(This website is not affiliated with any company, it is an attempt to reconstruct their history)
Part I: The Early Years
More than 426,000 carbines were manufactured by Universal Firearms over a 25 year period from 1961 through 1986. This was 10 years longer and more than three times the quantity manufactured by any other commercial carbine manufacturer. In the beginning the first Universal Firearms carbines were 100% compatible with surplus GI carbine parts, their carbines included many of these parts. As with every other commercial carbine manufacturer, as surplus GI carbine parts became scarce, Universal Firearms began using commercially manufactured substitutes. Unlike other commercial carbine manufacturers, some of the commercially manufactured parts used by Universal Firearms were eventually compatible with the Universal Firearms carbines only and not interchangeable with their surplus GI counterparts.
In 1967 beginning with serial number 100,000 Universal Firearms implemented a major design change to the carbines they produced. The design had been patented by Universal and the majority of parts were no longer compatible with their GI counterparts. The design change was significant enough that the carbine it produced was no longer an "M1 Carbine". What makes a carbine an M1 Carbine is the use of the design and parts of the original U.S. M1 Carbine, as set forth by U.S. Army Ordnance in the 1940's and early 1950's. The Universal Carbine retained the overall outward appearance and ammunition of the U.S. M1 Carbine, but the internal design and parts were a hybrid replica of the M1 Carbine.
Over the years many M1 Carbine enthusiasts and collectors have had a poor opinion of the carbines produced by Universal Firearms. Some complained about the design changes, some claiming the changes were unsafe as they did not meet the standards set forth by U.S. Army Ordnance. Many companies in the history of firearms have manufactured "carbines" of various different designs, operating actions, calibers, etc. None comparable to the standards of a U.S. M1 Carbine simply because they were not based on the design and changes approved by U.S. Army Ordnance for the Caliber .30 M1, Carbine. Different is not the same as better or worsse. Confusing this issue is the fact the first 8000 carbines manufactured by Universal Firearms were of the same design as the U.S. M1 Carbine and most of the parts were interchangeable with surplus GI carbine parts.
Many owners of the carbines manufactured by Universal Firearms have enjoyed them for many years without encountering any problems. As with any other firearm, every part thereon and therein has a lifespan. All semi-automatic centerfire rifles share a number of common safety features that should be inspected periodically and when buying a used one. With a used gun, it's not the name on the firearm that matters as much as having a competent mechanic check under the hood before we drive it.
All of this should be kept in mind if and when you may encounter negative comments regarding the carbines manufactured by Universal Firearms. Investigations conducted by this author have found the majority of complaints were either not from first hand experience, did not include examination by a knowledgeable person to determine exactly why something went wrong (think semi-auto rifle gas systems, headspace, poor quality or worn out magazines), or one complaint was posted on an internet discussion forum and quoted on a dozen others making it sound like more than one. The issues discovered with a Universal Carbine or Universal M1 Carbine have been consistent with all commercially manufactured carbines, regardless of who made them. Refer to the Safety issues page on this website. Remember, a used semi-auto rifle requires more maintenance and safety inspections than most other firearms. Also keep in mind that if the carbines manufactured by Universal Firearms were as bad as the rumors, how did they manage to stay in business so long and make so many carbines?
Universal Firearms Corporation
Part I: The Early Years
Florida corporate records show Universal Firearms incorporated in Florida in June 1961. The articles of incorporation identified the directors as the corporate attorneys of the law office that submitted the application. The first indication of the actual corporate directors appears on the corporate tax return for 1962, dated July 1962. The president was Seymour Sommerstein, vice-president Robert Sommerstein, executive vice-president Jerry Resnick, and secretary-treasurer Abe Seiderman. The business location is indicated as 3746 E 10th Ct, Hialeah, FL. Starting with the corporate tax records for 1964, dated July 1963, Jerry Resnick no longer appears affiliated with Universal.
So far, the first indication that Universal was manufacturing M1 carbines appears in the April 1, 1962 issue of Shotgun News, within an advertisement for Southern Gun Distributors of Miami. Notice the ad states the receiver was manufactured from "4135 certified forging", meaning forged steel as opposed to cast metal.
