Universal Firearms

Post WWII Commercially Manufactured M1 Carbines (U.S.A.)










 



Part II: Universal Changes


Universal's Major Design Overhaul - Their M1 Carbine becomes the Universal Firearms Carbine

Introduction

As the availability of GI surplus parts dwindled commercial equivalents were manufactured. Several parts, such as the slide, were difficult to machine correctly. Commercial manufacturers began encountering a number of problems previously encountered by those who had initially designed and redesigned parts for the .30 caliber carbines during and after WWII. These issues were not specific to Universal Firearms and can be encountered by any company intent on making a functional replica of the U.S. carbines made during WWII. As with most firearms each design has it's strengths and weaknesses and the original carbine design was no exception.

Universal's solution to these problems was to significantly redesign their carbines. To a degree the end result should no longer be viewed as a replica of the U.S. .30 caliber carbine, Model M1. While similar in appearance and using the same cartridge the majority of their carbine and it's parts were no longer interchangeable with parts used with their earlier carbines, the replica carbines made by other manufacturers and the surplus GI parts for the original U.S. carbines.

This major change has been the cause of much criticism as Universal's hybrid has historically been compared to carbines of the design of the U.S. carbines. The change did create a number of minor problems Universal worked out over time. Of the 420,000+ carbines manufactured by Universal 1962-1984 over 350,000 of them were their hybrid version manufactured 1967-1984. If the hybrid design was flawed to the degree some have claimed no company would have survived this long making only their hybrid carbines.

Abe Seiderman, inventor of the design, authored a letter to customers giving an overview of some of the changes and why they were made. The letter may be viewed here: Comparing Virtues of Universal's .30 caliber Carbine to Others.

Carbine DesignSerial NumbersYearsQuantity Produced
Universal Firearms U.S. M1 Carbine Replicas: 2,000-99,999 1962-1967approx. 97,000
Universal Firearms Hybrid Carbine: 100,000 and up 1967-1984350,000+

One adverse effect of this design change didn't become an issue until several years after Universal was no longer in business. Replacement parts can sometimes be hard to find. As of 2017 most parts can still be obtained. A few of the parts are now manufactured by several different companies given the quantity of Universal hybrids still in use. Other parts can be obtained from various used parts dealers. These parts and their sources will be discussed throughout this text.

The Design

In September 1966 Universal Firearms Corp. and inventor Abe Seiderman, applied for a patent for a "Combination Manual and Automatic Bolt Action for Firearm". The title of the patent can be misleading, as the gas piston was just one small part of this overall significant redesign of the carbine manufactured by Universal. The patent was issued #3,382,766 in May 1968. Universal did not implement all of the design changes indicated in this patent at the same time. Most were included on the carbines manufactured by the late 1960's, some in the early 1970's.


Combination Manual and Automatic Bolt Action for Firearm Patent (link)


Twin recoil springs, square gas chamber (Fig. 1 #21) heliarced to the barrel

The "Combination Manual and Automatic Bolt Action" was a two piece gas piston (refer Fig. 4 #24 & #25, below) that was selectable for semi-automatic fire or single shots, requiring manual operation of the slide to extract the empty casing and chamber a live round. The pin in the gas housing goes through the forward half of the piston, securing both pieces. By removing the pin, the forward half of the piston can be rotated 180 degrees and pinned back in place, opening or closing the gas flow to select the mode of fire.


piston in open position for semi-auto fire

piston in closed position for single shot bolt action fire


Universal's Recoil Slide, the Best Visible Clue as to What Lies Inside

Universal used GI or GI compatible slides up until the time they switched to the new design. The GI style slide has a handle that is solid. If you see a Universal carbine with a slide that has a solid handle, the gas system, recoil system, receiver, and barrel are the GI style with the one recoil spring.

