View Full Version : Carbine? Rifle?

Darren Roberts
April 19, 2012, 01:45 PM
Ok so there has been alot of threads on various forums on what makes a weapon a Carbine, or a Rifle.

What is the line that must be crossed to stand up in court and proclaim "I have a rifle!" or "I have a carbine!"

Is it 16", or less, barrel and a colapsable or telescopic buttstock that makes it a carbine?

I own a 223 "carbine" that came with a 20" barrel and 3 position telescoping buttstock. I have a 4 1/2" suppressor, and a 6 position tube and magpul buttstock on it now.

So, with the 20" barrel and 4 1/2" suppressor, and the buttstock fully extended, does that make it a rifle?

Strafer Gott
April 19, 2012, 01:47 PM
Yes, 20 is the magic number.

April 19, 2012, 01:51 PM
It's simply a generic term, Darrel. Merriam Webster (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/carbine) draws the lines pretty well

noun \ˈkär-ˌbēn, -ˌbīn\
Definition of CARBINE
: a short-barreled lightweight firearm originally used by cavalry
: a light short-barreled repeating rifle that is used as a supplementary military arm or for hunting in dense brush
See carbine defined for English-language learners »
See carbine defined for kids »
Origin of CARBINE
French carabine, from Middle French carabin carabineer
First Known Use: 1592

Classic examples are shorter Winchesters, the little M1 and the current M4.

April 19, 2012, 04:40 PM
Well, I have a Winchester 1892 carbine and a 1892 short rifle. Both have 20 inch barrels and the exact same overall length. Winchester never based the distinction on size alone but on the style & design features of their guns. Both Of those are also about the same overall length as my Ruger mini 14 ranch rifle which has a 18.5 inch barrel.

Like many things, carbine is simply not a specific technical term but a generalized one.

April 19, 2012, 05:38 PM
sarge pretty much hit the nail on the head. a carbine is just a short and easier to carry version of another firearm design. the major rifle versus carbine debate you see here is usually revolving around AR15s where the two major designs are 20 inch barrels and 16 inch barrels. the 16 belongs to a carbine which normally but not always is equipped with a telescoping buttstock while the rifle normally comes with a 20 inch barrel and fixed or adjustable buttstock.

I have a 9mm carbine with a fixed buttstock, I have a 223 carbine with a telescopic buttstock. normally a longarm branded carbine is released as a lighter, more compact version of an already existing model such as the ruger 10/22 carbine or the M1 carbine.

April 19, 2012, 08:17 PM
You ask 10 people you're gonna get 10 answers.

Probably none are wrong, just different opinions.

To Me my M16a1 (with it's 20 in barrel) was a rifle. I used it like a rifle.

Our point men carried CAR 15, which was a little short barreled M16 with telescopic stock, it was a carbine.

Lots of people say the M16 is a carbine, not to me.

But HEY, its your rifle, call it what you want. I have a M1 Carbine, its a Carbine. I have an 18 inch barrel on my Model 94 Marlin in 38/357, they are carbines.

I have two ARs, both 20 inch barrels, one, my Colt SP1 is the closest I can get to what I carried in Vietnam without jumping through hoops, The other is a White Oak Service rifle I use in High Power RIFLE shooting.

They are both rifles in my opinion.

April 20, 2012, 11:30 AM
M1 Carbine was mentioned, one of several that are "their own carbines," self-defined and not variants of longer-but-otherwise same guns. The discontinued Ruger PCs and Beretta Storm, Marlin Camp also come to mind in this category. Short, handy, light--and usually "pistol-length" caliber when they're "their own" guns from the get-go.. The famous Winchester levers (73, 92, 94 etc), as mentioned, are almost all carbines at 20" barrel or under if, as someone mentioned, combined with other features as well, chiefly at least a rear barrel (forend) band versus the "rifles'" forend cap, and often--but not always--full mag tube. But, it also all depends on the model, and OAL/size of the "base" gun. One example is - the carbine variant of the above levers' larger cousin, the 1886, is a 22" barrel.

