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Topic ClosedOverview/Assessment: Commercial Carbines mfg today

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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Overview/Assessment: Commercial Carbines mfg today
    Posted: Sep 19 2016 at 8:02am
Introduction

I think a short overview is necessary to put what follows into the perspective of where it comes from. I have been researching carbines and carbine history full time plus some since 2005. I don't do gun reviews, my focus is researching and documenting history, then sharing it ad free. No donations, no money from anyone, no affiliations with any company. I have an investigative background going back to the 1970's.

I took on the project of researching the commercial carbines for several reasons. Including I could afford one or two at a time, sell them if safe, then buy one or two more. Besides the company history I look at the carbines they made inside out from a historical perspective. Who did what and when. All 34 commercial companies who have made or currently make them. The best evidence I have of what I do is all of the information, and many of the photographs, that make up M1CarbinesInc.com. I have other projects, both short and long term, related to .30 Caliber carbines but my focus is the carbines themselves. Not accessories, ammo, accuracy, etc.

Manufacturers

Another important thing to mention is all of the commercial carbine manufacturers below, and those prior, have been or are privately owned for profit corporations or LLC's. They fight the battle of overhead versus profit. They try to make products people will buy and can afford (to varying degrees) while being able to feed their families and run their companies. Quality and quality control costs money. The higher the level of quality and quality control the more it costs.

Each commercial manufacturer decides on the level of quality and quality control they will try to maintain. Each has their own set of ethics they live by. They're owned and operated by humans.

For the research I do I don't care what they made/make, how they made/make it or anything about them personally. If they make replicas and variations of the .30 Caliber Carbines of WWII I simply do what I do. Research, document, share and buy/sell more to learn more. Part of the research is seeking out the owners and employees to learn from them. A bigger part of my research is what I can learn from the owners and users.

Marketing vs. Operations

I have little interest in the marketing done by any of these companies other than to see if what they sell matches what they advertise and claim. Experience has taught me not to put much faith in marketing, look at the end product for the truth.

A good marketing person takes advantage of gun magazines and other forms of media, particularly those with an established reputation. Some are more interested in keeping their publication in business by accommodating marketing people for free material for articles and video than they are presenting an unbiased review to their readers.

Using the name or trademark of a company with a well established reputation that is no longer in business is nothing new. It's smart marketing. As you may already know and will see below the current commercial carbine manufacturers make use of this tool. Would you rather a buy a carbine with the Inland or Rock-Ola name or one with the name of Erma's Manufacturing or Plainfield Machine?

Also worth mentioning for perspective, most gun reviews are usually focused on the outside of the gun as that's what people are interested in. What does it look like? Does it work? How accurate is it? While these are more popular questions my focus has been a bit deeper. I go into history, which means going inside each carbine. When you watch a video or read an article, how many open up the gun after they shoot it to see the affect on the parts? Understandably, most people aren't interested But I am. The inside of the carbine and spent casings tell history at it's core.

Opinions

Everyone has them and everyone is entitled to them. What follows below is mine based on what I do and have been doing. Others may differ but probably not by much on these particular carbines if they have the experience of having worked with or on all of them. I'm not a gunsmith. I qualify as an armorer on .30 Caliber Carbines alone. I dislike the word expert. In reality everyone knows something someone else doesn't or to a degree or in a direction others don't. I'm a never ending student.

Understanding what Follows

While I tried to remain brief (yeah, I know) I've included an overview of each parts group for each manufacturer. I rated each on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the best and 1 being the obvious.

Even more important than the parts is the quality of the build. This is the work done by the manufacturer to finish each part, ensure all of the parts are to the correct dimensions, hardened properly, fit and work together properly, maintain safety standards and all around quality of the end product.

Two of these manufacturers have a level of final machining and quality control far beyond the others. At the other end of the spectrum, another two have a low level of quality control and do only the minimum they have too to get them out to their wholesalers and retailers.