The slide that Universal used to replace the GI style slide fits only Universal's redesigned carbine. This slide will not fit on any other carbine made by anyone else. It will also not fit on the Universal carbines that have the GI style gas and recoil system. This slide was specifically designed to work with the Universal two spring recoil system. There are variations to this Universal slide, but all of them have one obvious trait that makes them easy to identify. Universal cut the opening on the inside of the slide handle (that engages the bolt) all the way through the handle, making an obvious hole in the slide handle (Fig. 1 #7 above) for the bolt to engage.


GI slide with solid handle = GI type innards

Universal slide with hole in handle = Universal's redesigned innards

As mentioned above, Universal's modified slide with the hole for the bolt lug had several variations. If the need arises to replace this slide, it is important to know which of these variations your carbine uses. The variations are not interchangeable. Unlike the GI style slides, none of the newly designed Universal slides have any means to lock the slide/bolt open.

The Universal Firearms Set Screw Style Slide

In the photograph above left, close examination of the slide groove in the right side of the receiver reveals the GI style disassembly notch for removing the slide from the receiver (notch between the rear sight mount and bolt opening). Compare this to the receiver on the carbine in the photograph above right and you will see this disassembly notch is no longer present. The lack of this disassembly notch is also depicted in figure 1 of the patent.

This slide has a screw between the handle and the bolt opening. The diagram in the patent does not show this, however, the narrative on the first page of the patent text states the rear side of the slide has a channel parallel to the receiver channel that contains a "fixed rectangular key" (Fig. 5 #18) that is inserted into the receiver groove from the rear when the slide is in place, slides forward under the slide, and is held in place between the slide groove and the receiver groove by a "removable stop", which the text indicates is not shown in the diagram. This rectangular key guides the slide down the receiver groove. Loss of this small rectangular key, effectively makes the slide and bolt not function in semi-automatic mode.


"key" slides down receiver groove & under slide,
held in place by set screw

Underside of the slide showing a small groove, the key,
and the set screw that holds they key in place

To remove the slide from the receiver the screw is disengaged, allowing the rectangular key to slide out and be retrieved. The slide can then be removed from the receiver and disassembly continued. To reassemble the slide to the receiver, mount the slide on the receiver with the bolt lug inside the slide hole. Slide the rectangular key down the receiver groove and under the slide, leaving sufficient room for it to be secured by inserting the screw into the slide.

These slides have no mechanism by which to lock the slide back and bolt open.

The set screw style slide started at s/n 100,000 and was eliminated about s/n 109,000. It appears it was used less than a year.

Download the Universal M-1 Carbine manual circa 1968
(covers models with slide set screw and key)
(PDF format, 6.5MB high resolution scan)

The Universal Notch Style Slides

Starting at about s/n 109,9xx the slide was redesigned replacing the screw and key with an integral protrusion that slid back and forth down the slide groove in the receiver, similar to the GI style slide. A slide disassembly notch was added to the Universal receivers. The slide is removed in the same manner as a GI style slide. This slide was used until the end of production.

These slides have no mechanism by which to lock the slide back and bolt open.


Slide key & set screw replaced by a slide disassembly notch in the receiver and a
permanent fixed protrusion that guided the slide along the groove in the receiver.

A change in barrel design resulted in two different versions of this slide. One was designed to fit barrels that were round on the sides, the other to fit barrels that were squared and flat along the sides.


Universal slide for round barrels

Universal slide for square barrels


Provided courtesy of Mark Cerasuolo
Download the Universal M-1 Carbine manual circa 1970
(covers models with slide that had integrated slide key)
(PDF format, 3.1MB high resolution scan)


Final Change to the Universal Markings & their Layout

About 1968 Universal made one final change to the markings they used on their carbines and where they were located. These markings remained unchanged throughout the rest of Universal's existence. The change did not take place at a particular serial number. Use was sporadic starting at s/n 125,000. It became the standard by s/n 129,000.

Universal name & location with patent number on receiver ring,
serial number behind rear sight.

