2nd Amendment to the Constitution of The United States of America

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

"I ask sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people except for a few politicians."
- George Mason (father of the Bill of Rights and The Virginia Declaration of Rights)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ain't Nothin' Like The Real Thing, Baby...

This few weekends ago, I took a few hours to visit my friend Ranger Pel whom I do not get to see that often. If you are wondering he is a legit Army Ranger, not just a web handle wannabe.  He and I both served in the same ARNG Infantry Battalion as full time Title 32 AGR soldiers for a while.  You will see him post a comment here and there on the blog of FaceBook page. Like me, Pel is a gun guy and lover of various pieces of military hardware available to the shooter and collector.  His wife is too as she owns a surplus M-1 Carbine that I had to put up along side of my Universal M-1 Carbine to compare during our "show and tell" period of the visit.

The Carbines....the Original GI (top) and my Universal copy carbine (bottom).  At first glance very similar
but beneath the surface are major differences.  And yes, I know my front barrel band is on wrong...
Other than the lack of a bayonet lug on the Universal and different wood they appear to be pretty much the same.. Same size, weight, cartridge and so one...pretty much a mirror image of each other...or are they?

The wood on the GI (left) is much more natural in appearance and feel than the
laquered wood on the Universal (right)
While on the surface, they both appear to be pretty much the same carbine with some minor wood and external differences....but looking closely you will see some major differences in the design.  While the Universal company (and others making these in the 60's and 70's) originally used USGI parts for the assembly of these firearms, they eventually started to "tweak" the design and cut a few corners to save some money and keep costs down.  The most obvious example of this on my carbine is the slide on top of the receiver.  Where as in a GI model the slide and charging handle are one milled piece of metal and totally surround the lug on the bolt that they operate against, the Universal uses a stamped affair where the lug on the bolt is visible in the channel in the slide and the charging handle is not nearly as "beefy" as the GI model.  In operation, they both do the same job...the GI parts just look more "tough" to me.

GI (to) and Universal (bottom), notice how much more material is in the operating rod on the original M-1 and how the locking lug on the bolt is fully enclosed as compared to the Universal.
One of the problems with this "open" style slide on some Universals is that it will crack, giving the owner no choice but to try and track down a replacement.  Again, the USGI part is much more durable in this aspect.

Well...that's no good...

Also between these 2 particular carbines, Pel's wife's USGI had the bolt hold open while mine lacks any sort of hold open, other than on the 30 round mag I got with it the bolt will hang on the rear of the magazine follower after the last shot, but the bolt slams forward as soon as the mag is removed.  So, I just run this carbine like I would an AK...shoot until you are sure you are near the end of the mag and then swap.

Top down view of the actions, GI (top) and Universal (bottom).  Again notice how much more material is present on the actual GI carbine and how the charging handle on the Universal just looks "cheap" compared to the GI.  Also notice the bolt hold open on the GI (small button on top of charging handle) , this Universal model has none. 
Another major difference between the USGI models and my carbine is the recoil and piston system.  A GI carbine uses a single "short stroke" piston system to cycle the weapon.  For some reason Universal decided that if one pistol was good enough, well 2 of them must be better, right?  I think that maybe they went to this after getting customers complaining about the cracked slides mentioned above and this was a way to reduce impact on the slide.

The dual recoil springs and pistol rods on the Universal M1
The sights, while outwardly similar, are different as well.  The USGI set is durable and requires a positive nudge of your finger to move them...mine...eh, just blow on them and they will move up and down the slide.  Once I figure out what to zero this thing at (probably at the 250 mark at 100 meters...best eye relief at that setting and I don't really see this thing being used to engage targets out farther than that..still at 200 yards its a 12" drop so a center chest hold will still be a torso hit with about 300 ft/lbs of impact) a couple of drops of red locktite will be used to keep them where I want them.

Again views of the action and sights GI (left) and Universal (right).  Again, although they look similar the sights on the GI model are much sturdier while mine on my Universal move up and down just by looking at them wrong. 
So considering the differences between the two carbines was the Universal a good buy at $300 compared to what the USGI surplus carbines are going for...absolutely.  Although the Universal M-1 has a less than stellar street rep, this particular carbine has worked for me. It has run flawlessly so far and seems to be good to go.  I know a guy that drove a 70's Pinto until the wheels literally fell off.  People made fun of it all the time but that particular one just ran and ran, likewise does this carbine.

Sure the GI is definitely more durable...it was designed for WWII for crying out loud...but while a sledge hammer will certainly kill a fly...so will a flyswatter as well.  If cost and available supply were no option, of course I would choose a USGI carbine over this Universal.  But being that the supply  of these surplus beauties has become scarce and the premium price this has caused in the market, the Universal gives me the same basic bang for a lot less buck.  I see this as a casual plinker as well as a SHTF type firearm to press into my wife's hands with a minimal of training.

Here are a couple of good links to the two best sites I found to find out more about these "one off" carbines. Both have some good info and links to find parts and pieces to these carbines.


Being that Universal made these copies of the USGI M-1 Carbine longer than anyone else, there is a good chance you may come across a few at gun shows or the like. Approach them cautiously with the information I present here and you might just get lucky to get a good shooter at a decent price.

I was going to post the video of Kev shooting the Universal I posted last month again..but then this came up...

1 comment:

Ret Redhat said...

Did get to fire Carbine @ Jungle SMLE this week. Mine is a Plainfield,not a Universal. Has the hold open pin. To hot for Delaware co range today