Final retail price is generally an indicator of the time and money invested in producing a quality carbine. But are also affected by how much profit the manufacturer wishes to make and how many companies the carbine goes through before it's sold at the retail level. Wholesalers and retailers add to the final cost.

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The Big Questions For the Buyer

What do you want your carbine for?

How much are you able or willing to spend or do without based on financial limitations?

Only you can decide. So here's my experience.

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Auto-Ordnance

https://www.auto-ordnance.com/Firearms/Firearms.asp

Note: Not to be confused with the Auto-Ordnance of WWII. Owned by Kahr Arms which is owned by the Saeilo Group.

(see note under Classic Carbines)

Sold via: Wholesalers & Retailers
Basic M1 Carbine: $650-$750


Receiver Group:
    2-3    cast by Lamothermic Corp, Brewster, NY;

Comments: inconsistent quality control produces casting flaws that consistently leave metal in bolt channel and occasional bent receivers. AO machines the excess metal in the bolt channel inconsistently and forces parts onto bent receivers.

Barrel Group:
   4    Green Mountain Rifle Barrel Co., Conway, NH

Comments: barrels constructed by inserting barrel with rifling into separate piece consisting of gas piston cylinder and barrel threads. This technique has been used successfully for many years if done properly. Green Mountain gets it right. But check the gas cylinder nut to make sure it has been tightened snug into the gas piston housing. Unk if this is AO or Green Mountain that fails to do this and consistently. It's a safety issue.

Bolt Group:
   4    machined from forged steel, slightly smaller than GI dimensions, hardened properly

Trigger Housing Group:
    2-4    cast by Lamothermic Corp, Brewster, NY

Comments: whatever their means quality control at AO is, it often misses trigger group parts with flaws. Customer service is good at correcting these when encountered.

Stock Group:
    2    Altamont Co, Thomasboro, IL

Comments: AO initially used walnut stocks made by Boyds Gunstocks in South Dakota. They switched to Altamont about 5 or 6 years ago.

AO has chosen to allow knots and knot repairs as acceptable for their stocks. The stocks and handguards made by Altamont are 1/4" shorter than GI dimensions and are not compatible with non-Altamont stocks. The fit of the barrel to their stock seats the barrel at an angle in the stock's barrel channel. Handguards are routinely unevenly wider than the stock causing an overlap with the sharp edge of the handguard protruding in various places and exposing it to chips and/or damage. The sling cut is cosmetic only, it will not fit a sling with oiler. Over time Altamont has made changes to the design that detract from the appearance of a replica of the U.S. M1 Carbines. These have included the handgrip, stock shape and failure to round the nose at the front of the stock.

Customer service has been accepting returns to correct the uneven width of the handguards that overlap the stock. They require the entire carbine be returned. What the customer receives is the same carbine with the same stock and handguard without the handguard overlap. They will not replace stocks with knots, knot repairs, improperly cut sling holes etc.

Overall Build:
    3   varies depending on parts & quality control as indicated above. Finish is well done and uniform. But easily removed by the friction caused by the parts not being machined after casting.

Function:
    3-4    requires 300+ round break in period during which they will fail to feed and slide/bolt will fail to fully close (lubrication helps). Have patience, this will work itself out at the expense of several hundred rounds of ammo.

Customer Service:
    4    friendly but inflexible sticking to company policies of what's acceptable and what's not. You have to request to be notified that your rifle has been shipped back to you. Not something they share up front.

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Inland Manufacturing

https://www.inland-mfg.com/

Note: Not to be confused with the Inland Manufacturing Division of General Motors. Simply adopted the name. Owned by a group of investors who remain anonymous.

Sold via: Wholesalers & Retailers
Basic M1 Carbine: $970-$1100

Receiver Group:
    2-3    cast by Lamothermic Corp, Brewster, NY (same mold as used by Auto Ordnance)

Comments: inconsistent quality control produces casting flaws that consistently leave metal in bolt channel and occasional bent receivers. Inland machines the excess metal in the bolt channel but often leaves enough to impair the movement of, and damage the finish, of the bolt. Parts are forced onto bent receivers.

