Universal M1 Carbine Production History

Universal M1 Carbine Information Page     MaxIcon

Want more detail on Universal?  Here's an excellent history of the Universal company, along with details on the various versions:

Universal Firearms started out as Bullseye in 1950, and later changed their name to Universal Firearms.  They were bought by Iver Johnson in 1983, who were then bought by American Military Arms Corp (AMAC) in 1987.

Universals were popular due to their low price, and many people bought them from hardware stores, Sears, Wards, and other local gun sources back when Americans could buy guns in their neighborhoods.

Universal's records are long gone, but some information has been collected from serial numbers and configurations of known guns.

Thanks to John Blood for providing the serial number info.  If you have a Universal M1 Carbine, especially one with a SN in the transition ranges listed below, or examples that don't fit the range, please send the following info to blood.john(at)gmail.com or to maxiweb1@maxicon.com.

Universal M1 Carbine Generations

Be sure to check http://www.m1carbinesinc.com/carbine_universal.html for more detailed info on the changes over the years!

First Generation:
(Started with SN 0, ended between 93xxx - 104xxx):

The first generation Universal M1 Carbine mainly used USGI parts, including a USGI bolt locking mechanism.  One example in the sub-5xxx SN range had an IBM barrel with flaming bomb emblem.

The transition in production between first generation and second generation is somewhere between 93xxx and 104xxx.

Second Generation:
(Started between SN 93xxx - 104xxx, ended between SN 176xxx and 187xxx)

The second generation is where Universal got creative, started redesigning things, added the second recoil spring, and started to machine their own parts. This model eliminated the bolt locking mechanism all together.  These had a leaf style flip rear sight, round bolt, magazine catch marked M, and new trigger housing.  These could still accept the USGI trigger housing, and some had the M2 style metal upper handguard.  The front sight was held on with a setscrew, rather than pinned as the USGI is. 

The transition in production between second generation and third generation is somewhere between 176xxx and 187xxx.

Third Generation:
(Started between SN 176xxx and 187xxx, went until end of production)

The third generation included cost saving designs that started the company's reputation for poor quality.  Changes included a slide lock lever by the rear sight, the trigger housing was made of aluminum, and several safety features were deleted to reduce costs. This resulted in the ability of the rifle to fire out of battery.

The highest serial number documented so far is 486xxx.

Here are some detailed posts on the firing out of battery issue:


USGI Parts Compatibility with 2nd generation and beyond:

These USGI parts are generally compatible with the later Universal M1 Carbine.  For the first generation rifles, most parts are USGI:

These USGI parts are not compatible:

History from other sources:

If anyone has more info, corrections, or other history, please send me links or copies.  If I've incorrectly attributed any of this, let me know and I'll correct it.

http://oldguns.net/q&a7_03.htm, http://oldguns.net/q&a8_02.htm (Marc) - Universal Firearms Corporation was the successor to the Bullseye Company, they manufactured M1 Carbine copies for commercial sales in the early 1960s. Initially the bulk of the components Universal used in their carbines were U.S. government surplus except for the forged receivers which were made by Repp Steel Company of Buffalo. Surplus slides and trigger housings were used as long as possible, but toward the end of the Korean Conflict, when the surplus part market dried up, Universal started manufacturing all of their own parts including barrels, die cast trigger housings, recoil plates, recoil plate screw, and springs. The quality of Universal M1 copies was usually not to bad, but not up to the standards of the U.S. government issue carbines. Universal was purchased by Iver Johnson in January 1983 who continued to sell Universal-branded Carbines as late as 1988.

http://www.jouster.com/cgi-bin/carbine/carbine.pl?noframes;read=4614-- (Landtrain) - Universal Firearms Inc. Hialeah, FL. Began making Carbines in 1950 as Bullseye. Later reorganized as Universal Firearms. Bought government surplus machine tools for Carbine manufacturer. Early guns used surplus parts with stocks from S.E. Overton of Inland fame. Also made repair stockage parts for the government. Sold wholesale to Sears, Wards, K-Mart and a slew of other hardware and sporting goods stores. Sold to Iver-Johnson in 1983. Name was dropped when IJA bought by American Military Arms Corp, in 1987. Made several variations using Carbine parts such as the Vulcan in .44 Mag using the GI slide as a pump action and the GI bolt with the recess milled off. Actually, its quite a pleasure to shoot and accurate to 100 yards. You will also find several wildcat rounds derived from Universal design. The .256 Win Mag and a .25 caliber using the .30 Carbine case as the parent. Universal gained a bad reputation when a minute few (albeit justifiable) would fire before the bolt was in full battery.

Broken Slide on the Universal

While cleaning my Universal for a range test comparison against a CMP Inland M1 Carbine, I found the slide had cracked back by the charging handle.  This is one of the more common failures on Universals, and parts are difficult-to-impossible to find.  Unfortunately, this is one of the non-GI parts, and aren't available anywhere I know of.  It may be weldable, or it may turn have turned this one into a parts gun.  Fortunately, the CMP carbines, while more expensive, are a good alternative.