Here's an excellent history of the Universal company, along with details on the various versions: Universal Firearms started out as Bullseye in , and later changed their name to Universal Firearms. 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 Firearms Corporation
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.
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Universal M1 Carbine Generations. Be sure to check http: Started with SN 0, ended between 93xxx - xxx: The transition in production between first generation and second generation is somewhere between 93xxx and xxx. Started between SN 93xxx - xxx, ended between SN xxx and xxx. 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.
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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 xxx and xxx. Started between SN xxx and xxx, went until end of production.
UNIVERSAL M1 CARBINE ?
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 xxx.
Here are some detailed posts on the firing out of battery issue: For the first generation rifles, most parts are USGI: Thus we got the infamous and much detested and reviled "late Universal", the true bottom feeder of the carbine world. These steaming steel turds can be quickly identified by the stamped and welded operating rod handle, which has a hole in the middle of it that you can see the right bolt lug through. They also have dual as in 2 little schitty recoil springs instead of the single recoil spring of the military and mil-spec carbines.http://mail.mccurdycandler.com/143.php
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I have a late Universal that I bought new Big5 in Contrary to what gets posted on the net based on one actual story where a late Universal fired out of battery, I've never had a problem with mine after many thousands of rounds. I never knew it was a POS until I read it on the net After reading how they can fire out of battery any gun can if it's not right I tested mine and it won't pop a primer until the bolt is damn near closed.
Same as my GI carbines. The bolt carrier is a poor money saving design that will crack someday but it hasn't yet on mine. I tried some KCI 15RD magazines and it wouldn't lock into place, but my dad was able to get it into place, but when I try it it wont lock, any ideas? No problem with mags fitting but some don't feed well.
GI mags work perfectly and some mags need to be loaded for a few weeks for the spring to loosen up before they feed well.