Insects ruined more carbine barrels than rust

Saturday, May 11th, 2019

The weight of the M1 Garand rifle was to a great extent responsible for the popularity of the .30-caliber carbine. The carbine had other strengths, too, Dunlap explains:

The carbines’ best feature was their non-corrosive ammunition. Because of it the barrels and gas pistons and cylinders could take a lot of neglect and still keep the arm operating perfectly. M1 rifle barrels were always pitted, but the carbines usually looked good inside.

Insects ruined more carbine barrels than rust or lack of cleaning did together. It is a fact! In the Pacific land areas lives a kind of wasp we called mud-daubers, and they love to set up an apartment in a .30 caliber barrel — they will take a .45 or .50, but prefer .30’s. By carrying in mud and secreting some sort of liquid they plug a barrel and if that plug is not discovered and removed within 12 hours, a ring starts to eat into the barrel steel at its top; in 36 hours it will be the depth of a land, cutting both lands and grooves equally, which meant classification as unserviceable by ordnance when inspected or reported. Oil in the barrel made no difference. If the plug was not discovered and the rifle or carbine fired, the barrel usually bulged and was unserviceable anyway.


In the Pacific the carbines were more reliable and gave less trouble than the M1’s, although in North Africa and in Italy they were not rated so highly.


The troopers often complained that it took all 15 shots to down a Jap, but I suspect that this was usually because they always shot the Nip 15 times anyway, whether he went down on the first or last round.

The non-expanding bullet would not do much damage unless it hit a vital spot, which was not always easy. Heck, you can kill a man with a .22 Short if you can shoot him in the brain, heart, or spine.


A military load should render a man hors de combat with almost any hit.


If our carbine cartridge had been the .38 Super Automatic Colt pistol case, using a .35 or rather, .36 caliber 125-grain bullet at about 1,500 FPS — the soldier would have been a lot better off in battle. Such a bullet would carry a great deal more shocking power than the 1,975 FPS 110-grain .30 caliber carbine bullet.

Killing the enemy is not always as desirable as merely making a casualty out of him. Even the Japs realized this, if a special military report I read is true. According to it, a non-com or two from a 24th Division unit on Leyte stated his outfit suffered many casualties at one location, encountering Japanese riflemen who shot them up. Most of the Americans were shot in the hip or upper leg with 6.5mm bullets, not a fatal wound but one which called for a minimum of two persons to evacuate, besides getting the shot-up soldier out of the battle for months, if not permanently. The opinion was that the enemy was deliberately attempting to cause such serious wounds in order to tie up the additional personnel necessary to care for the men, thereby delaying our advance. Each such hit removed from three to five men from the immediate opposing force, while a man killed was just one less.


Our officials scoffed for years at the Italians and Japs for putting bayonets on everything and claimed everyone else’s automatic weapons had too high a rate of fire (our carbine now can empty itself at about 850 to 900 RPM — is definitely much faster than the Thompson, comparing cyclic rates). The bayonet business is silly, except for guarding prisoners, for which a repeating shotgun with 00 Buckshot loads is better, and the regular military shotguns have bayonet studs themselves for full-size prodders.

So far as the automatic feature is concerned, I am for it. We really have something, but I am not sure what. The guns were a lot of fun to shoot and came out just a little too late for real use in combat. The full-automatic feature did not affect the ballistics of the cartridge any but did increase the effectiveness of the arm by allowing it to deliver three or four bullets close together on one squeeze of the trigger, rather than one. I think these models would have been ideal for jungle fighting, where the heavier Thompsons were popular.

The cartridge remains a full-jacketed, fairly high-velocity .32-20, which has not been considered a suitable deer cartridge for years. I consider a man in the class of a white-tailed deer as a meat target, taking about the same amount of energy to stop. Except that deer usually get shot with expanding bullets which mess up more flesh. A man is tougher game physically than he thinks. I am no big-game hunter so maybe I will get a lot of argument. As in killing deer, men seldom suffer identical wounds and results always vary somewhat. I have two friends who received Jap bullets in their chests on Luzon; one recovered and went back to his outfit in a very few weeks and the other was discharged after spending about eight months as a sick boy. Just 1″ or 2″ or a change of angle made the difference, though both were uncomplicated lung punctures so far a simple description goes.


