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The Lehigh Defense 85-Grain Xtreme Cavitator .30 Carbine Load


I am a big fan of the .30 U.S. M1 Carbine and its unique and effective cartridge. For those not familiar with the former warhorse and its round, the .30 U.S. Carbine was in development just prior to the start of WWII. It was meant as an arm for rear echelon troops and non-commissioned officers who were close to front-line action.

Carbine History

The carbine was made to be an ultra-lightweight .30-caliber weapon, with power falling between the 1911 .45 ACP pistol and the .30-06 M1 Garand battle rifle. It was lighter in weight than the M1 rifle and easier to shoot at extended range than the .45 pistol. It was to be issued to men who were assigned to crew-served weapons — artillery, mortars or machine guns — as an easy-handling, rapid-fire weapon for close-range confrontations. But a funny thing happened on the way to war. The troops loved the M1 Carbine so much that it ended up in front-line service as both a standard-length carbine and the M1A1 folding-stock “paratrooper” carbine for airborne troops.

The standard M1 Carbine likely saw the most use in the Pacific Theatre of WWII. Its 5.2-pound weight and overall length of 35.6 inches was much easier to carry and maneuver in the steamy, dense jungles of the Pacific for soldiers large and small. (It is easily fired with one hand.) The 15-round detachable magazine was capable of laying down heavy fire against Japanese troops in close-range combat. In much of the WWII film footage, you see more carbines than Garands in the hands of soldiers and Marines. And lest you sneer at the power of the .30 U.S. Carbine cartridge, in its original guise, it delivered a 110-grain bullet at 1,990 feet per second from the muzzle. The result was 967 foot-pounds of muzzle energy — 2.35 times that of a 110-grain Remington .357 Magnum round fired from a revolver.

All this means that the U.S. M1 Carbine is a fine personal-defense weapon (PDW), even today. It is capable of delivering effective fire out to 200 yards, especially when loaded with modern bullets with greater terminal ballistics than full-metal-jacket ammo. I carry a current-manufacture Kahr Firearms M1 Carbine while on duty at the police department quite often — for all the reasons I’ve cited. It is ideal for use in the small village with mostly wood-frame homes that I patrol.

Lehigh Defense Cavitator Ammo

In November 2019, I tested the 50-grain Lehigh Defense .32 ACP Cavitator self-defense load. The Cavitator bullet is one of the most unique self-defense bullet designs I’ve ever seen. According to the Lehigh Defense website, it is CNC-machined from solid copper or brass (in the larger rifle calibers), not formed or swaged. The Xtreme Cavitator is not a hollow-point. It uses a unique geometry to form a vapor-pressure spike at the nose, blanketing the flank of the bullet with a long envelope of air as it passes through the media. This eliminates side drag and allows deep penetration. (That’s an engineer’s way of saying that the Cavitator gets the .32 ACP off its knees and turns it into a viable close-range self-defense round.) After the success of the .32 ACP test, I wanted to test the 85-grain Cavitator in .30 Carbine for possible use as a duty load. The .30 Carbine version has a muzzle velocity of 2,125 feet per second and delivers 852 foot-pounds of energy.

At the Range

I headed to the range on an unusually snowy March day (near whiteout conditions) to test the 85-grain Cavitator in my Kahr M1. Due to the weather conditions, I did not attempt to run the Lehigh rounds across my chronograph. I quickly checked the zero, which was dead-on at 60 feet, and set up my 25-pound block of moist modeling clay for a ballistic test.

I fired the shot dead-on into the block. The impact caused the block to jump a couple of inches off its support. I realized I did not need to section it since a major chunk of the left side of the block was blown out, revealing the inside. The bullet exited the block. These are superb defensive loads that keeps the marvelous M1 Carbine an effective 21st-century defensive arm. Lehigh Defense ammunition comes in various calibers, with a number of different bullet styles for both handguns and rifles. Check out all the ammo options.


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About Scott W. Wagner

Scott W. Wagner is a criminal justice professor and police academy commander from Columbus, Ohio. He has been a police officer since 1980, working as an undercover liquor investigator, undercover narcotics investigator, patrol officer, SWAT team member, sniper and assistant team leader. Scott is currently a patrol sergeant with the Village of Baltimore, Ohio, Police Department. He has been a police firearms instructor since 1986 and is certified to instruct revolver, semi-automatic pistol, shotgun, semi- and fully automatic patrol rifle, and submachine gun.

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