Take a Shot at History

Collecting U.S. Government M1 Carbines

by Harry Viezens

The collecting of M1 carbines is getting to be a serious highly collectable field today. You have to keep in mind that there was ten prime contractors who produced around six million carbines. That seems to be quite a lot of carbines to deal with so why collect them? Well, first off, you must understand the statistics with these guns. The first carbines to be produced came out in April of 1942 by Inland Division of General Motors. These early carbines had a terrible survival rate due to our war effort, combat losses, shipping losses due to sinkings and arsenal repairs and upgrades to name a few things that contribute to a early carbine’s poor survival. As the war progressed the survival rate of carbines got better. More were produced per month to replace losses. Less ships were being sunk. Also by this time all the prime contractors were in full production. After the war many of the carbines in government inventory were overhauled and upgraded. The arsenals made no effort to reassemble the carbines using the correct codes for the reciever’s maker. These rebuilt carbines then saw service in Korea, Viet Nam and many other hot spots in the decades after World War Two. With this in mind, you can see, there are not so many original condition M1 carbines left today.

If you are a beginning collector it is not a bad idea to start with a shooter grade carbine. Try to stay away from import guns. Those carbines are generally of poor quality and just plain awful. A D.C.M. or government release carbine or a gun like that works great for learning how to take a carbine apart, how it shoots and how the gun functions. You can learn a lot from those carbines. When you are ready to look for collector grade carbines you cannot go wrong in investing in this book titled {M1 Carbine by Roger C. Larsen} This is the most comprehensive guide book ever written on the M1 Carbine! The details covered in this book will answer any questions you may have on the carbines. By studying this book you can plan how you want to start your collection. Maybe you want to collect only “I” stock carbines for example. Another idea is to try to get samples of all the prime contractors. One collector I know wants to have a sample of every variation of the carbines produced by Inland and Winchester. This would amount to roughly twenty six variations not including the Inland paratrooper models! One other way to go is to collect carbine accessories such as all the various magazines and pouches for example.  There are many ways you can “go” with collecting the carbine.

One of the best ways to find unaltered carbines is to look for veteran’s take home guns. Most of the time these firearms are not messed with and are in the condition they were issued to the vet. Another way to go is to find nice clean shooter grade guns that may only need some correct coded parts to complete the gun back to original as issued condition. The most important thing in doing this is to find a carbine in it’s original finish and barrel. If you try to go with just a barreled action to restore, this can be a very expensive project. There are parts and stocks that can set you back hundreds of dollars to purchase. You want to find guns that will only need a few parts to make it right. This can be fun to do in locating correct parts and restoring your carbine to issue condition. The value of your gun will also go up as it is a correct complete carbine. If you go this route in restoring carbines you need to be able to spot original finish on the gun as well as the various parts and stocks. Refinishing the stocks and metal really depreciate the guns value and is generally frowned upon by serious collectors. I have only seen a few examples where this does not apply. I have seen a very early carbine that was mostly complete with it’s original parts. However during it’s service life it had a type three barrel band installed and a latter style rear sight installed  poorly. This gun was really scratched up from the type three barrel band and it’s hard service use. It was sent out to one of the top carbine restorers to restore the gun. It came back in as new condition! It was one of the finest restorations I have ever seen. Every part had the correct finish and color. It was a fantastic job! This was a case where the person did the restoration project right. Not many carbines merit this kind of work.

The hardest group of carbines to find are the one’s with the 1942 barrel date. They are the carbines that saw heavy use and loss. To find a 1942 dated carbine is a real find. Properly restored or in original condition guns will bring in a real premium for the collector. The early oval cut stocks also command high prices. The latter ones do pretty good, that is the 1944-45 production models. The key is to have the gun in all original condition with no sign of any alterations or repairs. That is the group the collectors will pay high dollars for. Now keep in mind, there are some pretty rare contractors of these carbines. One of the hardest to find in original condition is by Saginaw Gear of Grand Rapids Michigan.  These hard to find low production carbines also bring in a premium for the collector. I have gone to many gun shows, auctions and private sales, many times I find nice carbines mis labeled or the seller has no idea what they have, it is just another carbine. You can find nice collectable carbines to collect and sell yourself. The secret to doing this is knowledge! Knowing what’s right and correct on a gun can help you be a sharp buyer and collector. There are still some real nice carbines out there to find. It just takes being in the right place and knowing what you are looking at.

Another smart thing you can do is to know a good dealer or collector of carbines. They can set you straight on metal finish of various parts, correct wood finish, markings and so on. If you are lucky, you may be able to see guns from their collections in their original condition. This would be one of the best learning tools to have. It is not unreasonable to ask a dealer or collector selling a carbine to pull the carbine from the stock for examination. It is easy to do, and it can give you a idea of how complete in manufactoring codes the carbine has. To give you a idea, let’s say you are looking at a Winchester carbine. If all the visable parts are Winchester coded, trigger guard hammer and so on, there is a good chance the rest of the parts are Winchester also. If the parts are mixed you can pretty much expect the rest of the parts to be mixed also. In this way it can help you to determine the value of that carbine you are considering purchasing .These M1 Carbines in the last several years have seen strong growth in the collectors market. The values have seen a steady increase in prices for high quality guns. If you wish to invest in this amazing group of guns, you will not go wrong here.

Happy Collecting!