  1. TRX says:

    I’ve never understood the fascination that so many people have with the M1 Carbine, but I have noticed that the people who actually carried them in combat usually thought highly of them.

  2. Paul from Canada says:

    It was light and easy to carry, light recoil, and very handy, especially since it was carried more than shot. I suspect that it is as simple as that.

  3. Kirk says:

    The M1 Carbine was one of those weapons that I think a lot of people pushed past its capabilities, and then became disillusioned with because it wasn’t capable of doing what they wanted it to.

    It was only ever supposed to be a “better pistol” sort of affair for the guys who weren’t able to haul around a full-scale rifle, and for whom the .45 was a non-starter. The M1911 was a good pistol, for someone who could put in the tuition for learning how to shoot it, but that wasn’t about 90% of the Army. People forget that the primary intent of the .45 was to be used mounted, for killing other horses that the enemy was mounted on. It was a specialist’s weapon, with a narrow design focus. Making it the standard pistol for the Army was probably a mistake, to be honest–Even back in the old days, when men were men and the sheep were afraid at night, the .45 had a nasty reputation for people not being able to easily shoot it.

    When I was an armorer, I had one commander who could make the single M1911A1 we had sit up and sing; he owned and shot his own, and was a serious pistol shooter. The issue one we had wasn’t in the best trim, but he shot expert with it, every time, and never complained about it being “inaccurate” or “unreliable”. His successor? Dude had never fired a handgun in his life, before taking command. Before the qual range, I ran him through how to make the thing work, and he left for the range with my serious qualms about whether or not he knew what he was doing. Told the First Sergeant that we’d be lucky if he didn’t shoot someone or kill himself… He came back, unqualified, and blaming the unreliable and inaccurate pistol we had, which was “worn out and couldn’t hit s**t…”.

    I refrained from pointing out that his predecessor shot high expert with the same gun, every time he went to qualify. So did the First Sergeant…

    I’ve played around a little with the M1 Carbine. Not particularly impressed by it, but it seems like a good little design, when well-made and new. I’m not sure what it would be like, on full-auto, though… The Israelis kept theirs going, for years. Good police carbine, I think.

  4. Paul from Canada says:

    They also issue them to schoolteachers for protecting their students.

    I agree with you about it being mis-used. I suspect the light and easy to carry and handle aspect, vs, the weight and bulk of an M1 is what made it popular, and so used by frontline infantry, which it was never meant to be.

    I often wonder what a .276 Garand would have weighed, and if the U.S. would have bothered with the carbine if it had been adopted.

  5. Kirk says:

    The parallels with the M4 Carbine are there to be seen, as well–The M4 was never, ever meant to be a front-line Infantry weapon. But, that’s what it became, and that fact is a testimony to what’s wrong with our procurement system. If you’re smart enough to look at it, that is–Which most of our officer class are not, nor are any of our civilian managerial types.

    Frankly, if I were an outsider? Looking at how the US military got the M4 Carbine as a standard individual weapon for the Infantry, and how the M240 happened? I’d fire 100% of the entire small arms procurement types, have them sterilized for the good of the species, and then start over with entirely different people who I’d make sure watched the ritual castrations of their predecessors. Probably run the tapes of that, before the beginning of every working day, too–For at least a full generation.

    It really is that bad. Describing it as incompetence is an insult to incompetents everywhere–The sheer idiocy of the whole thing had to be calculated, because there is just no way that crap happens this consistently by accident.

