actually chambered for a much smaller cartridge than the Garand), soldiers mentally transferred the status of the 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 handgun.
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 personally believe that it is impossible to examine the jewel-like Carbine action and not to fall in love — with the mechanism, if nothing more.
And I will tell you something remarkable that’s still true today — 80 years after it was manufactured. No company to this day has packed as much firepower into a 5-pound semiautomatic rifle as you will find in the M1 Carbine. Not that it can’t be done, because with today’s improved metallurgy it is quite possible. But it hasn’t been done. Ruger’s model 44 .44 Magnum carbine that is certainly more powerful weighs — well, Wiki says 6 lbs., but try to find one that light. Mine have always weighed more!
The Carbine production program was also highly efficient in WW II. Over 6 million rifles (the exact number is unknown) were produced in 38 months (June,1942 to August, 1945). That’s from startup to the end of the program. Only one company of the 10 prime contractors failed to deliver even one rifle that was accepted, and that was Irwin Pederson, a firearm manufacturer. But Saginaw stepped in and reworked Pederson’s rifles so a few with Pederson’s name on them were delivered. Saginaw Steering Gear (designated S.G.) took over the Pederson contract and plant in Grand Rapids, MI, and was designated S’G’, for that plant location (they had two locations). That’s where my rifle came from, though the serial number is in the 3 millions, so mine was made well after Irwin Pederson was out of the picture.
Hundreds of manufacturers
No one company made all the parts of the rifle. The production program was driving interchangeability, so all parts had to fit all rifles. That’s difficult to do when 10 primes and more than 100 subcontractors were involved. Try doing that when the telephone and telegraph are your only means of communication!
The 10 prime contractors included a typewriter manufacturer (Underwood), another business machine maker (IBM), a hardware maker (Quality Hardware) a firearm manufacturer (Winchester) and a furniture/jukebox maker (Rock-Ola).
Three principal variations
There are three principal variations of the M1 Carbine encountered. The first has an L-shaped rear peep that has a low and a high peephole for close and far targets. My Winchester carbine was one of those. Type 2 had the first peep sight that was machined from steel and had other small changes.
Type 3 has a stamped steel rear sight and a bayonet lug for your Carbine, though putting a bayonet on one isn’t recommended. It’s more of a field knife that also fits on the rifle.
Springfield Armory M1 Carbine
So, what does this BB gun copy? It’s closest to a type 3 Carbine because it has the stamped rear sight and the bayonet lug. It also has the later round bolt that required less machining than the earlier “flat” bolt.
I got the Carbine BB gun with the synthetic stock, because the wood stock isn’t out yet. But this would have been my pick in any case. I must say that visually it looks exactly like wood. It doesn’t feel like wood because it is so smooth. Let’s now look at a Crosman Carbine, this Springfield Carbine and my S’G’ genuine Carbine.
This is a CO2-powered BB gun that houses both the single CO2 cartridge and up to 15 BBs in the removable magazine. Carbine owners will recognize that 15 is the number of rounds a standard Carbine magazine holds, so there is more realism. Yes, there are banana mags that hold 30 rounds, but they were made for the select-fire M2 Carbine, not for the M1. That said, almost everyone carried a couple bananas in the field.
That airgun magazine houses the firing valve and weighs 1 lb. 2 oz., so it’s a significant part of the overall weight of the gun. When spare mags become available you can expect them to be somewhat pricy because of all they contain.
The test gun (the barrel is not rifled) weighs 4 lbs. 15 oz. My S’G’ Carbine weighs 5 lbs. 8 oz. for comparison. And the Crosman Carbine weighs 5 lbs. 2 oz. It’s true that over its production life the Carbine did gain about 8 oz. of weight. The bayonet lug and flash hider and responsible for most of this, and the round bolt adds a bit.
The overall length of the test gun is 35.8-inches with a 17.25-inch smoothbore barrel and a 13.25-inch length of pull. The rear of the stock has a cutout for the oiler that also serves as the rear anchor for the web sling. You can see that in the picture of the three Carbines, above. I measured the cutout and there is more than enough room for the oiler.
Lookalike airguns have come a long way since the 1960s. Today they have to do more and be more than just a shadow of the thing they represent. And this M1 Carbine does and is! It has blowback, which means each time the gun fires the bolt is blown open and to the rear, just like with the firearm. And this bolt unlocks with an ever-so-slight twist to the left that’s similar to how the firearm bolt opens, if less dramatic.
The safety is the same as well. If you know Carbines you’ll feel at home with this one.
Staying with the bolt, it has the same spring-loaded pin to lock it open if you need to get into the barrel. You’ll have to go in through the muzzle, but that’s true of the firearm, too.
The buttstock is in two pieces that are split down the center. The join line is pretty nice, but you can feel it. The upper handguard is a separate piece.
The mag release works the same as the one on the firearm, and, as heavy as this mag is, it should drop free readily. Regular Carbine mags often don’t come out on their own when they are empty, though loaded mags certainly do.
While this looks like the firearm it copies, there is no possibility for disassembly like we find with many lookalike air pistols. To be able to do that, this airgun would have to be made of steel and would be far more expensive.
The Springfield Armory Carbine is a very close copy of the firearm, And, when we talk about lookalikes, the appearance is of primary importance. This one looks better than the Crosman gun. You can see it in the pictures and it looks and feels the same close up.