A New Set of Model Numbers

Universal had two basic sets of model numbers, none of which were indicated on the actual carbines. Carbines manufactured and sold in the early and mid 1960's had one set of model numbers (see above). Carbines manufactured and sold 1968 and later used a different set of model numbers. Not all of the carbines in the second sequence appeared at the same time. Model numbers were added and dropped between 1968 and 1988 as the different styles and variations were introduced or dropped from Universal's line.

Presenting these model numbers piecemeal as they came and went easily causes confusion. For this reason all of the model numbers 1968-1988 appear in the one chart below. The source for each model is one or more original Universal catalogs between 1968 and 1980, referenced in the far right column and detailed at the bottom of the chart. Part III of this text provides photographs and more detailed information on specific models.

ModelDescriptionStockHandguardFinishMisc.Source
1000 .30 caliber standard carbineAmerican hardwood  matching woodsatin blued 1, 2
1001 .30 caliber standard carbineAmerican hardwoodmetal ventilated  satin bluedsling and oiler3
1002 .30 caliber carbine military styleAmerican hardwoodmetal ventilatedsatin bluedbarrel band w/ bayonet lug  2, 3
1003 .30 caliber standard carbineAmerican hardwoodmetal ventilatedsatin bluedbarrel band w/ bayonet lug3
1004 .30 caliber standard carbineAmerican hardwoodmetal ventilatedsatin bluedwith scope & mount3
1005 .30 caliber standard carbinewalnut Monte Carlomatching wooddeluxe blued 1, 2
1006 .30 caliber standard carbineBirchmetal ventilatedstainless steel 4
1010 .30 caliber deluxe carbinestandardmatching woodnickel plated 1, 2, 3
1011 .30 caliber deluxe carbineMonte Carlomatching woodnickel plated 3
1015 .30 caliber deluxe carbinestandardmatching woodgold plated 1, 2, 3
1016 .30 caliber deluxe carbineMonte Carlomatching woodgold plated 3
1020 .30 caliber Teflon-S coated carbine  Monte Carlomatching woodCamouflage Olive 1
1021 .30 caliber Teflon-S coated carbineMonte Carlomatching woodLeaf Green 1
1022 .30 caliber Teflon-S coated carbineMonte Carlomatching woodAzure Blue 1
1023 .30 caliber Teflon-S coated carbineMonte Carlomatching woodDesert Tan 1
1024 .30 caliber Teflon-S coated carbineMonte Carlomatching woodRaven Black 1
1025 .256 caliber FerretMonte Carlomatching woodbright blued4x scope & mount1, 3
1026 .30 caliber FerretMonte Carlomatching woodbright blued4x scope & mount2
  1941 "Field Commander"  .30 caliber deluxe carbinewalnut Monte Carlomatching woodblued steel 3
2200 "Leatherneck".22 Long Rifle standard carbineBirch hardwoodmetal ventilated satin blue 4
2560.256 caliber deluxe carbineMonte Carlomatching wood  high gloss bright blue  scope & mount4
3000 .30 caliber Enforcer pistolAmerican hardwood blued finish 1, 2, 3
3005 .30 caliber Enforcer pistolAmerican hardwood nickel plated 1, 2, 3
3010 .30 caliber Enforcer pistolAmerican hardwood gold plated 1, 2, 3
3300.30 caliber GI carbineAmerican hardwoodmetal ventilatedsatin blue 4
Commemorative.30 caliber GI carbineselect black walnutmetal ventilatedparkerizedsee narrative4
(1) 1969-1970 Universal Firearms catalog
(2) 1972 Universal Firearms catalog
(3) March 1976 Universal Sporting Goods catalog & price list
(4) War Baby Comes Home by Larry Ruth (from a Universal catalog circa 1980)

The Vulcan slide action .44 magnum carbine was apparently discontinued before the publication of the catalog for 1969-1970.

The download for the Owner's Manual used 1978-1983 is available at "Maxicon.com". Maxicon includes further information on the Universal carbines, including an accessories catalog from the late 1970's.