  6. Paul from Canada says:

    I am always amazed at the re-invention of the wheel. You read stuff written by the ops research guys in the ’30′s, then you see that same conclusions in the ’50′s, ’60′s and presentations today saying the exact same things. I think we need professional historians and archivists to be part of the modern military system to try and keep us from doing this again.

    You and I have discussed mine resistant vehicles before, same issue. The institutional memory fails repeatedly.

    I remember reading in one of Ian V. Hogg’s books about his amusement that “whenever, and wherever a committee sits to decide on the optimum caliber for an infantry weapon, they invariably come up with 7mm. It is equally interesting that nobody ever gets a 7mm rifle as a result.”

  7. Kirk says:

    Well, the Spaniards and a lot of South American countries did get 7mm caliber weapons… Much to the dismay of a lot of Americans in Cuba. I think the Boers had a few of them, too.

    I often wonder what the hell it is that prevents people from doing rational things, in this regard. Entrenched sclerotic thinking, perhaps?

    It is my oft-observed contention that the US Army is essentially ahistorical in nature, and entirely unable to learn anything at all, unless it’s the hard way. It is almost as if the lesson has to be driven home with a self-inflicted sledgehammer.

    C.S. Lewis said it best: “Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. My God, but you learn…”.

    The US military, it seems, will have no other teacher than brutal experience.

  8. Kirk says:

    Took a bit to come to the surface, Paul, but I have a thought about that bit where you say that professional historians and archivists ought to be a part of every military organization. Which is something that we already actually have–It’s just that nobody bloody listens to them.

    I did some of my route clearance and MRAP research while I was at Fort Leonard Wood, and dealt with one of the UK exchange NCOs, a fairly senior Warrant Officer, about equivalent to a hybrid US senior NCO/Warrant Officer. He made a point I’ve never forgotten, about the much-vaunted US Army Center For Army Lessons Learned, or CALL. As he put it, that was entirely the wrong name for it, because “…you can’t call it a Center for Lessons Learned, when none of the lessons are ever actually learnt… By rights, you lot ought to call the place the Center for Army Lessons Identified, and then Bloody Well Ignored…”.

    It’s not the historians, or the archivists–It’s the culture and the attitudes of the people in that culture. True erudite intellectualism and spirit of intellectual curiosity are pretty much non-existent among the majority of the officers I worked for and knew something of. I never, ever met one who really struck me as being essentially interested in military affairs, and who was enthusiastic about them. The few that I did run into were never people I had the great good fortune to work for, and I can’t really appraise how well they would have done as leaders.

    You may be familiar with a gentleman named T.R. Fehrenbach, who wrote This Kind of War about the Korean War. I found a lot of his insights to be both profound and provocative. Interestingly, I served in a unit where one of his sons was an officer; it was hard to really tell if he’d ever read or digested the implications of his father’s books, because while he was a decent officer, a lot of what he did was not particularly different from the rest of the run of the mill types we had. It was interesting to hear him talk, but… I never really got the feel that the Army was a vocation for him, as opposed to a career.

    And, to be honest, I think that’s the biggest problem we have: Ensuring that the people running the institution have a true vocation for the mission, along with the associated interest and passion. All too many treat it as just another career path.

  9. Paul from Canada says:

    There is a cartoon, (New Yorker? or something similar), shows a bearded guy in a tweed jacket with arm patches, (typical professor type), having a session with his shrink.

    He has a confused and bewildered look on his face, and says something along the lines of;

    “Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it, yet those who DO study history are doomed to stand by helplessly as everyone else repeats it.”

    I feel like that most of the time.

    I was amazed by how many of my fellow officers back in the day, knew very little of our military history, and didn’t seem to want to.

    The Air-force actually instituted a week long course called air-force indoc to inculcate the basics of the history of the RCAF because a lot of the officer candidates came in with technical interests for technical jobs, but had no real interest, and thanks to the dismal state of state education, no knowledge of the history, to the extent that aspiring fighter pilots didn’t know who Billy Bishop was.

    It is to weep.