Barrel Group:
   4    Green Mountain Rifle Barrel Co., Conway, NH

Comments: see comments above for Auto Ordnance. Same barrel, same loose gas piston nut. Inland adds their name to the barrel.

Bolt Group:
    1    machined from forged steel.

Comments: The dimensions of this bolt are consistent with the shorter dimensions of the bolt used by Auto Ordnance. Auto Ordnance chooses to use a flat bolt, Inland uses a round bolt. This difference is cosmetic. The reason for the rating of 1 is improper hardening of the bolt. This issue was brought to their attention over a year ago and responses have consistently claimed it's been corrected. Customer service has been good at replacing bolts with the "corrected" bolts that are still too soft. Reports that this would change have not been reality as of the time of this writing.

These bolts are not inherently unsafe when new. The affect this has is to the lifespan of the bolt. Bolts should be monitored for damage from the hammer to the rear of the bolt and damage to the the right bolt lug from the front/rear of the slide cam the lug engages. Damage to the rear of the bolt will eventually negate the built in safety design that prevents the hammer from striking the firing pin until the bolt has rotated and locked. Damage to the right bolt lug will eventually interfere with the functioning of the firearm.

Since Inland's replacement bolts have had the same issue, if you experience this problem you may wish to purchase the bolt sold by Auto Ordnance that's made to the same dimensions. They are hardened properly and sell for less that what Inland sells them for and far less than the cost of a surplus GI bolt.

Trigger Housing Group:
    2-4    cast by Lamothermic Corp, Brewster, NY

Comments: see comments above under Auto Ordnance. The cast extractor initially used by Inland was blued. These consistently failed so Inland switched to a hard chrome finish for the extractor as opposed to using an extractor machined from forged steel. As Auto Ordnance has experienced the hard chrome eliminates the failure of the cast extractors yet contrasts to the finish of their carbines and all other before them.

Stock Group:
    2    Altamont Co, Thomasboro, IL

Comments: see comments above under Auto Ordnance after reading what follows here. Inland normally smooths the handguard to fit the stock, cuts a concave shape in the slingwell to allow it to fit their included sling and oiler, then stains the hardwood stock a dark walnut. The knots and knot hole repairs acceptable to Auto Ordnance are not acceptable to Inland. Otherwise the the stocks they get from Altamont have the same issues as those by Auto Ordnance.

Overall Build:
    3   varies depending on parts & quality control as indicated above. Finish is shiny on barrel where Inland marks were added. Finish is easily removed by the friction caused by most parts not being machined after casting.

Function:
    3-4    requires 300+ round break in period during which they will fail to feed and slide/bolt will fail to fully close (lubrication helps). Have patience, this will work itself out at the expense of several hundred rounds of ammo. But, keep checking the bolt for damage.

Customer Service:
    4    usually very friendly and helpful, but not necessarily accurate or a reflection of the carbine and parts you will get from them.

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Classic Carbines

http://classiccarbines.com/xcart/

Note: Classic Carbines initially started when they purchased the carbines and carbine parts used by Time Precision. Time Precision obtained most of their parts from the demise of Israel Arms International (iai), about 2003, but didn't attempt to build and sell carbines until about 2013. They had drilled the deep holes in the receiver for iai. The carbines built by Time Precision and Classic Carbines have been with parts left over from Israel Arms International (iai). As these older parts run out Classic Carbines is acquiring parts elsewhere. The carbines built by Auto-Ordnance are an evolution of those built and used by iai. Auto-Ordnance has also manufactured various parts for iai and acquired parts of iai on their demise. The most obvious being the casting tooling and dies for the iai receiver. Receivers used by iai, Auto-Ordnance and Inland bare characteristics from having been made with the same casting tooling.

