Are there any good reasons to rely on a 75 year old piece of history like the M1 Carbine for personal protection in the modern world? Sure, why not!? In Part 3 of our series on the M1 Carbine, I’m going over some of the obvious and not so obvious reasons this old war horse might still be relevant today. I’m also looking at a couple of upgrades for the M1 Carbine that help make it more like a true 21st century fighting tool.
Details are in the video below, or scroll down to read the full transcript.
Today, in the third part of our series on the M1 Carbine, we are looking at using this rifle in the role of self-defense. Does it make sense for the average “regular person” for personal protection in their home or their business?
If you missed the first two parts of this series, we covered the background and history of this gun in Part 1. You might want to go check that out. In the second part, we looked at the ballistics of the .30 Carbine cartridge.
So naturally, a lot of people are going to be wondering how the M1 Carbine stacks up against the other options we have available today for a home defense kind of role. We’re going to look at the “why,” the pros and the cons, and then maybe a few things you can do to modify these things to make them a little more suitable for home defense.
Is the M1 Carbine Still Relevant?
Why would anyone want to rely on an M1 Carbine for home defense in the year 2019? Well, we know the cartridge itself is pretty effective. It’s a lightweight gun with very light recoil. It’s easy to use and easy to teach someone how to use, even if they’re not really a shooting enthusiast. So in that respect, it checks a lot of the boxes that we look for in a well-rounded home-defense gun.
But an AR-15 also checks all of those same boxes and then some. It is more ergonomic than the M1 Carbine. It’s got better ammunition that’s also more affordable. It’s much easier to accessorize, and it’s more reliable and durable. And it’s not going to cost any more than an M1 Carbine, either. So it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to rely on a 75 year old piece of history to defend yourself when there’s a much more capable weapon readily available.
However, there are a lot of good reasons someone might want to use an M1 Carbine for self-defense. The first is that, for a lot of people, self-defense is not their primary reason for owning the gun. They like the history of the M1 Carbine. They enjoy shooting it — it’s a lot of fun at the range and feel competent and confident with it. Not everyone wants to own a different gun for every purpose that they might need a gun for. So for a lot of people, it’s just a fun gun and why not keep it in the closet just in case? I would not criticize anyone for making that decision as long as they knew that the gun was reliable and they knew how to use it competently.
There are some more practical reasons for relying on an M1 Carbine. One of them is that, for a lot of people, their local range might not allow them to fire “real” rifle cartridges like .223/5.56 with an AR-15. But they might allow an M1 Carbine since its ballistics are closer to a pistol cartridge. As an added bonus, you still get a cartridge that is a little more effective than the average pistol caliber. It’s almost rifle ballistics with a carbine that’s a little more indoor range-friendly.
That’s a big advantage for a lot of people if they’ve only got one place to practice in their town. That’s becoming more and more common. Outdoor ranges are just not accessible for a lot of people. The M1 Carbine is a bit more indoor range friendly if that’s your only choice.
Probably the most compelling reason to consider an M1 Carbine is that, in a lot of places in this country, an AR-15 is not legal where an M1 Carbine is. In some places, they are both illegal. New Jersey has specifically outlawed the M1 Carbine which is both un-American and really unfortunate. But if you live in one of those states where you can’t get an AR-15 but you can get an M1 Carbine, it is a viable option.
Another thing that’s easy to overlook is that, in some places, an AR-15 might technically be legal, but you have to consider how it’s going to be perceived. Even if you have a completely justified self-defense shooting, you have to consider that there’s going to be law enforcement responding, there’s going to be a DA looking at that case. If it ends up going to trial, there’s going to be a jury that’s considering it.
If you live in an area where people are likely to look at an AR-15 and automatically assume you’re the bad guy, it might work in your favor to have used a gun that’s got a traditional-looking wood stock. A rifle that your grandaddy carried in the “good” war. In some cases, that might give you a little bit of an edge from a public relations standpoint. I’m not saying that it should be that way, but that’s just reality in a lot of places. Of course, there are no guarantees, but it’s a little harder to vilify a gun like the M1 Carbine than a modern “evil black rifle.”
Other AR-15 Alternatives
There are plenty of other alternatives to an AR. One that a lot of people have mentioned already is the Ruger Mini-14. I’m not a huge fan of the Mini-14. I’m not going to go into a whole lot of detail today. Greg Ellifritz has a great article on his blog where he goes through each of the points I would probably mention about the shortcomings of the Mini-14. That’s not to say the M1 Carbine doesn’t have its own problems. And a lot of them are the same problems. But the Mini-14 doesn’t have the history or the charm of the M1 Carbine and it’s got some issues that I think make it an inferior rifle.
Having said that, I am probably a little biased. I owned a Mini-14 for a while and had a bad experience. If you’ve got one that works, I’m sure it’s a fine choice for home-defense.
If you’re just looking for a gun that is not an AR-15 — not a modern-looking rifle — that’s easy to use and easy to teach a beginner to use, I would suggest, instead of an M1 Carbine or the Mini-14, the Ruger PC Carbine. This is a 9mm carbine that takes Glock magazines. It’s about $500. It’s pretty good to go right out of the box, you don’t need to do a whole lot to them.
