I was a true country kid in the 1960s and 70s. Almost everyone had a BB and/or pellet rifle and knew how to shoot, and our Dads hunted. Heck, it was not unusual to see long guns hanging in window racks of trucks most of the year. Mass shootings were unheard of. From a young age, we were taught to respect firearms. They were a source of both food and fun.
A relative of mine was one of the pre-eminent gunsmiths of the 1950s, and he had lots of great firearms. He had multiple true 18th century Pennsylvania Long Rifles, vintage lever rifles, a pristine Colt 1873 Peacemaker (yes, we shot it), a vintage Browning A5 with poly-choke, loads of custom rifles, and an M2 Carbine.
I had a young boy’s crush on the M2 Carbine. Its size and how it fit me as a young kid drew me to it. Only later did I learn about that little lever opposite the charging handle—the selector switch.
When I enlisted in the Air Force reserve as a Security Policeman, the M1/M2 Carbine could be seen in photographs of Army MPs (back when it was the Army Air Corps), Air Police, and early Security Police on posts guarding B47s and various access points before they were replaced by the M16.
While the M16 was replacing the M1/M2, the latter still saw service with Security Police throughout Vietnam. A few were still in inventories of units my reserve unit augmented. Seeing these carbines kept my boyhood affection for the carbine alive.
Fast forward to my late 20s, and M1 Carbines kept crossing my path at the range. Finally I bought one—a pristine Inland. From the day I purchased it with several hundred rounds of surplus ammunition to today, it was wicked accurate, easily emptying a 30-round magazine into the upper A zone of an IDPA target.
9MM M1 CARBINE?
The problem with the M1 Carbine is there was little application for it. The .30 Carbine’s cartridge runs out of steam at about 100 to 125 yards. With modern ammunition, it’s a great house gun, but that’s about it. But late in 2016, I started seeing emails about an M1 Carbine chambered in 9mm. A 9mm M1 Carbine? No way—had to be a misprint.
These emails were coming out before the 2017 SHOT Show, so this carbine would be my quest at the show. I had to find Chiappa Firearms, and when I did, lo and behold, there it was—a 9mm Carbine. While handling it, fond memories of time at the range with my Dad and godfather flowed. Based on those memories alone, I had to have one.
The Chiappa M1-9 uses Beretta M9/92FS magazines, and Chiappa offers a mount for installation of a red dot, which for those of us well over 25 is a blessing. I gave the appropriate folks a copy of my FFL, and they got the ball rolling to send one.
A few months later, I received a notice from UPS that I had to sign for a box. I had forgotten the carbine was coming, so it was a pleasant surprise to see it. The M1-9 felt just like the .30 Carbine. Since I was not getting jostled by other folks like I was at SHOT, I could give it a good going over.
Fit and finish were excellent. The trigger was typical of the M1C, and it felt right. I put it side by side with my Inland and, except for the receiver and bore diameter, they were twins. Controls were the same, the sights looked the same, except the Chiappa’s were not as beefy as the Inland, and of course the mag wells were different.
But the one big difference, which I mentioned to Chiappa, was that the M1-9 lacked the GI-style bolt catch. If it’s going to be a plinker or even a “house gun,” that is not really a big deal. But for use in USPSA and 3-Gun competition, it is necessary. With its price point of $679 full MSRP, the lightweight M1-9 is ideal for competition.
Closer examination of the carbine revealed dovetails machined into the receiver. These are for long and short rails that Chiappa offers for $40 to facilitate mounting optics. With the GI-type sights, this was a must-have for me.
With the rail on the way, I needed an optic. Chambered in 9mm, the M1-9 is not a long-range firearm, so a quality red dot would be ideal. One of the best values on the market today is the Truglo® Tru-Tec™ 20mm.
Before you snicker, remember this carbine is not going to be used to chase the Taliban off mountains in Afghanistan. It is for plinking, home defense, and competition. From past experience with Truglo sights, I can confirm they are tough and can handle hard use. One of mine has been on numerous shotguns and endured hundreds of 12-gauge rounds. At $221 with a mount and auto-sleep/activation, I knew the Tru-Tec would be a good choice for this carbine.
