Review: Inland Reproduction M1 Carbine

A little while back I got my hands on a T&E sample of the new reproduction Inland M1 Carbine, and have spent some time with it. I addition to regular range plinking, I used it for a 2-Gun Action Challenge Match a couple months back (video: 2-Gun – Inland M1 Carbine). I also dragged my friend Karl Kasarda into the review, because he has experience with a bunch of other M1 Carbines, including two years shooting the M1 Carbine match at Camp Perry (gold in 2006; bronze in 2007). We put together a two part review video, which you can see here:

First off, I should clarify that this gun has no direct lineage to the Inland carbines made during WWII. That Inland was a subdivision of General Motors, and these current reproductions are being sold by MKS Supply, which is a firearms distributor with no connection to GM. The Inland firearms trademark appears to have been owned by Chiappa until be recently transferred to an individual. MKS doesn’t say who makes the guns, except to refer to the Inland Manufacturing trademark name.

We had a number of problems with the gun, none of which were particularly surprising – they are issues pretty common to the M1 Carbine. My biggest question was whether the manufacturer had been able to solve the ubiquitous reliability issues of the Carbine. Even good-condition original military examples always seem to have just a little bit of unreliability. Not enough to be considered junk, but enough to convince a decent number of combat vets to look for a better weapon. Unfortunately, the new Inland guns do not appear to have fixed this, at least based on our T&E sample. I got about one malfunction per 50-round box of ammo, using S&B, Tula, and Aguila. The malfunctions were all failures to feed, which could also be attributed to bad magazines – although I had issues with all 5 magazines I used, including the one supplied with the gun. For what it’s worth, that magazine from Inland was an obvious reproduction item, finished with a pretty icky glassy black paint. Why they couldn’t spring for a real USGI magazine to ship with each gun, I don’t know.

The next issue I had with the gun was with the rear sight. Inland has three models (1944, 1945, and M1A1 Paratrooper), which all use the late style of sight which is adjustable for both windage and elevation. It is a self-contained unit mounted into a dovetail on the receiver. On this T&E gun, that unit came loose, and would slide side to side about 1/8 inch (3mm) as I was shooting. In addition, the elevation slider would sometimes move while shooting. The moving elevation slider is a well documented problem with GI carbines as well, but the loose dovetail is a concern. This combination of sight problems cost me a stage at the 2-Gun match. Interestingly, the early production M1 Carbines used a far simpler two-position L-shaped aperture sight with no option for adjustment. The US marksmanship doctrine led to its replacement with a fully adjustable design, which in my opinion is counterproductive for a gun like the M1 Carbine. This is a carbine with a very limited effective range, and a fixed rear sight would not impose any substantial hindrance to shooting it, and would also prevent the problems that manifested on this Inland gun.

Lastly, the Inland is made with all cast parts. That is not automatically a problem – casting today is a totally effective manufacturing method and (especially on an M1 Carbine) is in no way inferior to forging or machining from billet. However, Inland left casting seams on lots of exposed areas and those are frankly a bit ugly. The front sight in particular has a casting seam running right down its front surface, and in the right light it really distracts from your sight picture. For a $1100 gun, I would really like to see that sort of thing given a proper smooth finish to match the originals (which were not cast).

I did not do any accuracy testing with the Inland carbine, because I really wasn’t concerned about accuracy. It shot well enough to get good plate hits at the 2-Gun match, and that’s all I would expect or desire from an M1 Carbine.

With all this in mind, the M1 Carbine is still a really fun recreational plinker. The reliability issues are of zero concern in that context; they just mean that every once in a while you have to rack the bolt handle to chamber a round. No big deal. I have no doubt that Inland would happily repair a rear sight that came loose like mine did. The M1 Carbine is a wonderfully light and handy rifle to carry or stash in a car – there is a reason lots of support troops adored them in WWII and Korea. If you want an M1 Carbine and don’t want to worry about 75 years of wear and tear, these are quite acceptable guns. They do cost more than originals, though…at least the originals I would consider buying. You can get a shooter-grade original M1 Carbine for $800-$900, while the new Inlands appear to be selling at MSRP, for about $1100. To me, that makes an easy decision; I would rather have an original.