The U.S. Caliber .30 Carbines


The U.S. Carbine Caliber .30


Development

















The Beginning
    June 1940

Studies conducted during and after the end of World War I concluded the effectiveness of the M1911/1911A1 pistol and M1917 revolver carried by officers, non-commissioned officers and enlisted personnel were ineffective for anything other than self defense at close range. By 1938 these studies prompted U.S. Army Infantry to request the development of a light rifle as a replacement or alternative for use by these personnel, with the rifle having an effective range out to 300 yards. U.S. Army Ordnance denied this request and subsequent repeated requests due to budget constraints and the logistics involved in producing a new rifle using ammunition other than what was already in use.

In September 1939 Germany and Russia invaded Poland. Two days later France and Great Britain declared war on Germany and Russia. The first British Expedition to Europe joined forces with the French Army but was driven out of Europe via the beaches at Dunkirk May 27, 1940 - June 7, 1940.

Another request by Army Infantry on June 15, 1940, with a recommendation by Army Field Artillery, was approved by the Secretary of War. Funding was no longer an issue.

Before the design competition could be opened to companies and inventors additional details and the cartridge to be used needed to be determined.


Request for Design Submissions
    October 1940

On October 1, 1940 the Ordnance Department published a circular which was in effect an appeal to known gun manufacturers and inventors to submit a gun with the following general characteristics.

  • Weight not to exceed 5 pounds
  • Effective range up to 300 yards
  • Rifle to be adaptable to a cartridge of caliber .30 of the Winchester self-loading type with a case similar to that of the Winchester Self-loading cartridge,
        caliber .32. For a bullet weighing 100-110 grains with a full metal jacket, a rimless case, and a muzzle velocity of approx. 2000 fps.*
  • Accuracy consistent with current service rifles at 300 yards
  • Fewest possible components. Parts requiring frequent cleaning or replacement easily accessible and requiring no more than one tool, preferably the cartridge.
  • Rear sight should be not less than 2 1/2 inches nor more than 6 inches from the eye when the rifle is used in a prone position. Sight should be of the aperture
        type having only two range adjustments. Windage adjustment is not required.
  • Capable of semiautomatic fire with the ability for full-automatic fire by means of a selector requiring a special tool
  • Must be designed with a box magazine capable of being reloaded by clips of chargers. Magazines with capacities of 5, 10, 20, and 50 rounds should be supplied.
  • To be carried by sling or some comparable device
  • Weapons must be submitted by February 1, 1941 with competitive tests starting the same day.
     
  • No current production military or civilian firearm met these requirements. Therefore submissions would need to be a newly designed rifle(s).
     
    * At the time the above circular was published the cartridge for the rifles had yet to be developed. The intent was for the cartridge design to be made available
    before the submissions had been completed. This is discussed further in the next section below.
     
    Above information extracted from:
        "Excerpts from Proving Ground History of the Carbine,Caliber .30 M1", by Major G.P. Grant, U.S. Army Ordnance Dept., 30 Sep 1944
        "Record of Army Research and Development", by Lt. Col. Rene Studler, U.S. Army Ordnance Dept., 1946


    Ammunition
        Preliminary Trials Delayed

    U.S. Army Ordnance turned to Winchester's ammunition division for help in designing the cartridge and the production of ammunition to be used during the trials of the various design submissions. The decision was made to modify the existing Winchester .32 self-loading cartridge to .30 caliber with a bullet, casing and powder for a light rifle having an effective range of 300 yards. The result was the .30 caliber self-loading cartridge having a copper jacketed round nose bullet weighing 110 grams with a velocity of approximately 1900 feet per second.

    25,000 rounds had been scheduled to be delivered in time for the February 1, 1941 Light Rifle submission and testing deadline. Existing ammunition commitments by Winchester for the government along with several challenges common to the development of a new cartridge delayed the availability of the new cartridge several times. The final date for the Light Rifle submissions and trials was rescheduled several times with the final date set for May 1, 1941.


    Winchester .32 caliber self-loading cartridge compared to the .30 caliber self-loading cartridge
    which was eventually designated the .30 caliber Carbine cartridge

    Over the years there have been criticisms of the effectiveness of the .30 caliber carbine cartridge and the carbines that used them. Particularly when compared to the cartridges used in most military rifles. These criticisms often exclude the history of what this cartridge and the carbines that used it were initially intended and designed for. The soldiers who were armed with handguns alone for a variety of reasons often related to their job function.