Shotgun News, April 1, 1962
Gun Digest is an annual publication whose 1st Edition was in 1946. Each issue is divided into specific sections. One section includes chapters devoted to new firearms, a large section depicting current manufactured firearms and their information, and another section that is a directory listing that includes firearm manufacturers. The chapter devoted to new rifles in the 18th Edition pp. 225-226 (published in late 1963, for 1964) introduces the Vulcan 440 slide action .44 magnum carbine manufactured by Universal Firearms Corporation. The primary focus is the Vulcan, but the article states Universal also "now offers" a commercial duplicate of the .30 caliber M1 carbine. Interestingly, the article states Universal's M1 carbine used all new commercially manufactured parts. This means Gun Digest's author had not examined the actual carbine. The rifle depicted in the photograph below the article is not the Vulcan 440, it's their M1 carbine, which the caption calls "Universal's new M1 carbine" (below). The section on currently manufactured firearms does not include Universal's rifles. Universal Firearms Corp. is listed in the the arms manufacturer directory in the back of the book.
The statements in the Sloan's ads in August 1962 and Gun Digest's chapter on new rifles in 1963/1964, that Universal's M1 carbines were being manufactured using all new commercially manufactured parts, may indicate their M1 carbines were being advertised before they were actually available in any quantity.
1964 18th Edition Gun Digest (published in late 1963)
Universal Firearms Vulcan 440 pump action .44 magnum
In August 1964 Bullseye Gun Works notified Florida the corporation had been dissolved. Resnick continued doing business as Bullseye Inc. the gun shop. For further information on Bullseye Gun Works, refer to the page on this website dedicated to Bullseye Gun Works.
The first data for the Universal Firearms M1 carbine appears in the 1965 19th Edition of Gun Digest.
Over the course of the company's lifespan, Universal changed the markings and their layout on their carbine receivers several times. The first set of markings used by Universal began at the beginning of production, continued until sometime after s/n 276xx, and changed sometime before s/n 405xx.
A few very early Universal carbines have trigger housings manufactured during WWII for the GI carbines. Within the first two years, Universal began production of an aluminum trigger housing, somewhat similar to the GI trigger housings. Within a year, Universal redesigned their M1 carbine trigger housings again. Carbines with this redesigned trigger housing appear as early as s/n 1875x and appear to have been used exclusively s/n 445xx and later. This redesigned trigger housing was also manufactured from aluminum. The sides of the housing were thickened and run parallel front to back, giving the housing an overall rectangular shape. This trigger housing required the stock be cut to allow room for the larger trigger housing, making the GI stocks no longer interchangeable with the Universal stocks. The Universal trigger housing does not fit inside any stock other than the Universal stock, unless several significant modifications are made to the wood of the non-Universal stock.
Aluminum is not a metal that can be blued or parkerized like the rest of the carbine. Universal painted their trigger housings black. With continued use over time the paint may flake off. If this happens, it can be repaired by simple sanding and repainting the trigger housing. You might want to use a semi-gloss black bar-b-que paint or something like Brownell's Aluma-Hyde II, which is made for aluminum and a variety of other surfaces. The web page showing this product has links to several instructional videos that are worth watching, no matter what you use. They are a good example of how to use spray paint. They also have good on cold bluing and removing rust that apply to all products, not just their own.
The Shooter's Bible was another annual publication devoted to hunting, currently manufactured firearms, and accessories. The 57th issue 1966 (published late 1965) depicts the "Universal .30 M1 Carbine", the "Universal .30 caliber Pistol", and the Vulcan .44 magnum rifle. The description of the ".30 caliber Pistol" indicates the receiver was manufactured from "4140 certified forging". The photograph clearly shows this predecessor of Universal's Enforcer Model used the GI type barrel band. The .30 M1 Carbine drawing appears the same as the one in the 1964 Gun Digest, clearly showing a GI type barrel band with attached bayonet lug. As you will see below, the parts sometimes help to identify the time period a particular Universal carbine was made.
