Israel Arms International (IAI)
iai American Legend
M888-R201900 - M888-R212750
In 1995 Larry Horner, owner of Liberty Armory in Liberty, TX was contracted by several individuals for the assembly of M1 Carbines their company intended on selling. Horner identified their company as Firearms International in Houston, TX. After Horner began assembling the carbines the owners of Firearms International incorporated Israel Arms International (IAI) and decided to use this name on all of their firearms, instead of the name of Firearms International. The markings were eventually changed again when the company name was later changed to iai American Legends. Followed by surplus left over after the demise of iai being used by Larry Horner to asemble carbines with the name of Liberty Armory.
Israel Arms International: 1996-2002
Israel Arms International incorporated in Texas in November 1996 at 5709 Hartsdale Dr. in Houston. Texas corporate and tax records identify Richard Nahman as the company President.
Israel Arms International (IAI) imported at least eight semi-automatic handguns (1997-2001) and an FN FAL (2000-2001). The FN FAL was manufactured by Imbel of Brazil. At least two of the handguns were imported from the Philippines. The frames for their 1911 style semi-auto handguns were also imported from the Philippines. Model numbers and names assigned to their handguns were created by IAI. The Blue Book of Gun values indicates IAI sold a Model 333 M1 Garand (2000-2001). The receiver for this rifle was manufactured by Caspian Arms of Wolcott, VT and was still being sold by Numrich Gun Parts in 2011.
The exclusive distributor of the firearms imported and sold by Israel Arms International was Nahman's Gamma Premium Company, which was incorporated on the same day and at the same location as Firearms International and eventually IAI.
Because of the presence of "Israel" in the company name, IAI has frequently been confused with Israel Military Industries (IMI), the civilian sales division of the military weapons manufacturer for the nation of Israel. Because of their use of the initials IAI, this company has often been confused with Irwindale Arms Incorporated of Irwindale, CA. Israel Arms International was not related to either of these companies.
It's also common to hear or read that IAI M1 Carbines or their receivers were manufactured in Israel and imported by IAI. As you will see below, this wasn't the case.
The Standard Model 888 M1 Carbine
advertisement in Gun Digest 2001
The American Rifleman January 2001 p.74-75 (authored in 2000) provides a basic review of the IAI M1 Carbine and indicates it was manufactured in Houston by IAI. The receiver was made from investment cast 4140 steel and most parts were manufactured domestically. IAI manufactured parts for the gas system, rear sight assembly, and a number of pins and springs. IAI was planning to manufacture their own trigger housings, bolts, and produce a version in ".22 Carbine (5.7mm Johnson)". The model provided to the magazine for testing had a WWII GI trigger housing and bolt.
According to the author, operation of the carbine was the same as the original U.S. GI carbines and all parts are interchangeable. IAI finish-machined the receiver, barrel, and operating rod. The chamber of the barrel was manufactured slightly tighter than the original GI carbines, and the testing done for the article revealed the IAI carbine provided groups of 2" to 2 1/2" at 50 yards, compared to the GI carbine's 3" to 5" with the same ammunition fired under the same conditions. The IAI M1 Carbine was available in three configurations at the time this article was published.
The standard Model 888 .30 caliber carbine M1 with walnut stock and walnut handguard
According to later bankruptcy court records (see below), "Israel Arms International coordinated selection and ordering of rifle parts from vendors and arranged for subsequent assembly of rifle parts by third parties." Like prior commercial manufacturers, IAI initially used surplus GI parts and surplus parts from prior commercial manufacturers as much as possible. The source for these parts varied at different times and in different quantities. IAI obtained them wherever and whenever they could find them. Also like the other commercial carbine manufacturers, they eventually contracted various companies to manufacture carbine parts for them.
Parts, Barrels, Stocks, Receivers, & Assembly
Larry Douglas Horner (1942-2005) was a gunsmith with a specialty in M1 Carbines who owned and operated Liberty Armory in Liberty, TX. Horner was a member of the Carbine Club and known well by many of the Club's members, one of which included Larry Ruth, author of War Baby! and War Baby Comes Home. What follows in this section related to Larry Horner was partially provided to this author by Larry Ruth and added to this research. The information Horner shared with Ruth was from the perspective of a carbine gunsmith who had been hired to assemble M1 Carbines. Horner was unaware of the day to day operations of Nahman, Shney, Firearms International, or IAI.
Nahman arranged for the parts and receivers to be delivered to Horner in Liberty, TX. After assembling the carbines Horner forwarded the completed carbines to IAI in Houston, TX. Production levels were very low and slow the first couple years, increasing in volume about 1998. Horner's armory was a one man operation in rural Texas. Horner would eventually assemble all of the carbines sold by IAI throughout their time in business 1996-2003 (approx. 12,750 carbines).
IAI used surplus GI M1 Carbine parts as long as they could find them at a competitive cost to their commercial equivalents. Otherwise they acquired commercially manufactured equivalents. Some of these were obtained in bulk from various suppliers (like Numrich Gun Parts or Sarco) or manufacturers, some were manufactured under contract to IAI. Where they acquired the parts varied over time. One source of a number of sources was Mil-Spec Industries Corp. of Roslyn Heights, NY.
Some of the parts were likely manufactured and/or machined by SMI-MA Inc of Worcester, MA. SMI-MA Inc. is part of the Saeilo Group, who owns and operates a number of CNC machinery facilities throughout the USA, Kahr Arms, and Auto-Ordnance, amongst others. This company will be discussed in further detail later, under barrels, receivers, and the demise of IAI.
IAI's barrels were manufactured by Green Mountain Rifle Barrel Co. of Conway, NH. They were machined by SMI-MA Inc. Worcester, MA. M1 Carbine barrels manufactured by Green Mountain are easy to identify by examining the gas piston housing area. The barrel increases in diameter slightly in front of the gas piston housing. The shape of the gas piston housing is unique to these barrels. The gas piston housing was cast, the injection hole was located on the right side of the gas piston housing.
Barrels utilized a swaged cast gas piston housing
Initially IAI's stocks included the option of walnut. In later production, some of their stocks were made from birch and stained to look like walnut. The stocks were manufactured by Boyd's Gunstock Industries of Mitchell, SD.
Horner indicated the first receivers sent to him were surplus Iver Johnson's Arms M1 Carbine receivers.
Many of these receivers have "Made in Spain" on the left side of receiver below the stock line. They were investment cast by Electro Crisol Metal, S.A. (ECRIMESA) in Santander, Spain (See below for further details). The receivers were cast using the tooling and mold used to manufacture the previous receivers.
The serial numbers on these have the letter R added as a prefix to the serial number. Serial numbers were engraved onto the flat left side of the receiver. This serial number marking pattern continued through the end of production.
The markings on top of the receiver behind the rear sight changed on these receivers. The receivers were cast using the tooling and mold used to manufacture the previous receivers. These do not indicate Made in Spain
Notice different non GI rear sights and Hou Tx obscured by rear sights