What is a Carbine - Feature Image

What Defines a Carbine Rifle? A Beginners Guide to Their Popularity

When discussing rifles it’s easy to get confused on the different types. With terms like short barreled rifles, carbines and bull pups among others, thrown around you might be wondering what these terms even mean.

Today we are going to focus on carbines. With that in mind let’s look at what defines a carbine and sets it apart from other rifle types.

A carbine is a rifle designed for ease of maneuverability and use in tight quarters. The shorter barrel and collapsible stock common with modern carbines makes them more compact than a full sized rifle. Despite this reduced size they maintain their power and the velocity of their rounds for the most part with only a minimal decrease in accuracy.

Some people argue that the military is the reason that carbine rifles were developed, however carbines go back far further than the modern M4 Carbine made popular by the US Military and then quickly adopted by the shooting public.

The “First Carbine Rifle” and Why It was Developed

Some people might lean towards the M1 Carbine based on the US Militaries’ M1 Garande to be one of the first carbines. While it can be considered an early version, seeing most of its use during WWII it is far from the first carbine. 

1700’s Carbines

One of the earliest carbines known is the Carbine Model 1793. This design was used by the French Army during the French Revolutionary Wars and allowed mounted cavalry to wield it prior to engaging in closer combat using their sabers. 

It was relatively difficult if not impossible to load a black powder rifle while on horseback in combat conditions.

1800’s Carbines

As firearms evolved over the years and moved from smooth bore to rifled, the carbine versions continued with them. Nearly 100 years later, in the US carbines were often a favorite of cowboys and law enforcement of the wild west, again due to their ability to be easily used from horseback.

One of these was the Sharps military carbine, mainly due to the large numbers that had been issued during the civil war to both northern and southern troops. 

Again originally issued to cavalry these made ideal weapons for ranch hands and cattle drivers, not so much to ward off outlaws, but things such as hunting and trapping were made easier by their smaller size even at the expense of a slightly shorter range.

Many carbines and repeating rifles of this time fired smaller caliber rounds, often using the same ammunition as handguns.

1900’s Carbines

Leap forward another 50 years and we enter the time of the M1 Carbine. This time the carbine wasn’t intended for cavalry, but more for troops in or around motorized vehicles.

As already mentioned it was a shortened version of the M1 Garande. Originally developed in 1938 it entered into service in 1942 as the M1. This was the first carbine developed under the army’s new naming standard. 

The M2 (1945) followed shortly after and was the same as an M1 but featured a select fire mode allowing you to switch from full auto to semi auto firing modes. 

The M3 (1945) was yet another version that was again based on the same M1 Carbine that featured an infrared scope.

After that the love with carbines seemed to fade a bit. During the Vietnam War it was decided that a new rifle was needed and the US military moved to the M16 developed in 1959.

Modern Carbines In the US

The next “carbine” did not enter the US military until the mid 80s during which the M4 carbine was developed between 1982 to 1993 (several modifications and versions during this time.)

This became the mainstay of the rifles in the US Military over time. The M4 carbine is now used by over 60 countries and is considered to be “one of the defining firearms of the 21st Century”.

It is important to note that while it seems the carbine versions were all brought about by the military this was not the case. Even in regards to the M4, a CAR-15 already existed, the military’s adoption sped up the development and refinement of these carbine style weapons.

A common theme amoung each of these changes in rifles over the years was that often a lighter and shorter rifle can be more beneficial. 

More recently this has become evident as many militaries and citizens a like are selecting carbines. 

Ease of use, nearly identical ballistics, lighter weight and adaptability to specific needs have all contributed to this rise in popularity.

Conclusion: It’s Easy to See Why You Should Consider a Carbine as Your Primary Rifle

In the modern era if you are looking for a rifle that can be adapted to many different needs then a M4 Carbine could be just what you are looking for.

Their slow progression to becoming a one size fits every need platform has led to the addition of special rails for mounting nearly any type of optic or accessory you can think of. 

Collapible stocks, varying barrel lengths and even different chamber calibers all contribute to a weapon that you can tailor to your specific needs.

Another huge selling point for the M4 is the design of the weapon, while some may argue that it is an outdated design with the buffer spring and gas tubes, it is hard to deny that these design characteristics greatly attribute to the low recoil experinced by shooters.

This reduced recoil coupled with the smaller size of a carbine over its larger AR15 variant make these ideal for women shooters and teens who may not find a larger bolt action rifle ideal. 

Relatively low cost and wide availability of parts make it easy to soup up your carbine.

Finally given the wide acceptance of these carbine rifles it is unlikely that their popularity is likely to decrease in the foreseable future. 

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