Sold via: mfg direct sales
Basic M1 Carbine: $1095

Receiver Group:
    3    cast by Lamothermic Corp, Brewster, NY

comments: so far the receivers have been those made for iai 2000 and later and include the iai markings. Many of the later iai receivers have the same issues as those currently used by Auto ordnance and Inland.

Barrel Group:
   4    barrels used by iai were made by Green Mountain Rifle Barrel Co., Conway, NH. Classic Carbines offers an upgrade to the Criterion Match Grade carbine barrel at an extra charge

Bolt Group:
4    iai bolts were cast. Later bolts were not always smooth, having a 360 degree edge aft of the lugs. iai used post war surplus GI extractors.

Trigger Housing Group:
4   iai used a mixture of cast parts and surplus GI parts, the latter primarily the mag catch and safety. Varied with what they could obtain at various times.

Stock Group:
2-4    mfg not confirmed

comments: the later iai carbines used birch stocks stained walnut, manufactured by Boyds Gunstocks in South Dakota. Stocks being used by Classic Carbines have included the same stocks as used by Chiappa Firearms on their .22 rimfire replicas of the M1 Carbine. These are made using Northern European Beech wood and stained walnut. The sling cut is cosmetic only. It will not fit a sling and oiler. Chiappa handguards have occasionally been cut sider than their stocks causing the overlap mentioned above under Auto Ordnance. Some of the photos currently on the Classic Carbines website appear to be stocks manufactured by Altamont in IL.

Overall Build:
    unable to comment:        Given my experience with the carbines made by iai I haven't been inclined to spend this amount of money until Classic Carbines has expended their supply of leftover iai receivers and parts

Function:
    unable to comment:       ditto

Customer Service:
    comment:    Several calls to Classic Carbine over time regarding their parts and status with receivers other than iai they've been very helpful. Unable to evaluate how they handle returns.

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Rockola Firearms (James River Armory)

https://www.jamesriverarmory.com/products.html

Note: This company is in no way related to the Rock-Ola of WWII. They did not purchase the name (it's a surname of many families) or anything else from the current day Rock-Ola Manufacturing. The Rock-Ola of WWII stopped making carbines in 1944 and the company was sold in 1977.

Sold via: mfg direct sales, a few retailers
Basic M1 Carbine: $1295
T3: $1695
Receiver: $295

Receiver Group:
    4-5    machined from forged steel, manufacturer unknown

comments:    these are high quality machined receivers with several things worthy of note. The receivers have a wide recoil plate tang as used by Saginaw Steering Gear in Saginaw, MI and Auto-Ordnance for receivers they were sub-contracted to manufacture by IBM during WWII. The bottom of these receivers below the recoil plate tang (between the trigger housing lugs) have intentionally been slightly altered from GI dimensions and provide less of a snug fit of the recoil plate to the receiver. This snug fit has been
recognized as important to accuracy. A call to customer service provided the opportunity to speak with one of their gunsmiths who indicated this area was altered to accommodate the commercial M1A1 stocks currently available on the market. He related it does
not affect accuracy. They no longer offer their M1A1 variation so one of the next carbines I buy for evaluation will be a Rockola from James River.

The parkerized finish on the first receiver examined was two tone and clearly not intentional. The finish also had a mottled appearance from numerous sized dark spots. It was clear this was something that occurred when the receiver was parkerized. Customer service offered to replace the receiver and did so when requested (replacement's finish was fine). However, before making the request I was advised the finish was cosmetic only and didn't affect the function of the firearm. One of the things I look for is a company's mindset as to what's acceptable and what's not. That this would be acceptable to anyone at James River given the company's strong reputation of producing quality restorations was a surprise. This one person's mindset shouldn't be assumed to be the company mindset but when coupled with the concept of altering a high quality receiver to fit a commercial folding stock it left me cautious of doing further business with them. Yet I don't base research on only one or two so research is continuing into the carbines made by James River under the Rockola name.