    Obviously the M1 rifle with it's .30-06 cartridge is far more powerful than anything with the .30 cal. carbine cartridge. Comparisons of the .30 cal. carbine should be with the effective range and accuracy of the .45 ACP, .38 S&W, and other handguns of other calibers in use by the U.S. military in 1940/41. Probably the most noted and quoted criticism of the .30 cal. carbines was in a review of the performance of the weapons used by U.S. troops in Korea. Particularly in extremely cold weather. Reading the entire report and not just the part related to the carbines reveals the problems the carbines experienced were also experienced by M1 rifle (Garand) and all other weapons reviewed but one. Stories you may have heard or movies you may have seen with the tactical application of warm urine to keep certain weapons functioning are based on true stories but excluded the carbine, M1 rifle, and Thompson SMG. But also keeping in mind the strengths and limitations of the .30 cal. carbine and the use for which it was designed.

    To this day there is no one cartridge effective for all occasions. It's simply a matter of the right tool for the job at hand, proficiency with one's tools, and working with it's strengths and within its limitations. In Afghanistan the Russian 7.62x39mm cartridge outdistanced the 5.56 NATO cartridge. One solution was to deploy the M14 rifle and more modern variants that use the 7.62x51 (.308) cartridge. A rifle with limited availability as it had been considered obsolete by certain decision makers.

    Submissions - Preliminary Ordnance Light Rifle Service Trials
        01 May 1941

    Submissions Rejected Before Testing Commenced

     
    Manufacture
    Colt's Patent Firearms
    & Manufacturing
    Hartford, CT

     
    Inventor
    Val A. Browning

     Data:OperationWeight LengthBarrelParts
    - - - --
    Disposition: withdrawn prior to trials by manufacturer, prototype(s) could not be completed in time
    Additional:Patent # US2401903

    Manufacture
    John J. Murphy
    Dr. Kohler

    Inventors

    Seeking
    image
     Data:OperationWeight LengthBarrelParts
    - - - --
    Disposition:submission rejected before testing due to caliber
    Additional:Modified version of the cal. .276, Joseph C. White gas operated rifle of the prior M1 Rifle trials

    Manufacture
    Springfield Armory
    Springfield, MA

    Inventor
    Clarence E. Simpson

    Seeking
    image
     Data:OperationWeight LengthBarrelParts
    - - 36.75"--
    Disposition:submission rejected before testing due to weight
    Additional:Springfield Armory Museum Collection (SPAR 3582)


    Submissions Tested During the Ordnance Light Rifle Preliminary Trials
        May - June 1941

    Auto-Ordnance Light Rifle (Early)

     
    Manufacture
    Auto-Ordnance Corporation
    Bridgeport, CT
     Data:OperationWeight LengthBarrelParts
    recoil operated, locking bolt 5.42 lbs w/ sling & 10 rd mag35"15.56"85
    Strengths:Accuracy
    Weaknesses:Function, endurance, assembly & disassembly
    Disposition:withdrawn by mfg

    Bendix-Hyde Light Rifle

     
    Manufacture
    Bendix Aviation Corporation
    Los Angeles, CA

     
    Inventor
    George J. Hyde

     Data:OperationWeight LengthBarrelParts
    gas operated, locking bolt 5.30 lbs w/ sling & 5 rd mag33.63"15.75"58
    Strengths:Function in general, endurance, accuracy (100 yds), maintenance & disassembly
    Weaknesses:Accuracy (300 yds)
    Disposition:changes recommended

    H&R (Reising) Light Rifle

     
    Manufacture
    Harrington & Richardson
    Worcester, MA

     
    Inventor
    Eugene C. Reising

     Data:OperationWeight LengthBarrelParts
    blowback 5.81 lbs w/ sling & 5 rd mag38"15" 48
    Strengths:Endurance, accuracy, simple design
    Weaknesses:Function only fair
    Disposition:changes recommended

    Savage Light Rifle

     
    Manufacture
    Savage Arms
    Utica, NY

     
    Inventor
    John Pearce

     Data:OperationWeight LengthBarrelParts
    long recoil operating system, rotating bolt 5.45 lbs w/ sling & 5 rd mag33.38"16" 83
    Strengths:Endurance, accuracy, function
    Weaknesses:too many small parts, too complicated, maintenance, assembly & disassembly
    Disposition:modified, resubmitted during trials, changes recommended
    Additional:Springfield Armory Museum Collection (SPAR 25)

    Springfield-Garand Light Rifle

     
    Manufacture
    Springfield Armory
    Springfield, MA

     
    Inventor
    John C. Garand

     Data:OperationWeight LengthBarrelParts
    gas operated piston, locking bolt, top feed 4.91 lbs w/ sling & 5 rd mag34.88"18" 44
    Strengths:Endurance, accuracy, function
    Weaknesses:minor
    Disposition:changes recommended
    Additional:Springfield Armory Museum Collection (SPAR 1809)