  10. Kirk says:

    I’m ambivalent about much of the “official” work done by many military organizations in this regard. Some do pay attention to it, and try to do a good job, but the issue is that a lot of it simply doesn’t “take” with much of the troops, officer or enlisted.

    Why it doesn’t take has a lot to do with the fact that there’s limited to no identification with the mission, service, or individual unit. In the US Army, the entire system of recruitment, training, and indoctrination serves to disconnect the recruit from what I’d term proper acculturation to the service. It’s all too big, too impersonal. You’re asked to identify with the institution, and what they give you to enable that feels like so much artificiality. It’s essentially inauthentic, and easily identifiable as such.

    What I find baffling is that this sort of thing is well-documented, and what’s even more confusing, performed the world over in institutions like street gangs. Yet, the US Army essentially fails at it, with the majority of the recruits it draws. Marines do a better job, but in my opinion, the Corps has a bit of a problem with the fact that the people they’re attracting tend to have “issues” all their own. Marines join to be Marines; what screws things up is when the individual Marine decides that just isn’t enough to justify putting up with the BS and outright abuse they have to.

    It is possible to “do it right”, the problem is that we just don’t bother to. And, a lot of that boils down to the fact that while Americans have a culture of military service, we’re not that militaristic. Well, most of us… Germans of the pre-WWII era had that fascination with militarism, just like the Japanese and Italians did. In the US, the fancy uniforms and fou-fou little daggers would have been the subject of ridicule, which goes to show you how different a really militaristic culture is from one that isn’t. You want the essence of the difference, look at that picture of Grant and Lee at the surrender: Grant, looking rumpled and “done with the BS” vs. Lee, who looked stylish and refined, even in defeat. Looking at that picture, you’d think Grant lost, while Lee won.

  11. Paul from Canada says:

    That is one thing that the Commonwealth countries do a bit better. It wasn’t that long ago, (and in the UK I think they still do it in the infantry), that basic training was done at the regimental level.

    If initial basic was done collectively, then anything past basic was done in house at the unit. So an Infantryman (pardon me, “Infanteer”)destined for the PPCLI, goes from Basic, to what we call “Battle School”, which is conducted at the PPCLI Battle School, and so on.

    Although it is weakening thru amalgamation and the general reduction in army size, the regimental system is still kicking.

  12. Graham says:

    The definition of militarism has shifted a bit these days among the more progressive, such that America is seen as practically the emblematic militaristic society, one whose every interpersonal interaction is rooted in sublimated “violence”. Or that the mere possession of a military and readiness to use it is militarism. Or interest in military bands and parades. Shudder.

    By those standards, all western societies pre WW2 were a little militaristic.

    I find this new world language confusing. Even Teddy Roosevelt wasn’t quite militaristic by European standards of his time.

    Apropos of all that, two peripheral points.

    1. I grew up curious about the preponderance of military schools in the US, for about a century from the civil war into the 1960s, although of course some remain. Probably started by seeing the more or less absurdist but still entertaining film Taps. If you want to see a stylized, teen heartthrob centric clash between symbolic military values and bourgeois real estate commercialism, that’s your movie. [Early roles for Sean Penn and Tom Cruise, among others. George C Scott plays the commandant, channelling Patton.]

    I still find the phenomenon interesting as an exercise in having a militaristic subculture in a not very militaristic society, with a complicated relationship to other ideals like civic militarism and republicanism, and for a time, at least, having substantial public support.

    2. One of my old professors, Jack Granatstein, wrote a book called Yankee, Go Home, about the history of anti-Americanism in Canada. His thesis boiled down to, anti-Americanism is a rallying cry used by Canadian elites to mobilize support, and its content changes with the values of those elites. So, in my time, anti-American Canadian ‘nationalism’ has been social democratic and economic nationalist, multicultural, increasingly leftist in general, depending on the dominant flavour of “left” in any decade. Once, it was aristocratic, militaristic, conservative, and critical of too much democracy. Not of parliamentary institutions at all. Just of too much ‘democracy’ on American lines.

