The little M1 Carbine has been around for over 70 years now. Even though over 6.5 million of them were made, original shooters are getting harder to find and at an increasing cost. Sure, they are out there and there could be even more returning to the states if the government will allow them to be brought over from Korea. The M1 Carbine design was also made by a huge number of arms companies for sale to the civilian marksman. Yet some of those are not very well made. The early ones that used all USGI parts are usually good, but when those parts started to run out, the quality of these civilian carbines went down hill fast.
But what if you want a new one? I am talking about one that looks and functions like one pulled from a crate in 1945. A new-in-the-box M1 Carbine made to the true specifications of the original design. The best source I’ve seen is Fulton Armory. The folks at Fulton are making some great new carbines. These rifles will have an obvious appeal to history buffs and living historians, but they are just as functional for those considering a lightweight rifle for whitetail, or a compact gun for home defense.
Fulton Armory makes 3 different models of the M1 Carbine. The base model is the Service Grade and it looks like the name implies—like the ones issued in late WWII and Korea. They also offer a folding stock Paratrooper model as well. You can select if you want the later style of barrel band with the bayonet lug or one without (like the kind issued during the majority of WWII). These both come with the adjustable rear sights that are a big upgrade over the fixed sights most of the WWII issued carbines carried.
That brings us to the last and review model—The M3 Carbine Scout. If you know your M1 Carbine history, you know that there was a select fire variant of the M1 made called the M3. The original M3 was outfitted with a state of the art, for its time, infrared night vision scope. The Fulton doesn’t have this. But it does have one simple (yet very handy) modern feature: the handguard is a picatinny rail. This makes mounting an optic much easier than it was on the originals. Everything else about the M3 looks like it time traveled from 1951. It has the bayonet lug, adjustable sights and the round bolt that is seen on most post WWII carbine, and all of these features combine into one kickass work of craftsmanship that is apparent even before you pull the trigger.
The Fulton M3 Carbine Scout is chambered in .30 Carbine just like the originals. It has an 18 inch barrel. It is gas operated with an operating rod on the side. The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation. The carbine ships with a 10 round magazine and will also accept the originals, both 15 and 30 round ones. It also comes with a cloth sling and an oiler just like the ones on the originals. It weighs in right at 5 pounds with an overall length of 35.5 inches. The MSRP on the review gun is $1,599.
Not 70 years old
So what is the benefit of buying a Fulton Armory carbine verses buying an original? The main thing in my book is that it is not 70 years old. Most of the components of the Fultons are newly made in house. Yes, there are some original parts, but the main components are of new manufacture. And they are manufactured to standards that either meet or excide the specifications of the originals. The review model is a very nice gun. It has the slickest action of any M1 Carbine I have had my hands on. The quality is there in spades. From the trigger, to the action, to the way it the steel and wood fit perfectly together, there isn’t a corner cut on this rifle.
With all of that said, this is not a collectors M1 Carbine. It is not meant to be either—at least not in the sense you typically think of with old service guns. I was in a big-box retail establishment recently, and found a museum piece in their used gun rack—an old Winchester complete with faded Korean Hangeul painted all over its walnut stock (which was so well oiled it was almost black). The Fulton is a shooter. It is collectable in the way most modern classics are collectable, but it isn’t meant to be a safe queen.
Think about this way. There were millions of original carbines made and a metric crap ton of parts to go along with them. Yet that is a finite amount of carbines and parts. For those of us who place abstract emotional significance on originality, and imbue objects with importance based on the witness they bear to history, it is better to put wear and tear on a reproduction than it is an original. Some guns feel like they have soul, not because of what they can do, but because of where they were and what they may have done.
And some reproductions provide us with an echo of that significance, and still shoot straight. The Fulton takes it one step further and shoots great.
Fit Finish and Wood
The M3 Fulton is made like the originals and has some original parts. It looks and feels like a milsurp rifle. It is parkerized and you can see tool marks here and there. Some parts are stamped and some are milled like on the originals, and you can see evidence of how they were made when you dismantle the rifle. This is how it is supposed to look.
The wood stock is a new production from Boyds. The review gun’s stock is cut from a very nice piece of walnut. There is some figure in the wood that you don’t typically see on a military style rifle. The stock is finished with linseed oil, just like the originals. Unlike the originals, it is light in color because it doesn’t have 70 or so years worth of grime, dirt and oil caked all over it.
The Fulton M3 made a lot of trips to the range. It never let me down. I ran whatever .30 Carbine ammo I could get my hands on. I found some old surplus ball, Federal, Remington soft point and some Hornady Critical Defense hollow points that it fired and fed without issue. It wasn’t picky on magazines either. The one it shipped with is unmarked but appears to be new manufacture. I used some old surplus mags and they worked great too. Even one that was a little rusty functioned without any problems.
This is the fun part. If you have never shot an M1 Carbine you owe it to yourself to make it happen. They are fun little rifles. The recoil is very mild for a 5 pound rifle. The peep sights were set dead on from the factory. Fulton guarantees 3 MOA with Federal American Eagle ammo and this is in line with what we experienced with all the different rounds sent down range.
The M3 from Fulton has a UltiMAK Picatinny rail on the handguard. So we mounted up a Leupold scout scope to see what we could do with some optics. We sighted it in at 50 yards and were able to put 5 round groups into one big hole. That is well above what this design should be able to do. It did open up some at 100 yards but it was well under the 3 MOA guarantee.
It is worth noting that I’ve shot a number of original M1 Carbines. I can say that the ones I shot were not capable of the accuracy the Fulton exhibited. Maybe they were when they were brand new, but not today. And none of the later reproductions can compare with this one, either.
The above shooting was from a bench on a Caldwell Led Sled. I like to use this set up to see what a rifle is actually capable of. This is not a bench rest gun. But I tried to remove as much human error as I could to see how small a group the carbine could shoot. That being done it was time to get it off the bench.
The true beauty of the M1 Carbine design is how small and light it is. This was made when the battle rifle was the norm. The Carbine was supposed to be used by troops in the rear or as a secondary weapon that would replace the 1911. But it became more than that. It is a great platform to use in confined spaces. I would rather have had a carbine than a Garand if I was clearing buildings in Germany.
We spent a good deal of time firing the Fulton from the shoulder at various distances and while moving. Of course the group size was a lot bigger than from the bench, but it was still good. I would have no problem using this carbine for home defense. Actually, it is a very good choice for this. Loaded with soft point or the Hornady Critical Defense rounds, it would be great for maneuvering through a house. Put a red dot on the rail for low light and you have a nice little package.
This was actually a hard review to write and I mean that in a good way. It is a lot easier to write a review of a firearm that I don’t like than one that I do. I really have nothing negative to say about the Fulton M3 Scout Carbine. It functions as it is supposed to. It isn’t picky with ammo and it shoots a very fight groups for the design. The Picatinny rail helps this old platform be relevant with today’s accessories and gives it a decidedly modern twist.
And consdier the potential of the .30 Carbine. The 7.62 x 33 round is no slouch. The rifle will send a 110 grain bullet downrange at speeds approaching 2,000 FPS. Most want to compare the round to a .357, and it is an apt comparison. From an 18 inch barrel, the .357 averages similar speeds, and may match grain weight exactly (or may weigh in a bit heavier).
If you want a M1 Carbine for strictly historical nostalgia and don’t plan on shooting it very often, buy an original. If you want one that you can shoot round-after-round through and also use it as a tool, then look long and hard at the Fulton M1 Carbines. From my experience with originals, the Fulton feels, functions and shoots better than the real thing.