    Woodhull Light Rifle

     
    Manufacture
    Woodhull Corporation
    Millington, NJ

     
    Inventor
    Frederick W. Woodhull

     Data:OperationWeight LengthBarrelParts
    blowback - modified Winchester Model 1905 5.50 lbs w/ sling & 5 rd mag29.8"14.62"unk
    Strengths:Endurance
    Weaknesses:Function in general, recoil, loud report, maintenance & disassembly
    Disposition:changes recommended, modified and resubmitted during prelim's, more changes recommended

    Conclusions

    Test results for every light rifle submitted were considered unsatisfactory for one reason or another.

    While testing was still in progress it became obvious a number of changes needed to be made to the original requirements of October 1, 1940. As a result the following requirements were amended.

    • the weight was increased from 5 lbs to 5.5 lbs
    • the requirement for full automatic fire capability was changed to semi-automatic fire only
    • the 50 round magazine, intended for use with full auto fire, was eliminated

    Next Steps

    The final Ordnance Light Rifle Service Tests were scheduled to start September 15, 1941 with a final decision to be made on which submission would be accepted as the winner by September 30, 1941.

    To obtain the best Light Rifles possible the decision was made to accept and test improved versions of rifles already tested and submissions of entirely new entries provided they could meet the September 15, 1941 deadline.

    New Submissions & a Resubmission - Preliminary Ordnance Light Rifle Service Trials
        August 1941

    Turner Light Rifle

     
    Manufacture
    Russel J. Turner
    Butler, PA

     
    Inventor

     Data:OperationWeight LengthBarrelParts
    gas-operated, bolt unlocked by gas piston 4.32 lbs w/ sling & 10 rd mag33.88"15.5" 82
    Strengths:Endurance, accuracy
    Weaknesses:Function, stock, forearm
    Disposition:changes recommended

    Winchester Cal. .30 Light Rifle (Prototype)
    "The 13 Day Winchester"

     
    Manufacture
    Winchester Repeating Arms
    New Haven, CT

     
    Inventors
    Winchester Team

     Data:OperationWeight LengthBarrelParts
    Short stroke gas piston, locking bolt 4.97 lbs w/ sling & 5 rd mag35.50"17.75"54
    Background:Winchester initially had no intention of entering the Light Rifle Trials due to ongoing commitments. Developments with an ongoing project at Winchester had produced a light .30-06 rifle that led to them to reconsider. Ordnance indicated if Winchester could produce a Light Rifle prototype meeting their requirements and have it at Aberdeen on 9 Aug 1941 they would evaluate it. This is the Light Rifle Winchester built in 13 days to meet that deadline. Given the amount of time Winchester had to produce this rifle Ordnance recognized it was not intended for extended firing tests or a complete evaluation.
    Strengths:Very light recoil, function at various angles, length of the stock covering the barrel
    Weaknesses:Failures to feed (30 in 351 rounds), ejection was to all sides, heavy trigger pull
    Disposition:Further development and consideration is warranted
    Additional:Given the outcome of the Light Rifle Service Trials the history of events at Winchester that produced this light rifle and the one that follows warrant more detail than this page is meant to provide. A link to the history of events at Winchester with far more details is located at the bottom of this page.
    Cody Firearms Museum Collection (1988.8.559)

    Woodhull Light Rifle (Modified)

     
    Manufacture
    Woodhull Corporation
    Millington, NJ

     
    Inventor
    Frederick W. Woodhull

     Data:OperationWeight LengthBarrelParts
    blowback 6.07 lbs w/ sling & 5 rd mag29.8"14.5"unk
    Strengths:Endurance
    Weaknesses:Function improved but still unacceptable, function relied on a highly polished chamber, recoil, loud report
    Disposition:No additional Light Rifles were submitted by Woodhull

    World Events Prompt a Change in Plans

    Events in Europe increased the sense of urgency to complete the Light Rifle selection as soon as possible. Normal protocol following the Ordnance Final Service Trials selection required examples of the rifle selected to be submitted for Service Tests by the Infantry Board, Armor Board, Artillery Board, Cavalry Board and the Engineers Board. Each of these evaluation boards had their personnel perform their own tests and prepare a report on their evaluation with recommendations for changes. This process would be repeated until each Service board approved adoption of the rifle.

