Chinese Made 30 Carbine Ammunition

by Colin Riley - July 19, 2012

Recently a guy I know at a local range gave me two boxes of 30 carbine cartridges with an interesting story. He advised me in the strongest possible terms not to shoot the loaded rounds but rather to salvage their components only.

To the casual observer this appears to be standard American Military 30 carbine ammunition with a brass case headstamped "LC 52" and loaded with a round nose full metal jacket bullet.

Some years ago, my friend had purchased a substantial quantity of this ammunition at a gun store, now out of business. At the time, he had been told that it was Lake City manufactured military surplus, so that he had no qualms about using it in his M1 carbine.

The first sign of trouble was a broken firing pin. After replacing the firing pin and he resumed the use of the ammunition, which later resulted in damage to the bolt and extractor. After that, he ceased to use the cartridges. He later discovered that what he had bought was not U.S. Military surplus 30 carbine ammunition but rather a counterfeit product made in the Peoples Republic of China.

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Chinese 30 carbine ammunition, packaging, and components


Using a kinetic bullet puller, I dissassembled all the rounds. The full metal jacket bullets were made of a copper plated steel jacket with a lead core. The bullet diameter measured 0.307 inches and the average bullet weight was 107 grains. The base each bullet was coated with some sort of black colored sealant

Closeup view of Chinese LC-52 powder

The propellant was a ball type powder made up of small greenish pearlescent lumpy spheres pictured here. The powder charges from a dozen cartridges were randomly selected to be weighed.

Of that sample, the range of the measured charge weights varied from 12.5 to 13.0 grains. The average charge weight was 12.8 grains and the standard deviation was calculated to be 0.21 grains.

The cases were made of brass and were berdan primed, fine lines or scratches were observed along the length of the cartridge cases

Image of the flash holes of a Chinese 30 carbine cartridge case.

Identification of Chinese LC 52 Headstamped Ammunition

There is a dearth of information on the origin or intent of this particular lot of ammunition. A number of theories have been suggested.

I have heard some people suggest that this lot of ammunition was created to for the express purpose of destroying rifles being provided to the South Vietamese Forces. Considering the difficulties in trying to introduce a large quantity of ammunition into the supply chain at a high enough level to achieve widespread distribution, it seems an improbable scenario at best. Further the manner of packaging would have be a dead giveaway to American Armory personell.

It seems to me that the most probable explanation for its production was that early on in the Vietnam War, China, wishing to aid the North Vietamese Goverment in their conquest of the South also sought to avoid the overt appearance of involvement in the conflict. Likely they heard reports coming out of North Vietnam of large quantities of M1 carbines captured from South Vietamese forces by the Vietcong so that they designed this lot of 30 Carbine to enable the Vietcong to utilize these captured weapons.

Of course, When you consider how much of this ammunition is floating around on the U.S. Market, it seems that little if any of it ever reached Vietnam.

Buy or Not?

Should this ammunition be used? Is this ammunition safe to use? Is it worth buying?

There are differing opinions on how hard these cartridges are on a M1 Carbine but based on the reports of some people, I think that there is some cause for concern. The M1 carbine was designed to be lightweight, it does not have as great a safety margin built into it as other World War 2 era battle rifle designs. A little excess pressure and you can have some problems with case extraction and parts breakage.

Another consideration is that this ammunition uses corrosive berdan primers. The M1 carbine gas system does lend not itself to be cleaned as easily as a M1 Garand. It is very easy to miss some of the corrosive powder residue with the resulting corrosion causing the action to seize.

Personally, I would be disinclined to chance it particulary considering how expensive M1 carbines and parts have become in recent years.

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