April 20, 2012, 07:57 PM
I have a Carbine with a ~24" barrel. The Rifle version of the same family has a 29" barrel.

It is completely arbitrary....

On edit: I do agree with kraigwy (as usual) on the AR. 20" is a rifle, 16" is a carbine.

April 20, 2012, 09:19 PM
There is no hard and fast rule with most actions. But traditional Marlin and Winchester lever actions do have specific guidelines. A 22" Marlin 1895 is considered a standard rifle, the 18.5" guide gun is not a carbine, but a short rifle because both use an endcap and no barrel bands. A 336 with any barrel length from 16" on up to 26" or beyond is considered a carbine because it uses barrel bands instead of an endcap. The use of, or lack of, barrel bands determines whether it is a carbine or rifle, not barrel length.

Of course traditionally the rifles had longer barrels, and carbines shorter, but that is not the determining factor. At least not with lever actions.

Deja vu
April 21, 2012, 12:10 AM
there is not a correct answer. It is what the gun manufacturer felt would sell better. I own a 20 inch barrel carbine and a 18 inch barrel rifle. Its just a name... nothing more

April 21, 2012, 09:57 AM
The easiest way to figure out if it is a rifle or carbine is related the the original design by the manufacturer. If the longarm is considered standard as a rifle with a 24 inch barrel and you have a 20 inch version it could be considered a carbine. If it is a 20 inch barrel standard and a has a 16 inch barrel it is a carbine.

The Carbine or Rifle designation that people use as a general rule for a 16 inch vs. a 20 inch barrel is usually in relation the the AR platform. Then you come to something like the AK clones and they are rifles even with the short, relatively speaking, barrels in comparison to the typical modern rifle.

As I understand it the original concept is that a carbine is a shortened version of a rifle which helped it to be more useful on horse back. As others have said no hard and fast rule to barrel length.

Given a choice I'd take a 20 inch barrel over a 16 inch any day. If I was using iron sights. The difference in close quarters is minimal and is more about technique and tactics. The shorter version may be prefered, yet the slightly longer barrel isn't a show stopper IMO.

April 21, 2012, 11:12 AM
All Carbines are Rifles but not all Rifles are Carbines.

Carbines are usually the shorter version of a rifle design.

Length of barrel, stock, etc... doesn't mean a thing. It's the family the firearm in question came from and it's historical use in the field.

A great example is the Soviet M1891/30 Mosin Nagant was the standard infantry battle rifle for the Red Army. The M38 Carbine is simply a shoter version of it and it was issued to artillery crews, radio men, drivers, machine gun crews, etc... the basic purpose of the carbine was to be a self defense weapon in case their primary weapon (Artillery Gun, Tank, Machine, etc...) failed or was overrun.

The M4 Carbine is a smaller version of the M16 Rifle. The M1 Carbine was intended to be used in the same manner as the Soviet M38 Carbine since the main infantry battle rifle was the M1 Garand. Though they are two different designs and neither have any history, the M1 Carbine is a carbine due to it's design (short compact rifle intended to be a self defense weapon for folks that don't use a rifle as a primary tool).

Carbines were design for cavalry, truck driver, etc... folks that fight and need something smaller then the standard rifle due to doing something else with their hands but still needed an effective weapon for self defense or offensive action (ei - Cavalry) that had more punch then pistols but still smaller then the standard battle rifle. For the civilian market.... that simply falls into marketing.

Art Eatman
April 21, 2012, 11:20 AM
I suggest not worrying about it. The dictionary definition comes from "the way things were" from a hundred-plus years ago. By and large, there's not a whole bunch of horse cavalry around, these days. Word meanings or usage change with time.

Seems to me that it's close enough to figure a carbine is a rifle with a barrel in the 16" to 20" range, although I'm more likely to have the upper limit at around 18" or 19". A "regular rifle" :) has a barrel of 20" or more in length. I dunno. I don't tend to want to pick fly-poop out of pepper.