Apples and Oranges

Posted by Bruce Canfield

One question that seems to pop up frequently on internet sites and other venues is some variant of “Which is Better, the M1 Garand Rifle or the M1 Carbine.”  There are differences of opinion, sometimes quite vociferous, as to which is the better weapon. On one hand, some berate the Carbine as being less accurate, less powerful and lacking the range of the M1 Garand.  All of these points are, of course, true.  On the other hand, some complain that the M1 Rifle is too heavy, too cumbersome and has the horrid en bloc clip feeding mechanism.  The M1 Rifle is indeed heavier and more cumbersome than the Carbine and the en bloc clip system is, arguably, less desirable than a detachable box magazine.  So, what’s the answer to this oft-posed question?

Actually, the entire question is rather ridiculous and the only proper answer would be neither.  As I’ve written before, comparing the M1 Garand Rifle to the M1 Carbine is exactly the same as comparing an eighteen-wheeler tractor-trailer rig with a pickup truck. Is a Freightliner “better” than a Ford F-150?  Obviously, it depends on what one is looking for. If a vehicle is needed to transport a house full of furniture or several tons of merchandise cross-country, the F-150 isn’t going to be much help. Likewise, if one is looking for a vehicle to drive to and from work every day and occasionally pick up a few two-by-fours from Home Depot, a Freightliner tractor-trailer rig would be an astoundingly bad choice.

So it is with the Garand and the Carbine.  The M1 Rifle was designed, and intended, to be a standard military front-line service rifle with the range, accuracy and power to perform those roles. Obviously, this would require a weapon that weighed more than five pounds. The Carbine was designed and intended, in large measure, to be a replacement for the pistol for issuance to individuals such as crew-served weapons teams, officers, communications personnel and others whose duties would be unnecessarily encumbered by having to tote a ten pound rifle.  While the .45 pistol has excellent close-range “stopping power,” except for situations such as two combatants in the same foxhole, there is no argument that the Carbine is unquestionably superior to a handguard for engaging the enemy at distances beyond twenty-five yards or so.

Despite not being designed to be issued to front-line infantry, the Carbine was sometimes used in such a role by soldiers who were attracted by its light weight, excellent handling characteristics and firepower.  Once in combat, and faced with the realities of its limitations, some of these erstwhile fans of the Carbine chose to exchange the weapon for the more potent M1 Garand Rifle.  Others accepted the Carbine’s weaknesses and continued carrying the trim little gun. 

To criticize any weapon any weapon because it isn’t optimum for something it was never designed nor intended to do is a patently unfair.  Comparing a M1 Garand Rifle with a M1 Carbine is a classic example of the old cliché of “Comparing Apples to Oranges.”


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