Changes & Dark Days
1969-1972

Universal Container Corporation and Mondex Inc.

Early in 1969 Universal Firearms was purchased by Universal Container Corporation, a division of Mondex Inc., an investment corporation with publicly traded stock. Abe Seiderman was retained under contract to operate the manufacturing plant. Mondex Inc. of Madison Ave. in New York City invested in a variety of businesses in Florida during the same time period with most having to do with real estate.

In May 1969 Universal Firearms Corporation notified Florida they had changed the company name to Universal Sporting Goods 3740-3746 E. 10th Ct, Hialeah, FL. Yearly corporate tax forms beginning September 1970 identify the company as Universal Sporting Goods Inc. at the same address. The corporate tax form submitted in November 1970 identifies Seymour Sommerstein as President, Robert Sommerstein Vice-President, Paul Bines Vice-President of Sales, with Abe Seiderman as Vice-President of Manufacturing and Secretary. Four Mondex employees were added to management. Warren Trilling of New York City as Treasurer, Lee Ledford of New York City as Asst. Secretary along with two new Directors.

The name "Universal Firearms Corp." remained on the catalogs, boxes, and user manuals.

Changes

Management at Universal Container Corp. implemented a number of changes in the manufacture of the Universal Firearms carbines that were likely intended to reduce overhead costs and increase their profits. The changes included the use of cast parts with improper hardening of both cast parts and parts milled from forged steel. Seiderman wrote letters to the decision makers explaining why the changes should not be made. Their final decisions prompted Seiderman to refuse to work in the same building with them.

In December of 1970 Paul Bines filed for incorporation of Dynamic Merchandise at 13004 SW 87th Ave in Miami with Bines as President, Abe Seiderman as Vice-President and their wives as corporate officers. The articles of incorporation for Dynamic Merchandise state the business would be what the name describes, a dynamic merchandiser. The records say nothing about firearms.

Seiderman was still under contract to Universal Container Corp. but operated from the 87th Ave. building of Dynamic Merchandise as Universal's VP of Mfg and Secretary from a distance. Seiderman and Bines started retail sales from this location selling Universal carbines concurrent to the carbines being sold and shipped by Universal Container Corp. from the Universal Firearms facility. Seiderman modified the Universal Firearms carbines he sold to correct what he viewed as deficiencies in the changes made by Universal Container Corp.

Examples from Changes Implemented by Universal Container Corp. 1969-1972

To keep things in perspective, the photographs that follow are 3 of approximately 70,000-80,000 carbines manufactured between 1969 and 1972. Not all of the carbines made during this time had these issues.

We do not know the first serial number after Universal Container Corp. took control of Universal Firearms, the serial numbers of the carbines when changes were made the changes made. As you will read below we do know these issues stopped when Seiderman bought the company in 1975 with Seiderman starting his serial numbers at 300,000 to separate the carbines he made from those made under the management of Universal Container Corp.

Serial numbers between approx. 130,000 and 299,999
If you own a Universal Firearms .30 caliber Carbine within this serial number block it is strongly recommended you examine and continue to examine the barrel in the area of the gas piston for any damage to the barrel. If you find even a small amount of damage do not fire the weapon. Any doubts whatsoever should be addressed by examination of the carbine by a competent gunsmith. Keep in mind these particular carbines are also now over 40 years old and well used firearms.

Understanding a Few Basic Concepts
The position, angle and diameter of the hole in the barrel known as the gas port is critical to the operation of the carbine. Likewise the dimensions of the interior of the gas piston housing/cylinder, the dimensions and weight of the gas piston, the distance the gas piston travels and a number of other factors are also critical not only to the function of the carbine but also to the safety when firing the carbine. Altering any of these can create a snowball affect on everything that depends on the proper operation of these parts. The photographs that follow are a good example of this.