57th Issue The Shooter's Bible - 1966 published in late 1965
Notice the hand guard, barrel band, and sights, these later changed.
Another early change implemented by Universal was elimination of the GI front sight that used a key between the top of the barrel and a groove in the underside of the top of the sight, with the sight held in place by a retaining pin. They replaced the front sight with a commercially manufactured model that was held in place by a set screw in the top of the sight. This made the removal and installation of the front sight easier, but if it is ever removed and reinstalled it tends to come loose when the carbine is fired. Front sights that are very difficult to remove, if not impossible, may have been cemented to the barrel by a previous owner. If you remove and replace the front sight, it is strongly recommended the set screw be treated with a thread lock substance that will hold it in place but not make it impossible to remove (e.g. Loctite Threadlocker Green)
Front sight set screw used mid 60's & later (first observed on s/n 338xx)
In September 1964 Universal Firearms Corp. and inventor, Abe Seiderman, applied for a patent for a "Stock Lock Device". This was a round barrel band for a newly designed M1 carbine stock. The stock tapered down at the forend, allowing the round barrel band to secure the handguard, barrel, and stock together. The band was secured to the stock using a set screw in the bottom of the band. Patent #3,208,178 issued September 1965. The first carbine utilizing this device was introduced in 1966.
Stock Lock Device Patent
Universal's Detachable Scope Mount
In October 1967 Universal Firearms Corp. and inventor Abe Seiderman, applied for a patent for a "Detachable Mount for Telescopic Gun Sights". Patent #3,424,420 issued January 1969. The left side of the receiver was drilled and tapped on most models after the scope mount was introduced. The stock was altered to accommodate the scope mount. When the mount was not in place, a soft piece of plastic snapped into the holes in the receiver and filled the gap between the receiver and the stock.
The scope mount holes, stock cut for the mount and plastic insert had become standard on all carbines manufactured by Universal Firearms during the Fall of 1964 (about s/n 41000).
Detachable Mount for Telescopic Gun Sights Patent
Universal's detachable scope mount
The model designations and carbines depicted in the following table are believed to be circa 1966 and prior.
|30 M-1 B||GI type||American Blk Walnut||satin blue||no||no||GI model|
|30 M-1 A||round||hardwood||bright blue||yes||no||(not like the GI M1A1 carbine)|
|30 M-1 BN||round||hardwood||nickel plated||yes||no||M-1 A, silver "presentation" name plate|
|30 M-1 BB||round||American Blk Walnut||high gloss bright blue||yes||no|
|30 M-1 OS||round||American Blk Walnut, Monte Carlo||high gloss bright blue||yes||no||M-1 BB, adjustable folding rear sight, ramp front sight w/ gold bead|
|30 M-1 BG||round||American Blk Walnut||24k gold plated||yes||no||M-1 BB, gold "presentation" name plate|
|256 Ferret A||round||American Blk Walnut||high gloss bright blue||yes||yes||M-1 BB in caliber .256 Ferret, no sights, tapered bbl|
|30 Cal Ferret||round||American Blk Walnut||high gloss bright blue||yes||yes||M-1 BB in caliber .30 carbine, no sights, tapered bbl|
|Enforcer B||round||American Blk Walnut w/ pistol grip||high gloss bright blue||no||no||M-1 BB in a shortened "pistol" version|
|Enforcer BN||round||American Blk Walnut w/ pistol grip||nickel plated||no||no||Enforcer B, silver "presentation" name plate|
|Enforcer BG||round||American Blk Walnut w/ pistol grip||gold plated||no||no||Enforcer B, gold "presentation" name plate|
|Vulcan 440||none||American Blk Walnut||high gloss bright blue||yes||no||.44 Mag pump, adjustable rear sight, ramp front sight w/ gold bead|
|*Model designations do not appear on the Universal carbines|
The above carbines and those prior were built using many GI carbine parts. The number of companies using the surplus GI parts to build carbines eventually led to a shortage of
GI parts in the later 1960's. As a particular part became unavailable, Universal manufactured or subcontracted for the manufacture of a replacement.