At the start of the Second World War, the United States Army decided that there was a need for a light, compact rifle for paratroops, tank crews and other soldiers for whom the full-sized infantry rifle was considered unsuitable. The Winchester company’s M1 Carbine was the successful contender in the trials. The design had been originated by Ed Browning at Winchester, but was uncompleted on his death, so Winchester hired David “Carbine” Williams to complete it, after his release from a prison term for murder. While in jail, Williams had spent his time designing firearms.
The M1 Carbine was very successful in the War, with six million being produced. As well as its use by American troops, it was issued to British and French special forces, and dropped to resistance fighters in Europe. After the Second World War, and service in Korea and Vietnam, the weapon was used by such heroes as Patty Hearst and the RUC.*
In wartime, it’s “all hands to the pumps”. Winchester couldn’t cope with the volume of production required, so manufacture was farmed out to a number of American companies. The “Inland Division” of General Motors, heavily mobilised for war production, made the largest number. Other engineering and arms manufacturers also made the weapon in large quantities, but what caught my eye, and why I’m telling you all this, is that IBM made almost 350,000 of them. Yes, that IBM. But that’s not the strangest. The Underwood Typewriter Company produced over half a million. And a quarter of a million were made by the Rock-Ola jukebox company. Rock’n’Roll.
*Not a band name.