Universal Firearms .30 caliber Carbine s/n 165165

The indentation in the barrel below made by the gas piston could have been caused by one or more of a number of things.
Examples include improper hardening of the barrel or gas piston. An oversized or undersized gas port creating higher
pressure within the gas chamber. Whatever the cause if you see damage to the barrel from the gas piston the weapon
should not be fired and examined by a gunsmith,


Universal Firearms .30 caliber Carbine s/n 173297

The owner of this carbine saw the damage as seen above.
Then decided to give the gas piston more room to operate.


On his next trip to the range he exercised caution with distance. On firing the gas piston housing separated from the barrel.
Fortunately the slide absorbed most of the impact preventing the gas piston housing from penetrating the stock. There were
no injuries but the damage made this carbine scrap for parts. Note the size of the gas port hole. It appears too large
but the dimensions of the gas chamber it fed into and the gas piston it operated also figure into the equation.

Universal Firearms .30 caliber Carbine s/n 179907

This carbine is a good example of not having enough information to draw any conclusions as to the cause.
Most would assume the weld securing the gas housing to the barrel failed. The question may be why
did the weld fail? After seeing the two carbines above what do you think?

Important Lessons to Pay Attention Too...

(1) Maintain, inspect and respect your firearms. Leave repairs to those qualified to do them. Hospital bills are rarely less expensive than a gunsmith.

(2) ALL commercial firearms sold for civilian use have been and still are built by companies we rely on to exercise due diligence in manufacturing a safe firearm. Every single one of these companies needs to make a profit to survive. Most all go through financial good times and bad times. Most maintain due diligence in making a safe firearm. A few don't. As in this case, a few get bought by investors who make decisions that can cause injuries and/or destroy a brand name.

(3) The timing of the investors and their decisions in relation to Universal's change to a hybrid carbine design has been a strong contributing factor to a never ending bad reputation not only to the brand name but also to the hybrid design. The hybrid design garnered criticism for a number of reasons especially with collectors and owners of the U.S. .30 caliber Carbines manufactured under contract to Ordnance during WWII. While it used the same ammunition and retained a resemblance the hybrid was no longer an M1 Carbine. Different doesn't necessarily mean better or worse. It means different.

Keep in mind Universal existed from 1962-1984 manufacturing over 480,000 carbines. Over 350,000 of their carbines were their hybrid design. Manufactured for many years after the carbines shown above.

(4) Every part on every gun has a lifespan. Universal hasn't made a carbine since 1984. Their carbines are no longer Universal carbines as much as they are a used firearm. A "jam", "misfeed", catastrophic failure and much more may have nothing to do with who made it and everything to do with who used it, and possibly abused it, over the years. See (1) above.

So the history continued ....


Universal adds a Unique Slide Lock to hold the Bolt Open and Changes their Bolt

In the early 1970's about s/n 185500 Universal introduced a lever on the right side of the receiver to hold the slide back and bolt open. This change became their standard by s/n 198000. The lever had a small round ball on top to enhance leverage and grip. The ball was eliminated towards the end of production at about s/n 470000 leaving a straight pin lever. A word of caution: DO NOT remove the ball, lever or opposite end inside the receiver. They can easily become lost while experiencing a fair amount of frustration trying to get them back into the receiver. Replacements are virtually non-existent.


Lever for locking slide back & bolt open


Rotating the lever allows the extension inside the receiver to
engage a notch in the bolt to hold the slide back and bolt open.

At the same time the bolt hold open mechanism was added Universal changed the design of their bolts. Bolts used prior to this change were based on the GI design of a floating firing pin. The firing pin of the GI design has a tang at the rear that engaged a slot milled in the receiver bridge to hold the firing pin in the rear of the bolt until the bolt had fully rotated and locked. As with most firing pin designs the floating firing pins have strengths and weaknesses. The design has been commonly used in military weapons given the use and environment for which they are intended.

