The U.S. M1A1 Carbine had a folding stock and was intended for issue to American Airborne troops during World War II. These troopers in Europe in 1944 have M1A1s.
This article was first published in American Rifleman, November 2005
The arm that holds the distinction of being manufactured in greater numbers than any other U.S. military firearm of World War II is the “U.S. Carbine, Caliber .30, M1.” The carbine represented a new category of service arm, initially intended to replace both the .45 ACP pistol and the Thompson submachine gun. Developed in 1941 by Winchester Repeating Arms Company and adopted after an exhaustive series of trials by the U.S. Army Ordnance Department, the carbine was a lightweight (roughly 5½ lbs.) semi-automatic shoulder arm that fired a .30-cal. cartridge fed from a detachable, 15-round box magazine.
The carbine was chiefly intended for issue to military personnel—including some officers—who would have been too burdened by the heavy M1 Garand rifle to carry out their primary duties. By the time production ceased in 1945, some 6 million carbines had been manufactured by 10 different prime contractors, and carbines were widely issued in all theaters of the Second World War.
As production continued, several variants of the M1 carbine were developed, including a selective-fire version—the M2—as well as a model designed to mount an infrared night-vision sight, the T3. However, other than the standard M1 Carbine, the variant that was manufactured in greater numbers, and which saw the widest issuance, was the “U.S. Carbine, Caliber .30, M1A1.” The M1A1 Carbine was designed for use by paratroopers and had a folding wire stock, which reduced the overall length when folded. The stock was fitted with a wooden pistol grip. The only difference between the standard M1 Carbine and the M1A1 carbine was the folding stock on the latter.
The M1 Carbine - Straight from the pages of history … the greatest conflict of modern times, World War II used by U.S. infantrymen in both WWII theaters of battle and in Korea, this rifle comes to you ready to have some fun!
The M1A1 was officially standardized in May 1942, and the first deliveries began in October. The sole manufacturer of the M1A1 was the Inland Manufacturing Division of General Motors in Dayton, Ohio, which was also the largest manufacturer of standard M1 carbines. Inland produced about 43 percent of the total production of all carbines. In addition to M1s and M1A1s, the company produced the M2 and T3 variants. The initial subcontractor for the special M1A1 stock was Royal Typewriters, Inc., in Hartford, Conn. The wooden components of the stock were supplied by the S.E. Overton Company of South Haven, Mich., and Royal produced the wire butt and assembled the completed stocks. Royal apparently experienced some problems in its capacity as the lead subcontractor, and eventually, Overton assumed responsibility for assembling the M1A1 stocks and shipping them to the Inland factory.
There were two separate production runs of M1A1 Carbines. The so-called “First Contract” carbines were shipped between October 1942 and October 1943, with approximately 71,000 M1A1s delivered during the period. Serial numbers ranged approximately from 42,000 to 850,000. These M1A1s had the same features as the standard M1s of the era, including non-adjustable, flip-up rear sights; “high-wood” stocks (the area in front of the operating slide); narrow barrel bands (without bayonet lugs); and flat-top bolts.
The second production run was between about May and December 1944 and created less than 70,000 M1A1s. Serial numbers ranged approximately from 5,150,000 to 6,700,000. Although the basic design of the M1A1 stock did not change, the majority of the “Second Contract” stocks had “low-wood” and a slightly different shape to the grip. Also, during the course of production, many of the later production carbines (M1 and M1A1) were fitted with improved components, such as adjustable rear sights, round bolts and wider barrel bands. There is some disagreement whether or not any of these carbines originally left the factory with T4 barrel bands (with the bayonet lug). If so, only extremely late production M1A1 Carbines would have this feature, and the vast majority had either the narrow Type 1 or the wider Type 2 barrel bands (both types without bayonet lugs).
It must be stressed that the previously mentioned serial number ranges were only approximations, and there were no special serial number ranges assigned to the M1A1 production runs. M1A1 serial numbers were intermixed with standard M1 Carbines made by Inland during these periods.