Barrel Group:
    5     mfg by Criterion Barrels, Germantown, WI

comments:     Criterion's match grade carbine barrels

Bolt Group:
    5    GI surplus, for now

Trigger Housing Group:
    5    GI surplus, for now

Stock Group:
    4-4.5 GI surplus, for now

Overall Build:
    4.5-5    not 5 because of the receiver as noted above. Requires further research before conclusive

Function:
    5    excludes accuracy tests; James River Armory has a dependable reputation they've earned ... at a price

Customer Service:
    Helpful and definitely knew carbines. Only hesitation is the encounter mentioned above under receivers

A note on their T3's:
    Reference the manufacturers claim, "The new Rock-Ola T3 is a faithful reproduction of the original providing a Redfield type mount meeting the 1944 requirements". Neither the T3 or M3 was intended for use with anything other than an infrared night vision scope, light and all the items that came with them. The M82scope was not adopted for use with the carbines, especially not the T3. This said, this is a nice replica of an M82 and intended for accuracy. The IR scope was mission specific and it's design and mission did not include the accuracy associated with the word "sniperscope".

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Fulton Armory

http://www.fulton-armory.com/M1-Carbine.aspx

Sold via: mfg direct sales
Basic M1 Carbine: $1549
Receivers: $299
Barreled Receivers: $699.95
Barreled Receivers with bolt: $819.95

Receiver Group:
    5    manufactured from forged steel by Lewis Machine Tool (LMT), Milan, IL

Barrel Group:
    5    mfg by Criterion Barrels, Germantown, WI

comments:    Criterion's match grade carbine barrels

Bolt Group:
    5    GI while they lasted, others machined from forged steel to GI spec

Trigger Housing Group:
    5    GI parts while they lasted, others machined from forged steel to GI spec

Stock Group:
    4.5    manufactured by Boyds Gunstocks of South Dakota

comments:    these are nice walnut stocks but with sharp edges from CNC manufacturing.

Overall Build:
    5    better than many of the carbines made under contract to the government during WWII as these are individually made to order, made with today's technology, and not mass produced. Fulton Armory has been the only commercial carbine maker who can honestly claim their carbines are made to the standards set by U.S. Army Ordnance in WWII.

Function:
    5    ready to go right out of the box

Customer Service:
   5    definitely business like, knowledgeable and focused on quality

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Okay, so which one would I buy or recommend without paying over $1200 before shipping and tax?

Option 1: Best of Show without the Price Tag (+/- $1150)

Be patient and wait for Fulton Armory to have one of their frequent holiday sales when prices are 5-10% off. Buy the barreled receiver that includes the bolt group, barrel band, front sight, and gas fixins. Cost will be about $730-$750 plus shipping and tax. Do not attempt to mount a Criterion barrel to a Fulton receiver, spend the money and let them do it along with headspacing the bolt to the barrel/receiver and everything has the same finish.

What you'll need you should shop around for and be patient": rear sight (+/- $45 GI), stock group (+/- $150 GI M2), slide (+/-$80 GI), and trigger housing group (+/- $125 GI). Even if you pay $400 for all of it your total cost before shipping and tax is about $1150. If they're all GI the only tool you'll need is for installing the rear sight.

I did this for my daughter's M1 Carbine.

Option 2: These Old Dogs ain't done yet! (+/- $800-$1000)

Buy a used GI carbine made during WWII. Some can be expensive but many are still under $1000 with parts that will outlive many of us. Get it safety checked by a gunsmith before shooting it. Replacement parts can be expensive but rarely needed and shop around. Avoid EBay as generally most sellers there charge more that elsewhere. Partly because of the fees of EBay and PayPal.

Option 3: A New Commercial Carbine ($750-$1600)

Discussed above

Option 4: The Budget Cruncher (+/- $400-$600)

Buy a used commercial carbine but pick one that looks in good shape and replacement parts are readily available. Get it safety checked by a gunsmith before shooting it.



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