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Topic ClosedWho made "the Best" Commercial Carbines

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Joined: Nov 09 2015
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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Who made "the Best" Commercial Carbines
    Posted: Sep 12 2016 at 8:52am
This will be the first in a series addressing the most common questions asked about M1 Carbines built by private companies for retail sales, also known as the Commercial Carbines.

This post will address the carbine manufacturers that are no longer in business and what there carbines are today. Another post will address what they were then. Those currently in business making carbine today will be discussed in yet another post.

One of the most common questions people ask is when they are considering buying, or have bought, a commercial carbine: "Did this company make good carbines?"

My standard answer to this question is, whatever the company made when this carbine was made isn't what the carbine is now. What it is now is a used gun. Used guns should not be judged by the name of the manufacturer as there is no way of reliably telling just how much it's been used and/or abused. Appearances can be deceiving and stories even more so.

Too often when a used gun has problems those problems are attributed to the name on the carbine without a thorough investigation as to the cause of the problems by someone who knows carbines. Think Universal Firearms. When someone blames Universal for a problem, ask them if they experienced it firsthand and if someone thoroughly investigated what went wrong to determine the true cause of the problem. Ammo? Magazines? Last time cleaned? You may be surprised at the answers you get.

The questions should be:

    - Is this used carbine safe to shoot?
    - Is this used carbine reliable?
    - Is this used carbine accurate?
    - Is this used carbine easy to get replacement parts for?


These same questions apply to the U.S. Carbines manufactured under contract to the U.S. government during WWII. Too many people ignore these questions if the manufacturer name is one of those who made them during WWII. While you may be able to get the records of your veteran ancestor there are no records of what a carbine has been through. GI or commercial.

Is this used carbine safe to shoot?

The answer to this question should be answered by an experienced gunsmith after they have conducted a safety inspection. Which should happen before firing the gun. How many of us have ignored this before shooting a used gun? We didn't buy it to spend more money to get it inspected, we bought it to shoot.

Every part on every gun has a lifespan. Used carbines aren't getting any younger. The more use and abuse they experience the more likely one of it's parts is going to reach the end of it's lifespan. The parts that tend to die first are the most critical ones.

Add to this that any semi-automatic centerfire rifle whose design was for the military has a number of things that are critical to its safe operation. Usually having to do with headspace, the gas system and things that will cause unintended discharges. An example would be what's known as a slam-fire: when a bolt closes on the cartridge causing the primer to fire. There are several things that can cause this. Not common but not something you want to experience. Especially if the gun is pointed in a direction where there are people downrange.

Also consider commercially manufactured firearms usually do not have the level of quality control that was present when the original carbines were manufactured during WWII. Sometimes overhead costs and profit cause shortcuts that wouldn't pass muster under a strict quality control regimen.

Break the habit. Get your carbine safety inspected by a qualified gunsmith before you shoot it. It doesn't cost very much for what you get in return.

Is this used carbine reliable?

When a gunsmith conducts a safety inspection this includes evaluating the reliability of the parts of the carbine. Including the carbine's ability to function properly. They may identify and correct an issue before you go to the range.

Often the only way to determine if the carbine will feed and eject cartridges reliably during firing is to spend time firing it on a range. A few commercial carbine replicas are finicky about the kind of ammunition they'll function with.

The two main causes for cartridges failing to feed, with every carbine, are the magazines or the carbine gas system needs to be cleaned. Finding the right magazine may take some experimenting with different magazines. Why? The stamped sheet metal they are made from, by design, can be damaged if dropped. take a look at the lips on the top of the magazines and ask yourself what might happen if they're dropped with the impact striking the top of the magazine. A big one, not all commercial carbine magazines are manufactured the same.

Unless a seller will let you take it to the range before you buy it there is no way to know in advance if it will reliably feed and eject the cartridges/casings. It's a used gun.

Is this used carbine accurate?

The answer to this one is range time. Keeping in mind the design of these carbines was not as a sniper rifle. There are ways to improve accuracy that are beyond this basic question. Some involve the carbine, most involve the shooter. But every firearm has its limitations and the carbine is no exception. The discussion forums are a good place to find help.

Is this used carbine easy to get replacement parts for?

Most commercial carbine manufacturers have made the claim their carbines are built to GI spec. Technically, no commercial carbine can ever be built to GI spec as those specs included various quality control inspections by U.S. Army Ordnance personnel.

Most commercial carbines can be made to work with replacement parts made to GI dimensions. Some will work by simply replacing the part, some may require a gunsmith as the tolerances of some commercial carbines were slightly different than their GI counterparts.

From 1962 to 1966 the carbines manufactured by Universal Firearms were generally manufactured to GI dimensions. While the trigger housings were aluminum they could be replaced with any steel trigger housings made to GI dimensions. The front sight used about s/n 20k and later was held in place by a set screw. generally, carbines under s/n 100,000 most parts can be replaced.

The big changes to Universal's carbines happened in 1967 starting with serial number 100,000. These changes have brought much criticism as the standard they were measured against were those of the GI design. The reality of the changes is they were so significant the carbine was no longer a replica of a GI carbine. It fired the same cartridge but the design was a high-bred of the original carbine design. Some argue the design was worse, the designer thought it was better. This is a topic for a different discussion. One fact that might give you a hint as to the Universal high-bred is they were manufactured from 1967-1984 with over 380,000 made and sold. No other commercial .30 caliber carbine manufacturer has come anywhere close to this quantity as the total they manufactured.

As to the question of availability of replacement parts, Universal Firearms carbines having a serial number above 100,000 have about a dozen parts that can be replaced with parts made to GI dimensions. Key parts such as the receiver, bolt group and barrel group are no longer made. There is a current manufacturer making top quality replacement slides (on Gunbroker).

Carbine replicas manufactured in calibers other than .30 Carbine often have some, many or no parts specific to the replica that can be interchanged with .30 Carbine parts. An example would be the Iver Johnson carbine in 9mm, the Erma Werke replica in .22 rimfire and the Universal Firearms Vulcan in .44 magnum.

Why even Buy a used Commercial Carbine?

The main reasons people buy them is their price. They are generally half the cost of a new manufactured carbine or a well used non collectable GI carbine. In some cases 1/4th the cost of a new carbine.

Not far behind price is there are many used commercial carbines available that will safely function just fine in the capacity of a recreational shooter to have fun with or use for close quarters self defense.

Don't let the naysayers of the caliber trick you into thinking getting shot with a .30 carbine is not as effective as getting shot with a 30-06 out of an M1 Garand. If you are on the receiving end you won't like getting shot with either of them. Different topic for a different post.

Final Note

If I can give you one thing to take away from his it would be to break the habit of judging a used carbine by it's name and get every used carbine safety inspected before you fire it. It's not only a safety issue but also the responsible thing to do given the harm it could cause others. You and your loved ones included.

Jim Mock
M1CarbinesInc.com
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