    To expedite matters the Ordnance Dept. requested and was granted permission to have the Infantry Board prepare a Service Test program as the Ordnance Final Light Rifle Service Trials. The Service Test would be conducted by Infantry alone at the Ordnance Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Aberdeen, MD instead of the Infantry facilities at Ft. Benning, GA. The other Army Services along with the evaluation units of the Navy and the Marines were allowed access to the Service Test at Aberdeen to evaluate the Light Rifles being tested by Infantry with the final report prepared by Infantry then submitted to the others for their approval.

    Normally during Ordnance Final Service Trials there would be time for repairs to the items being tested between each test as the submissions were prototypes undergoing a process of testing and improvements. This was not the case with Service tests that evaluated one item already vetted and chosen by Ordnance. To allow time for repairs that could produce the best Light Rifle possible while also narrowing the number of problematic Light Rifles submitted to Infantry at Aberdeen, Ordnance initiated a series of Abbreviated Function Tests to take place the week prior to September 15th.


    The Ordnance Abbreviated Function Tests
        8-12 Sep 1941

    Auto-Ordnance Light Rifle (Modified)

     
    Manufacture
    Auto-Ordnance Corporation
    Bridgeport, CT
     Data:OperationWeight LengthBarrelParts
    recoil operated, locking bolt 5.43 lbs w/o compensator - - 80
    Weaknesses:Poor function, complicated mechanism with too many small parts, difficult assembly & disassembly
    Disposition:Disqualified

    The remaining entries went on to the Light Rifle Combined Final Service Trials that follow. To allow Winchester more than three weeks to improve their "13 Day" Light Rifle they were not required to submit it for the Abbreviated Function Tests.


    The Light Rifle Combined Final Service Trials
        15-30 Sep 1941

    Hyde-Inland Light Rifle (Modified Bendix)

     
    Manufacture
    Inland Division
    of
    General Motors
    Dayton, OH

    Inventor
    George J. Hyde

     Data:OperationWeight LengthBarrelParts
    gas operated, locking bolt 5.86 lbs w/ sling & 20 rd mag36.75"16"60
    Strengths:
    Weaknesses:Function only fair, assembly & disassembly, inferior to previous submission
    Additional:Bendix Aviation was replaced by Inland after the preliminary trials. Based on the excellent performance of the first submission Inland was contracted by Ordnance to manufacture 5 examples of this modified version. Logistics left Inland and Hyde with little time for research & development. All 5 light rifles, s/n 1-5, are now part of the Springfield Armory Museum Collection (SPAR 1679-1683).

    Click Here for the Forgotten Weapons video by Ian McCollum

    Reising Light Rifle

     
    Manufacture
    Harrington & Richardson
    Worcester, MA

     
    Inventor
    Eugene C. Reising

     Data:OperationWeight LengthBarrelParts
    gas operated, locking bolt 6.28 lbs w/ sling & 10 rd mag36.75"15" 67
    Strengths:Simple design, Function in general very good to excellent, assembly & disassembly
    Weaknesses:Function in dust was only fair, ease in hand operating the action was poor

    Springfield-Garand Light Rifle (Modified)

     
    Manufacture
    Springfield Armory
    Springfield, MA

     
    Inventor
    John C. Garand

     Data:OperationWeight LengthBarrelParts
    gas operated piston, locking bolt, top feed 5.34 lbs w/ sling & 20 rd mag35.25"17" 51
    Strengths:Simple design, accuracy, ease in assembly & disassembly
    Weaknesses:Function impaired by number of misfires, easily clogged with carbon
    Additional:The Springfield Armory Museum Collection includes the initial rifle (SPAR 1809), this rifle with s/n 1 (SPAR 1809), and four additional Springfield-Garand Light Rifle prototypes with s/n 2 (SPAR 1808), s/n 3 (SPAR 1810), s/n 4 (SPAR 1811), and s/n 6 (SPAR 1812).

    Turner Light Rifle (Modified)

     
    Manufacture
    Russel J. Turner
    Butler, PA

     
    Inventor

     Data:OperationWeight LengthBarrelParts
    gas-operated, bolt unlocked by gas piston 4.64 lbs w/ sling & 10 rd mag34.5"17" 61
    Strengths:Simple design
    Weaknesses:Function only fair
    Additional:Click Here for the Forgotten Weapons video by Ian McCollum

    Winchester Cal. .30 Light Rifle (Improved Prototype)
    Winchester Prototype #2

     
    Manufacture
    Winchester Repeating Arms
    New Haven, CT

     
    Inventors
    Winchester Team

     Data:OperationWeight LengthBarrelParts
    Short stroke gas piston, locking bolt 4.97 lbs w/ sling & 5 rd mag35.50"18"58
    Strengths:rated excellent in function and all other categories
    Weaknesses:Minor
    Additional:Cody Firearms Museum Collection (1988.8.550)

    Up until the first submission by Winchester the first submission by George J. Hyde had been considered to be the most likely choice. With the pressure on to expedite matters, Ordnance contracted Inland to produce 5 modified Hyde Carbines for the Final Service Tests so the design could be finalized and production started as soon as possible. The rush to manufacture the 5 Hyde modified prototypes in the short time available before the Final Service Tests produced a modified version inferior to the original submission. With the submission of Winchester Prototype #2 the efforts of Hyde passed into history.