The PC Carbine not as fun as an M1 Carbine, but it’s got a lot of the same features. It’s low recoil and fairly lightweight. It has a nice set of ghost ring sights on it. There’s a rail built into the receiver if you want to put optics on it. For a “here’s a home-defense carbine that’s cheap and easy to use,” I would go with something like this. If the history thing is not important to you or you don’t want to shell out the money required for a reliable M1 Carbine, look into the Ruger PC Carbine.
M1 Carbine Updates and Upgrades
If you’ve decided the M1 Carbine is your go-to home defense gun, there are a few things you can do to bring it up to date a little bit. The biggest one, I think, is the addition of a picatinny rail. I’ll get to that in just a minute. There are a couple of other things I’ve got on here.
First is this sling. I’m kind of neutral on the issue of slings on home-defense guns. I don’t think they’re essential by any means but some people really like them. If you do want a sling on your home defense gun, you probably want a modern sling like this VTAC 2-point sling. The GI sling is really just a canvas carry strap. It’s fine for putting the gun around your shoulder and walking around with it. But for home defense, if you like having a sling, it’s so you can go hands-free. A modern sling like this one lets you shoulder the gun while you’re wearing the sling and then, if you need to use your hands for something else, you just grab the quick-adjustment strap. Now, I can do whatever else I may need to do without having to put the gun on the ground.
As you can see, there is no problem attaching a modern sling to the M1 Carbine. You just use the attachment points the gun already has; the sling swivel here on the barrel band and the sling and oiler slot in the stock.
I’ve also got a stock pouch back here. This one is from Ologapo Outfitters. There are a ton of GI-type stock pouches out there — originals and reproductions. They are canvas and they’re fine for just keeping a couple of magazines on the gun. But this one is made from a more modern material. It’s some kind of nylon. It’s not going to hold moisture as much as the canvas and it will probably last a little bit longer. This is definitely not necessary for a home-defense gun, it’s just kind of a nice thing to have. I like having a stock pouch on the gun because, if I take the gun to the range and I forget to pack magazines in my range bag, I’ve at least got the two mags that are on the buttstock.
Like the GI mag pouches, this one holds two 15-round magazines. It’s got flaps with a velcro closure instead of snaps. Again, it’s not really a home-defense-specific accessory. Really, it’s just something I thought was cool and I think Ologapo Outfitters makes good stuff. They also make belt pouches for M1 Carbine magazines and, I think, a chest rig as well.
Lights and Optics
Now, the optics rail — a lot of people are going to hate this because it makes the rifle look different. It takes away from that traditional look and feel. Some people are going to call it blasphemy. That’s fine. I get it. If you want to keep your rifle original, by all means, do it. But for a rifle that’s already really handy and shootable, I think a red dot enhances the utility of it. Adding the optics rail doesn’t require any permanent modifications to the gun. It simply replaces the top portion of the forend.
This rail is made by Ultimak. They’ve been making these for several years and by all accounts, it’s a quality piece of hardware. I certainly haven’t had any problems with this one. I’ve just got a little Trijicon RMR on here, but for home defense, you could also attach an offset light mount. I would consider that a pretty important addition if you were going to use this for your home. No matter what rifle you’re using (or firearm in general), you need to have a way to positively identify your target. Some people have their home set up so that there’s a certain light they leave on at night. That’s fine, too. Whatever the case, you want to make sure you’re not just shooting at shapes in the dark. You have to be able to see your target before you shoot at it. Rule Four, right?
Some people aren’t on board with optics, but if you’ve used red dots extensively, then I don’t have to tell you just how much utility they add to a long gun. It makes it much easier to shoot quickly and accurately, especially on up-close targets. Just for fun, I did a few drills anyway. I made up a quick little drill — basically, a double failure drill. Body-body-head on one target and then body-body-head on another target, both at 10 yards. I was, on average, 30% faster with the optic than with the iron sights. Then, as it got dark and the lighting conditions were more like they would probably be inside my house at twilight, the optic was actually twice as fast as the iron sights.
I had almost no misses with the optic-equipped carbine. But with the iron sights only carbine, I was throwing shots every once and a while, particularly when I couldn’t find the front sight quickly enough through the small aperture.
If you don’t like the idea of putting an optic on this thing and don’t want to spoil the looks of it, one option that might work is a ghost ring sight. I think this gun is a prime candidate for that. I haven’t seen where anyone has actually done it. I’m unsure if you can buy a ghost ring sight ready to go for the M1 Carbine. You could simply drill out the rear aperture. Unfortunately, you can’t remove the aperture itself from the rear sight assembly. The whole rear sight assembly has to stay together as one unit. So you’d have to replace the whole assembly if you didn’t want to modify your original rear sight. But I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work.
If one of you guys has tried that or if you want to try it, let me know how it goes. I would love to hear how it worked out for you. I think it would be great for up-close shooting. You could acquire that front sight much quicker through a larger aperture and you wouldn’t lose much accuracy out to about 100 yards or so.
Before you start messing with the sights or decide to put optics on an M1 Carbine to make it a better self-defense gun, there is something else you should probably pay more attention to and that is reliability. Reliability should be a top priority for any self-defense gun. It’s also not something the M1 Carbine is known for. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to get an M1 Carbine to run relatively trouble-free. But I’ve talked enough for today, so I think we’re going to stretch this series out into four parts. I’m going to address reliability in the next part, so be looking out for that.
Of course, in the meantime, you can buy all the ammo you would ever need with lightning-fast shipping from us at LuckyGunner.com.