In order to understand many things about the commercially manufactured M1 carbines, it is absolutely necessary to understand certain basics about the U.S. .30 caliber carbines manufactured during WWII. What follows below, is the beginning of the history for each of the commercially manufactured carbines. Rather than repeat this information on each page for each manufacturer, the information is presented once, here.
The .30 caliber carbine M1 was designed and manufactured for the specific purpose of providing an alternative to GI's normally issued only a handgun, to give them a weapon with more range and accuracy.
Between June 1942 and August 1945, ten primary contractors and dozens of subcontractors established manufacturing facilities, tooled up, and produced over six million M1 carbines under the direction of the U.S. Office of Ordnance. Eight of these ten had no gun manufacturing experience. When the supply exceeded the demand, all but two of the contracts were canceled in mid-1944. The remaining two companies completed their carbine production runs by August 1945. Most of these six million M1 carbines were used by American soldiers in the Pacific and European theaters of WWII. The story of how this was accomplished within this time span, in these quantities, with a high quality standard, from start to finish during a period of war, is an amazing one.
The .30 caliber carbine M1 rifle was the most produced small arm in American history (yes, even more than the M1 Garand). By the end of WWII all production had ceased. Some of the carbines remained in service or in storage overseas, many others returned home to America, where they were inspected and rebuilt to the updated standards set for the carbine at that time. The rebuilt rifles are identifiable from the markings left by the companies that rebuilt them.
Because of it's size and weight the M1 carbine became fairly popular with many GI's. Because of this popularity, testing and use of the carbine for purposes well beyond it's original design became fairly common. During the Korean war carbines were issued as main battle rifles, a job the carbine was neither designed nor suited for. The outcome, and the opinions, were highly predictable. The experiences of using the carbine in place of a true main battle rifle like the M1 Garand, still unjustly haunt the carbine to this day.
Over the years after WWII, these carbines went in many different directions and were used for various purposes. Some are still in use today, by the police and/or armed forces of America's allies, and foes. Many have returned to America and are owned by collectors and gun enthusiasts. Collecting aside, the .30 caliber carbine M1 is just plain fun to shoot, for some of the same reasons it was popular during WWII.
U.S. Ordnance Quality Control
One of the unique things about the U.S. GI carbines and their parts is the manufacturing standards applied to every manufacturer so all of the parts would be interchangeable, no matter who manufactured them. Ordnance set the specifications, then monitored and inspected each of the manufacturers to ensure they were within those specifications. None of the ten companies that built the carbines manufactured all of their own parts. Each used various subcontractors for various parts. In addition to the parts destined for the complete carbine, extra parts were manufactured as replacements and/or improved upgrades. After the WWII, Ordnance contracted with companies for individual parts, or manufactured their own, on an as needed basis. Another unique feature of these carbines and their parts is many of the manufacturers placed markings on the parts they made, so they could be identified as to who made them.
The specifications set by U.S. Ordnance are the only specifications that have ever passed rigorous testing and inspection for any M1 carbine, and every part on that carbine. If a manufacturer did not meet those specifications, Ordnance took action to correct the issue or the company lost the contract. One of the best examples was Irwin-Pedersen, who was granted a contract but failed to produce even one carbine that could pass Ordnance inspection. The situation was serious enough that the Irwin-Pedersen contract was turned over to Saginaw Steering Gear, who opened a second facility to complete the Irwin-Pedersen contracts. Rock-Ola almost suffered the same fate. Fortunately the issue at Rock-Ola was able to be corrected by Ordnance personnel with the assistance of the owner and line personnel at Rock-Ola.
When you see the term "GI carbine" or "GI", on this website, it refers to the carbines, parts, etc that were manufactured relative to the above WWII manufactured carbines.
In the years following the end of the war in Korea (July 1953), surplus GI carbine parts began making their way to the commercial market. Some parts more than others, and at some times more than others. The surplus parts existed in sufficient numbers that it was possible to build entire M1 carbines from these surplus parts. This fact was not lost on those in the private sector interested in making a profit, who were well aware of the popularity of the M1 carbines. The two most important parts of any carbine, are the receiver and the barrel. The first big challenge for the commercial manufacturers was a total lack of functional surplus receivers. Surplus barrels were available only in limited quantities and quickly became near non-existent.
Winchester-Western's patent on the .30 caliber carbine expired in January 1960. During the 1960's more than a dozen different companies began selling commercial variations of the M1 carbine, built with surplus GI parts on receivers and barrels manufactured by private industry. Some companies manufactured their own receivers, some contracted others to make receivers, some purchased receivers from one another, some welded receivers that had been "decommissioned" (cut in half).
During the mid to late 1960's the surplus GI parts started drying up due to widespread use. As each part became less available, commercially manufactured replacements were designed and produced.
One thing very conspicuously absent from these private sector receivers, barrels, and parts were the Ordnance standards and inspectors.
Reliability of the U.S. GI and Commercially Manufactured M1 Carbines
The design, manufacture, and intended use of the U.S. GI carbines was/is different than those manufactured commercially. However, the standards set by U.S. Ordnance ensured reliability, function, and safety. Also, U.S. Ordnance inspections did not stop once the carbine left the manufacturer. The U.S. GI carbine, and each part thereon, was designed with a minimum life expectancy and an established maintenance system to ensure the rifle remained reliable and safe.
However, when GI carbines and their parts were sold as surplus, this maintenance and inspection routine ceased. Millions of the carbines were provided as military assistance to other nations. Once they left the control of U.S. Ordnance personnel, the maintenance, inspection, and standards became whatever the recipient decided they would be. Very few countries maintained any standard close to that maintained by U.S. Ordnance. Over the years, hundreds of thousands of these U.S. GI carbines have been purchased from these countries by commercial importers, who have sold them and/or their parts in America and elsewhere.
Tens of thousands of U.S. GI carbines have been returned to the U.S. Army by foreign nations. Many of these have been provided by the U.S. Army to the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), formerly referred to as the Director of Civilian Marksmanship (DCM). The DCM was established in 1916 by Congress to support civilian marksmanship. DCM/CMP has sold these carbines, and other rifles, to raise funds for their marksmanship programs and competitions. Unlike the carbines imported and sold by private companies, the carbines sold by DCM/CMP have been consistently inspected for safety before being sold.
Not one of the commercially manufactured carbines has ever been manufactured and inspected to the standards established by U.S. Ordnance. Part of the reason for this was the cost. This is not proof they didn't manufacture functional carbines that were safe. Many of their carbines have been used without any problems for many years. Some of the commercial carbines have had function or safety issues, specifics as to which commercial manufacturer had what problem and when will be discussed on the pages for that manufacturer.
Considering the effects of time, use, abuse, wear, storage conditions, modifications, unreliable maintenance and/or inspection, etc., who made it is nowhere near as important as knowing it is going to be safe, when you or one of your loved ones pulls the trigger. Having your carbine examined by a competent gunsmith before shooting it is a very wise thing to do. Not many buyers or owners do this, which is one more reason you should if you buy one. The bottom line is safety. It's part of the responsibility that comes with gun ownership. Responsible behavior also protects the 2nd Amendment and the rights it guarantees for all of us.
This website is a continual work in progress. The subject matter presents an enormous challenge and undertaking. This work is equivalent to a full time job, so some things may be a little slow in coming. I have an incredible amount of information that needs to be organized for this website, with even more I have yet to learn.