    The Light Rifle Combined Final Service Trials conducted at Aberdeen Proving Ground ended 25 Sep 1941. On 30 Sep 1941 the sub-committee reviewed the test results and unanimously agreed on the submission by Winchester (with several minor changes). By the end of the day the Ordnance Technical Committee had approved the submission by Winchester as the new "Carbine, Caliber .30, M1". The cartridge was adopted as the "Cartridge, Carbine, Caliber .30, M1".

    The History of the Development of the .30 cal. Carbine at Winchester
     
    This page has been dedicated to an overview and summary of the Light Rifles submitted for the Ordnance tests and the selection process. Given the choice of the Winchester Cal. .30 Light Rifle (Improved Prototype) as the "Carbine, Caliber .30, M1" a more detailed look at the history of the events at Winchester that led to their Light Rifle submission is provided on the following web pages. The pages are organized in the following order with a link at the end of each page leading to the next one. We think you'll find the information interesting including the documents and photographs never before published.
     
    The "13 Day Winchester", Winchester's 1st Prototype
    Winchester's 2nd Prototype
    David Marshal Williams Prototype
     
    The Legend of Carbine Williams
     PreludeThe Legend of Carbine Williams, Inventions of the Mind
     1900-1921Incorrigible Youth Leading up to the Murder & Whodunnit
     1921-1929 Prison Time Firearm Inventions
     1931-1939 Inventions for the Ordnance Dept., Colt, & Remington
     1939-circa 1945 Inventions at Winchester
     1960-1975 End Years and the Museums

    Fine Tuning the Design in Preparation for Mass Production

    The Winchester Cal. .30 Light Rifle (Improved Prototype) was still a prototype when it was chosen as the Carbine, Caliber .30, M1. Refining the design then generating the part drawings and production drawings that would eventually allow different prime contractors in different parts of the country to build carbines with interchangeable parts to the same standards was work that still needed be done. With the two prototypes produced by Winchester as the only reference material.

    The urgency of the situation along with Winchester's existing commitments and Inland's ability to analyze and produce the Hyde Rifle in such a short time prompted Winchester to agree to share their knowledge and information with Inland's Engineers. With the first visit by Inland's engineers to Winchester taking place six days before the decision was made to adopt Winchester's 2nd prototype.

    The result was Ordnance requiring both Winchester and Inland, separately, to submit 5 tool room models along with drawings by each company. Several of the Inland tool room models began testing at Aberdeen by the end of November followed by the Winchester tool room models in mid-December 1941.

    Delivery of the first Carbines, Caliber .30, M1, to Ordnance began at Inland in June 1942 followed by Winchester in September 1942. Joined by Underwood Elliott Fisher Company in Hartford, CT and the Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corp. in Chicago in November 1942. By August 1943 they were joined by six additional companies manufacturing carbines. Peak production at all facilities occurred during December 1943. By mid-1944 Inland and Winchester were once again the only two companies manufacturing carbines and continued until August 1945.

    When production ended these companies had manufactured well over 6 million carbines in 3 years and 2 months. With all but Winchester and Inland having stopped production by mid 1944. When initially contracted by Ordnance to manufacture the carbines most of these companies had never manufactured firearms. The necessary tooling and skilled workers had to be found during a time when both were in high demand by many different companies contracted for production to support the war effort.

    The carbines served in every theater during WWII in addition to the wars in Korea and Vietnam. Many have been provided as military assistance to other countries where some are still in use as of 2019.

    A Source for More Detailed Information

    For those interested in more detailed information regarding these Light Rifles, their inventors, the companies that were involved in their manufacture, the various Light Rifle Trials, and all that followed you may wish to read War Baby! The U.S. Caliber .30 Carbine, Volume I by Larry Ruth with revisions and additions in Larry's third volume War Baby III, The U.S. Carbine into the 21st Century.


    Should you have questions, assistance is available on our Discussion Forum.

    The Discussion Forum also serves as a reference desk for the more advanced material that could easily overwhelm a website and is often subject to opinions that may vary
    due to a lack of original documentation. A number of researchers and authors are present on the forums, helping others and seeking information for various research projects.