The German M1: Erma Werke’s EM1 .22 Rimfire Carbine

By Frank Iannamico

After the defeat of Germany in 1945, the Allies asserted their joint authority and sovereignty over the country. The United States, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union divided Germany into four occupation zones for administrative purposes, creating what became collectively known as Allied-occupied Germany. This division was ratified by the Allies at the Potsdam Conference.

Each of the occupying powers had authority in their respective zones and carried out different policies toward the population and local and state governments. A uniform administration of the western zones evolved. The three western zones were merged to form the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) in May 1949. The Soviets followed in October 1949 with the establishment of the German Democratic Republic, also known as Communist East Germany.

Between May 1945 and June 1949, West German police in the American Occupation Zone were provided with surplus American handguns, rifles and carbines. Additional M1 and M2 carbines were provided to the newly formed West German Border police (Bundesgrenzpolizei) in 1952 and to the new West German Bundeswehr. By 1956, West Germany had received approximately 34,000 M1 carbines from the US Military.

Training rifles in .22 rimfire caliber were common in Europe. The training rifles and their ammunition were less expensive to produce and helped recruits familiarize themselves with weapons. The large number of US carbines given to the West Germans increased the need for a similar training rifle.

The original .30 caliber M1 carbine was conceived during World War II, as a lightweight weapon for personnel who would normally be issued a pistol or revolver. Handguns in many cases required a lot of training to make a recruit proficient in their use. In the best cases, accurate fire was limited to 25 yards. The semiautomatic M1 carbine, on the other hand, was light, handy and accurate out to a range of 150 yards and had a 15-round magazine. The carbine’s relatively small .30 caliber cartridge had a 110-grain bullet with a muzzle velocity of 1,970 feet per second. The carbine came under a lot of criticism for its lack of stopping power. Part of the problem was the carbine, primarily designed as a rear echelon defensive weapon, which was often fielded as a front-line offensive infantry weapon. To increase the carbine’s effectiveness a select-fire version, the M2, and a new 30-round magazine were issued. Despite the carbine’s perceived shortcomings, it continued to see service during the Korean and Vietnam conflicts.

Although the last military US .30 M1 carbine was manufactured during 1945, it has remained a very popular firearm. Despite the M1’s unique .30 caliber cartridge being only used in the carbine and a few handguns, it is still manufactured by most ammunition companies and readily available.

The M1 carbine remained in military service for many years and thus was not available for civilian sales. Many former soldiers who were issued a carbine wanted one of their own. To satisfy the demand, over the years approximately 30 companies began producing “commercial” M1 carbines. The M1 carbine receivers being offered came in several guises to include: original GI, original demilled scrap receivers welded back together, machined castings, investment castings and forged-machined. Many of the commercial carbine’s components were manufactured by similar methods. An estimated 1-million commercial carbines have been manufactured and sold.

The popularity of the original .30 caliber M1 carbine soon led to a union with the equally popular .22 rimfire cartridge. Like the “commercial” carbines, several manufacturers began producing a .22 caliber version of the M1 carbine.

Erma Werke

The German firm of Erma Werke was a manufacturer that supplied arms for the German war machine during World War II. After Germany’s surrender, Allied Forces ordered the closure of all German weapon manufacturing facilities. The facilities still intact after the Allies’ bombing campaign were taken over by the military of the Allied Occupation Zone. Erma Werke was in the Soviet Zone and was liquidated in August 1948. Erma Werke was reestablished in West Germany during 1949 for manufacturing and servicing weapons. Erma Werke purchased surplus US Army Ordnance tooling and machinery they then used to supply replacement parts to maintain the .30 caliber US M1 carbines given to Germany. The company was well-suited to produce a training version of the carbine in .22 caliber. Plans were already underway for production of the EM1 .22 caliber M1 carbine when Erma Werke was acquired by Fiberglide in 1961.

The Erma Werke EM1 Carbine

The original Erma EM1 carbine was conceived as a military training rifle in Germany. However, the .22 caliber EM1 would become a very successful commercial carbine with sales in Europe, the Far East, North and South America. The Erma Werke company would change hands numerous times during production of the EM1, but the carbines were all manufactured in Dachau, West Germany.

The Erma EM1 is a semiautomatic, blowback-operated .22 rimfire carbine. The receiver, trigger housing, slide and trigger are made of a nonferrous alloy metal. Other components such as the barrel, bolt and small trigger group parts are made of steel. The rear sight is similar in appearance to the original and is adjustable; it is secured to the receiver with a machine screw. For elevation adjustments, the sight leaf can be slid along an inclined ramp. Windage adjustments can be made by rotating a knurled screw on the right side of the sight. The front sight is also similar to that of the original US M1 and secured with a cross pin. The stock and handguard are made of varnished European beechwood. A front band is fitted to secure the handguard; the band has a sling swivel. The finish is a bright blue. The buttplate is stamped steel.