Since the rail and optics had not arrived for the initial trip to the range, the factory GI-type sights would have to do. I was shocked the carbine was not shooting consistently. Rounds were literally all over the target. After I calmed down and looked at the carbine, I diagnosed the problem. The screw that secures the receiver to the stock was loose. A drop of thread locker and a few twists of the range multi-tool and the problem was solved and I went back to shooting.
While these are not target sights at 25 yards, I was able to consistently get upper “A” zone hits on a USPSA target. Ten-shot groups shot off-hand hovered around three inches. With the boxy front sight and small peep rear, that is about what I expected.
At 50 yards, I was able to keep 10 rounds in the “C” zone. While not great, one has to realize the front post blocks most of the target at 50 yards. They also were not as well regulated as they were on a milspec M1 .30 Carbine. To get consistent hits at this distance, the rear sight had to be set at its maximum elevation.
I really was not that concerned about lack of match-grade accuracy, since the carbine hit where it was aimed, and a red dot was going to be mounted.
The bolt/gas system is not the short-stroke piston and rotary bolt of the original. Chiappa uses a standard blowback design with traditional pistol block set-up. For consistent operation, use standard-pressure 115- and 124-grain loads. Using +P rounds, this rifle ran flawlessly. Quality 147-grain hollow points ran the M1-9, but for self-defense and competition, I would personally avoid them. Factory target loads were problematic, as were my handloads I use for shooting USPSA.
When the long rail arrived, I installed the Truglo Tru-Tec red dot. Once zeroed, making consistent “A” zone hits from ten to 50 yards was as easy as putting the dot center mass and pressing the trigger. I am sure with a 1-4 or 1-6 variable-power optic, this carbine will put bullet on top of bullet at 50 yards—it is that accurate.
To test the Chiappa, I used Black Hills 115-grain full metal jacket and 124-grain jacketed hollow points, Hornady 135-grain Critical Duty Flextip, SIG Elite Performance 115-grain full metal jacket and 115-grain V Crown hollow points, and Super Vel 115-grain +P hollow points.
All these loads easily shot one-inch, five-shot groups at 25 yards and sub-three inches at 50 yards. The Chiappa was accurate with all the test ammunition.
For my application as a handy carbine to shoot USPSA PCC or as a truck gun, it was hard to say which ammunition was the most accurate. I didn’t see the need to break out the micrometer to split hairs. What is important is the rifle is not fussy and will shoot consistently with a variety of loads.
Just remember to use quality ammunition and keep the M1-9 lubricated. Over the years, I have found blowback-operated firearms function best when properly oiled—a bit to the wet side is better.
With the 1:16 twist 18-inch barrel, standard loads picked up 50 to 100 feet per second over a five-inch pistol. Recoil and muzzle rise are minimal even with the hottest loads, yet the carbine transitions quickly from target to target thanks to its six-pound weight and compact size.
GET YOURS NOW
The Chiappa M1-9 is a helluva carbine. Adding the Truglo Tru-Tec red dot with quality ammunition turns a classic styled carbine into an affordable and fun carbine for competition, plinking, or self-defense.
The other bonus is that the size and weight of this centerfire firearm fit virtually everyone. With its low recoil and inexpensive ammunition price, the Chiappa M1-9 makes an ideal carbine for beginners. If you are in the market for a pistol-caliber carbine, the Chiappa M1-9 carbine is a good choice.
When you get yours, take it to the range and shoot straight, shoot safe, and have fun.
|Black Hills||115-gr. FMJ||1,408|
|Black Hills||124-gr. JHP||1,308|
|Hornady||135-gr. Critical Duty||1,197|
|SIG Sauer||115-gr. FMJ||1,426|
|SIG Sauer||115-gr. JHP||1,459|
|Super Vel||115-gr. JHP +P||1,500|