The change implemented by Universal eliminated the tang on the back of the firing pin and the need for proper machining of the receiver bridge that engaged the tang. The proper machining of this bridge has been a challenge for most all commercial manufacturers since their beginning. One of the common negative comments about the Universal carbines is this change eliminated one of two safety designs that prevent the firing pin from striking the primer before the bolt has fully rotated and locked. The change didn't eliminate this safety feature, it simply changed the design to a different design commonly used in semi-automatic firearms to hold the firing pin in the rear of the bolt until struck by the hammer. As with the floating firing pin design this design also has it's strengths and weaknesses but has long been accepted as a safe means of accomplishing the same goal.

Abe Seiderman, inventor of the design change, authored a letter explaining the changes and why they were made. The letter may be viewed here: G.I. Type Tang Firing Pin.

These changes further distanced the Universal carbines from the design of the U.S. carbines but enhanced the abilities of the Universal carbine hybrid. The downside is this change eliminated compatibility with the GI bolts or bolts made to GI specifications. Universal carbines having the slide lock lever are not compatible with any bolt other than those made by Universal as a result of this change.

Abe Seiderman Takes Over
1975, Serial Number 300,000

In June 1974 Universal Sporting Goods filed a change of address with Florida, indicating a new address of 7920 NW 76th Ave., Medley, FL (part of Miami). Employees of Mondex Inc. became the president, vice-president, and directors. The State of Florida Division of Corporations records show Dynamic Merchandise Inc. relocated to 3740 E. 10th Court, Hialeah, FL 33013 (Universal Firearms facility) in May of 1975.

In 1978 Abe Seiderman authored a notice that went out to many different distributors and customers due to the damage caused to the Universal Firearms brand name with the carbines built under Universal Container Corp. 1969-1972. This notice addressed the issues that had been corrected and provides a glimpse into the company's history during this time period.

Download the letter authored by Abe Seiderman
explaining his purchase of Universal Firearms in 1975
and the work done under Universal Container Corp.
(PDF format)

The U.S. Patent Office and Florida patent records indicate in February 1976 "Dynamic Merchandise dba Universal Firearms Incorporated" applied for, and obtained, a trademark for the name "Universal Firearms".

It appears Universal Container Corp. and Mondex didn't voluntarily walk away from Universal Firearms. In October 1978 Mondex Inc. incorporated "Universal Firearms, Inc." at 8397 NE Second Ave. in Miami. This corporation was voluntarily dissolved 7 months later by Mondex in May 1979. In December 1979 Universal Sporting Goods notified Florida their corporation had been dissolved.

About the time of the dissolution of Universal Sporting Goods, the name "Universal Firearms Corp." again appeared on their catalogs, boxes, owner's manuals, etc. However, the name and address on these items was changed to Dynamic Merchandise 3740 E. 10th Court, Hialeah, FL 33013. The Universal Firearms logo was changed to the one depicted above with the link to Seiderman's notice.

A side note. Seymour Sommerstein no longer appeared in the records affiliated with any of these companies after 1973. In January 1974 Sommerstein incorporated Armsport Inc. at 3590 NW 49th ST., Miami FL 33142. Armsport was a major importer of firearms, many of which were manufactured in Italy. Armsport Inc. was dissolved in January 2007.


A .22 long rifle Conversion Kit, and a new Carbine Model

In April 1978 Universal Firearms Corp. and inventor Abe Seiderman, applied for a patent for a "Conversion Kit for Semiautomatic carbines". This was for converting an M1 carbine to .22 caliber by replacing key components making the carbine a straight blowback gas operated .22 caliber M1 carbine. The patent was issued September 1980 Patent #4,220,071.


.22 Conversion Kit for Semiautomatic carbines Patent (link)

In 1979 Universal introduced the Model 2200 Leatherneck Carbine in caliber .22LR. This was the incarnation of the carbine described in the .22 Conversion Kit patent and basically a Model 1003 converted to .22 caliber. The Model 2200 Leatherneck Carbine was the same dimensions and weight as the Model 1003 GI carbine. While widely advertised an example of this model has yet to be found.

Part I: The Early Years

Part III: Universal Sale and Universal Redux

Part IV: Details on Specific Models