The Cost Of History

I’ve always loved the little WWII-era M1 Carbine, because it’s so much fun to shoot, it doesn’t weigh a ton, and the ammo isn’t fearfully expensive (relatively speaking, in today’s market).

In my various travels about Teh Intarwebz, I came across a YouTube video which looked at the ” Most Overpriced Mil-Surp Rifles On The Market”, in which the host opined that the M1 Carbine is the second-most over-priced. (I think that ALL guns today are overpriced, thank you again, Urkel Obama and Hillary Bitch Clinton, but I’ve ranted about that before.)

I’m not going to argue much with the man’s take on the M1 being overpriced; it is, and horribly so. (A refurbished Korean Inland M1 Carbine for over $1,200? Are you shitting me?)

However, welcome to the gun nut’s Rock (fun to shoot etc.) and Hard Place (damn spendy). It’s a problem as old as time, and one we gun nuts have always had to deal with — only now, it’s worse than ever.

Let’s just assume, however, that the Rock has won you over, and you just have to have this lovely little gun in your safe. How can you get some kind, any kind of a cost saving out of this? Here’s the rundown, as I see it:

  • Rifle: $1,200 (which seems to be about the cost of a decent mil-surp M1 Carbine these days; less, and buyer beware; more, and you’re looking at IBM and Rock-Ola rifles, most probably)
  • Three spare 15-round mags @ $11 each: $33
  • Bulk .30 Carbine ammo (250-round bulk pack): $85
  • Total cost: $1,318 (ignore shipping and FFL transfer costs, because they’ll be a constant no matter what you buy)

Here’s a thought. What you’re paying for with one of those WWII / Korean War M1 Carbines is history — the fact that some GI might once have used this rifle to whack Nazis and/or Commies (always a Good Thing, IMO). But if you can forego that nostalgia (and it’s hard, believe me), you can get a newly-manufactured M1 Carbine from Thompson/Auto-Ordnance (Kahr) for about $765… which means if you forego the history and end up spending the same $1,318 for the whole package, you’d essentially be getting the same shooting fun — only now with three free mags and 1,250 rounds of ammo.

Or, if you can’t shake all aspects of nostalgia and you want a carbine which can take the good old M3 bayonet, you can get a new Inland M1 Carbine (yes, they’re making them again) for about $980, which would mean your “package” cost of $1,318 would get you three spare mags and 750 rounds of ammo.

Or you could just pocket the savings, either way.

As with all my opinions on matters such as these, please don’t pepper me with “I can get this cheaper at X” or my favorite: “OMG I paid $250 for my Carbine” comments — yes, so did I… back in 2004. Unfortunately, we’re living in a different world now, where panic buying (did I forget to thank Barack fucking Obama again?) has caused prices of all gun-related stuff to skyrocket. On the one hand, I like the fact that more guns are in private hands today than there were in 2007, but on the other, those additions to armed citizenry have come at a cost to us Old Gun Nuts in the form of higher gun prices. Intellectually, I’m cool with the outcome, but the dollar-cost reality makes my nuts ache.

Also, don’t think you’ll be able to snap up an M1 Carbine for $600 at a gun show. One, there are no more decent deals to be had at gun shows anymore which leads to two, your $600 “cheap” Carbine will most likely require five hundred dollars’ worth of parts and quality gunsmithing to make it work properly.

So, if you have a spare grand and a half (shipping and FFL transfer costs, ugh), here’s one way to spend it.

One last thought: the regular .30 Carbine round with its little 110gr. bullet has always been knocked as being underpowered. Well, Buffalo Bore now makes these puppies with a 125gr. bullet, and with BB’s amped-up power, the muzzle energy of the .30 cartridge has been increased by over a third — more than twice as much, in other words, as a .357 Magnum firing the same bullet from a 6″ revolver barrel — which turns the .30 Carbine into a bona fide stopper. (Don’t ask about the price of Buffalo Bore ammo; but if you want the best, ya gotta dig deep, as any fule kno.)


  1. Lest we not forget, there are some knock offs out there you can get that shoot the venerable 9mm cartridge. I have one that uses the same magazines as my Beretta 9mm pistol. I count that as a good thing.

    I have a couple of rifles that eat .357 to match various pistol laying about. so I have that covered.

    I might have to get one of the new inland M1 clones just because. But I am happy with the 9mm variant I currently have.

  2. An M1 Carbine is on my short list of things to buy when I finally move from New Jersey to America. Damn AWB. It amazed me that I can (and do) have an M1 Garand, but not a Carbine.

    I’ve always thought it was a just about perfect home-defense long gun, low recoil, short and light enough, decent sites, reliable, and plenty powerful enough at across-the-room range. Easy to teach my wife to shoot it too.

    On the topic of bang-for-the-buck, some years ago I was jonesing for an M14-type rifle (semi-auto only). Looking at the prices gave me a nose bleed. Then I realized that NJ forbids the standard 20 round magazines (nothing over 15). 15 rounders are scarce and expensive. There are a bunch of 10 rounders out there from the Federal ban. Then I realized that the Garand holds eight rounds compared to the ten I’d ordinarily have in the M14, a Garand could then be had from CMP for $600 (and shipped directly to my door, and it arrived the day Obama was inaugurated!), and nothing I hit would be able to tell the difference between .308 and .30’06. Oh yeah, NJ has since forbidden direct shipping of rifles from CMP, has to go thru a dealer now.