The overall length of the EM1 carbine is 35.375 inches. The barrel length is 17.75 inches, with six grooves right-hand twist. Weight is 5.9 pounds.

The detachable magazine for the EM1 carbine is a metal box enclosing a smaller .22 magazine, to give the appearance of an original M1 magazine. The EM1 magazines came in 5-round, 10-round and 15-round configurations. The magazine has a bolt-hold open feature, but the bolt will close when the magazine is removed.


Loosen the screw on the front band, slide it forward and remove the top hand guard. The action is secured to the stock with a machine screw, located at the back of the trigger housing. To separate the action from the stock, loosen the screw and lift the barreled action from the stock. Remove the recoil spring and guide. To detach the receiver, loosen and remove the screw on the left side and drive out two steel pins. Cleaning of the trigger group components is best performed with a spray cleaner and compressed air.

The US was one of the commercial markets targeted for the Erma EM1 from 1967 to 1996, when Erma stopped importation of all firearms to the US because of a growing number of lawsuits against manufacturers. There were approximately 10 different entities importing the carbines into the US. The recent lot of EM1 carbines was imported by PW Arms.

Proof Marks

Present on the Erma Werke EM1 carbine’s receiver are several proof marks. In Europe, there are laws regulating firearms inspections to ensure operator safety. During World War II weapons proofing was performed by the German Waffenamt. During 1952, West Germany established the Office of Bombardment which took over firearms inspection and proofing. The marks impressed into the firearm are known as proof marks. On Erma Werke EM1 carbines the stampings included a German Nitro proof and Munich proof marks. Along with the proof marks, is a two-digit date code indicating the year it was inspected. During the 1990s Erma changed their date codes from letters to numbers: A=0, B=1, C=2, D=3, E=4, F=5, G=6 H=7, I=8, K=9; the letter J was not used. For example, the letters KH on a receiver would represent 1997.

Model Variations

Along with the standard M1 configuration, Erma offered the Model E, a copy of the M1A1 folding stock paratrooper carbine with a pistol grip. The M1A1 stocks were made in Italy by Sile.

In addition to the original EM1 carbine, there were several additional models offered. During the 1960s, Erma Werke introduced a sporterized version of the carbine called the “EG M1 Model 70.” The stock has no opening for the sling; the front sight is an elevated single blade without protective side ears. This model was often fitted with a telescopic sight.

The ESG model is similar in appearance to the .22 LR EM1 but chambered for the .22 Magnum WMR cartridge. The ESG is locked breech, gas-operated and has a longer 19.375-inch barrel. The magazine set-up is similar to the EM1 but wider and offered in 5- or 12-round capacities. It weighs 6.8-pounds.

The Torro was a variant of the EM1 sold in Europe, the primary market being Spain from 1986 to 1993.

One of the last models of the EM1 to be introduced was named the Ranger. The Ranger was not available in the US; the market was in Western Europe. One of the unique features of the Ranger was a threaded muzzle for attaching a sound suppressor, which were unrestricted in several Western European countries. The thread used was 1/2-20 TPI. Rangers were marked with a German Nitro proof and Suhl proof house symbol. The Ranger carbines had a flat black finish.

Iver Johnson Firearm Company

One of the US importers of the EM1 Erma carbine from 1986–1989 was Iver Johnson of New Jersey (and later Arkansas). Iver Johnson introduced several new variations of the EM1. One was Erma’s ESG gas-operated carbine chambered for the .22 Magnum rimfire cartridge designated as the EW.22 HBA. The EW.22 HBA was similar to the EM1 but with a longer 18.5-inch barrel. The carbines were manufactured by Erma Werke in Dachau, West Germany for Iver Johnson. Carbines imported by Iver Johnson had their name roll-marked on the left side of the receiver along with the Erma trademark. The Iver Johnson owl trademark was marked on the top of the receiver, its import mark is located on the right side of the barrel.

An estimated total of the Erma Werke .22 caliber carbines sold exceeds 250,000.

Spare Parts

The Erma Werke carbines are no longer in production, and as such, spare parts are unavailable from the factory. However, there are a few companies in the US and Europe that may have spare parts or magazines. Most available spare parts are located in Europe where most of the EM1 carbines were sold. Companies still selling spare parts/magazines include:

CDS Carbine Discount Shop, Germany

ITL shooting supplies, United Kingdom. Parts and new manufacture replacement slides

Numrich Gun Parts, New York

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N8 (October 2018)
and was posted online on August 24, 2018


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