    A forgotten artifact of history. I just giggle at the idea of Canada as a haven of officer class military values and more ‘militaristic’ than the US. But Granatstein was right on that. It was small scale stuff befitting the size of the country’s population, but our upper classes once loved their militia uniforms and ceremony.

  13. Graham says:


    A friend’s son recently joined the Canadian Army.

    I was surprised at the length of the recruitment process for a NCM, but when he went in, if I have understood correctly the narrative I was given, he in early 2018 did basic training at St Jean, which was tri-service basic, then sat around as Personnel Awaiting Training for months, then went to Infantry School which was conducted by his assigned regiment, RCR.

    That sounds similar to what you described, though perhaps with variations.

    He enjoyed his time in PAT- they got to be among the red teams in some major exercise. So it was not without its educational experiences.

  14. Kirk says:

    I’ve got a lot of respect for some Canadians and some Canadian institutions, but one of the more annoying things about the ones I don’t have that respect for is the reflexive self-definition of “Not-America” that so many of that ilk default to.

    I swear, it’s like “Oh, the Yanks are not on fire…? Lemme get the gasoline and set us on fire…”.

    Meanwhile, the sane among those south of the border that do pay attention to Canadian affairs are left looking north and going “WTF?”. Which I’m no doubt certain most sane Canadians are doing, watching the news out of the US…

    Ah, well… Neighbors. What are ya gonna do? Canada has mostly been a really good neighbor to the US, probably better than we deserve, but there are the occasional hiccups. Several of whom have been named Trudeau…

  15. Graham says:

    I hold out little hope for the alternative, but I’m hoping we’ll see a humiliating end for Justin this year. Just because that would be a fitting and funny sequel to the passions and drama of 2014-15 surrounding him. Sometimes you just want to see the overhyped get comeuppance. I’m sure he’s just charming in person.

    Canadian anti-Americanism doesn’t just have its competing narratives according to need, it has its ups and downs. The Canada that existed after WW2 was experiencing many of the same forms of economic expansion and lifestyle changes as the US, and it produced a generation of ordinary Canadians more familiar with American pop culture than ever before as American TV appeared in places within range of the border. My dad was of that generation. Born 1940 in the UK, came to Canada 1952. SO not a boomer, but close.

    That generation may not always have agreed politically, but even among those that didn’t there was some sympathy. For the broadly not that political majority, it was huge. The admiration for, and mourning for, JFK was a major element of Canadian life at that time. I guess that wasn’t just limited to Canada among America’s allies, but it was a moment when the similarity of language and way of life seemed to really bring sympathy home for a lot of Canadians.

    I grew up pretty gung ho positive about the US in the 80s. Also, had inherited disgust for PE Trudeau. These things fit together well. OK, so I’ve tempered my views somewhat, and not for the usual Canadian reasons to dislike the US, but I still think of the US as number one ally and a producer of great people, great dreams, and pretty good stuff.

    I look forward to it continuing.

  16. Paul from Canada says:

    The Canadian Army is an interesting institution. There are some genuinely local traditions and institutions, but generally, it is always the little brother of a domineering older step-bother.

    The basis is British, as you would expect, but recently, it is the U.S. Because we don’t field a formation bigger than a Brigade, Canadian Generals get attached to US Divisions, and U.S. military culture is gradually diluting the British influence. Some of this is good, some of this is bad (the whole Hooah! thing, for instance).

    Ah! Jack Granatstein! A National Treasure, and I mean that sincerely.

    One of Canada’s problems is what I call “little brother” syndrome. We always feel like the little brother, and lash out in our insecurity, hence the reflexive anti-Americanism. Canada is an interesting blend of Europe and the U.S., not quite either. More U.S. like about personal freedom and a lot of cultural stuff, but more subservient to government, and retaining some European cultural attitudes. An un-easy mix.

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