    1. You can get 15 rd mags for the M1A/M14 from Brownells. Still living where you can’t own an M1 Carbine but you can have a Mini-14. M1A. Have asked a couple of politicians if they are ok with the first 15 bodies but have trouble with the 16th.

  3. One of my favorites, I have a reasonable M-1 carbine in .30 that never misses a beat when I shoot it and they do make a good bedside gun to have at hand in case a goblin decides to drop in. I also have a .22 LR M-1 carbine style rifle made in the 1980’s by Erma for Iver Johnson and from a few feet away it is hard to tell the difference between the two. With the handy size I use these carbines teaching grand kids how to shoot and they fit a healthy twelve year old, girl or boy.

    The latest grand kid I taught was my grand daughter and starting her on the .22 and letting her learn how to load the magazine, load it into the rifle and handle the gun and shoot safely without any recoil to speak of builds confidence. Then, the same day moving her on up to the .30 cal with just a bit more recoil and explaining the history behind the gun used in WWII, Korea and Viet Nam add to the flavor and experience for a neophyte shooter. Before we went to the gun range which happened to be in Bandera I stopped and purchased her shooting glasses and ear muffs along with a hat which I think is important for a first time shooter because then they go home knowing there will be another time which there has been.

    Jackson Armory in Dallas was one of my haunts for years when I lived in there and I watched the prices on the old guns start climbing, thinking I would get around to buying a Luger when they were approaching a thousand dollars and then all of a sudden any decent Lugar was $2K and heading up. Same for the old Mausers, Enfield, 1903 and Garands, even the 7mm Spanish Mausers with mis matching parts have doubled and tripled in the last decade. If a person has one of these old hard shooting rifles in decent shape with a decent bore, one hundred years from now it will still shoot as hard and far as it did 100 years ago.

    I own a few of the venerable old rifles and always meant to buy a lot more but I missed my chance and one day realized the cheap surplus gun market was gone.

  4. My favorite of all my father’s bring-backs is his M1 Carbine. D-Day and all that.

    My M2 was a fun toy on the beach at Inchon during occupation duty in 1954/55. Ruff on sea gulls and sea shells.

  5. Kim, you’ve been looking for a new, different, .22lr semi-auto?
    Try the Chiappa M-1 carbine in .22lr, they can even kit you out with a 1911-22 too.

  6. There’s also the Ruger Blackhawk six-shooter in .30 carbine I bought from some Olde Farte here in Plano a few years ago… 😎

    I love that gun, and it is tack-driving accurate, not to mention having a 12″ barrel that gives it the hippie-smacking properties of Wyatt Earp’s Buntline Special.

  7. I’ve had two old Universal/Underwood post WWII civie carbines, and neither was particularly great.
    Then again, they were Underwoods…

    1. Yet, I have a Korean-Conflict Underwood that was a re-import (Blue Sky Productions, in the 90’s) and it works as it should.

  8. Back in the 90’s or so, there was a flood of carbine parts into the U.S. Several outfits, Numrich among them, sold parts ‘kits’ less the receiver. Others sold surplus receivers of various makes. So, I put together a basic set of ‘armorer’s tools’ and was in business assembling kits, two of which I still have. No, I did not try to pawn them off as the war bring-backs. I was completely up front about what they were and referred to them as “GI grade shooters”. Kim, I am (now) in the DFW area. If you ever need a carbine mechanic, let me know.

    I reload my own ammo. Remington makes a dandy little 110gr soft point bullet that is wonderfully accurate, and the soft point makes a nasty little goblin stopper.

    Here is a real time sink. The site is about commercial carbines, not military. The history is fascinating and many of the names are familiar to me, either through reading or conducting business under my former FFL.

    One of the tidbits buried in there somewhere is the story about one of the surplus businesses getting a knock on their door from the Secret Service. Seems they had sold the Carcano scope mount (only the mount, not the scope) that wound up on Lee Oswald’s rife, to Klein’s in Chicago.

  9. My carbine is one of those early 1990s re-imports. It is certainly worth more now than when I bought it. It had some problems with stovepipe malfunctions when I first got it. A new, stiffer recoil spring solved that problem quite nicely. Then, a few years ago, the extractor snapped. I was able to replace the part with the help of a special tool that I had purchased just in case I ever needed it. The extractor is kind of a three-D puzzle with springs and pins and would be much harder to do without the tool.

    I like it. It’s a fun little gun. Light recoil so it doesn’t intimidate new shooters, but still powerful enough for serious defensive use.

    1. Taking the bolt apart without that tool isn’t too bad. Putting it back together without it is a true PITA.

  10. Both Hornady and Speer make soft-point loads in .30 Carbine intended for self-defense; haven’t had a chance to get some water jugs together and try them, but I am curious how they’ll do.

  11. Coincidentally I took a Garand and IBM M1 carbine to an indoor range today. Our company is having a ‘team building outing’ to a range in a couple of months and we’ve been told we can bring our own. When I mentioned having these wonderful rifles, they really wanted me to bring them. I had not shot them for a few years (ammo cost, range access and distance, and time all in deficit) but they needed cleaning and testing/sight-in before I let a neo handle them. Found out my bureaucrat 10 rounder magazines are a little flakey but probably ok for this use.

    They really are wonderful little rifles, though my eyes are not as happy with the sights as they used to be.

    If you don’t mind, where are you finding ammo for that price? Cheapest I’ve seen lately is $0.49/round plus shipping, and I’d like to get some to replenish what I expect will get used up at the event.

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